Women & Sexuality
I live my life in a bit of a bubble, always have. Some things never change. I'm a woman who was a girl from a small town, who had a close knit set of family friends, who has become a woman who lives in a small town with a close knit set of family friends. Yet the world still gets in. As a child it was HBO and SNL. Now that I live without much exposure to TV, it's the internet. But lately, I haven't even been that plugged in to the news. So it's quite a shock when I finally decide to tune in and see what's going on out there in the big wide world.
Women's sexuality has always been a powerful thing. There's no denying it. And I'm not here to play the prude. I have my own particular story and experience of using my sexuality to discover or express my power--or at least my understanding of power in that moment. And I wouldn't deny any woman her journey through that particular fire. But if we take the conversation to a wider lens, as a culture, a society, are we not tired? Has it not reached it's final bitter bloody end?
When the Miley Cyrus story first broke, I only felt compassion. Here's a young woman who has been completely acculturated to use her sexuality to sell her talent. But when she decides to take the reigns into her own hands, she doesn't pull back from that acculturation, instead she swallows it whole. And for the game to work, you have to play the edges or people will turn on you--as they did on Miley. But what makes her any more or less empowered than Madonna in the 80s or Cher in the 70s? Isn't it simply that we as a culture have reached the limits of that line--that delicate line that performers and women in general have to walk in order to be "sexy". You can't be openly a whore--that's disgraceful. But you have to dress like one in order to be attractive. You can't openly be brazen and wanton--you can't actually enjoy sex. That's turning the tables--and don't you understand by now, that the game is played for men? And whether Miley actually began playing the game for herself or whether she was being played we will let her decide. But my question is when will it be enough for women to quit being complicit? When will we stop co-opting our oppressors mythology? I see women here in Northern New Mexico with Playboy stickers on their cars and I'm stunned. I see young Christian women dressing like "streetwalkers" if I can borrow a term from Fashion Police. I see girls as young as 7 and 8 dressing as though they were fully realized sexual beings--when they are children!
I know the mindset; I adopted it once myself. If sex is power, then I'm going to play that game--but I'm going to be on top! And I believed my own story for a quite a while, until one day you wake up emptier than you've ever felt in your life. Your youth is behind you, and what lies before you is a vast wasteland of shame and denial.
Sex is powerful and mythical and delightful. But it's no coincidence in my mind that the Fifth Chakra--the throat--is known as the kant because our voice is our power. But instead it's become cunt. We pour all our phobia and shadows into this hole and we revile it; and it represents the entire foundation of our culture. The distortion of power. The distortion of the woman. The dignity of her voice, her story, her sexuality and her grace. Her kant--and yes, her cunt.
Are we not tired yet? This morning I'm tired; but I'm also hopeful that maybe others are tired too? And maybe that weariness, will somehow turn to frustration, which will inevitably lead to action. My prayer is that every woman--young or old--will know her own beauty, dignity, grace and strength. And that she will neither deny nor use her sexuality but rather own it and express it in love and joy, with all the juiciness and darkness and lightness that comes with it. But may it be her own.
Strange things are afoot. I was contacted by someone this week who has never practiced Kundalini Yoga and isn't even particularly spiritual. But she had an experience that she needed to share with me, because it involved my music. She was in a dark place emotionally and was struggling with sleep so she went to turn on her tablet and without any commands from her, a You Tube video of my song Aisa Naam opened up spontaneously. She didn't understand what it was, but she began to listen and immediately fell into a profound sleep and awoke--14 hours later!--rested, calm and at ease.
If we think this technology doesn't have the power to touch and to heal, we are miscalculating its impact, which is universal. And if we think we're "in charge" of how its found--through marketing, or facebook, or traveling and touring--we're also profoundly mistaken. Karta Purkh, the Hand of the Doer, is working through all the many mediums available to her; and the sound current is coming to all those who call out in search of The Name.
I've never believed in a savior; but I relate to the feeling of needing one. I relate to the hopelessness, the sense of being lost; but I've also had the experience and the ecstasy of being found. And even though I still don't relate to being saved, I do relate to a thing known as grace because I've experienced it. Grace that is that moment of awakening--the tejas--that allows us to see in a new way, ourselves or others. That moment of kindness from a stranger. That silence just before a sound that breaks your heart open. That look that makes you understand that you've never really known what love was before this moment, right here, right now. These are moments of grace; and we create them with every breath, with every act of kindness, and with every act of creation.
We may never meet all the people that our art touches or has touched. We may never being able to calculate the impact our lives have had on others. But just this one story, this one life, this one heart is enough.
Heaven and Earth
It's tough living with a saint. Not because they aren't beautiful and inspiring--they are, of course, they're saints after all! But because simply their presence calls you to become more, to stretch, to drop old patterns, to expand. But if we drop all the old patterns, all the boundaries, all the safe familiar things that make us who we are, then who do we become? There's a line from the Big Book that describes this very identity crisis: "I'll just be the hole in the donut." And yes, perhaps when we drop all the ego identifiers, we become zero. We become shuniya; we do in fact become the "hole in the donut."
Yet even as I write this, I also feel deeply in my bones a call from within: but you are human, too! And this human experience is in large part why we're here in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about growth. But every once in a while, it's also important to sit back with your popcorn and enjoy the show. Or stand in front of the mirror and just appreciate what you see. Or allow yourself to be late for work because you stayed in bed late making love. These, too, are part of the divine.
When we separate the "saintly" from the "worldly" we create a false division in our own psyches. If I were asked to identify the "devil" in anything, I would suggest it is this false divide. The moment we place creation outside the boundary of heaven, we have reduced both heaven and earth. "God is either everything or God is nothing." "If you can't see God in all you can't see God at all." These aphorisms speak to the essential union of all things.
The moment we separate them is the moment we begin to generate what's been traditionally known as hell--a hell on earth. Because the moment I put saintly outside of myself is the moment I limit my own divine experience as a human being. We are human and we are divine. There's no separating the two sides of that particular coin.
Allow yourself to relish this worldly life; for saints are made more resilient through pleasure. And continue to stretch your boundaries, for humans are made more compassionate through service. And in this way, we can all enjoy this heaven that is earth.
The Goddess Within
My album Queen Be has the subtitle, The Goddess Within. At the time of composing and producing it, I had no idea what the fruit of that particular collection of songs would be. And it's been greater than anything I could have imagined: a marriage arranged by the guru, a husband who is more than the sum of all the ideas I ever held about what a man should be, and a life of daily magic, it seems. And all of these put together would be more than enough, right? But what is happening now, feels even greater. The subtitle that I somewhat lightheartedly added is becoming real. The goddess is awakening within me and it is at times mystifying, at times terrifying and mostly an experience of constant wonder.
I'm working on a collection of poems that give witness to this awakening. I share one here and ask only that you be kind. She is awakening, but she is also very new. . . .
Don’t want to think about food
And I open the refrigerator door
I know the goddess is at table
When I select the artichoke
These require time, imagination,
The goddess won’t eat anything
So I clean the artichokes,
Steam them, then char them on the
Six-top burner, then braise them in
Or I clean the globe squash
Making small round cavities in the
I chop the onion and the fennel
And sauté them with nuts and raisins
and place this in the center of the
these small round gifts of nature’s
Or I stand and snip the beans,
Because beans don’t like a blade.
They want the hands that will eat
To caress them, one at a time,
Acknowledging the marvel that is
Their delicacy, their uniqueness.
This is the work of the goddess
the expression of the excellence
The goddess is at table tonight.
Fine Versus Fat versus Fabulous
In the past few weeks, a couple of friends have said a couple of things that took me back a couple of steps. We all know that weight is a cultural obsession here in the United States. I get that. Okay--fine. But it's become so ingrained, so normalized, that what would have once been pretty rude to say to someone, people seem to not even notice they've said it. I have three fairly recent examples: One, a woman walks up to me and a friend who are in conversation and offers us a plate of black garbanzo beans saying, "Here, you should eat these, they really helped me lose weight." To which I replied, "Are you implying I need to lose weight?" Two, a friend and I are walking together and we see another friend walking her dog. The friend I'm walking with says, "We should really walk your dog together, then we wouldn't be so fat." To which I thought to myself, "I don't feel fat right now, why is she saying that?" Three, a friend leaves me a message about work and then proceeds to offer her services and experience in losing weight with a popular program in our community right now. To which I thought, "F*** Off already! Enough!"
I have had a long and seemingly unending relationship to my weight. It goes all the way back to 5th grade, when I was teased at school for having a "balloon butt". It continued through middle school and high school where I was encouraged to join diet programs (expensive diet programs!) or if not on a diet regimen, then had ice cream and other treats physically removed from me with the cry of "You don't need that, you'll get fat!" I'm not going to defend obesity here; it's not good for you and as someone who has struggled with weight and identity for years, I can tell you, it doesn't feel good either. But neither does the constant obsession with our weight. I'm a big girl; I will most likely always be on the larger side of S, M, and L; and I've come to be really okay with that. I enjoy my body; I feel good most days; and I don't hate myself when I look in the mirror any more. But then the culture comes up and bites you on the proverbial ass. And what makes me more upset than anything is that women are doing it to each other--and to ourselves! Stop it already!
So if you read this and you're a friend of mine, don't suggest a new diet program to me; don't tell me how you lost weight by doing x, y or z; and don't call me, or yourself, FAT! I want no part in that culture any longer. I want to look in the mirror and not just see "fine" and definitely note "fat"; I want to see fabulous! I want to see healthy, happy, and holy. I want to see radiant, beautiful and sexy. I want to see Goddess, Infinite, Invincible Creativity of the Creator. And I want you to start seeing it, too. Wahe Guru!
The House of Cards and the Beast Within
“Shame is the cornerstone
of Addiction.” --Dr. Howard Samuels
In the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, shame is the
root. Remove shame from the equation and all the constructs and structures of
compulsion, addiction and negative habits fall away like a house of cards.
I read this simple sentence today, Shame is the cornerstone . . ., and was
astonished that I had never read it before, heard it before, or realized it
before, myself! It made so much sense. Funny when the most obvious truths
escape us for so very long. Yet there it was. So simple. So true. I’ve written
about my beast before, my shame, embodied. And even with all the healing I’ve
done, it still remains. We’ve befriended one another this beast and I, so that
now it serves me like a canary in a coal mine. When I am confronted by even a
hint of discomfort or pain, it’s there to be my first warning signal—alert! And
I’m grateful. Because in the past, the beast would try to send me a signal, but
because I was so afraid of looking at the shame and listening to what it wanted
to tell me, the beast became a signal of something entirely different. Instead
of becoming more alert and ready to witness what was actually happening within
me in any given moment, I would numb myself. Typically with food, but sometimes
with sex or sleep or tv; and in the old days, of course, it was alcohol and
drugs. The dis-ease comes in many forms, but it’s always the disease of
The beast first came into my life during a meeting. I knew
then that it was shame. But somehow over the years, I disconnected the beast
from the shame; and while I was never willing to actually experience the shame
myself, the beast grew more entrenched, more solid, more present, even as I
grew more unaware, blind even, to what shame was or how it worked. To the point that last year, when a student
asked me how I had overcome shame in my own life, I was embarrassed to admit
I’d never done much work around it. And that was the beginning. The floodwaters
of shame that I had held back through sheer ignorance and blind will released
and I was confronted with a lifetime of unprocessed pain and shame and grief,
which basically arrived in one declarative phrase that kept running through my
head (and I realized later that it had been running in my head since I was a
child): “There’s something terribly wrong with me.” This is the fundamental
lie. The breech. The broken contract between the soul and God. And it happens
so early on that we don’t even recognize it until we’re swimming in hidden
agendas and acting so automatically from our identical identities that we don’t
even recognize ourselves in the mirror any longer. That’s the moment. When
we’ve reached the end of the tether, that’s the moment we can reclaim ourselves
by simply letting go.
Letting go of what you might ask? Whatever it is you’re
holding onto. Whatever you’re white knuckling. Whatever you think you need.
Whatever makes you hang on more tightly rather than actually open your hand and
look inside—and see what? Your Self. Like an animal that sees itself in the
mirror and runs away, we are afraid of ourselves! Our creativity, our light,
our shine. Our own godliness and goodliness. And who instilled that fear in us?
Does it even matter? Not really. It’s the human condition. But because we’re
human we can also change it. We can befriend the beast and ask it to help us,
which is, oddly enough, I think what it’s been trying to do all along. Shame is
only there to teach us our worth. And now that I’ve befriended the beast, now that
I know it’s trying to serve me, I recognize the signal and I stop, I wait and I
listen. What message am I repeating or
am I hearing that is asking me to demean myself, or asking me to sell myself
short? And I listen.
And because I’m doing something different, guess what? The
results have been different as well. Since I’ve begun the practice of listening
to the beast, I haven’t eaten compulsively or used any other method of checking
out and harming myself. I’ve had the compulsive moment arise, but instead of
acting on it. I stopped. I waited and I listened. Unfortunately, it takes what
it takes to come into a right relationship to our shame-body. I don’t know that
there’s a simple step by step resolution. But I do know that the sooner we stop
and look, the sooner we can heal.
Let go. Open up and look inside. Whatever monster lies within
is simply trying to help you. Trust the beast and allow the shame to simply
fall away, like the house of cards it is.
The Breakthrough: Transformation & Meditation
Meditation has never come easily to me—at least when I’m
practicing on my own. Perhaps that’s why group practices are emphasized in most
meditation traditions. The peer group has the power to focus you and take you
more deeply into the experience than if you were alone. It also has the power to
clear you out faster because everyone’s aura is merged and all the subconscious
sweeping is magnified by the group energy and electromagnetic field, which is
why White Tantric is so powerful: 2000 yogis all lined up in a row to clean out
their subconscious. Wah!
I recently completed a serious of group meditation
experiences that really did a number on me, in a good way. We think that we’ve worked on ourselves; we
think we’ve peeled back all the layers—more than once!; we think we’ve cleared
most of the garbage out—and then we go into deep meditation, in a group, and we
experience an entirely new superhighway of subconscious flotsam and jetsam
hanging out in our subconscious. It never ceases to amaze me.
In this series of courses I recently took (21 Stages of
Meditation, White Tantric Yoga and Mind & Meditation: Level Two Teacher
Training), we went very deeply into the subconscious in order to reveal the
true Self—the Self within the self. But in order for the true self to emerge, a
lot of stuff had to move out of the way. Stuff that’s been around a very long
time; it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was pretty scary but the resolution was so
powerful that I think I’d do it all again!
As I deliberate on the images that arose in my meditation, I
recognize that it was a deep subconscious release as well as a balancing of the
polarity within myself. We often relate to the teachings of Yogi Bhajan as me a
female and you a male and how we make that work out, or not. But the reality of
his teachings on polarity are that they must be resolved and balanced from
within, and without; we tend to overlook the polarity within, or not recognize
its existence at all. But as the male aspect within me expelled itself out of
the crown of my head in the form of every black creature that walks the earth—snakes,
toads, millipedes, rats, beetles, cockroaches—I realized I could no longer
ignore it. I could no longer keep pushing the masculine aside. I had to see it;
it would not go unseen any longer. This was the first stage of the “breakthrough”.
The second stage came through the feminine polarity. As my
mind was looking for any kind of solace in the midst of this shit storm
swarming out of my head and all around me, a beautiful white serene figure of a
woman appeared holding a large peacock feather umbrella, the sun rising from
the crown of her head. And this image alone allowed me to move through this
black cloud of terror without fear. (Although I did have that after-effect
feeling as if from a bad mushroom trip, “Am I ever going to be normal again?”)
But these two polarities are not the end of the story. This
meditative exorcism triggered my “beast”; a nickname I gave to a particular
pain in my side that has been with me for years. 13 years to be exact.
The “beast” is a physiological manifestation of shame that
my body has held for a long time; and after this meditative experience, I was
ready for it to be OUT! So I went to see a dear friend of mine who I trust as a
healer; and we sat down to “get it out.” Well, that was not what “the beast”
wanted. Still, an amazing healing came to me, which was the third stage of the
breakthrough: deep in the healing space, my beautiful image of the divine
feminine returned to me, but this time she turned against me and was trying to
destroy me. I immediately called upon the spirit and psyche of my beloved to
protect me, as well as some spiritual teachers and guides. But here’s the
interesting part—these helpers were all images of the divine masculine. They
were all male. And in this way I learned,
for the first time, that all the years of rejecting men and creating boundaries
around my own power was simply feeding the “beast”. My divine feminine power
NEEDS divine masculine to balance it out. In fact, I needed three divine
masculine figures in order to tame the dragon and allow the grace of the divine
feminine to flow. All this time I thought men were out to get me but it was me
all along! My Shakti needs the male energy in order to function in a balanced,
healthy and supportive way.
And as powerful as this all was, it wasn’t the end! Three
days of White Tantric Yoga; and they were the most powerful Tantric experiences
I’ve had in years. So intimate, so healing, so inspiring. During day two, a
friend of mine (a male friend not coincidentally) comes up to me and says, “Are
you writing? You know you’re a writer, right? I’m just inspired to remind you
that you’re a writer, and that you’re a good writer. “ And then walks off and I’m
left standing there, thinking, Where did that come from? But still it served as
the fourth stage of the breakthrough—the catalyst even—of the final shift.
Finally to the Mind and Meditation Course and the first day
Yogi Bhajan says to all of us during the first video lecture, “No one ever
trusts God. You will never be known as a human; it’s impossible. You are only
known by what you do; because you are doers and you will never allow God to do
for you.” Well, that was the proverbial icing on the cake. I knew I had to take
action. I had healed something in me that was so old and so hidden, that even
when it revealed itself to me, I remained surprised. I simply had to trust my intuition
and follow it without fear. But in the end I knew that it was telling me
something so true and deep about how I had lived my life, something I had known
all along: I tried for so long to destroy myself because I was afraid of my own
creativity. And the masculine and feminine within me, which had been at war for
so very long, were now partners in my new awareness and awakening. I could not
go back to sleep.
So, the final breakthrough: Did I have the courage to act on
what I knew I had to do? Was I ready and willing to take the next step? Yes.
Meditation takes us into the deepest, darkest parts of
ourselves; the unknown within and the unknown beyond. It opens us up to the
most vulnerable secrets we didn’t even know we were carrying as well as the
most vast and spacious truths of who we are and didn’t know we could be. Meditation
is the key to unlocking who we really are—as long as we have the courage to
follow its lead and not be afraid of all the creepy crawly things that hide
away in the corners of our own minds.
Is Meditation transformational? Yes. But do I get to determine
the route or the destination? No. But I get to enjoy the ride!