I’ve been trying to nail down what it is about the feminine that has strengthened my faith. It’s not straightforward, but here goes. (Note: I’m using the word feminine until a better one comes around, not to shame or discount the masculine, or perpetuate a binary view. For now though, it’s simpler to start off with this label.)
I left off with the first time the more feminine wisdom came to me, ‘It’s OK to let go’. Why was this so profound?
I think because for the first time it actually gave me a taste of faith. Prior to that, faith and belief system were intertwined. For me to say I had faith meant that I subscribed to a very specific view of God that was accessed through a conservative Christian lens, which made Faith and Christian synonomous. The idea that someone Jewish, or Muslim, or even atheist could also have faith was really left-field, and was immediately qualified with a ‘yeah, but’. Yeah they have faith, but in the wrong God.
This never felt good, but hearing those words, ‘It’s OK to let Go’, my soul instinctively relaxed, knowing this was truth beyond religion. Those words are not owned by a theology, and are not a subscription to a specific dogma or set of beliefs.
They give permission; spacious, spacious, permission that will either freak you out, or relieve all the pressure you’ve been under.
Just think for a minute, It’s OK to let Go of….
Fitting into a specific size jeans, making all the money, being right, raising the perfect kids, your marriage working, your business succeeding, the job offer coming through… keep adding whatever you want to the list (especially if it gives you some sort of safety net or security blanket).
For some of those scenarios, it’s like, “WHAT!? How could that be possible? How could it be OK for that specific outcome not to happen?”
For some scenarios, it might be like, “Thank God!!! I was working so friggin hard to ensure this didn’t fall apart, and now I don’t have to worry about that anymore!”
That first reaction is a good sign you’re holding onto something as if life itself depended on it. Well, that’s just it. A lot of time these situations feel like life or death, the ultimate safety we’re trying to secure, and so we do everything in our power to make sure we stay alive, physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
Second reaction, whew! You relinquish control. You no longer watch out for your safety every second of the day. You’re no longer in charge of whether you live or die. Which, when you think about, is how your life started. One day you just arrived, without planning, manipulating, or controlling the situation.
This second reaction takes a lot of balls, to trust that it’s ok to step into the unknown, without the guarantee of a specific outcome, and risk physical, emotional, or egoic death. It takes balls, and yet it’s the feminine that teaches us this.
In the first reaction, your attention is on the finish line, the goal. In the second reaction, there is permission for your attention to move away from the end game, which frees up a lot of space to turn your attention to right here and now; each step of way, aka the process. Or here’s one for you, maybe not even to have your focus be anywhere. Maybe you’re just closing your eyes, and allowing yourself to be in this moment. The cool breeze on your skin, the wind in the trees, the exhaust fumes from the bus that just rolled by, the sound of honking horns as you sit in traffic.
Whether or not each moment is ideal, you are not trying to change or influence the situation. That’s usually called surrender. You step back a bit and allow things to unfold, and receive each moment as it is.
That’s where the masculine and feminine difference comes into play. Goal oriented vs process oriented. Focused on hunting down the one animal for dinner, or gathering the berries as they appear right in front of you.
Neither is right or wrong, both are necessary, and when it comes to faith, there is room for it in both. You go out on a hunt believing there are animals out there that you can’t see and that there’s a possibility you can catch one for dinner. You go berry picking assuming there will be berries on the bushes waiting for you.
The difference in my mind how much you personally are influencing the outcome.
I’ve never gone hunting, but I have gone fishing. The version of fishing I’ve done puts a lot of onus is on you, the fisher-person, to catch the fish. The fish doesn’t come to you. You have to have the right rod, bait, and select the right environmental conditions to catch the darn fish. There’s a lot of choices you could or couldn’t make, plus a number of technical skills to learn that will drastically influence whether or not you catch the fish. When your ego catches on to this, it’s easy to think that you are heavily in control of the situation. Catch a fish? “I’m good at this.” Don’t catch a fish? “I am useless at this.”
When you are out berry picking, there are fewer choices you can make to influence the outcome. It boils down to what was the weather like this season, did the birds get to them before you, is your eyesight good enough to spot the berries, and do you have the stamina to keep going even when the sun is beating on your neck, your arms are covered in scratches from reaching into the thicket, and your hands are all sticky from the juices.
If you don’t gather as many as you wanted, it’s unlikely you’re going to internalize this as failure, or ‘I’m useless at berry picking’. There’s an awareness that there are other forces at play, mostly nature, that influence the outcome. And so you show up ready to do your (somewhat minimal) part in order to take home a stash of berries.
From my limited experience of fishing, the reality is you are also at the mercy of the elements. A good fisher person studies the tides and currents in the rivers and lakes, and follows their instincts as much as a good berry picker follows their intuition to find good spots and stays ‘in the know’. It’s just that the fishing requires a lot more ‘doing’ and action along with an attuned presence, where as berry picking is more like receiving a gift from nature and her bounty.
To bring this back to faith, it’s the difference of having to earn your worth by making sure your actions are lined up with a specific rule set, versus sitting back and receiving the gift of your own inherent worth that doesn’t require you to do anything other than accept it and go harvest what is already right there in front of you.
I was schooled in the former and it had me running circles around myself trying to prove I was doing enough, was good enough, and believing the right things. Thirty nine years into this life and I am starting to get the hang of the receiving thing.
Just for the record, my track record is awful. I used to get mad when people paid me compliments. There’s been times money has been offered to me and I’ve point blank rejected it. And even though, when I finally let go of needing to fit into a certain size pair of jeans, and received the gift of my body regardless of its shape or size (which was a good 5 year process by the way), I hadn’t quite fully embodied, ‘It’s OK to let go’.
Even though I could apply that lesson to my body, I hadn’t accepted the part of myself that was required in order to really embody it; my feminine. I still valued to-do lists, achieving goals, acquiring knowledge, and honing skills, over the part of me that just knows how to be with people.
To give you an example, I have tried my damndest to be a successful entrepreneur. I failed. And I’ve let that failure hang over my head, even though I have willingly walked into a prison to dance with women, and as my dad pointed out, will walk up to a homeless person on the street not knowing if they’re dangerous or not and start talking to them.
I am still conditioned to value the energetically masculine version of success which focuses on external achievements: building and making tangible things (that we are usually willing to exchange money for).
It is a challenge to equally value energetically feminine successes which are harder to measure because they happen in our internal world and are often things we can’t see: quality of relationships, ease of communication, expression of self (sometimes into something physical and tangible but not always). In other words: feminine success looks like an experience of connection.
Again, bringing this back to faith…. Is your faith and ability to trust, based on something external that you can see or touch? Or is it based on an internal experience of connection?
The version of faith I was taught was a mix of the two; a belief in a God that I couldn’t see, but the success of my faith was measured by my ‘doing; a highly masculine energy way of living out a faith in the unseen.
I had to let go of this version of faith and let go of the ‘doing’. I stopped reading the Bible, going to church, and leading or volunteering in different ministries. Instead, I started staying much more present to myself.
What do I feel like doing this Sunday? Go for a walk in the hills. Great. Dance on my own in my living room. Awesome. Journal and clear out my head until I can hear my own heart. Sweet.
All these things and more. Sure, they required action. I had to move my legs, my body, and my hand over paper; but it wasn’t with the masculine version of action: action with a purpose to achieve. It was action so that I could go inward and connect with my Self. I had to move my body, even if just holding and moving a pen, and from there, I started to actually meet with God.
It was from these experiences that I finally started to have actual faith. Trust that I was OK. That I was safe. For no other reason than ‘just because’.
I began to open up and receive my own worth. Not because I was told this was true, or read about it. I finally could feel it and experience it when I was meeting with God.
How did I get here? I let go of the old way.
Instead of filling my days and schedule with lots of ‘busy’, I allowed myself to be really present to what was right in front of me in the moment. Desires, longings, and a range of emotions from raging anger to ecstatic pleasure and joy. Berries that were plentiful if I let myself see them, and, oh my goodness, I even let myself taste them.
I received those berries. Accepted them as my deepest truth.
And where did I find these seeds of truth? Not out there, in church, or the wilderness.
Nope, right here. At home. In my body.
My very feminine, curvy, soft, and cellulitey body.
The same body I had tried so hard to perfect, control, and change.
She became my gateway to God.
Photo by Aliata Karbaschi on Unsplash