Today is the first day of Summer. It is Summer Solstice – the longest day and the shortest night and according to many yoga resources a perfect opportunity to observe whether we are in balance or not.
Yesterday, a friend and I went to a meditation class in the Park and we stood under a tree and did all sorts of delightfully odd things that scared and attracted passing dogs. One practice was to stand under the tree and connect to the elements – air, water, fire and earth. I am Earth. I am a Taurus and I am one of the most stubbornly entrenched people on this planet. Just ask my mum.
One way in which you can be too grounded is to become a tight arse, a stuck in the mud and fear change. Well, that was definitely the ‘old’ me before I shook myself down, packed in my sensible job and packed up the Beast and headed to India (the home of change and squat toilets amongst other things).
According to Yoga science both men and women alike have a balance of energies within them and at certain times of the day and times of life these will be more or less active. For example, we start the day with sun salutations which are energising and avoid them after sunset when we wind down for sleep. Hatha Yoga offers the simplest demonstration of that balance – ‘Ha’ means sun and ‘Tha’ means moon. The Sun is active energy, yang – it’s our masculine energy. The Moon is more reflective and cooling – yin and feminine.
For 10 years I was a lawyer in what is one of the oldest Boys clubs. I focused in Litigation which meant I got paid (rather well) to argue (which some of you may believe I have not yet given up. Old habits die hard). I thrived on the banter of being with the ‘Boys’, of being hard-nosed, driven, career focused and of being approved of by men. Don’t get me wrong, I worked with plenty of women too and I do not tar them with my own brush but I, for one, felt like a failure when I was emotional or sensitive – qualities attributed to the feminine and not welcome in the board room.
I was a feminist – supporting and hoping for women to continue to push for equality in life which meant achieving the same dizzy heights as men on the career pole. I didn’t wear the T-shirt a la Ed Miliband but I was enraged by the backlash against the label ‘feminist’ and during my travels I was particularly distressed when I met a couple of young women just starting out in their London careers who rolled their eyes at me for being one. I am still a feminist but my perspective has changed and I am sure it will continue to shift as I age (and continue to chant under trees). I no longer feel that my focus of the fight is to continue to push through that glass ceiling (which remains there and should not) but to re-balance our intentions, our values and our energies for men and women alike.
This week I had the great fortune to have two fabulous women come back into my life. Two very different women (to me and to each other) who I met and who became soul sisters of mine in India last year. At the same time, this issue of the balance between the masculine and the feminine has been flitting around me like an irritating mosquito and it bit me hard achieving my full attention after beginning to read ‘Awakening Shakti’ by Sally Kempton and getting to the heart chakra chapter in ‘Eastern Body, Western Mind’ by Anodea Judith. Both books have drawn my attention to the fact that femininity has been reduced by over sexualisation and that in modern day religion there is no Mother, no Universal Goddess, as there is the Father. In Christianity, Jesus is the Son of the Father, born without a Mother. And even in Hinduism, the top 3 Gods are male. Now biologically speaking it is self-evident there’s a woman shaped hole in this agenda. Just call me Clouseau.
By rushing through life and ‘achieving’ we are only using our masculine energy and that is how I became unbalanced and then ill. I felt like I couldn’t cut it when really it was just my body, my heart and soul telling me I was missing something. And it happens to men too and I think in some ways there is more of a stigma for men who fall off the hamster wheel with stress, depression and anxiety for being too ‘sensitive’.
Like the word ‘feminist’ which has been sullied, I am re-defining ‘sensitive’ which actually means “endowed with sensation; having perception through the senses”. It means that we ‘sensitive’ people are just more aware and why and when did that become a bad thing?!
The Goddess, the Mother, is the symbol of love, of unconditional love, and we live in a violent and disturbed world that could surely benefit from less greed and power and more love. As I write that I know that many of you (including my Dad) may well roll your eyes and disregard this as the idealistic wishes of a tree-hugging, OM chanting, hippy yoga teacher but I am just simply inviting you to be a little kinder, more tolerant and more loving towards yourself today, tomorrow and indefinitely.