an excerpt from December's read-along of "A Woman's Worth"

An Excerpt from December's
Read-Along of A Woman's Worth

 
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What follows is an excerpt from today's email for the read-along of A Woman's Worth that I'm hosting this month...


On dulling our pain and self-crucifixion

"Why do people who have the most ardor, the most enchantment, the most power so often feel the need for drugs and alcohol? They do not drink just to dull their pain; they drink to dull their ecstasy. Betty Lynn lived in a world that doesn't know from ecstatic women, or want to know, or even allow them to exist. [...] Betty Lynn crucified herself before anyone else had a chance to. Many of us are a little like her, choosing to implode rather than take on society's punishment." (pg. 14)

"In the case of many people who carry around one thing, whatever it is, that blocks them from total joy, that belief is this: If I am too happy, too successful, too perfect, I will not be loved. There has to be something that lets other people know that I'm really 'one of them,' that I'm miserable too. I'm really not taking away their piece of the pie. I'm really not perfect, so they don't have to hate me." (pg.27)

This hits a little too close to home for me, if you know what I mean. Sabotaging ourselves to appease (what we preemptively think are) other people's expectations. Judging other women, too, for being too (or not enough) x, y, or z.

- What do you judge yourself for doing/being as a woman?
- What standards do you think you're meeting when you squash whatever those natural instincts are to be 'acceptable'?
- In what ways do you think those standards are ... positive/beneficial? ... negative/harmful?

There's a real difference between striving to live up to standards that we set for ourselves and obligating ourselves to live up to standards expected by others. It's the difference between living inside-out versus outside-in. The former is self-expression, the latter is approval-seeking compulsion. So some standards that require our restraint or practice in order to meet them will be 'positive' for us, while others will be 'negative'. It all depends on how living our lives to those standards makes us feel, and it will look unique to each of us.

- What do you judge other women for doing/being?
- If your judgments had nothing to do with those women, what do you think your judgments might say about what you think, feel, and believe about what is 'acceptable' for women to do/be?
- And to what extent are those standards of acceptability ... your own? ... someone else's?

"It is impossible to overestimate the psychic damage done by the delusions, pseudoreligious and other, that God is somehow happier or we are somehow purer is we are suffering just a bit. The truth is not that God is happier or that we are better, but that the institutions that told us so are happier, because suffering keeps us in our place, where we are easier to control." (pg. 28)

Mic drop.


It's not too late to join us for the read-along! When you sign up, you'll automagically receive all the emails you've missed, so you'll be all caught up and ready to pick up where we left off along with us next week.

Worried about not being able to find the time to read a whole book during the holiday season? A Woman's Worth clocks in at a total of 141 pages ... and the margins are huuuge. Let there be no misunderstanding that is precisely why I chose to read this one this month. I got holiday plans, too! ;)

 
 

NOTE: Signing up for December's read-along emails will also subscribe you to other regular letters from me as well.

 

Tagged: Read-Along

See Also: book: "A Woman's Worth"

would you like to read "a woman's worth" with me?

Would you like to read A Woman's Worth with me?

 
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You might know I treat reading as an important part of my awakening practice. I just finished up a book at Thanksgiving and have been thinking about what my next read will be. With the holiday season upon us, I knew I wanted to choose something that would be a fairly easy read, something quick and uplifting. So ...

I’ll be reading A Woman’s Worth by Marianne Williamson, and thought I’d invite you to read along with me!

I'll be sending an email each week with some thoughts, questions, and other prompts for reflection as we read together through the month of December. This will be super low-key: no reading schedule, no homework, and definitely no such thing as being 'behind' with this — just an intention to engage with our beliefs about womanhood on a deeper level.

If you’d like to read A Woman’s Worth along with me this month, sign up below. And then ... find yourself a copy! You can find the book at Amazon SmileBarnes & NobleGoogle Books — or maybe even your local library.

 
 

NOTE: Signing up for December's read-along emails will also subscribe you to other regular letters from me as well.

 

Tagged: Read-Along

See Also: book: "A Woman's Worth"

what does it feel like to tell the truth?

What Does It Feel Like to Tell the Truth?

What does it feel like to tell the truth?

I find myself wondering this all the time lately. I have often, this last year and half, been afraid to speak about my own experience of and thoughts and questions about this process of awakening because of a vague sense that I will do it wrong, that I will inevitably offend someone or express a thought that’s taboo or politically incorrect.

I have often, this last year and half, felt that the world has gotten very loud and aggressive, and feminism has gotten very loud and aggressive right along with it. I often feel an un-winnable combination of guilt and defensiveness for calling myself a feminist: on the one hand, I feel like I’m not a very good feminist, and on the other hand, I bristle at the idea of there being rules that I must follow to champion women ‘correctly’. I don’t want to be in spaces where women are told they’re doing feminism and, by extension, womanhood ‘wrong’ anymore.

Maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m sheltered, maybe I’m too reliant on my own privilege. I genuinely acknowledge any or all of these things could be true. But I am concerned that the aggressive feminist voices, the hardcore police-types, the political and social critics who are speaking loudest are, in the process of what is undoubtedly very important work ‘out there’ in the wider world, intimidating some women away from exploring the very important work needing to be done ‘in here’ on the personal level and, especially, from connecting with other women for the purposes of communing and commiserating with them about our mutual experience of womanhood.

I know, at least, that I have felt intimidated. And so I wonder …

What does it feel like to tell the truth?

I know what it feels like to withhold it. I’m sure you do, too.

what does becoming fully human look like for me?

What Does Becoming Fully Human Look Like for Me?

so this is what has led me, after these many months, to this point where I'm at now: to this belief about what the soul is here for, which is
to express (and test) a hypothesis that the cosmos has about itself.

in other words, I am here, now, as this human because 'I' very expressly, particularly, specifically wanted to learn* something about human existence that I could only possibly experience as
this expression,
this incarnation.

and so this question, then, follows:

what does becoming fully human look like for me
as the unique expression that I am?

 

* 'learn' is not the right word here, but neither is 'experience'. i think it's closer to something of a hybrid between the two, but whatever that word or term is eludes me.

book review: "the meaning of mary magdalene"

a book review

The Meaning of Mary Magdalene

by Cynthia Bourgeault

 
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There is a sexuality which, clarified of its craving and attachment, is truly eucharistic — “This is my body, given for you” — a drawing near to the other with all that one has and is, in conscious love, to give the innermost gift of oneself in the most intimate foretaste of divine union that can be known in human flesh.

Cynthia Bourgeault
The Meaning of Mary Magdalene

 
 

1/Premise + Purpose

In writing this review, it was hard for me to pin down one overall thesis of this book; it covers a lot of ground in its 290 pages, and while Mary Magdalene features prominently, there are large swathes of this book where she is absent.

In fact, the title of the book itself might be the best description of what this book is all about: it is a broad exploration of Mary Magdalene’s significance and meaning, not just within the ‘master story’ of Christianity, but as a model for spiritual transformation full stop.

Author Cynthia Bourgeault unfolds a vision of what she believes Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s teachings would have actually focused on during their lifetimes, and what is far beyond (and in some ways, contradictory to) what we would recognize as 'Christianity' today.

If you have an interest in themes such as the relationship between spirituality + romantic love, abundance mentality, non-duality, sexuality, or 'mysticism' ... this book addresses them all and more from a unique interpretation of Magdalenic (and Christic) wisdom.


2/Reading Experience

I found this a quick, but by no means an easy, read. I finished it in about two weeks, reading at a casual pace while on vacation.

The book is organized into three parts: “Mary Magdalene as Apostle”; “Mary Magdalene as Beloved”; and “Mary Magdalene as Unitive Wisdom” — but, like I mentioned above, while Mary Magdalene does feature prominently in the book, there are also large sections of the text where she is almost completely absent.

Bourgeault does not shy away from leaving Mary behind altogether while she takes the time to analyze other referenced or otherwise related passages/philosophies. This is ultimately for your benefit so that you have the necessary context for her larger argument, but when it does happen it can feel a little bit ungrounded, a bit like you're floating away from an anchoring ‘main point’.

Overall, I’d estimate that I spent an equal amount of time journaling about my own responses (both intellectual and emotional) that I was having to the book as I did actually reading the book itself. But in hindsight, I realize that the majority of the journaling I did was prompted pretty much altogether by Part Two (“Mary Magdalene as Beloved”).

Now, I'd chock that up to the fact that this section of the book touches on the issues that have been the most sensitive during my own awakening. So reading through this part of the book saw my beliefs + attitudes toward marriage, intimacy, and sexuality being consistently confronted. I had a lot of thoughts + feelings to journal! But these issues have, again, been a large part of my personal experience of awakening. Depending on what your own high-priority issues are, your mileage will vary.

Regardless, the book flows well overall if you go with Bourgeault's flow. You really can't have any expectations about where she's going next, because you'll inevitably be wrong! To me, the book felt like a raft trip down a great meandering river: the flow is consistent, but you really are all over the map.

One other thing: you will undoubtedly at times notice a tone of reactiveness or defensiveness in this book. I would encourage you to give Bourgeault the benefit of the doubt; it stems from the author’s anticipation of all the questions + criticisms that are likely to be brought up by the reader with a relationship to the Christian canon (whether that relationship is a current or even a former one).


3/Who This Book Is For

I think, most obviously, readers who are specifically interested in learning about how their romantic relationships can contribute to their spiritual growth (and vice versa!) will find a lot to chew over in this book.

But, with that said, this book is not just about romantic love, people! If you really engage with the content of this book, it will have implications for the way you are currently living your life simply because you are a human being who relates to other human (and non-human!) beings. This book’s primary interest is conscious love: love as a spiritually transformative force.

I also don't think you need to self-identify as Christian (or even post-Christian) to find the ideas in this book relevant or at least thought-provoking. Because of the fact that a large assumption this book makes is that Jesus + Mary Magdalene's true teachings were far beyond what we would recognize as 'Christianity' today, the spiritual ideas presented here cross faith boundaries. It's Christianity meets Eastern tradition meets abundance mindset.

No matter what, this book will require you to read with a beginner's mind. It gets into some pretty mystical ideas in places, and it heavily references the 'gnostic gospels' of Philip, Thomas, and Mary Magdalene, so you'll need to be open to some intellectual and spiritual stretching!


4/Favorite Quotes

"What if, instead of emphasizing that Jesus died alone and rejected, we reinforced that one [Mary Magdalene] stood by him and did not leave? — for surely this other story is as deeply and truly there in the scripture as is the first. How would this change the emotional timbre of the day? How would it affect our feelings about ourselves? About the place of women in the church? About the nature of redemptive love?"

"It gives one a bit of a start to realize that for the better part of two millennia, Christian theology has been written, shaped, formulated, and handed down almost exclusively by celibates talking to other celibates ... We are all children of a cultural stream whose vision of human love has been shaped by the shadow side of celibate spirituality."

"Jesus's core teaching is rooted in the ground of transformed eros and brings as its fruit not only forgiveness of sins but unswerving singleness of perception. Ultimately, it is not about "clean living" and purity, but the total immolation of one's heart."

"Letting go is not in order to get something better ... in and of itself it is the something better."

"One cannot love God as an object. God is always and only the subject of love. God is that which makes love possible, the source from which it emerges and the light by which it is recognized."

"The name given to the state of restored alignment — of 'singleness' or purity of being — is 'virginity' ... We are used to thinking of virginity as something we begin with and then lose through sexual expression. In this teaching it is the other way around. Our early emergence into consciousness finds most of us scattered and confused, lost in a maze of self-images with not a clue as to who we really are. Many of us, tragically, remain in that state our entire lives. The journey toward real self-knowledge (or gnosis), toward 'restoration to fullness of being,' is at the same time the painstaking reclaiming of our own virginity, which in this teaching bears the sense of 'free, simple, and inwardly whole.' "

"A conscious relationship is one that calls forth who you really are ... we could welcome its power to wake us up in areas of life where we are asleep and where we avoid naked, direct contact with life. This approach puts us on a path. It commits us to movement and change, providing forward direction by showing us where we most need to grow. Embracing relationship as a path also gives us practice: learning to use each difficulty along the way as an opportunity to go further, to connect more deeply, not just with a partner, but with our own aliveness as well."

"Mystical commingling, shadow work, and mutual servanthood ... are all part of the territory along the ... path of erotic transformation."


Find it on: Google | Amazon | Barnes & Noble



If you're looking for something similar, try ...

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (1996) by Sue Monk Kidd

things I wish I could go back and tell myself

Things I Wish I Could Go Back and Tell Myself
at the Start of This Journey

 
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Dear Awakening Woman,

You are seeking, searching, striving for answers to a question about what womanhood is, what it means, what it looks and feels like when a woman is ‘natural’ — unrestrained and unprocessed by patriarchy. For all intents and purposes, these answers you seek do not exist. There are no answers to find. There are only answers to live.

You will feel outraged, betrayed, foolish for being so naive. You will learn things that will blow your mind and crush your spirit. You will wonder how there is any way to change patterns that have thousands of years of heft behind them. You will sometimes wish you could unknow what you have come to be aware of, that you could unawaken from the world you now see.

My love, I wish I could tell you that the way out is through, but the truth is: there is no ‘out.’ This is the culture we have inherited and for better or worse the world we live in, so please, please, please just do your best to be here in it. To be present for it. To be engaged with it.

Know, too, that your ‘best’ will look different on different days. Give yourself the grace to acknowledge yourself for doing your best even when it doesn’t feel like enough, and give yourself the motivation to do better when you know you haven’t leaned in as much as you could. Be gentle, but be fierce.

If I were given the opportunity to bring you forward in time, to skip the coming years and arrive here where I am now, I hope you can understand why I wouldn't take it. I wouldn't, for anything in the world, spare you the opportunity you have now to learn everything you will exactly the way I did: one day, one shock, one heartbreak, one fluttering open of the eyes at a time.

Above all, in the moments when you feel ten thousand miles and at least a few dimensional planes away from the nearest woman, remember that while the way you are experiencing your awakening is unique, the fact that you are awakening is not.

You are not alone. Far from it. You are in such good company.

marriage, ulterior desire, and non-attachment

Marriage, Ulterior Desire, + Non-Attachment

I realize now, looking back, that I did have an 'ulterior motive' for getting married, for wanting so badly to be married ... I thought it would make me feel more secure, more stable, like getting married would make our relationship feel like a sure thing.

But what I've learned in these two years of marriage is that when it comes to human relationships, there's never a sure thing — there are only ever choices.

Our free will (see also: the Law of Allowing) means that we only have control over our own choices in any of our relationships — including our choice to resist or flow. See also: attachment and non-attachment.

And this has been at the heart of my quest for womanhood. How can I be present in an intimate and non-attached relationship with this man, with this other human?

The conclusion I have come to is that, fundamentally, this comes down to my relationship with myself, which is to say, my relationship to the divine. The answer to this question is not an answer, per se, it is a process: it becomes a question about becoming fully human (see also: an anthropos), becoming a 'virgin' — one in myself, whole in myself.

It is only from a place of fullness (or emptiness?) that I will be able to be in this marriage without bringing to it the clinging, craving 'ulterior desire'.