I’ve just been reading all sorts of wonderful and terrible things on this fantastic website called the Good Men Project – http://www.goodmenbook.org, and (ironic or no?) it makes me think about being a woman.

I remember a time when I learned about feminism and a glass ceiling, and I was quite certain that this is only true for women who let it be true. While I had my share of insecurities, I never felt slighted by being a woman (and that remains true). I am so thankful to be a woman – it seems to suit me well.

And what were the messages of my generation? I remember being ten years old and getting out of the bath, and looking in the mirror. This was the first time that I noticed my thighs touching each other as I stood with my legs together. While I was always a very thin child, I was also quite aware that I needed to maintain this in order to fit the cultural norm. Barbies or not, the message was clear all around me. Thin, beautiful, and very sexy. At 10 years old I had no idea about sexiness, but I could try hard to be thin and beautiful.

Over the next few years I spend more hours pouring over teen magazines than I can even imagine… It was amazing how I learned everything about putting on makeup, to obsessing about boys, to being increasingly insecure and dependent on the opinions of others, all largely from these magazines. And this was my transition into womanhood.

In those years, to be a middle-aged woman was to be past prime. Clearly everyone beautiful was young, thin, and sexy. While I had no fear of aging, I didn’t really pay much attention to older women. I didn’t look up to them like I do now….

Women and girls today are taught to be strong like men, and to look a certain way, and to speak out loudly and clearly, and to excel at sports, and drugs, and sex, and school, and fashion, and.. and… and it’s all quite confusing.

What about being a lady? Now at a ripe 31 years old, I am SO happy to be older. I am so happy to be in my thirties! Life seems to get more delicious by the year. One of the great joys has been having a partner who opens my doors and carries my bags and lets me be soft and sweet. And it’s almost as if I should feel bad for this, being a modern woman educated in feminism! But yet he lifts me up.

When I lived in the mountains of Colorado, I was a firefighter and a Yoga teacher. I threw away all of my heels, proclaiming that they are bad for my back (true, they are). I never wore makeup, and I finally learned to enjoy hiking uphill (a story for another time). It was good. I was happy.

When I moved to California, things were difficult. It must have been in the stars! But one thing I really gained from living in the San Francisco area is how to really enjoy being a woman. One by one, I put the stereotypes back on, and relished them. I bought heels again, and discovered how incredibly sexy they make my legs look. I bought low cut shirts and noticed that as I age my breasts continue look great. I started wearing make-up again, and felt sexy, beautiful, and vibrant. And the people around me responded. When I would dress a little up, people literally responded to me differently. And you know what? I liked it. It could be the Leo in me…. there’s plenty of it! But seriously, who doesn’t love positive feedback? Who doesn’t want approval? We are trained to crave it by our beautiful, albeit, far from perfect, culture.

I have encountered the glass ceiling.  I have encountered just as much classism and ageism.  I see that what I was taught is true – that women are not valued in the same way as men.  I also believe that I am an incredibly fortunate human being.    I am sitting here in the computer lab at one of the finest schools in the world, with a wide vocabulary at my fingertips, graced by education and life experience abound, with a cozy home and a bright future.  And even more simply, I have heat.  I have hot water.  I have a home.  I have amazing supportive people that love me.  I am deeply blessed.  And so are you.

Above and beyond being so blessed, as a woman I am not ready to throw out the advantages of my sex appeal.  Granted, I don’t often realize that I am using it… sometimes people think I am flirting when I am just being the kind farm girl I was raised to be!  But seriously, if I can dress and present myself in a way that is a bit more appealing, and use that to give me a bit of a leg up, then so be it!  I’ve had plenty of disadvantages over time, why can’t I use this one?  And it’s fun.  Why not enjoy?  I was always an artist at heart, and I like letting my art show through my dress and presentation.

And as women, why would we deny the beauty that comes from our sweetness?  I like that my heart is super soft underneath it all.  I like that I love honestly and vigorously, even if it has kicked my ass in the past.  I like getting all emotional every month as my hormones spike, because that emotion all flows from such deep love for a beautiful experience.

And on the backside of it all, I enjoy stepping into the role of homemaker more deeply than I might have thought possible.  I am a nurturer.  Why would I reject that just to be modern?  Can’t I be modern and bake and cook and nurture and succeed and be sexy and be professional and be intelligent and be my own flavor of feminist all at once?  Can I just enjoy that I do enough, and I am alright with letting him carry the bags and open the doors?

My mother is an amazing woman.  She is stronger than any woman should have to be.  She held us together through the worst of times, and she has taught me a few things about being a woman.  My mother doesn’t wear much make-up, and used to give me a hard time in high school for the thick layers I would wear on my face (in retrospect, yes – I wore too much make-up!).  She has always been a bit more simple, and refreshingly real.  She does what needs to be done, in the face of any challenge.

As an adult woman so shaped by those early magazines, I think one of the most challenging things has been to learn how to stand in what I know, regardless of the feedback from others.  It’s been confusing enough figuring out how to be an adult, and be a woman but be strong like a man but be soft and vulnerable so men are not intimidated but keep going for success but you should stop and have a family soon but what’s the point of dating if you know he’s not the one?  And where did I learn it had to be a he to be my partner anyway?

So over the last year and a half I have been gifted (I use this word carefully) with situations where I have had to learn how to care less about the opinions of others.  Maybe the hardest was letting go of pleasing Mom.  Sometimes people will not agree with our decisions.  But if your heart is true and your intention is pure, then maybe it’s time to learn to stand it the center and let go of the child that wants to please.  I think my mother taught me this best, by staying on her course despite the intense challenges she faced as a young mother.

I believe it has been this lesson, this ongoing lesson (smile) of learning to stand in the center and stay on my course despite others’ opinions, that has shaped the latest in my journey to understanding how to be a woman.  Something feels a bit more mature, a bit more like a capable light in the world, because I have weathered through one of these deepest of challenges.  A challenge that had no opportunity to present itself until this ripe decade of thirty-something.  And now I know a little more about how others view me, and I care a bit less.  I know a bit more about the passion that drives me, and I am humbly surrendering to it a bit more.  I enjoy dressing up, in a way that may not be so different than the 5 year old, but I like it on the cover of the woman I am now.  Pure heart, clear intentions, a bit more sure, with big plans to keep pressing love out into a world that likes to think it is bleak…. and if the sparkle of my smile, the joy of my heart, or the tastiness of my fresh baked cookies can make someone’s day a little sweeter, then hey – always glad to be that woman.

Trying to think about the why and the ties and truth behind actions, seeking motivation and delayed by inspiration and playing with the madness of the perfect moments passing by….

Grateful to be humbled and bumbled and blessed and tripped over the biggest boulder I’ve seen and fell flat on my face and then rose up from the ground like a vine climbing the most divine arm into the sky….

It could have been easier or faster or brighter or more fun. It could have been hell on wheels, or hell on broken feet walking slowly. But it was what it was and I’m glad it’s behind. But even moreso I’m so glad it was…. painful, heart opening by ripping me open, brightening my insides by bleaching them out… but maybe it was a reminder, of what I came to do. A tug on the sleeve to urge out of the blissful world into a crawl through another face of truth. A chance to once again reconcile the ugly with the beautiful, and see the places in me that were available for torture….

Thanks for helping me to clean them out. And brighten my smile. A layer deeper, a whole lot clearer, walking a little taller, 20 pounds lighter, my soul is glad. My heart is more glad. Life is good. Even after the rug was pulled out from under my trust…

Falling deeper into bliss again, trusting the new wave of life that ebbs back through my skin, pleasing, touching, radiating like the light that lives me and drives me to touch you and wish that you are all the light that I see in your eyes as you read… this…

What a beautiful journey… Incredible, reverent, honest, and perfect to the last point of healing… always happening.

You are so beautiful.  Can you feel it??  Do you breathe it boldly?

Do you ever feel like you just woke up… again?  But you weren’t actually sleeping?  It’s amazing how we can change with the ebbs and flows of life winding.  I was reminded this morning of certain ways I’ve been asleep for awhile.  Maybe asleep isn’t the word – maybe just not fully activated.  It’s like there is this bit of magic that likes to flow through and wakes me up to serious inspiration and clarity.  And I have been missing it.  Is it from the wonderful chiropractor opening my nervous system to flow better?  Is it my practice the last few days?  Is it from the beloved people around me changing their thoughts?  Who knows.  I can say, I am glad.  And life is so beautiful…

I was interviewed tonight by a writer from Body and Soul magazine.  She had some interesting questions and it made me realize that for the past many months I have been so full with keeping businesses running and school flowing, that I haven’t taken much time to step back and consider the whole picture.  How does all my work tie together in the future?  Lots of visions at play there… and lots to consider.  She was also curious whether my practice is what pulled me from the depression of my youth into the thriving life I am living now.  Yes, of course it was my practice.  But was it my Yoga practice?  I suppose it depends on how you describe Yoga.

I think of my practice as equal part Yoga (as a broad term) and equal part nature (as a broad term).  Nice and specific, right?  I wonder what part of that brought me into thrival.  Or was it something else?  Was it more of a decision to live?  A decision to live…?  Such a big decision.  That one certainly did help…. But then there was the decision to heal myself.  And once I made that decision, I would say nature spoke back first.  And nature guided me through its wiley perfect ways into the arms of meditation, subtle energy awareness, and, yes finally, Yoga.  And now I think it’s all Yoga.  But maybe it’s all body.

Maybe my Yoga brought me into love with my personal body….. and what a decadent journey that is and has been.  And yet I don’t believe my body ends at the boundary of my skin (what a revolutionary thought! …not really).  I believe that the natural world surrounding me is an extension of my body.  And that includes you.  It’s all a natural world, depending on how you want to define it.  And right now you are reading these words and participating in my reality.  Or am I participating in yours?  Who is creating this?  Are you changing my life as you read this?  So many questions…..  Back on point.  Nature is also my body.  That’s why I don’t want to pollute it, at least not very much.  I do drive, and occasionally I do eat fried food.  Neither is good for managing body pollution, but both add some sort of quality to my life.  I try to drive less, walk more, and eat more raw food and less fried.  Basic choices for a healthier body.  Now I wish I could convince that manufacturer down the way to stop dumping their crap into our body…. But I can start by making my own healthy choices.

Wandering thoughts for the day…. the interplay of practice meets practice, with such subtle boundaries and major overlap.  How did my practice of sitting in nature lead to my Yoga practice, and how are they anything but one practice now?  Maybe it’s not so much about the labels as it is about taking time to find the me hidden in the chaos all around.  What’s your practice?  How does it help you to keep track of the “me” in your world?

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