I have spent a good number of years mulling over what is authentically feminine/ authentically masculine, and whether there is such a thing beyond what we've culturally constructed. I believe that because gender is fluid, we each create our own version of what feels 'authentic', consciously or unconsciously. But if we're not careful we may find we have internalized someone else's idea of how we should be performing/presenting our gender in the world and so begins the inquiry in to what is true and real.
Now, I’m not a gender theorist or even a qualified tantra teacher, I’m just a woman sharing a few humble thoughts, with the hope that they may inspire dialogue and reflection for others to contemplate their woman-ness and bring to light how they experience their own feminine nature in this post-modern world.
I was raised by a feminist, though it has taken me sometime to figure out what feminism means to me. I've often wondered how to live authentically as a woman, whilst internalised beliefs from the playbooks of the media and the beauty industries swim about my internal landscape. It's been a journey over many years, working towards a truly authentic experience of my femininity.
During the hormonal haze of my mid-teen years I somewhat unconsciously rejected my feminine nature. As I’m sure you remember, being a teen is pretty confusing; I was figuring myself out, trying to fit in, and like many of my friends I would buy teen girl magazines. But my consciousness was quickly raised to the fact that the magazine images of women were utterly false, exploitative and only existed to make money from our insecurities.
I was already on the alternative, artistic end of the spectrum and at the age of 16, I gave the beauty standard the middle finger by removing a defining feature of my feminine beauty: my long hair. Yes, I shaved my head. I also grew my leg hair and underarm hair, wore baggy jeans and Doc Martens. I was really into dramatic arts and I was often cast in male roles because I had strong presence, fit for ‘masculinity’ and I came to really enjoy playing the guy. I had lots of guy friends too which re-enforced by interest in masculinity as a source of power/ hiding place from my confusion around my emerging woman-ness. But in rejecting the beauty standard, I also rejected parts of my femininity. My teenage self had thrown the baby out with the bath water.
Through my 20s my fascination with my body as a tool for art making and performing gender evolved. I was living in San Francisco and I begun to explore drag, burlesque and pole dance, where I played with gender stereotypes trying my best to deconstruct and subvert them, discovering more about myself in the process.
It wasn’t until I fell pregnant, that I tapped into a reservoir of pure feminine power unlike anything I’d ever experienced. As my belly grew and my breasts bloomed I felt incredibly feminine in the most exciting and empowering ways. I felt larger than life, indestructible and strong while also tender, soft and nurturing, my intuition deepened and I felt sexier than ever. Twenty-nine years in the making and I had finally discovered my authentic feminine nature through my womb in bloom!
Four years down the track and I'm a mother of two young children. I still feel that connection to my womb-space, which transitioned through pregnancy, birth and the now sees the return of my menstrual cycle. Our womb-space teaches us as are cyclical creatures; our energies wax and wane like the moon phases and it's important we are in tune with this so we can be mindful of our body's needs during bleeding time and practice self care accordingly.
The womb-space is a creative and generative centre; the creative powers of the universe are expressed right here within the female body. In the tradition of tantra yoga, this divine universal creative energy is shakti. In goddess form, Shakti is the mother goddess, manifesting divine feminine creative power. She appears under many names Devi, Mahadevi, Kali, Durga, Paravati and Sati, among others. By practicing uniquely feminine yoga and meditations, many women feel able to intentionally access and connect with yoni shakti (source power).
Now I'm not suggesting that this experience is in anyway universally or intrinsically feminine; many women don't have a menstrual cycle or a womb (which is why I say womb-space) and there is a huge spectrum of cultural and personal expression. I think what is interesting to me, it the idea of finding practices and entry points in to my feminine nature. To some, their sex/gender is not something they care to contemplate, and equality may come in the form of chosing not to define or attempt to define singluar characterists of gendered experience.
For myself, these awakening practices, have led me deeper into what it means to be feminine; intuitive, creative, generative, sensual, fluid and soft. It's like a well-spring of feminine power within me is just opening up again and again and again.
Connecting with our source power and finding an authentic embodied expression of who are, so we may feel at 'home' in our bodies is what I wish for all humans.
Shakti honouring practices for modern women:
1) Recognizing the divine sacredness of life, moment to moment. Even when life doesn’t feel so sacred, remembering the divine source energy from which we originate and saying a gratitude prayer for being alive!
2) Opening to love and leading our life from the intelligence of the feminine heart’s intuitive wisdom, rather than being dominated by the masculine faculty of thinking, strategizing and organizing.
3) Feel and experience ourselves as dynamic creative beings. This may be expressed through art, pleasure, sensuality and an overall sense of being the creator of your own life.
4) Practices from Uma Dinsmore-Tuli’s Womb Yoga. These are tantra yoga practices specifically for women to awaken and connect to yoni shakti (source power). I share a few of these in my monthly Women’s Yoga Circle. You could also practice the heart-womb river greeting with Uma herself on Youtube. Uma also has some wonderful yoga nidras which you can access by donation on the resources page of her website.
If you try any of these practices, or have any thoughts on what it means to you to embody your your divine feminine power, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.