Reading the piece, which sports the title “Forgiveness,” I wonder: What does belly wisdom have to do with that?
The Woman’s Belly Book: Finding Your True Center for More Energy, Confidence, and Pleasure includes two poems, but this isn’t one of them.
Searching my computer for a file that might contain the poem, thinking I could copy and paste the words here for you rather than type them out again, I find files labelled Forgiveness.0, Forgiveness.1, and Forgiveness.2.
Turns out, back in 1995 — twenty years ago — I guided people through a Ritual of Forgiveness in a workshop that was (if I remember correctly) part of a Sufi conference on healing.
The ritual involves moving through the Honoring Your Belly sequence of power-centering gestures — twice, in fact, each time with a different narration.
Apparently I wrote the two narrations for this Ritual of Forgiveness sometime after writing the ones that inform the Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood and the Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine. The Reconsecrations voice a sequence of affirmations tracing the heroine’s journey; the Invocations present a series of body prayers addressing the Feminine Divine. In each case, the words imbue the 23 gestures they accompany with personal meaning.
Likewise, in the first round of this Ritual of Forgiveness the 23 movement and breathing exercises enact “Decomposing the Old, Conceiving the New.” The same gestures, in the second round, animate “Gestating and Generating the New.”
Both rounds involve drawing out images emerging from the body’s center: first, what we’re willing to release; then, what we welcome to take its place.
Twenty years ago, I discovered that energizing the belly and activating its wisdom with movement and breath could contribute mightily to the process of forgiveness. I believe I’m ripe for exploring that connection again.
How are you with forgiveness — needing to forgive, resisting forgiveness, knowing how to forgive — in your life?
Here’s the poem that sparked a twenty-year retrospective that, for me, is oh-so-timely today. I hope it’s a pleasure for you.
pulls you out of the muck with a pop
sets you on your feet here
where the ground is sturdy
and the footing’s firm
turns you around to face the
brushes you down, proclaims you
good as new
sends you on your way
with a scarlet smudge on your sacrum
and a turkey sandwich on rye
and a note safely pinned to your lapel:
I’ve aways loved the Kiki Dee Band’s song, written by Bias Boshel, “I’ve Got the Music in Me.”
Huh? The music that is in you — where is it? How do you tap into it?
If you’re asking me, belly queen as I am, I’ll say we tap into our music — into every expression of our life force — by deepening into our body’s center, the sourcepoint of our creative energy. We cultivate our relationship with this soul-power as we honor, rather than shame, our bellies. We activate it with movement and breath.
The guidelines for this activity include:
- Sitting comfortably, enter into the Centering Breath. Notice any images and sensations that come into your awareness as you focus your attention within your body’s center.
- Consider your arm to be an extension of your belly, a pipeline ready to carry information from your body’s center through to your hand and out onto paper. Maintaining your awareness in your belly, take the colored markers that appeal to you. Let your arm and hand move across the paper, spilling out colors, shapes, and lines.
- Give yourself all the permission you need to make your marks freely, without judgment or restriction.
These same guidelines apply when I’m at the piano, improvising — letting music arrive without planning, without thinking. Just as with drawing, my arms serve as pipelines, allowing the flow of energy and information from body’s center to keyboard.
The music that emerges in this way is so heart- and soul-satisfying. As one of my mentors, Mark Kelso of Muddy Angel Music, likes to say: The fun isn’t so much in playing music; it’s in being played by the music.
There’s a delicate balance between improvisation and composition. Certainly, each can inspire the other.
By my lights, as improvisation offers sensory experience of the life force concentrated in the body center, it expresses the energy of the Sacred Feminine.
Composition can likewise convey the sense of the Sacred Feminine. In this clip from Ethan Hawke’s magnificent film, “Seymour: An Introduction,” hear what virtuoso pianist Seymour Bernstein says about Beethoven’s expression of — and ambivalent relationship with — the feminine:
How do you tap into and express the music, the art, that’s in you?
Remember, once you register for this free event, you’re on your way to receiving two gifts I’m offering, each complementing The Woman’s Belly Book: a $5 discount on the Honoring Your Belly instructional DVD and a 20% discount on the full-color illustrated paperback, Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine.
Now, to the movies:
Early on in my career as Belly Queen — championing women’s bellies as sacred, not shameful — a woman showed me a poem she had written. The piece included the words: “first scar, mother scar.”
David Hewitt’s gem of a 10-minute film, “Belly Button,” offers its own take on that theme. The cast includes Sharon Small and Don Gilet, two of my favorite British actors.
Hewitt describes the story this way: “Six strangers are drawn together at one moment in time, but with different dreams.”
Click on the images above or here to see the film on YouTube.
How do you tap into your center’s ancient wisdom?
How do you nourish the roots of the feminine?
Twelve women share exquisite responses to these questions in a free telesummit hosted by Barbara Hanneloré, author of The Moon and You: A Woman’s Guide to an Easier Monthly Cycle.
You can read about each presenter and their expertise at nourishthefeminine.com
I’m honored to be taking part in this event. My conversation with Barbara, available on April 22, focuses on connecting with the Sacred Feminine.
What’s more: When you register for the telesummit at nourishthefeminine.com, you’re on your way to receiving gifts from each of the twelve presenters.
What’s their role in every-human liberation? In creating and sustaining loving relationships?
People often ask me “What about men?” as I’m praising women’s bellies as sacred, not shameful. Praising our body’s center as home to the soul-power kin to the Source Energy creating, sustaining, and renewing the world.
What about men? Don’t they have soul-power too?
What about men? That’s also the title of a chapter my editor chose not to include in The Woman’s Belly Book, a book on women’s multi-dimensional empowerment. You can read the full text of that chapter here.
The chapter’s major point: As a man enters into his own wholeness, integrating feminine and masculine polarities,
he begins to perceive a woman as a person, informed by her own purpose. His need to control her diminishes. He becomes more capable of entering into a relationship of mutual respect.
As men increasingly live and breathe from center, they prepare themselves to enter into the egalitarian relationships many women desire, and which we deserve. Truly loving relationships can develop as the partners each live from their inner source of being and support each other in returning to their core wisdom, again and again. In this way the relationship takes its strength from the shared center that emerges in the partners’ midst.
As men and women support each other in coming home to ourselves, we can engender a more peaceful, just, and sustainable way of being human together on this planet.
Loving relationships? There’s a story, its origin said to be circa 1450, that — by my lights — holds the key to loving relationships between women and men.
I came across this story as I was preparing The Woman’s Belly Book and its companion, the Rite For Reconsecrating Our Womanhood. As part of my research, I delved into Maureen Murdock’s book, The Heroine’s Journey.
Murdock tells the story of Lady Ragnell and Sir Gawain. The story is part and parcel of Arthurian legend; it relates to other tales of transformation as well.
You can read the original in Middle English here and adaptations into modern English here and here. In brief, the story demonstrates just what restores women’s beauty and balance: Men perceiving women as persons, informed by our own purpose. Men recognizing, respecting, and supporting our autonomy, our sovereignty.
Respecting our sovereignty? A man by the name of Padma Aon Prakasha copied the text of my “What About Men?” chapter into his own book — without ever asking my permission. In his “note to the reader” he asserts his entitlement to appropriate others’ words. That’s either amusing or appalling, or maybe both.
But here’s something much more interesting, and a thrill: My friend Denise Ostler (a.k.a. Merri Beacon) has of her own accord, without any previous inkling of Lady Ragnell’s story, written her own and up-to-date version as part of her Fairytale Medicine series.
Her Goals & Dreams tale begins:
Once upon a time, in a tiny kingdom, there dwelt a sweet princess who cared for injured animals. She created a special place in the royal stables where she could tend to her patients. She loved her work, but alas, it was time for her to marry.
The king narrowed her suitors down to three eligible princes. Each prince was invited to dine at the castle and give a speech about why he would be the best match for the princess. On the first night, a very handsome and confident prince stood to address the royal assembly….
The story continues here. Enjoy!
The story begins years ago, when I sprained my left ankle, really badly.
The chiropractor suggested I go to the physical therapy supply store and buy a wobble board. The idea was to step side-to-side on this miniature see-saw, a wooden plank perched upon a cylinder, strengthening the tendons in the ankle I had damaged.
Reluctant to pay the high-end price for this gizmo, I stepped into the nearest toy store and found a toy balance board brightly colored in blue and red, complete with a built-in maze game, actually a simple labyrinth.
The Woman’s Belly Book describes how labyrinths relate to the body’s center, the belly’s center:
The labyrinth defines a path into and out from center. As a sacred symbol, it maps a journey from the everyday world to the secret core of existence. It charts a path to the World Navel, the point through which the life force emerges to revitalize the world.
From ancient times, cultures throughout the world from the Arctic to Africa have made labyrinths in a variety of designs. The labyrinth appears on cave walls, stone slabs, grave markers, pottery, coins, and the bellies of clay figurines…. Although many associations accompany the design, in some traditions the labyrinth clearly signifies a woman’s belly. The path through the pattern traces the soul’s return to the womb and its emergence in rebirth.
I recently took my balance board out of its box to exercise my ankles and keep them flexible. Stepping side to side, I tried getting the game’s yellow ball from the labyrinth’s outer channel into the center. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t do it. Swishing as it spun, the ball swung around too fast for me to maneuver it through the narrow gateway into the next inner circle.
So I gave up and just played around with initiating the side-to-side motion with different parts of my body: feet, knees, hips, shoulders. Left, right; left, right.
Left, right; left, right: Initiating the movement with my hips made the motion smooth, almost effortless.
Eventually, I no longer heard the sound of the yellow ball circling around. I looked down and saw the sphere had come to rest in the labyrinth’s center. With absolutely no effort on my part.
A hole in one, so to speak. What are the chances?
Left hip, right hip: Marking the endpoints — the extremes, the opposites — locates the center.
For reasons I’ll tell you another time, I’ve been studying French. But for now, I’ll tell you this: The first meaning of balancer in French is “to swing.”
To swing between left and right. Between this and that. To be the and linking the extremes, to embrace the opposites as complements. To be the whole in one.
As Rainer Maria Rilke has written, translated by Robert Bly in The Winged Energy of Delight:
Take your well disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.
Winter Solstice and Christmas stories are all about birthing: the light returns, the divine becomes human.
Before I continue about Magdalene, Mary, and birth-giving, ending with a prayer for us all, here are four versions of my season’s greetings card for you (including one in French), images celebrating embodiment. Clicking on each thumbnail will take you to a larger display.
The stories surrounding Mary and Magdalene present different versions of birth-giving: one virginal, the other not so much.
Mary’s miracle-style birth-giving is well-reported and classically virginal. Some suggest that spiritually adept women have, through time, prepared themselves to birth parthenogenetically — no male consort required — in order to bring an avatar, a world-changing holy person, into being.
Magdalene’s woman-style birth-giving, Jesus having been her consort, has long been hushed, largely relegated to fiction — yet legends continue in the south of France, Margaret Starbird‘s The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, and Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.
Such legends contend that Magdalene gave birth to Sarah, also known as Sara-la-Kali. The Roma (gypsies) recognize Sarah as their patron saint. Making a yearly pilgrimage to the coastal Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer (Saints Marys of the Sea), they celebrate Sarah’s arrival by boat from Jerusalem.
Sarah arrived with a number of refugees, said to include Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobe, and Mary Salome; one of the site’s original names is la Ville-des-Trois-Maries (the City of the Three Marys).
Three Marys. I feel such a resonance with the significance of three. Do you? It’s archetypal. I have the sense that something — one or two someones — is missing from the Christmas story as it’s so often told.
Some suggest that the Egyptian story of Isis, Osiris, and Horus presents a parallel to the Christmas story. Briefly, in one of many versions, Isis is sister, wife, and mother to Osiris.
A vengeful rival murders Osiris, cuts his body into pieces, scatters the fragments. Isis gathers the fragments and pieces them together. Having re-membered her husband’s body, she impregnates herself. Giving birth to a child, Horus, she rebirths Osiris. Horus grows up to become Osiris and the cycle continues.
Isis, presented in mythic terms, is sister-wife-mother. She is three-in-one.
Who Lost the Marys?
The conventional Christmas story gives us only one Mary, the parthenogenetic mother Mary. Where are sister Mary and wife Mary?
I suspect that at least two cultural processes have cut them from the scene. One is literalization. One woman as sister and wife and mother? Eew. We really don’t want Oedipus Rex in a Santa Claus suit under the Christmas tree now, do we? We take our stories literally these days, losing the mythic meaning-by-metaphor.
The other is fragmentation and loss. We separate out aspects of the once-whole Great Goddess into distinct representations, then choose to keep some aspects and abandon others.
In this and every season, may we re-member our original wholeness. May we open to and embody the light that surrounds us. May we know ourselves as sacred beings.