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Are you pushing the river?

One of the most common complaints of our culture is that we don’t have enough time. Stress and burnout are our new plagues.

We suffer from insomnia, but hardly anyone is really awake.

As we deepen our feminine spiritual practice, connecting with our bodies, cultivating an open receptivity to the moment, we start to listen to different cues, we become aware of subtle rhythms.

Maybe without knowing why, you jump off the bus one station earlier than usual, and you happen to see a house for sale that ends up being your home for the next ten years.

Maybe a certain song on the radio makes you drop your paperwork and go out and lie in the grass to cry for a while. Or maybe you wake up one morning and suddenly start writing an email to an old friend you have not thought of for years. Actions happen as if they are initiated from something beyond you.

In these golden moments, you are in subtle communication with essence itself and nothing is more nourishing to the feminine heart.

Our planet is in a constant exchange of giving and receiving. In this moment your body is breathing in and breathing out, holding on and letting go. Our bodies give us clear signals for when to rest and when to be active, when to direct our energy more outward and when to retreat inward. Our practice is to listen.

When we are disconnected from the rhythms of life, all changes fill us with terror. We stay too long in situations that do not nurture us, or we jump frantically from place to place trying to defeat the fear by making changes happen before it is really time.

You don’t need to learn how to let things go, you just need to recognize they’re already gone –  Suzuki Roshi

The following story of Maryanne, a woman who sometimes comes to me for private sessions, illustrates how transformative it can be for a woman to become familiar with her natural ebb and flow.

Maryanne reminds me of a Viking woman from my home country, Norway. She is tall and strong with long thick hay-colored hair, and normally she emanates enough energy to wrestle a bear.

This particular November afternoon, a very gray and rainy one, she sat in front of me with hardly enough energy to keep her head up. Tears ran down her pale cheeks, and as she blew her nose, she repeatedly mumbled, “This is not me. I am so exhausted, I am not like this.” She looked up at me from her pile of tissues with despair in her eyes. “I don’t know what is happening,” she cried.

She had already been to see her doctor, who couldn’t find anything physically wrong with her. He suggested antidepressants. Although Maryanne was at this point quite desperate, she said no thanks to the pills.

I know there is something for me to learn here,” she said, “but what that is, I am in a total fog about.” Now this, in my opinion, is a perfect place to start, so we rolled up our sleeves and embarked on the adventurous journey back to her inner knowing.

Maryanne is a mother of three girls, ages three to thirteen, and she is also a gifted marriage counselor. Both she and her husband, twelve years her junior, are highly active in the local environmental movement, and they are both vigorous hikers.

She is also the kind of woman one can phone in the middle of the night—in fact, many do—and have her be right there, totally present and listening.

We talked about rhythms.

Although Maryanne spent so much energy on preserving nature, she didn’t pay much attention to how the seasons affected her own body rhythms.
We talked for a while about the flock of geese that had left the area the week before, about the cool weather, about the rain against the window. We mused over the falling leaves and the breathtaking display of colors we had seen in October.

While we talked I noticed that her whole expression changed and softened, and I shared this with her. Again her eyes filled with tears, but these where a different kind of tears. Maryanne started to share memories of how as a child she used to love to run in the forest listening to the wind playing in the treetops. “I loved the wind; it spoke to me.” She looked shy all of a sudden.

Then we talked about moon cycles and how menstruation is a time for cleansing and resting. She looked puzzled and admitted that she hadn’t ever thought about that. In fact, even the cycle of night and day was disturbed for her, as it is for most of us. We have artificial light that can keep us up all night. She didn’t sleep well, she said.

For the next month she had an assignment to write in her journal every day, noting her energy level, what her thoughts were, how motivated she felt to act, or how much she longed to rest. She would also write down how much she listened to her body and how often she ignored it.

I met Maryanne again after a month. There was snow outside, and she sat before me with rosy cheeks and a softness I hadn’t seen in her before. “I feel more like a woman,” she said. “I feel that this process has connected me with something ancient, something bigger than me. I feel like a mystic.”

Although there were many areas of her life that still didn’t honor her cycles, she had realized that winter was a time for her to go inward and rest more, and when she allowed herself to do that, she discovered a source of energy that came from a very different place than the  automatic  “doing” she had  been  enslaved  by  previously.

Her kids  had  protested  at  the  beginning that their mom wasn’t available at the snap of a finger. But after a while they discovered a new mom, one they could cuddle and be with in a whole new way.

Maryanne and her husband realized in the process that they enjoyed different kinds of activities, not to mention different amounts of activity, and by honoring these differences they discovered a polarity that created excitement between them. He shared with her that he found her mysterious and attractive. She radiated a feminine wisdom that made him respect and honor her in a new way.

When we listen to our natural rhythms, we are tuning in to a pulse that is much deeper than our everyday life. As we listen to the signals from our bodies, not only do we experience a more vibrant health and more energy, but we are reconnecting with a source of feminine wisdom that heals us on a soul level as well.

What is the rhythm of this moment, sister?

With Love, Always with love


Image: Gregory Colbert