by Dominique Youkhehpaz

“I can’t believe her. She’s so flaky, and she always wants something from me,” I overheard a woman complaining one afternoon at a café. I had just finished typing up notes about the Awakening Women Global Sisterhood Manifesto—a set of guidelines within Awakening Women for creating a conscious women’s culture—and went outside to breathe and lie on the earth when this group of women chatting over tea caught my attention.

“I know,” the second woman replied. “She’s a mess. That’s just the way she is. That’s just how she is.”

A red flag went up inside me. I had just typed up the sisterhood agreement that as conscious women, we practice not gossiping or holding onto fixed stories about each other that don’t honor our freedom to grow and change: “I will not speak negatively about you to others.”

I was ready to walk over to those women and write them a citation for violating Clause 1.8 of the Awakening Women Global Sisterhood Manifesto—a code I practice way more faithfully than I follow California’s law of not texting while driving. The fine: one goddess rinse and a Women’s Temple night on the Awakening Women Sisterhood Manifesto for all of you—and your flaky friend.”

“That’s just the way she is.” I shuddered in silent protest, grateful I could trust that my sisters would not speak those six words about me and confine me to the penalty of a fixed identity. Grateful for my seat in a network of women across the world who are more interested in helping me rise in love than in holding me to the too-small box of How I Am, especially if this box is defined by all my flaws, patterns and habits.

Then I realized: my sisters may not hold me to any fixed model of the way I am, but I still do.

Over the course of my life, I’ve accumulated a long list of things I like and don’t like, eat and don’t eat, wear and don’t wear, do and don’t do. A self-created box of The Way I Am, kept neat and tidy, stored safely in the corner and wrapped tight with a pretty pink bow. I remember once going into a thrift store years ago and finding the sexiest high-heeled black boots I had ever seen for only $5. I tried them on in front of a mirror. They were stunning. “No, but that’s not me,” a voice inside my head told me. “I don’t wear things like that. That’s not the way I am.” I walked away, slightly heartbroken, without the boots.

And I wonder: how many times in my life have I walked away from the opportunity of a moment, leaving behind what I truly wanted because I carried the story with me of “That’s not how I am?”

I’ve long since let those boots go, but not without learning this lesson first:

Any time I catch myself in the story of “this is or isn’t the way I am,” I will stop and take a breath. I will remember my sisters holding me with an open palm, and I will open my mind and my heart to allow this unprecedented moment to express itself through me, even if it means I wear not-me sexy boots or do something I am afraid is “not spiritual”. Even if it means I follow an impulse in me that runs deeper than any ready-made ideas of who I am.

I didn’t end up writing a citation for those women at the café. Instead, I wrote a poem:

Hold fast to
empty space.
Cling to your clinging
to the way things are.
For a price.
When you’ve finished sorting the boxes of a predetermined “me”,
step outside and consider
the moonlight.
Consider the way things are
when you admit
you don’t know the first thing about the way things are:
the magical, mystical,
fresh, unknowing beauty
called Life.

Put down your compass and look in the mirror.
Look at the familiar patterns and expressions on your face,
look at the recent wrinkles formed, lifelines around your eyes
like rings formed around the inside of a tree.
Look at the whole of you
but do not become fixed in the way you are.

The way you are is
boundless, infinite space.

The way you are is timeless,
moving, changing with the tides.

The way you are is beyond anything you could ever comprehend.

The way you are is
not meant to be understood,
but to be lived.

The journey home requires that you go nowhere.

The truth of living mystery is the way you are.
Translucent listening,
Abundant breathing.

The way you are is the way Love is:
The wayless way.
A life lived awake,
a life lived fully.

Dominique Youkhehpaz is the Creative Director of Awakening Women and a Women’s Temple Group Teacher. Dedicated to learning how to fully honor this magical miracle of life as a woman and human being, she longs to live her life as an offering to the Great Goddess of this beautiful earth that dreams us all alive.

Photo Credit: Bibbie Friman