Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Becoming a Conscious Woman

Becoming A Conscious Woman
            Allerleirauh is put to work in the kitchen of the palace, where she "carried wood and water, swept the hearth, plucked the fowls, picked the vegetables, raked the ashes and did all the dirty work.  Allerleirauh lived there for a long time in great wretchedness."  The work of self-knowledge is now taken into the realm of concrete, everyday reality, working on the concrete, everyday tasks of life.  It is long and grueling work, something not undertaken lightly.   It takes endurance, patience and perseverance.  The task of transformation is hard work, for we have to be willing to "undertake a critical examination of the self and to refrain from projecting the dark, unexamined shadows lurking in the self onto others."29
            The kitchen is a feminine place, a place of warmth and sharing and the hearth fire, a place of transformation and purification.  In the ancient world, the hearth was dedicated to the goddess Hestia, the goddess whose only image was the transformative fire itself.  She represented the fire of life, in individuals and in the community.30   Allerleirauh's great labor is a transformation of consciousness, a tending of the fires of life.  It is wretched work for an individual in our society, for it is neither valued nor understood.  It is hard work, because it is the little, everyday changes that bring about transformation.  It is stopping oneself in the midst of everyday activities and asking where old habits and attitudes come from, and deciding if these are still appropriate for this new life.  It entails listening to and working with fantasies, feelings and intuitions: it includes getting in touch with our bodies and their needs.  It is something women are beginning to do as we learn to stand on our own, and it will be our gift to the collective psyche in the years ahead.
            Women working on change often feel isolated, lonely and guilty.  A woman's whole conditioning is contrary to seriously finding out what she wants.31   As a woman begins to explore her own feelings about herself and her life, she comes up against all of those societal values that have shaped her life thus far.  They are voices which tell her what she is expected to be and how she is expected to act. That inner Taliban again!  She has to struggle to validate her feelings and intuitions, because whenever she feels she is right about something, someone will inevitably tell her she is wrong and selfish - usually herself! 
            Women soon find out that we do not even have concepts and names for what we are experiencing.  We have to recreate the way we think about things, making up new categories, and seeing emotions, such as anger, resentment and dependency in new ways.  We begin to shine a whole new light on things - the light of a feminine, right -brain consciousness and standpoint.  When I was working this out for myself, it was sharing these new insights with other women that helped quicken the transformation.  And now we have so many feminist, religious and scientific writers examining different aspects of this kind of consciousness that we no longer have to worry about if we are crazy or not.  We’re in good company!  So much has been written on psychic abilities in the past decades that women are no longer afraid to listen when they get a hunch or when they 'see' something about someone.  In the end, though, we must each go through our own process alone, for no one else can do it for us.  As women and men integrate this feminine awareness in their lives, the Spirit will open us to still deeper wisdom and creativity.

Dancing Our New Lives Into Being
            In the midst of Allerleirauh's labors, the king holds a festival.  In ancient cultures, festivals were times of ritual, times to come into relationship with the gods and goddesses, totems and holy ones.  These rituals were enacted in sacred time and sacred space, and they always entailed dance.  The sacred power of dance is a natural way of attuning oneself to the powers of the cosmos and to one's own inner being.  All dance aims at achieving an identity with what we are dancing out.32

             "When we dance, we can rise above the little self into the world of mythology and have the chance to become one with the human longing to understand life.  Our pain and suffering thus become part of a long story, the human story; this comforts individuals and gives them heart.  The heart can then soften and give space for love and understanding.   People learn to forgive and grow from a state of isolation into the world of unity."33

            Dance brings the imagination into the body and out into the world.  The way the body moves through space images what the psyche feels about its freedom to move with imagination.  Dancing to different rhythms brings a consciousness of what kind of energy levels we deal with in our lives, and how comfortable or uncomfortable they make us feel.  In a movement and imagery workshop, there was a woman whose movements took up very little space, and who quite literally backed herself into a corner.  When I asked her what she was feeling about her movements, she said that she felt she was being very powerful and perhaps taking up too much space!  This woman is so afraid of overpowering people that she tries to make herself invisible, or at least unobtrusive.  Something that she could not see happening in her life suddenly became obvious through acknowledging this movement's meaning.  Inner and outer become one in the dance.  No wonder many religions condemned dancing as sinful if dancing can show us our true nature so clearly.
            In ancient times, people prayed with all of their being.  The emotions and feelings of prayer were not separate from the body.  “The whole body shook with worship, and dance helped them open themselves completely.  People used their bodies as tools to reach a spiritual level.  Their bodies gave them the opportunity to dissolve the self and come closer to the divine.”34   The Islamic mystics, the Sufis, use ancient movements and techniques to reach a state of at-one-ment with the divine.  The Arabic word for dance, raqs, means “to make the heart quiver and shake.”35   
            It is through the dance that Allerleirauh makes a connection with the King and with her own inner spirit.   

We dance to become one with the rhythm that was here before us and will remain after we are gone.  Through dancing a human being can move beyond limits, into a world of great thoughts where the yearning for transformation lingers and where the majesty of the true self is recognized.  With dancing, each human being becomes ancient and universal.  The natural ecstasy released through dancing takes the dancer beyond his or her isolation and feeling of being separate.  It turns the drop into a river.  Dancing is indeed the fastest way to unite with the divine.36 

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