How honest is your relationship with yourself?
With your lover? Is there a sense in you that there may be something more?
“What did you answer? Because if there is no desire for anything more, why would anyone read the next sentence? There has to be a motivating factor within your own soul that’s calling you to unfold, or to awaken more fully. What are you looking for? What do you want more of really -- if anything? More pleasure?”
“Is it okay to ask for that, yeah that’s a big one.”
Do you deserve it?
“Exactly, and I feel that’s really the most important thing -- that we know we not only have the right -- but we have the need to ask the next question.”
Within just a few moments of our interview with Caroline Muir we had plunged head first into our vulnerability, fear, power struggles, needs, and our desire.
This fiercely elegant creature had us at hello. The smoky voiced sexual pioneer, co-author of the acclaimed book, Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving (now in its umpteenth reprint), and founder of the Divine Feminine/Awakened Masculine Institute has been quoted in nearly every corner of our earth over the past two decades.
Natalie: You unabashedly teach women and men to align the power of consciousness and sexual energies and how to expand their orgasmic potential. What possibly could have motivated you to explore and become an educator in this realm?
“We need education and healing. We need to align our energy with our consciousness. I was a darling blue-eyed Scorpio with tons of sexual energy and grew up in the Midwest in the ‘50’s where nice girls don’t do it and good girls saved themselves until they were married. And I was very misaligned from growing up in a home where my father was inappropriate with me, with my mother and with our girlfriends. Long story short, I went on to have 3 marriages and a handful of affairs, all driven by my sexual energy.
Well, at a Yoga Retreat I heard about this thing called Tantra Yoga and I thought, “Come on, there is no Yoga that talks about sex.” There was. The more I heard about the study of this kind of Yoga - this union with one’s self and with another, the more curious I got about it. I thought I was right on target with lingerie and seductive ways, and believed, “It’s all about good sex, isn't it?”
Natalie: What turned the tides for you?
“In Yoga class I began to integrate my sexual energy with the rest of my being. I discovered my sexuality really was a part of me that I was sitting on or using indiscriminately and it ended up in a lot of unhappiness. That was the turning point for me. I knew I was off the mark. It could come to someone else in a different way. But I was on this whole spiritual path and I didn’t know where my sexuality possibly could be included there.”
At the very least, many organized religions deter us from our source, our natural healthy desire for love, pleasure and sexual unity. Ancient cultures of India, Nepal and Tibet understood this ecstatic state as well as the joyous feelings of union – it was one of their paths to God. This sacred sexual path known as Tantra is just beginning to flourish in the West, and it takes a lot of flack here. Just ask Sting, "People get very silly about the whole idea of what Tantra is. It's using your normal life as a devotional practice. Breathing, walking, eating, making love. . . it's all the same. Practice consciously.” It emerged as a rebellion against organized religion, which rejected sexuality to reach enlightenment. The word Tantra means "to manifest, to expand, to show and to weave." In this context, sex is thought to expand consciousness and to weave together the polarities of male (represented by the Hindu god, Shiva), and female (embodied by the Hindu goddess, Shakti), into a harmonious whole.
Natalie: What was the threshold you crossed?
“Eventually, I realized I needed healing because of fear. Huge amounts of fear around men and penises and the size of them and the needs of them. When I finally entered into sexual healing work I recovered memories in my childhood of my father’s erection; it’s inappropriateness with me. For 6 or 7 years I didn’t want to believe it. Then there’s a moment of truth - the ‘Oh, I’d better believe it, it really did happen and I know it did.’ I realized why I was so uncomfortable all that time with my dad, and began putting together the puzzle of unclaimed, disowned memories of my childhood. I started becoming a whole person.
“Before these realizations, I thought if I had a clitoral orgasm I was in heaven. I had no idea a Sacred Spot ever existed in me or in women at all. I just didn’t know. There is so much more pleasure within us and our connection is our consciousness.”
Natalie: Help us to understand the difference of “regular clitoral orgasm” and “Sacred Spot” awakening? The former of which, as you said, everyone would be happy to have -- what else is there and how is that connected to our consciousness?
Natalie: ... or rubbed vigorously, even aggressively as if he were trying to jerk himself off, or to get you hot so he can jump on board. And as women we’re not taught how to touch ourselves, books can be so clinical or mechanical.
“And it really does need to be tenderly touched and massaged with feeling in order for it to fully awaken. And when I say awaken that means letting go of old memories: times when you did shut down from fear or shame, the divorce that really left you in lot of pain.
Our body contains and maintains those memories and the imprints of the emotion. For example, many of my students and clients who’ve been in psychotherapy for 20 years were unable to uncover the real core of their problems until they received this physical massage.
Let’s say you have a pain in your shoulder, you can talk about that pain in your shoulder from now until kingdom come but when a masseuse, a really good massage therapist with a loving touch and an intention for healing gets in there and starts working with that shoulder, they can start to really get into the heart of what the problem is. And when you’re touched in this way you may suddenly glimpse a memory of when you were a kid and fell out of a swing on to that shoulder or something.”
Natalie: Oh, you’re talking about a back door, as I call it in hypnotherapy. We access blocks with the mind, or through a back door through body movement. No matter what goes on in your body – it’s connected with your brain and your mind. All roads lead to Rome – so you are using the body to affect the mind and emotions.
“Yes - it’s the same way in the Sacred Spot work, when this place is actually massaged and touched, memories can come up and pain can actually be released that cannot be released simply by talking about it. This can be done with a clothes-on approach, and getting off is not the focus, orgasm is not the goal here. Everyone has their pace and comfort level, we always respect the needs of our students and clients. Love making and orgasm are explored in private.”
“Good question. We are so out of alignment. Our sexual energy is so out of alignment as a culture, that there is no connection to spirit, there is no connection to consciousness and there certainly is no connection to love. There is this great big split. It's as if human beings planetarily are split right in half -- right around the waistline. Yet we are always looking for love outside ourselves - when we sit at the computer, put on a video or stare out the car window.”
Natalie: As the constitution says to our demise, we have the right to the pursuit of happiness, when we can reach within and realize it’s all right here.
“Right, our intention with this education of the Divine Feminine/Awakened Masculine is to bring our human spirit into alignment. There is something more to sex than this new underwear or this new gal on the block or the new guy in the office or that cute ass in the gym.”
“Your daughter is absolutely right, sex is not love. Any animal can have sex. Most do all the time and are not loving each other. We are animals by nature, but we are all evolving conscious animals. Sexual love was an art form once upon a time -- there’s little in our modern culture demonstrating this in healthy ways.”
In the West, we usually view sex as a source of recreation rather than a means of transformation. To reach orgasm rather than to pleasure our lover or
to connect with him or her more fully.
“There has been no education about sexual love, about what you do with your emotions and what happens when the bonding hormones get so big that the woman is in love with the man and he is not thinking love at all. We are not educated about this energy. We need to learn this and we need to heal. We are also walking around with a lot of wounding, a lot of fear, a lot of having watched our parents in terribly dysfunctional relationships, having seen nothing but abuse in films or even in the media where the woman is always objectified sexually for the man’s pleasure. A lot of women grow up with not thinking that there is anything to sex but that. Thankfully we are awakening. We are not whispering so much.”
”A little caring goes a long way. Offer some of your precious nurturing energy you spend on everyone else for yourself. It’s simple. And you’ll actually put your sexual energy and caring, compassionate energy into more alignment. Try a simple meditation, if you will, by placing your hand on your own heart and the other on your own genitals and transmit love. This brings you in alignment with the divine. Without the pressure of achieving orgasm, just 3 or 5 minutes with your own healing hands. It’s OK if you don’t feel the energy right away. But you probably will. You’re not necessarily doing anything about the disparity of not having a guy in your life, or time, interest or energy, but at least you know for 5, maybe 10 minutes in the morning and the next, because you will do it again, there will be an alignment that you have created within yourself between your genitals, your heart, mind and spirit.”
Natalie: So not that we need a man in our life, but even if we don’t have someone, can we actually be reverent with ourselves and that’s going to create some sort of awakening?
We have to create our experience of love and awakening, we have to want such a thing.”
Through this simple ritual we stimulate our energy reserves and rouse passion -- these seemingly small incremental conscious connections extend beyond us, into our relationships across the board. Actually attracting more love by sharing it with yourself.
Natalie: Here’s another letter: As a woman, I know I need sexual healing work, but it's too scary for me to even think about having someone touch me "down there." Is there any other way for me to receive the healing I know I need?
“First you need to know you are always in charge of your Yoni, your "down there," your vagina and genitals. This is truly your sacred space. Before you even think about having someone else touch you, we suggest you work with yourself by placing your own hands over your Yoni (dressed or undressed) and simply transmit love and healing. As you consciously begin touching yourself in a loving and kind way, your Yoni (your vagina) will start to relax and trust you. Someday you may feel safe enough with a particular person, or in a healing ceremony, to open to touch that has no agenda other than to bring healing energy to you. Before that time, know that you can do a great deal of healing by yourself and with yourself.”
Natalie: Too many women shut off the connection to their power. They disconnect. Feel afraid when aroused. We can have these mechanical - f*cking for fun, friction & getting off - experiences but then we’re not even an inch closer to feeling close with someone.
“Yes, I definitely agree. We do learn to be good at shutting off connection because it's too scary. Women have had to learn to protect themselves from being used, hurt or abused by shutting down our sexual response to the best of our ability. A pretty powerful energy with a domino effect in the emotional realm or in a woman’s physical health if she shuts it down completely. If she’s just having sex for the pleasure of it or the fun of it, or to have sex without any connection, she can do that.
What’s the Next Step? Even a flicker of light that leads you to recognize and hear your needs is enough to get you started. If you and your mate are sleeping in separate beds, if you don’t know how to orgasm or why you don’t, if you’re getting off but still feeling disconnected, if you’re feeling ordinary, undeserving and alone, if you’ve spent your wad on your kids and your spouse and your job and your house and you’re wondering why you feel empty -- just begin by asking the next question. Whatever it is.
“I knew Theodore Sturgeon who was a great science fiction writer and he wore a little medallion around his neck that had a Q with an arrow going through it. What it meant was: ask the next question, because every time we ask the next question with real sincerity in our heart and a real desire to know what it is and with a willingness to find out, always we are directed towards the answer to that question.
Please ask the next question, keep asking questions, allow the desire in your heart and in your whole being to come forth. That desire is going to be what pulls you forward. Unfold the magnificent gift of your consciousness -- connected to each and every one of your energy centers... which will carry you beyond your wildest dreams.
In part Two of our exclusive interview, we’ll discuss whole body orgasm, how to connect your energy and power channels with your partner, and How to Stop Living from the Waist Up.
Divine Feminine Workshop Student...
The Mute Button is Off!
Open Your Eyes, Your Ears, Your Mind & Your Mouthby Natalie Geld
Vanessa talks with Natalie Geld about the profound inhumanity and sexual brutality towards women and what we can do to evolve…
Note from Nat* If anyone doubts the issues discussed here and is on the fence about our interconnectedness, here's a poke back: As I was sitting quietly at dawn, sipping coffee and editing this article in a cozy café in Bath, England…someone attempted to upload a file into my laptop via a nearby Bluetooth hack. Just before I turned off my Airport Express Internet connection to thwart the infiltration, it slipped through – a jpeg file aptly titled 'myc*ck.'
On some level that may seem humorous because I'm an adult female, free and able in my world to literally shut it down…but what if this were your 8 year old daughter who may not even know to tell you? Or your teenage sister, who clicks on the link and that man that sent it is near her, has access to her and has considered her this way? This action is a virtual and literal exclamation point to these important issues among us… Please Read On, Join Us and Become a [R]evolutionary!
Natalie: You represented Australia at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in NYC earlier this year. What is the status of women around our world today?
Vanessa: Violence towards women has become a global emergency, according to the United Nations, with gender-based violence affecting women and girls in every country regardless of their age, race, education, income or ethnicity. We have a real problem, and it’s pervasive.
Millions of women and girls are dying from poverty related hunger each year, UN experts estimate, and two thirds of the world’s illiterate are women - with 60 million girls having no access to primary school education.
Natalie: If we don’t witness it first hand, why should we care?
Vanessa: We are all in this together. It is our absolute responsibility to create and promote a safe and just world where everyone is entitled to basic human rights - regardless of sex, age, race or religion.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “Women and girls around the world face great challenges. They bear an unjust burden and this must change for the benefit of all humanity. We must act with common purpose and speak with one voice to change global policies and wills so that gender justice and an end to poverty can be achieved.”
Natalie: How did this experience influence you personally?
Vanessa: It felt incredible to be surrounded by women and men from every conceivable nation around the world; to hear first hand about the challenges being endured on a global scale along with the heroic acts that are taking place. It reinforced the fact that we all have an obligation to reach out, extend ourselves and help one another.
Natalie: What exactly is going on regarding women and violence?
Vanessa: Domestic violence is the most common form of violence against women with at least one in three women subjected to intimate partner violence within the course of their lifetime; with 70% of female murder victims in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa, and the United States being killed by their husbands or boyfriends.
Something must be done!
Denis Mukwege, a Congelese gynecologist reports that he performs as many as six rape related surgeries per day – many of these on girls who have not reached puberty. Genital mutilation (along with sexual slavery, torture and humiliation) is rife in the Congo where the number of survivors of sexual violence is estimated to be in excess of 40,000. He works amongst hospital beds filled with women on their backs - colostomy bags hanging next to them due to internal damage. No woman is spared, with Dr. Mukwege revealing his oldest patient was 75, and his youngest, a three-year-old baby. It’s horrific!
Cambodian girls as young as 14 are forced into prostitution and regularly tortured via electrocution. Brothel owners charge large sums of money for sex with virgins, with many girls enduring painful stitching afterwards; their ‘virginity’ being resold numerous times.
Natalie: To dispel the myth that the majority of clients are foreigners, Mu Sochua, a politician with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and a former minister for women's affairs, told Al Jazeera that most of Cambodia's sex industry was supported by local demand, approximately 70% as the force driving this abuse. He revealed that some of these local customers are high-ranking officials, including the military, the police, civil servants, and rich businessmen who have lots of money.
Vanessa: Yes, in fact, according to the United Nations, human trafficking is the third most profitable criminal activity after illicit trade in drugs and arms.
2 - 4 million women and children will be sold into prostitution in the next 12 months.Natalie: It sounds like women are treated worse than chattel…Many of these children are sold into the sexual slavery for as little as $10 and some are as young as 5.
Anderson Cooper 360
Human trafficking is the second largest organized crime in the world. It has become a bigger business than drug trafficking and generates more than $9.5 billion a year.
US State Department
The sexual trafficking and slavery of children is one of those evils that most of us are either too squeamish to acknowledge, too cowardly to challenge, or too comfortable to address.
Ron Livingston, Actor
Vanessa: Exactly, Kristof reports that “Brothel owners and pimps use violence, humiliation and narcotics to shatter girls’ self esteem and terrorize them into unquestioning, instantaneous obedience.” In the case of Pross, she was kept locked inside the brothel with her hands tied behind her back at all times, except when she was with customers. Female infanticide and neglect of girls is widespread in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In countries such as Iran, women are raped and then stoned to death for ‘adultery’.
And there’s more. Women in Pakistan, Asia and India are the victims of vicious acid attacks, and in Saudi Arabia girls as young as 8 are being forced to marry men more than triple their age. It is only when the girl reaches puberty that she is allowed to request a divorce, and without support is unlikely to receive it.
Natalie: The effects are invasive; the emotional and physical damage runs so deep it seems there’s slim chance for recovery. But there is hope - I just read a heartbreaking and inspiring article in Marie Claire magazine about a gutsy young girl, a friend of Pross, actually, named Sreypov Chan, who escaped this brutality when she was 10 years old and is now reaching out to other girls and women to help them to safety and a better life.
Vanessa: Every helping hand makes a difference. Clearly, these conditions are severe and untenable and we must work together to ensure justice and safety for women. We must all stand up for what is right and just and good.
Natalie: Are our girls and women safe from this abuse in the West?
Vanessa: There is no geographical safety net. For example, over 130 million girls have been subjected to female mutilation and cutting with the practice being prevalent throughout the Middle East, Europe, Africa, even North America and Australia.
Nearly 1 million girls and women are trafficked across national borders each year, most destined for sexual slavery. Almost half are minors. This business model of forced prostitution is remarkably similar throughout Cambodia, Pakistan, India, Vietnam and even the United States. In the Western sphere we are subjected to a more subtle form of sexism through the perpetual ‘dumbing down’ of women through the mass media’s focus and worship of celebrities.
Natalie: Women are the mothers of creation, yet continue to be subjugated and vilified - what should we be aware of regarding women and important health issues?
Vanessa: 300 million women world wide still do not have access to quality family planning and more than half a million women are dying from preventable complications of pregnancy. In Afghanistan for instance, one mother dies every 27 minutes from complications relating to childbirth, and in India half of all babies risk serious health complications due to a lack of antenatal care.
Natalie: What is the impact of the disparity of education for women?
Vanessa: Alarmingly, approximately 60 million girls do not have access to primary school education and over two-thirds of the worlds illiterate are comprised of women. As the saying goes, when you educate the woman you educate the family, because women tend to be the natural caregivers and teachers within the family context.
Natalie: How do these alarming realities correlate with women’s circumstances in Australia, and say, the United States?
Vanessa: I think – apart from the ongoing and pervasive issue of domestic and sexual violence – there has never been a better time to be a woman in western society. In Australia and America we enjoy more opportunities than ever before and I make every effort to enjoy the liberty, equality and sense of freedom that comes with being an Australian female.
If service is the rent we pay for living, then it is up to the strong and empowered women of the western world to help our sisters in need.
victims each year. To see young innocent children forced into a life
of sexual slavery is something that is so profoundly sad that one
cannot help but want to do everything in their power to put an end
to this crime that is so easily ignored.” - Susan Sarandon
Natalie: So what is our Call to Arms? How do we resolve such a huge and widespread problem?
Vanessa: As Mother Theresa said, “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” One of the greatest things we can do for women worldwide is to provide more resources for education. By educating women - we are providing them greater opportunities for jobs, economic freedom and independence. Additionally, women need to be taught how to have a plan so they can leave. In many patriarchal societies (and also in the States and western sphere) many women tolerate abusive situations because they don’t know the way out. In order to end this global emergency we must unify our efforts. We need to provide more access to justice!
Natalie: Where are the examples we can look to for inspiration?
Vanessa: I love the saying, ‘those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.’ Thankfully, there are so many people committed to fighting the good fight!
Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, has established a groundbreaking and innovative program addressing the issue of domestic violence where free legal services are provided to low-income domestic violence victims. This effectively breaks the cycle of abuse by allowing women (regardless of their economic situation) to have the freedom to seek help, counsel and justice through legal representation. Mayor Booker says, “It is our aim to lift the voices of good people and try and stop a very silent and insidious problem in our community which is domestic violence. We now have a program in Newark, which offers not only legal support but also economic support, which is part of our strategy to end violence within the community. This program provides victims of domestic violence with practical tools and spiritual strength they need to heal the wounds and get on with their lives.”
We need to end the silence by harnessing our media resources to focus on this alarming crisis. I salute the likes of Jeffery Gettleman, a reporter for The New York Times who has spent a great deal of time in the Congo trying to alert people to the horrific crimes there. He says “Every day women and girls who have been raped show up at hospitals. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair.”
Natalie: Many people feel overwhelmed already raising their families, developing their careers and relationships and trying to keep their heads above water. How is there time? How do small efforts help this huge problem?
Vanessa: Joining and supporting groups such as UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), V-Day and others is a great way to become involved and catalyze change. UNIFEM recently launched a fantastic Internet based campaign - Say NO to Violence Against Women http://www.unifem.org and (www.saynotoviolence.org). This site allows people to demonstrate their support and to provide a donation to the UN Trust Fund. Already this Trust Fund has awarded almost $20 million in over 120 countries!
Natalie: If we have a moment to take a quiz, play Farmville, check stocks, movie times and email, we have a moment to contribute. Every effort, every step, whether small or large, is a step forward.
Vanessa: Right! As Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, says, “If we think we don’t owe any money or time to help… then we are part of the problem rather than the solution…” If we stand up and start taking action in whatever small ways we can, then that’s how we change the world.
Natalie: What else is going on around the globe for us to plug into?
The Obama administration has also made moves to fight traffickers with the implementation of the Wilberforce Act, which strengthens sanctions on countries that allow sex slavery.
Natalie: Unity is a must, and to quote Isabel Allende, "Women working together - linked, informed & educated - can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet." How can we help our sisters, mothers and daughters to thrive?
Vanessa: Great question. First up we need to know there IS something we can do. Often the challenge can seem so big or overwhelming we are tempted to shy away. We need to believe in our hearts that collective action will result in significant and lasting change. The key is doing what we can on a micro level, which in turn impacts on a macro level. For instance – is someone you know in need of help? Is there a local centre or charity that you can devote your time and energy to? Basically we need to do whatever we can, whenever we can to progress the situation. I am a big believer in grabbing opportunities as they arise, so if you feel a particular cause or organization pulling you – jump in and see if you can lend a hand.
Breaking the silence on these issues, enhancing legal protection, preventing violence and promoting safety are the ultimate steps that need to be taken. By joining organizations such as UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) at www.unifem.org we help get the ball rolling. It has been said that the worlds’ atrocities happen not because of a small minority of evil people but because of the inaction of the masses. I’m a woman of faith and believe the solution lies in praying with our hearts and our minds, and also with our hands and our feet.
Natalie: How do we create a more unified consciousness and progressive action? What will it take?
Vanessa: Ideally a paradigm shift needs to take place. Loving and serving one another is always the answer. We need to direct our focus away from our own economic gain and onto the things that really matter. Martin Luther King said it well: "...We must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe... a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Praying and believing in a better future is paramount, but we must also match the faith with action.
Natalie: How can catalyzing our own personal evolution help to manifest transformation for the quality of life of women around our world?
Vanessa: Live authentically. Quentin Crisp, the author and lecturer wrote: “You must find that part in life that fits you and then give up acting; your profession is being.” I salute gutsy individuals brave enough to march to the beat of their own drum, go against the inert crowd and take risks. Every single person is born with his or her own unique and highly specific gift - when we are using our gift is when we find our greatest happiness. This benefits us personally because we are fulfilled on a deeper level, and also on a global scale because if everyone were ‘being true,’ doing what he or she was born to do, the world would be a much more peaceful and joyous place. Living authentically is an important key to transforming our human race.
Natalie: We’re building women every moment of every breath of every day, what can we do to shore up and rebuild from the landslide of smut for sales – and that ever so subtle pseudo-commercialized version - that women of all ages are served up and face in our culture?
We need to take the focus off the superficial and mindlessness, and get back to the heart of living. Who is making a difference in the world? Who is taking risks and daring to live passionately? Let these be the women and men we promote and salute!
It irks me that magazines are primarily filled with images of celebrities, when we could be devoting our journalistic energy and media space to those contributing and catalyzing our evolution, and making this world a better place.
Natalie: How does the media’s representation of women differ in other parts of the world – what can we learn from other cultures to catalyze change?
Vanessa: On the whole, the media is unimaginative and obsessed with the inane. But we have the power to change this! It must grow from the roots up, and as consumers we need to exercise our voices and make demands. Esprit ran a print campaign in the 80’s where their models were regular everyday girls… ordinary people with interesting quirks. This was a good start and I’d like to see more of that… let the stars of campaigns be adventurers, champions, women who have battle scars from life and whose faces show their stories.
We need to take the emphasis off this weird construct currently existing, including teenage stick figures with line free faces and limited life experience, and redefine what it means to be beautiful.
Natalie: To paraphrase a discussion with Jose Silva…it seems humanity is stuck. Technology is advancing, we’re working really hard to make education better, and work standards better – so WHY aren’t we working harder to make a better human being? Vanessa, how do we begin?
Vanessa: I feel it’s a question of society becoming less spiritual, and more urbanized. If we feel society is losing its soul then it’s up to us to shift our focus to the poetry in our lives.
The key lies in taking the time to stop and enjoy the simple things, and relating, serving and responding to one another. For me the best things in life are free – friendships, sunshine, prayer, love, ocean, laughter, solitude and contemplation. Emerson argued that no man could immerse himself in nature without himself becoming divine. “In nature the material is degraded before the spiritual. Nature is the appendix of the soul. When we ascend into nature’s region we know the thoughts of the Higher Being.”
Natalie: How do we stimulate a call to higher consciousness?
Vanessa: By using our own unique gifts we empower ourselves and strengthen our world. If enough people question and challenge the status quo, and stand up for what is right, then that is how we’ll change the world.
Natalie: You’ve mentioned the US First Lady, Michelle Obama and philanthropist Melinda Gates as your role models. What about them, their lives, accomplishments or views, attract you?
Vanessa: They’re strong, gutsy, beautiful inside and out, passionate and brave. I love their dedication to being the best version of themselves they can be; thriving individuals who have flourishing family lives as well. I also uphold their commitment to service and giving back.
Natalie: Who else would you consider a [R]evolutionary woman, to add to your list of Female Footsteps to Follow?”
Vanessa: Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and the first African American woman to practice law, inspires me. She used her gifts as a voice for the poor, minority and handicapped children and operated under the belief that we all have an obligation to help change and progress the world we live in. Harriet Tubman, who fought for the abolition of slavery, would be another. Closer to home I am inspired by USA national tae kwon do champion and professor of music Elaine Kwon, and also Australian artist and author, Emma Magenta.
Natalie: What do you do for fun in your time off?
Vanessa: Ha! Actually my work and play usually all blend together. My days are typically filled with writing, musing, walking, reading, swimming, socializing, travel, solitude, art and avoiding anything anchored in the mundane. I love traversing the globe, exploring new places and immersing myself in different cultures… I am always happiest and feel most inspired when in or near the ocean. I’m a big fan of the transcendentalists (like Thoreau and Emerson) so my work and social life tend to be pretty evenly matched with solitude and contemplation.
Vanessa: To be a great writer you need to lead an interesting life, so seeking out adventure will continue to be a priority. I’m currently collaborating with a couple of Los Angeles television production houses regarding some USA based projects and would love to do a PEACE book at some stage. I’m also looking forward to completing an ongoing (global) project on love and relationships, which investigates how people fall in love and stay happily together.
Natalie: Thanks so much Vanessa – for your thoughtful contributions, generosity & love. We can’t wait!
*Why Are We Whispering’s Call to Arms - UNITY*
"Women working together - linked, informed & educated - can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet." Isabel Allende
Help our sisters, mothers, grandmothers and daughters to thrive.
United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Womenhttp://www.saynotoviolence.org/
V-DayV-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler’s award winning play The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works.
Somaly Mam FoundationTo give victims and survivors a voice in their lives, liberate victims, end slavery, and empower survivors as they create and sustain lives of dignity.
Oprah’s Call To Actionwww.oprah.com/forallwomen
Half The SkyNicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s site based on the extraordinary NY Times best selling book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide – they have an incredible RESOURCES PAGE for you to get involved! Link In!
GlobalGiving.com for women & girlshttp://www.globalgiving.com/dy/v2/content/themes.html?themeName=Women%20and%20Girls
Know someone catalyzing positive change for women?Send us a link in our Suggestion Box and we’ll include it here!
If you could see your heart, you would see what fulfills your life. By Gil Hedley
Here’s a glimpse of What’s Inside You.
I can vividly recall my first encounter with the heart during my early laboratory explorations of the human form. As a budding anatomist, I had many assumptions and preconceptions, and when I finally came face to face with the inner space of the body that I was exploring, I was taken aback. Behind the chest wall I saw the two lungs on either side of a central mass covered in a fibrous membrane — a physical trinity, completely motionless. And in the very place where I felt myself to be most present and alive, in the cadaver I perceived nothing — an empty place.
The stunning miracle of life is often overlooked until the dead are witnessed. And if there’s one thing that separates the dead from the living, it is movement. The heart is at the very core of our life, and in our hearts we are always moving. Give yourself a few moments to feel the truth of that statement. Lying down or seated, breathing without effort, relax and allow yourself to notice the sensations generated from your heart. When you are thoroughly relaxed, you will find that your heart’s motion will actually be visible, gently rocking your whole body with its pleasurable pulsation. Literally 100,000 times a day, our hearts are leaping within us.
The electromagnetic effluence of the heart radiates off our bodies, perfusing the space around us with the signature impressions of our person. The mix of our own and others’ waveforms constitutes the patterns and matrices of our relationships. The particular qualities of those relationships are directly shaped by that which flows from our hearts.
Our Heart’s PatternsThe quality of our heart’s movement deeply reflects our emotional and spiritual patterns. Wherever I am, there too is my heart, perfectly mirroring in its movement my habits, dispositions, and choices. Research has shown that the variability of the heart rate meaningfully reflects heart health.
The person whose heart demonstrates the more variable movement, as opposed to extreme regularity, is the healthier one. A heart in a “movement rut,” repeating a pattern of limited dynamism over and over again, is more prone to physically fail. With enough rigid patterning and repetitive conditioning, our hearts will incrementally lose their range of motion.
“Phase space” is a term borrowed from physics, which we use to reference all the space the heart might occupy when moving freely over a period of time.
How much phase space do we allow our hearts?
Is our phase space shrinking?
Have you ever found yourself holding your breath as if bracing against your life?
I know I do this at times. I have also experienced the deep pleasure of my heart. I am regularly bringing forward to my conscious awareness the ways in which I confine the movement of my heart. If we examine our lives, seeking to know the places where we refuse to move, or where we deny our deepest longings, we will know the ways in which we limit the phase space of our hearts.
The Rivers WithinPour water from a bottle or watch it come out of the tap at the kitchen sink. You will see that the normal tendency is for water to braid itself. Watch a stream. You can witness the same spiraling, vortical movements in the freely flowing water, especially at the cold core of the current. The propensity for water to twist and writhe and fold upon itself, to dissolve or flow with ease past every apparent obstruction, is both the sheer joy of its movement and the bane of canal-building engineers. On our spinning planet, which is itself spiraling rapidly through the galaxy, every attempt to confine and channel the movement of water generates resistance. Water is nature’s child! You must eventually repair the walls of a canal, as the water eventually grinds up and scours away those artificial limits. Maintaining water’s confinement is a constant effort against its essential tendency to flow freely.
Our blood is a streaming fluid that shares water’s essential nature. The supple, fractally branching path of the blood vessels — our vasculature — is the arms and legs and head and gut of our whole heart — the ocean and the rivers are one. Anatomical divisions are mental constructs. Like rivers, our blood vessels are flexible streambeds, allowing our blood to spin freely from the center to the periphery and back over 60,000 miles of tributaries. The heart’s shape both facilitates and reflects the movement of our blood. Through a great spiral of muscle fibers and the braiding branches of the aorta and pulmonary trunk, the blood is wrung, revitalizing its movement. The moving center of our heart is like a “crazy straw” for our blood, whose dynamism as well as nutritional chemistry wanes by the end of its long journey. But then it zips back through the heart, braiding and spinning itself once more.
When The Heart Is TenseWith the movement of water still in mind, hypertension is the bodily equivalent of “canalizing” the bloodstream. Stiffening tension in the heart and its branches, a direct result of emotional and behavioral patterns, is like a straitjacket for the blood. What is normally a slightly alkaline internal environment turns more acidic. And just as water attempts to break itself free from the constraints of a canal with its relentless vortical movement, so too does the blood rail against those stiffened vessel walls. Its irrepressible movement and altered chemistry wear away the self-imposed “canals” which would limit its unrestricted flow.
Under these altered conditions, we reduce the status of the heart to a mere pump and its once supple and yielding tributaries become mere pipes. We go through the motions of life while pushing through the resistance we ourselves are generating.
Our bodies are astoundingly resilient and respond adroitly to the demands we place upon them. When resistance to our heart’s free movement generates excess friction for the blood, and an acidic internal milieu injures our delicate vasculature, we grow plaques and calcifications, which can better endure the insult. They are our fingers in the dike! Our livers will produce more cholesterol, a mild antioxidant, to address the altered blood chemistry. These symptoms are not the problem. They are an intelligent and automatic response to their circumstances, for which we can be grateful. They indicate underlying issues, which are well within our immediate power to improve.
Living WholeheartedlyOur bodies are gifts to be used, and ultimately to be used up. There is neither fault nor harm in winding down the party and heading home! There’s only a problem if we show up at the party but refuse to dance; if that’s the case, we may want to reevaluate our choices, stretch our hearts, and take life for a spin. We can take our cue from the whirling dervishes. Stretching their arms and arching their backs, they intentionally open, turning and letting go of themselves in a manner that accelerates the spinning potency of their hearts: as above, so below. Or as the old Shaker song has it, “By turning, turning, we come down right!”
Remember the story of King David, who danced, naked and joyful, in the procession leading the Ark of the Covenant, the sacred container holding the Ten Commandments, up to the newly built temple. Within the Ark lay the direct communication between the people and their Source. The Ark would come to rest within the inner sanctum of the completed temple, the Holy of Holies. The ecstatic dance and the resting point in this story are complementary aspects of the same divine movement.
Stripped of all encumbrances, like King David, we are overcome with joyful movement.
Illustration by Sam Weber / Republished by permission of GH
Originally published in May~June 2008 / Spirituality&Health.com
Gil Hedley, Ph.D., offers intensive dissection courses internationally, and is the producer of The Integral Anatomy Series on DVD, which documents his distinctive approach to the human form in the laboratory. He is the author of Reconceiving My Body, and continues to work on other writing projects exploring themes of spirituality and the body. Visit him at gilhedley.com.
From 2 of our most fiercely moral voices, Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, a passionate CALL TO ARMS against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women & girls in the developing world. In Half the Sky, they show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad, and help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. You can help accelerate change if you'll just open your heart and join in.
With Kristof and WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth.
They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.
— Melinda Gates
Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.
— Tom Brokaw
Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are co-authors of Half the Sky. Kristof writes an Op-Ed column for The New York Times. WuDunn is an investment advisor, with a focus on philanthropy. Together, they won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of China. They have also won a George Polk Award and an Overseas Press Club Award.
Together, they have also written two previous books about Asia: Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia and China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power.
— Greg Mortenson, author, Three Cups of Tea
Join the Movement!
Join Eve Ensler & V-Day - a fierce, wild, unstoppable movement and communityViolence against women determines much about who we are as a society, Eve points out that the fate of the girl is entwined with the fate of humankind. The capacity for girls to overcome situations is mind-blowing -- as a species, we need to learn from that capacity.
Eve was named one of U.S. News & World Report's Best Leaders 2009!
V-Day Founder Eve Ensler has been named Best Leader 2009 along with 22 of the country's most exemplary individuals, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Operation Smile founders Bill and Kathy Magee, Artist Twyla Tharp, and Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin.
She spoke recently with U.S. News. Excerpts:
Q: Is violence against women different from violence against men?
Eve: All violence is abhorrent. But violence against women determines much about who we are as a society. Take the example of a woman who has been raped and never talked about it. Then she gives birth to a son. Her experiences are going to be passed on to that child and be a part of who the child is. And that trauma will continue and continue. The U.N. statistics say at least 1 in 3 women and girls is beaten or raped in her lifetime.
Q: If what the United Nations reports is true, why isn't more being done?
Eve: Some people can't understand. For a woman who has been the victim of rape or incest, burned with acid, or had her genitals mutilated, the rest of their lives are about recovering from that experience. If you're not a woman, you can't understand that. We also live in a patriarchal system where crimes against women are not taken as seriously as crimes against men. There are quarters of the world where empowerment of women is feared. It threatens the people in power. Violence is the way to keep that system in place.
Q: How has collecting these grotesque stories affected you?
Eve: I wonder if, after hearing all of this, one day I will go mad. I do have what I call days of mourning where I don't get out of bed. I am a changed person. The things that once mattered to me don't hold the same value. And that's a good thing. It's hard to go around the world and see so much suffering and then return to the U.S., where people have so much.
Q: The mantra of V-Day is "until the violence stops." Is that a realistic goal?
Eve: Does it matter? You have to have a big idea and a vision that guides you. Does that mean that all violence will end by the end of my lifetime? Maybe not. My goal is to keep fighting violence against women until it stops. Imagine what the world would be like if women could walk around without fear.
Source: Originally published in:
U.S. News & World Report
Photo Credit/Source: Ulf Andersen/Getty
V-Day is an organized response against violence toward women.
V-Day is a vision: We see a world where women live safely and freely.
V-Day is a demand: Rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual slavery must end now.
V-Day is a spirit: We believe women should spend their lives creating and thriving rather than surviving or recovering from terrible atrocities.
V-Day is a catalyst: By raising money and consciousness, it will unify and strengthen existing anti-violence efforts. Triggering far-reaching awareness, it will lay the groundwork for new educational, protective, and legislative endeavors throughout the world.
V-Day is a process: We will work as long as it takes. We will not stop until the violence stops.
V-Day is a day. We proclaim Valentine's Day as V-Day, to celebrate women and end the violence.
V-Day is a fierce, wild, unstoppable movement and community. Join us!
Read Eve Ensler's profile, find out what’s going on, get to know everyone involved and GET INVOLVED at the V-Day website >>http://vday.org/