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What would it be?

I think mine would sound like this:

Have you found your soul-sound yet?  Share it with me?  Let me know you in the place beyond words.

All my love,

Tabitha

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i-need-to-pee

I recently wrote an email to my students talking about female incontinence.  It was requested that I share what I wrote with a wider audience, so here I am doing just that.  I hope it helps!  (There seems to be a formatting issue that I cannot resolve.  Please excuse the “clump” of information.)

Tabitha


It’s delicate territory I’m about to enter – the territory of female incontinence – but it’s important territory.  If discussions such as these make you uncomfortable, be kind to yourself and hit “delete” now.  For those who are interested, read on.
If you’ve known me for a while, you’ll know I push back against societal messages such as, “Oh well, it’s an age thing.”  Commercials of women bouncing around and giggling as they leak into their pants (or hygiene product) sets me on fire.  There are many things that happen as the body ages, yes, but things like incontinence are not inevitable.  For sure, there are medical conditions that create this circumstance in the body, and sometimes surgical intervention is the only way to go, but, outside of a medical issue, if you think you have to pee when you sneeze, think again.  Yoga addresses this issue with great success.
It’s all about the pelvic floor.  Most of us have heard about this area of the body, but it’s a difficult space to access.  Here’s a very concrete exercise I have used that, when practiced consistently, works at helping women to find and strengthen this area.   I call it the “mid pee hold”, and it goes like this:
When seated on the toilet, lean all the way forward so that your belly is resting on your thighs, or fold forward as far as you can.  Keep your seat engaged with the toilet so your thighs are at rest, and you can really get a sense of the area in which the work is happening.  Begin to release urine, then squeeze all the muscles involved to get the stream to stop.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Release urine again.  Squeeze again.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Continue until the bladder is completely empty.  Then, move on with your day.  Repeat this process throughout the day, every day.  For those who like schedules, I recommend every other bathroom visit.
You may find, in the beginning, that you are struggling to stop the urine.  All I can say is, stick with it.  Change comes.  This is, by far, the most effective way to access and strengthen the pelvic floor I have seen to date.
Best of luck to those who give this a whirl.  May you no longer be afraid to laugh, cough or sneeze.  😉
All the best,
Tabitha

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power-of-silence

This poem was passed along to me.  It blew my mind so now I must pass it along to you.  May you move from silence to whisper to scream to howl to steady, grounded power-voice and back to silence again only this time, healed and whole.  So may it be.

Tabitha


 

SILENCE

by Nicoletta Abbate (as posted on Awakening Women)

Silence is the knot in my throat I have known since I was a child
of withheld tears running back inside
it has the taste of immeasurable pain that cannot be held by loving arms
so it gets swallowed back

It knows the sadness of others that has no river banks
and so it engulfs and floods the whole of you.

Silence has claimed love words from me too
and it has robbed me of moments of joy and connection
and sometimes of the possibilities of softening in a loving embrace.

Silence has no words
and yet fights to find them.

Silence is the silence of my mother
and of many generations before
Their cries have been inserted in my bones
like little precious and poisonous scrolls of a sacred text
That’s why my joints ache and I am being dismembered
so that they can be taken out and washed in tears.
So that the generations to come will not be bound
like little Japanese women feet.

Silence holds you captive
in a proper lady corset
compressing your breath
It keeps you safe, acceptable, small, convenient
when your lungs want to explode
in mad screams of truth.

Sometimes silence is self-inflicted
sometimes you offer it on a silver plate
like the head of John Baptist for speaking the truth
to your inner Salome who has seduced you
with her dance of the Seven Veils

the Seven Veils to the Sacred Naked Truth
the Seven Seals that secure the scroll
the Seven Seas you never traveled
the Seven Notes of your unsung song
the Seven Wonders in this woman body
the Seven Gates to the Underworld
it will take you your whole life force to climb back up
right when you think you are spent.

Sometimes silence robs you of your words
when you are asleep busy falling in love
or loving too much
in any moment of non vigilance
you leave your gate open
and the theft can happen.

Silence has many many faces
but it is never neutral.

Sometimes it has the compassionate eyes of someone holding your truth
Sometimes it has the beauty of the restful void
or of the dark womb where new things can be born.

Sometimes it has the punishing face of your mother
withdrawing from you and leaving you desperately alone
it is because you believed you deserve it
that you allow others to silence you and re-wound you.

But it is never neutral
it is always an act of consequences.

Also the choice of your own silence has consequences.
It leaves an empty space for all the other voices to occupy it
the very voices you are busy fighting.

In your head
the voices of the ones who have always thought they knew best what is good and bad for you
and you believed them!
And you keep hearing them and confusing yourself!

In the world
your voice is awaited
to join the chorus that will never be the same.

Silence is a blanket of ashes
on your vital fire.

Silence is the suicidal choice you make
when living your life feels too risky
and you would rather die than speak your truth
and you would rather die than kill someone else’s illusion
and so you are busy saving them
and condemning yourself.

Silence believes it is a protector
also when its sword tongue
could in fact set you free
and others.

Silence is a mantle of invisibility
when disappearing feels easier
than risking being seen
in your naked splendour
that you see as faulty, broken, shameful, undeserving.

Silence is an animal trap in the forest
that will not leave your bleeding leg free
unless you choose to run wild again.

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Venus of Willendorf

Venus of Willendorf

It was a scene all too familiar–me standing in a changeroom, fluorescent lights casting shadows in a most unappealing way, cringing at the sight of myself in the lilac-coloured t-shirt I was trying on.  I could see rolls.  I could see belly.  I could see that I was no longer 16.  I heaved a deep sigh and decided that I looked too grotesque in the t-shirt and needed to put it away.

The sales associate, an attractive, funky, fuller-figured woman asked me how it went.  I could hear the whining in my voice as I explained how I couldn’t possibly purchase the t-shirt.  “I understand, hon,” she said.  “You’re having one of those days.  You’re feeling depressed so nothing looks good.”

“No,” I replied, “I’m not depressed.  I’m coming to terms with the fact that my body is not 16 any more and I’m having a hard time with it.”

“HONEY,” she said, loudly, “I’m 44!”  And she spread her arms wide for all to see.

Damn, she looked good in her loose royal blue top, black leggings and high boots.  There were curves there, and wrinkles, and, no doubt, her boobs would sneak down towards her waistline if she let them out of their sling, but she wore it all very well.  She wore it with pride even though, as she confessed, she wasn’t feeling so hot about herself that day either.

Why do we, as women over 40, do this to ourselves?

Then I saw this trailer and it explained so much:

Middle-aged women really are invisible, aren’t we?  TV is stocked with ads focusing on cute little baby girls, young women obsessed with buying the “right” tampon, and women over 50 who are smiling joyfully because their diapers held up when they pissed themselves in public, or they didn’t hoark their dentures into the birthday cake, thank you Poligrip!  So where are we, the perimenopausal queens?

Oh, we’re there and we’re horrifying.  Actresses whom I admired when I was a teenager, women not much older than I, are still showing themselves on the pages of magazines and on TV screens, but they’ve mangled themselves, all in the name of beauty and youthfulness.  Blindingly white porcelain veneers, facial skin stretched tight like plastic wrap, lips Botoxed into life preserver status, and boobs packed full of things that just can’t be good for you.  Yes, we, the middle-aged women, are the Frankenwomen, hacking ourselves to shreds so that we can go back in time, back to that 16 year old body.

Hate to tell ya, ladies, but it ain’t gonna happen.  No amount of mangling yourself will ever make you 16 again.  (I know.  That’s a hard one to take.)

So then, again, why do we do it?  I think it’s to be seen, to have a presence in this world, to be acknowledged again.  I understand that.  It’s horrible to feel like you don’t exist, like you could run down the street naked and on fire, and no one would see you.  Feeling like a non-entity is a certain kind of torture, yes, but attempting to make your mark by playing into a demented, youth-oriented, culture that sexualizes women, and throws them away when their “worth” expires, is equally as demented.  I say give it up.

Here’s the thing:  We can’t change anyone’s mind about us, but we can change our own minds.  Maybe the world refuses to recognize us but we can recognize ourselves.  We’re never invisible when we can see ourselves.

This morning I had a fantasy about starting a project (I love my fantasy projects.) In this fantasy, I would issue an invite to middle-aged women everywhere to send me pictures of their soft, scarred bellies with rolls.  Bellies that have held (and sometimes lost) babies.  Bellies that have grown and shrunk, and grown and shrunk, from persistent dieting.  Bellies that have undulated with laughter, and have folded in excruciating pain.  Grown woman bellies, the houses of grown woman stories, for the world to see, and if not for the world, then, for ourselves.  I think I would call it The Belly Project.  🙂

Here’s my middle-aged belly:

belly

And how about yours?  Have you looked at yours?  Have you seen it with eyes of love?  Can you dare to?  I pray that, some day, you do.  I pray that, one day, I do too.

With much love from the full-bellied, middle-aged sisterhood,

(Chubby) Tabitha

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If you liked this, you might also enjoy reading:

You’re gonna carry that weight…”

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Dance Until You Die!

THIS video……THIS…..  🙂  Stick with it until the very end to hear the very last thing she says.  I plan on being just…like…this at 88.  How about you?

Love,

Tabitha

ps.  Notice the health alarm necklace?  Nuthin’s stoppin’ her!  Amen.

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This is a man’s world

But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing

Without a woman or a girl.

James Brown “It’s a Man’s World”

I’ve been thinking about Vipassana training ever since I read the hilarious description of it in Sarah Macdonald’s book Holy Cow:  An Indian Adventure. Vipassana is like Survivor for the spiritual seeker.  Touted as having been discovered by the Buddha over 2500 years ago, Vipassana is a hard core mind-training regime with the aim of burning off all the impurities in the mind that separate the seeker from “the truth”.  Without this separation, the seeker is on the high road to enlightenment.–Ontario Vipassana Centre

Who wouldn’t want that?  Lord knows I relish the idea of someone or something cutting in on this infernal dance I do with my ever-changing mind! Peace?  You offer peace and liberation?  SIGN ME UP!  My initial excitement, however, quickly turned to stomach-twisting dread as I began to research the process.  10 days in the company of strangers where not a word is to be spoken except during a participant’s meeting time with her spiritual advisor.  Silence.  Okay, I can handle that.  You are not to connect with other participants at all.  This means no physical contact, not even a light, supportive touch on the arm if someone appears to be emotionally distraught, no facial expressions and no eye contact with anyone around you.  You are to move around one another without acknowledging one another.  No pens.  No paper.  No cellphones.  No music.  No external distractions.  This is a 100% commitment to spending time with nothing but your own mind, and it is done through hours and HOURS of seated meditation.  When you’re not meditating you’re learning about a meditation technique.  And when you’re not learning, you’re meditating some more.

Have you ever tried to sit on the floor for several hours at a time?  When in India, we spent our days seated on the concrete floor of the ashram’s meditation hall.  It took one day of this for the most fire-poker hot agony to set in on the body.  People were writhing and shifting all day long. By day three people were losing their composure altogether and started crying.  I was popping Advil like candy, something I do only in the most dire situations, and people were rolling around on hard sponge balls trying to work out their muscle cramps.  But in India we could talk to one another.  We could process and journal and hold one another if we fell apart.  We could connect as we crumbled and that made all the difference in the world.  In Vipassana there is none of this connecting and comforting and I began to wonder why we would need to be so harsh in order to reach enlightenment.  Surely the Divine, the most compassionate force in existence, wouldn’t expect us to torture ourselves in order to be free!

Somewhere in the back of my head I began to hear James Brown singing, “This is a man’s world…”  Images of hair shirts, self-flagellation Easter rituals, and women climbing holy steps on their knees crossed my mind.  I know Catholicism like the back of my hand, having been immersed in it (and trying to recover from it) my whole life.  It is a male-dominated religion with a focus on suffering as the path to liberation.  I suppose somewhere in my naivete I thought Eastern religions and spiritual practices would be different somehow.  Could it be Vipassana also falls into this “man’s world” spirituality where we push ourselves to extremes in order to free ourselves?  I have to admit the idea of creating suffering in order to free ourselves from suffering has always baffled me.

There is another way. There is woman’s way. This woman’s way nurtures the body instead of strains it; Life stresses our bodies enough.  It involves community and connection and if you think it’s less challenging to be vulnerable in the company of others, ask anyone how they felt when they broke down in front of a group of people.  It involves yielding to what is, softening and embracing what Life throws our way.  I have always had a strong sense of this woman’s way in spirituality but I could never put it together the way Judith Duerk does in her magical book Circle of Stones:  Woman’s Journey to Herself:

How might your life have been different, if, as a young woman, there had been a place for you, a place where you could go to be among women…a place for you when you had feelings of darkness?…And, what if,…you knew that the [women] would come to be with you?  And would sit quietly by as you went into your darkness to listen to your feelings and bring them to birth…So that, over the years, companioned by the [women], you learned to no longer fear your darkness, but to trust it…

How might our spiritual practices be different if we began to weave more of this into the fabric?  I’m not saying one way is better than the other.  I am certainly saying that the women’s way settles more easily into my spirit; I am Woman after all.  But what amazing new things could come into our spirituality with a merging of both the feminine and masculine ways?  Imagine a spirituality based on balance.  Maybe that is the road to liberation!???

I don’t have the answer and maybe I never will.  I do think, however, I’ll leave Vipassana to the “cool kids” and give it a pass.  I think I’ll just settle my overworked mind and stressed-out body into the comfort of my women’s circle and work it out that way.  In the end, all roads lead to god anyway…right?  😉

Many blessings and much love,

Tabitha

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My partner has been going through a very hard time recently.  I call it the “Deconstruction phase” that tends to show up in a person’s life when we’re least prepared for it.  This is a time when all of the familiar structures you’ve hung your hat on, the old friendships, jobs, habits, family dynamics, disintegrate like sand right before your very eyes.  You’re left standing in the middle of a pile of ashes that was once your life, looking dumbfounded and feeling crushed and disoriented as your habit-loving mind grapples with the whys and wherefores of things that cannot be explained.  Deconstruction leaves you feeling groundless, terrified and like you’re bleeding from the very heart that gives you life.

Deconstruction of a life.  Not a big fan of it myself whenever it’s my turn to head up to bat but, having been through it a number of times, I have begun to see its usefulness.  We humans cling like little monkeys cling to their mother’s breast. We hang on to about everything we can get our grubby little hands on, and much of what we hang on to has lost its usefulness long ago–the pair of acid-washed jeans that haven’t fit since we were 12, the key to……something…..something we might just find at some point, magazines with just the right article we might need eventually, if only we could remember what page it was on, and relationships that have become as constraining as those jeans.  We just….hang….on….as if our lives depend upon it.  We’re afraid to let go, afraid to feel the ground fall out from under us.  We’re afraid to grow.  So, like a blessed team of “fixer uppers”, Life shows up on our doorstep with a mop, a broom, a bulldozer and a dumpster and, in the blink of an eye, mysteriously whisks away all the things that no longer serve us, that are holding us back, so that finally we can grow into the next fresh phase of our being.

Thing is, this clean up usually feels like hell, and we really never see it coming.

My partner never saw it coming either and, having never lived through such a thing before, she’s unsure of the usefulness of such a phase and whether she’ll even emotionally survive.  The other night as I listened to her heart breaking and saw the tears in her eyes I had an image and it’s one that has come to me before.  In this particular vision I  see women rounding the sides of the house, arms full of food, fold-out chairs, knitting, sewing, wood and, in silence, they encircle us and the wee fire pit we have set up out back.  Woman after woman would puff down into her chair, skirts hiked up over the knees, shoes slipped off, the click-clicking of the knitting needles heard over the din of the fire being built, the fire that would not go out until all was said and done. The call had gone out that one of theirs was unsure and was hurting , and they were here for however long it took to comfort a sister and to mend a broken heart.   Some of the women would sit in silence, simply yet powerfully holding space.  Others would flit back and forth preparing food and libations.  Most would take a turn telling the story of their own Deconstruction, of the pain and confusion they had to endure, and how, evenutally, they came through it and thrived because of it.  The women would hold vigil until the time was right to leave.  Then, just as mysteriously as they had come, knitting would be packed away, folding chairs closed and tucked up under arms, and the women would disappear into their own lives, one by one, knowing their sister would be alright.

This is what I wish for my partner.  This is what I wish for every single one of us who is going through a time that is ripping her up.  I wish for a sense of love and safety within a community, even a community of strangers because, in the land of the heart we are all familiar.

My longing for the ancient ways may seem foolish to you. Perhaps it’s my own version of “clinging” that I’m still working through.  Nevertheless, if one of yours is hurting, tap the line, let me know.  I’ll let my own people know. And maybe one day we’ll all round the corner of a house, chairs and food in hand.  Maybe we’ll meet to sit vigil, creating a sacred circle around yet another heart that bleeds.  Maybe that day we’ll be in the centre of the circle.  Maybe in this way, one day, no woman will ever feel that she has to suffer alone.  And that, my friends, will be a good day!

May you be happy.  May you not suffer.  May you know peace.

All my love,

Tabitha

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