Ahhh… the mystery and power of the Feminine.
I’ve long contemplated why it is that a woman’s anger sometimes feels immensely shallow to me, while I can offer my deepest presence in the face of rage from the woman I love until she’s spent and simply wants to be held.
I’ve long contemplated why some women’s desires to be seen are off-putting and actually repulsive, while some women who show up thoroughly decorated for the sake of being seen can capture my heart and nearly place me into a deep trance.
I’ve long contemplated why the love expressed by some felt paper-thin, while the love felt and displayed by others feels nothing short of a thick, warm blanket and warm cup of coffee by a fire in a cabin deep in the snowy mountains just as the sun is rising through the windows.
What is it that makes these distinctions? If I’m in a moment more oriented toward psychology, I might say that these are “unhealthy or healthy” responses. If I’m more oriented toward personal growth, I might say that these responses are “immature or mature.” If I’m more oriented toward spirituality, I might say that these responses are from “young souls or old souls.”
But none of those perspectives ever sticks with me. For some reason, while they all may seem to be reasonable explanations, they fail to capture the mystery of the beautiful range of feeling that a woman can offer. None of them can explain why a woman can be deeply in rage during one moment, and deeply loving in the next, and both actually feel like “clean, healthy, mature, evolved responses.”
There is another way of looking at it that sticks with me. And, when I offer this analogy, every woman I have spoken with, without fail, offers a sigh of agreement.
It is that of the depth, power, and mystery of the ocean.
An Ocean of Feminine Depth
The Feminine is not something to be put solely into the contexts of psychology or personal development or even into a personal spirituality. There is something much bigger, much larger, much deeper about The Feminine in all of us. (Yes, we all have both Masculine and Feminine within us. Even the biggest asshole male you know has a feminine side, even if he can’t articulate or acknowledge it.)
If you feel your femininity as the ocean, you first notice some subtleties.
On the surface are waves gently folding and kissing the shoreline, waves wisping away as they’re penetrated by the wind and dissolved into mist. A storm may come through and some of your waves may come crashing down, wreaking havoc on everything around them.
As you begin to descend beneath the surface, you feel stronger currents, but things move more slowly. No longer are waves casting about; you begin to touch something deeper, something that is more what you really are beneath your “surface” offering to the universe. And as you connect more with that part of yourself, you might realize two things. One: you have power to bring beautiful shells to the shoreline and to offer a home to many forms of life. And two: this is also the power that creates whirlpools and undercurrents that can harm or even kill someone or, if you can feel it, also sink the largest and most impenetrable of ships.
And if you descend even further, beyond the visibility of the shoreline or the under-currents, deeper than any human can withstand, you reach a level of depth that is rarely entered. In these deepest of depths, things move imperceptibly slowly. These depths are so deep that not even the sun enters there… it is almost as though nothing from the outside world could survive the pressure and power of these depths. And yet, there’s something about them that seems almost tender and loving.
It is at these depths that only the ugliest and most hideous of animals can survive because they are offered by you a deeply-loving refuge. At these depths, heat escapes from cracks in the ocean’s floor, offering life to those who not only dare, but are strong enough to venture so deeply.
It is a dark, still place. It is also the most powerful place in the ocean. As the earth below shifts and creaks and yawns, it sends tidal waves to the surface, destroying everything in its path in a way that few other acts of nature can accomplish. The power and force of deep water is something that we all remain surrendered to.
Integrating the Spirit and the Human
The experience of the Feminine (and the Masculine) is one that transcends both psychology and spirituality. Even if humans never existed, the forces of feminine and masculine would still be at play. The Feminine force would continue to allow and receive all that happens, and the Masculine force would still guide and penetrate throughout the universe.
To fully allow your femininity is to accept your being as both spirit and human. You will be aware of your spiritual ideals while also honoring your human self. It is said that even Buddha wept when receiving news of his family’s death.
There are two big challenges I see at the point of integration, though, depending on where you are on your path.
The first is beating yourself up for not embodying some spiritual ideal. Remember that you are human. You have emotions. You have feelings. All of these should be honored and revered as you work through your process. Transcendence does not occur by virtue of moving upward and out of yourself. Transcendence first moves inward and downward through yourself before you open your offering outward and into the world. Transcendence does not disregard your human, physical self. It includes it. And it not only includes it, but it makes use of your human capacity for love as a slingshot for loving and embracing all. Allow your feelings and continue to feel through them. You are on your path.
The second is to to aim for something simply because your psychology thinks you should. This is taking an idea, knowing it is powerful, then proudly displaying it to the world before it becomes embodied, all the while, not actually experiencing it to be true in the deepest, quietest part of you. Remember that feminine depth can’t be seen. It can only be felt. If you desire to put it on display for the world, you’re still at the surface – the waves – of your femininity. Feel deeper.
Seeing Yourself vs. Being Seen
A perennial struggle I observe in women is that they desire to be seen by others but neglect to see themselves. It is a core feminine desire to be seen, yet many women don’t offer to themselves this gift.
As Robert A. Johnson, author of many books on Jungian interpretation of mythology, states in She:
Aphrodite is the principle of mirroring every experience back into our own consciousness. As man is occupied with expansion and exploration and finding that which is new, Aphrodite is reflecting and mirroring and assimilating. Aphrodite’s mirror is symbolic of a most profound quality of the goddess of love. She frequently offers one a mirror by which one can see one’s self, a self hopelessly stuck in projection without the help of the mirror. Asking what is being mirrored back can begin the process of understanding, which may prevent getting stuck in an insoluble emotional tangle. This is not to say there are not outer events. But it is important to realize and understand that many things of our own interior nature masquerade as outer events when they should be mirrored back into our subjective world from which they sprang.
To tie this back into being seen vs. seeing yourself, it is the act of projecting on the outside world that drives you to seek being seen from outside of yourself. But you have an innate gift to see yourself in the mirror you always hold. This is your gift. It is a gift for you and for the world.
A gift, by definition, requires no reciprocity. If you seek to be seen by others, you then need something in return. If you are gifting the world, the simple offering should be enough. This is not to say that you should avoid attention, but I trust you know the difference. You can feel when you wear “that” outfit to attract attention, and how that’s different than when you wear “this” outfit which feels like a gift to yourself and others.
It is with this distinction that you may more clearly understand the source of your feelings… and if they reside on the surface or if they are sourced from your depth.
Attraction and Depth
It is a beautiful thing for a man to experience the range of emotions from the woman he loves. I published an article the other week titled Women: Please Don’t Hold Back, and a common response I received went something like “Yeah, but why do men keep a distance and not engage with me emotionally?” or “Yeah, but why do they play hard to get?” or “Yeah, but why do men act like they don’t care?”
Admittedly, this distancing is part of this is the western culture of attraction. We all play this game to some degree. I studied pickup artistry for years and, the reality is, it works. But (most of) it only works for so long and with women who exist more on the surface than in their depths.
When you get past that surface-level stage (if you decide to go through it or not) of understanding attraction on that level, you come to realize there is no game. There is only truth, authenticity, compassion, and love. And from that place, attraction occurs when your truth, authenticity, compassion and love line up with someone else’s.
If you stay on your surface levels of joy, sadness, rage, or love, you’ll attract the masculine who also resides at his own surface. If you move into your depths, it won’t be long before men who are also at their own depths suddenly show up. I’ve seen this in my own life and in the lives of my male and female friends. This is the nature of depth and attraction. As soon as you move deeper, those who float on the surface will fall away and those who reside at their depths suddenly appear. Those who are accustomed to the surface, by definition, can not handle it in the harsh, but deeply loving, depths.
Joy, Sadness, Rage, and Love
So what does femininity look like on those surface waves compared to its powerful depths?
In the context of joy, we have giddiness on the surface. As Alison Armstrong distinguishes it, giddiness is “Tee-hee-hee! Tee-hee-hee!” Sometimes it’s cute. Sometimes it’s gross. But it’s on the surface, is simply caused by external circumstances, and is disconnected from any sort of depth.
In joy rising from feminine depth, however, there’s an allowing of something deeper to move through you. If giddiness is a college girl getting stoned for the third time in her life, joy is weeping in awe and wonder at the news of a loved one’s baby being born.
Surface sadness is “freaking out.” This and “anger” are both things that cover up and distance us from feelings of real pain. On the surface, we’ll avoid the depth of our sadness and be cast about by how we interpret a situation to be affecting us.
I saw this firsthand this weekend when a twenty-something fell off of a fourth floor balcony. After I called 911, etc., his girlfriend and our neighbor (who don’t get along) began fighting and bickering about how to handle the situation. They were both being cast about by how the situation was affecting them and were not directly connected to the sadness of this man who was seriously injured and in pain.
In the feminine depths of sadness, the practice is to compassionately allow both vulnerability and pain. When we feel with the pain of ourselves and others, we connect more deeply with a feeling of sadness. There is a part of life that is inherently sad and the only way to stay in our depths is to allow ourselves to feel into it, not to avoid it.
In rage, the surface experience is merely anger. Again, anger is the avoidance of the pain of vulnerability and hurt. The hurt plays out as anger and actively (though almost always unconsciously) disconnects us from the pain of the hurt.
On the other hand, in rage, it is the depth of hurt that is coming through. Any man can look into the eyes of one woman who is “angry” and another woman who is “enraged” and tell you which is which. There’s a sense of presence, pain, and power that comes from rage while anger can feel almost flimsy to a deeply conscious man.
In love, on the surface it is still love. The difference between surface love and deep love is its orientation. If the love is oriented toward your situation or your own feelings, it resides on the surface. As your feelings or your situation changes, so too will your connectedness to love.
Deep love is oriented toward something expansive. When you love someone deeply, they can mess up, big time, and you still feel the love there. When you love the outcome of a situation (e.g., rulings around marriage equality), what you love is the truth that the outcome has honored… you love that love is honored more deeply, both now and in the future, for you, for your family and friends, and for the good of all humanity.
Love is Not All You Need.
Love is All There Is.
In the depths femininity, in joy or sadness or rage or love, there is nothing but love itself.
The feminine experience of love in the form of joy is vulnerably compassionate to the good fortune of humanity and the universe.
The feminine experience of love in the form of sadness is vulnerably compassionate to the pain of humanity and the universe.
The feminine experience of love in the form of rage is vulnerably compassionate to the unfortunate state of humanity and the universe and seeks to powerfully display that hurt to the world.
The feminine experience of love in the form of deep love is vulnerably compassionate to the universal experience of all beings and their own capacities for love.
In the end, whether in joy, or sadness, or rage, or love, either playing on the surface or residing in its depths, the feminine knows that Love is all there is in each and every moment.
You need nothing.
You have all you need.
You have all that there is.
And all that there is, is love.
Image Credit: Ammoudia