For the last few years, Valentine’s Day has been just another day for me simply because I wasn’t in a deep relationship with a man.
In Plato’s Symposium, the voice of Aristophanes relates that humans were once a combination of male and female, until Zeus split them apart. From that point on, the two halves searched for each other, seeking wholeness.
Looking back at two marriages and another long term relationship without marriage, I realized that the ‘wholeness’ I’d first encountered - the joining of me and my perfect partner - was based on unconscious needs rooted in old patterns and habits I had yet to be free of. Things that were holding me back.
My friend and spiritual counselor Abdi Assadi ( ) believes that loving relationships offer us the greatest opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. What struck me as I read his take on how relationships function that the same holds true for the individual. The way my conscious and my unconscious connect has everything to do with how I love myself, and whether my behavior is authentic; true to my inner Self.
“When we enter into relationship with someone, there is a conscious interaction and an unconscious agreement. The conscious part is what we are aware of—such as a physical attraction or a sense of social compatibility.
The unconscious level, as the name implies, is what is going on underneath. It is here that things become tricky because the unconscious, contrary to what we sometimes like to believe, is not our inner truth-teller. In fact, it is where most of our distortions and addictions first formed.
It is common for us to unconsciously keep in play or repeat certain deeply ingrained patterns that we are attempting to break free from. This is a way of pushing away the underlying anxiety when we are in a new terrain, no matter how healthy.”
About a year and six months ago, I consciously chose to begin the work of letting go. The force behind that first step was surprisingly powerful.
It began on an August morning at about three a.m.
In the darkness, a voice yelled through the window at the head of my bed – Attention. Wake up!
Trembling, I got up to look outside, but before I could circumvent my bedside table to reach the window, the same voice called out from the patio on the other side of the house. Attention! Wake up!
Not only were my neighbors gone for the summer, it was physically impossible for someone to run that distance unless they knew how to fly over fences and hedges and along a paved driveway. Other than the voice, there was no sound of running footsteps, no mangled bushes or vines and no one was visible.
The next day, I called a Shaman friend about what had happened. He laughed. “Don’t think the message could be any clearer!” Okay, I thought, paying attention, being awake is a good idea to apply to one’s daily life, but I couldn’t help thinking that the voice was telling me to be ready for something more.
Two months later, I attended a sweat lodge at Dave’s rural home overlooking the Potomac River. Three of us were there, Dave and a man who was moving away and had requested a ceremony for protection and new beginnings. I had volunteered to be the fire keeper, the person who tends the fire that heats the stones for the lodge and carries them in when called for.
About midway through the Inipi ceremony, sitting on a tree stump perch, I closed my eyes. An owl called from the treetops. Owls have been my spirit guides for many years. Extraordinary hunters with keen night vision, owls and I have had numerous eerie encounters. For me they are symbols of the wisdom that rises up from within. As the owl disappeared, I asked for a sign or a name for this next phase of my life – the crone years. An icon, a symbol of some sort.
Suddenly a voice spoke clearly from over my shoulder. Sarawati…. Sarabata. I hadn’t the vaguest idea what those words meant, much less what language they were. The next morning, I was reading a book I’d grabbed from a store on my way up. Written by Jean Shinoda Bolen, a Jungian analyst I’d heard of but never read, it was called ‘Goddesses in Older Women: Becoming a Juicy Crone.’ In one of the chapters she mentioned the goddess Saraswati, who was also called Sarabata.
According to some stories, Saraswati was first seen by Shiva as the perfect wave – the Becoming. He transformed her into a goddess; the goddess of learning and knowledge. The mother to the vedas, she's recognized in Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism as well. And in the Spring in India pujas are held to ask Saraswti's blessing for the education of children. As a mother, I particularly loved that idea! As a crone, I appreciated the rapt attention of a child with new ideas.
That perfect wave, 'the becoming' was a fitting image for what I'd asked for, and she suited me down to the ground. Multi-armed, Saraswati holds the vedas in one hand, a sitar in another: Wisdom and music. Having been a musician for many years, I was aware of the healing power of music for myself and others. It's a powerful tool for meditation and opening the chakras.
A week later, as I was describing the event on the telephone to a ‘sister’, I was shocked to see a hand reach into a hole in my belly where my intestines were glowing a bright orange yellow. How curious I thought as I watched the hand grab hold of my inner workings and turn clockwise. I was at once, an observer and in the middle of the kind of zone athletes speak of. Distance was irrelevant. I was both here and there.
As I began to speak about my desire to find a way to help children and mothers, a piercing ray of light flashed before my eyes as it entered my heart. At that point, my knees gave way. At that point, I said goodbye and slumped into a chair. For several days after, I felt occasional bouts of queasiness, which I'm told is common to the release of energy in the chakras.
I'm sure there are many who could describe their own experiences of becoming; tales of powerful awakenings. My initiation onto this path of cronehood was dramatic for me, but for the most part, I'm walking, not running through my days! The labyrinth of the mind is twisted! There are moments of illumination, but work with ego and old patterns I believed protected me is never easy. Time and again I find myself responding in old ways. The difference now - I sometimes manage to catch myself in the act, or at least recognize what's going on before things have gone too far. And each time an old pattern comes up I welcome this slight repositioning.
I still wrestle with the same fears. Can I do this? Who am I to think I can write? And of what importance are these stories to others... How can I create a safe place that calls for others to share theirs with me.
Oddly, I seem to be channeling Jean Shinoda Bolen when it comes not only to my initiation but to my underlying purpose. Returning to research what she'd written while preparing this post I came across her book "The Millionth Circle. I highly recommend it. Having defined the third wave of feminism as spiritual, it's synchronous with the growing desire to heal the planet (and ourselves). It's also meshes with the upward surge of women moving into positions of power. An energy shift that's coming up against fundamentalism both in the US and globally.
In The Millionth Circle, Bolen sets out to teach other women how to create circles of spiritual healing. She also refers to two people I've admired for years. Margaret Mead who once wrote Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citzens can change the world - it's the only thing that can. In the safe sanctuary of the circle is where change begins.
The second person Bolen is someone whose work I've also studied. Rupert Sheldrake, the theoretical biologist explains in his Morphic Field Theory - Change in the behavior of a species occurs when a critical mass - the exact number needed - is reached. When that happens, the behavior or habits of the entire species changes.
The crones who dare (and exceptional men who respect and enjoy them) are joining together to reach those critical numbers.
In the meantime, Valentine’s Day is almost here, and I have the perfect date. I’m going to write, meditate; take a walk if it’s sunny. And while I do, I plan to set my ego aside, to ask for Saraswati’s blessings on the pleasures of being the juiciest of crones – the perfect date.
p.s. I'm going to be posting more often and the next few will cover more about the different kinds of love, and about the awakenings that are occurring in the US and around the globe.