Being A Woman – A Creative Act

June 19, 2011

This article was written for the anthroposophic German magazine info3 and (roughly) translated for you! As always, comments are very welcome!

What does it mean to be a woman today?

We as women who write and read articles like these are
self-determined, free and independent. It took humanity a long evolutionary journey
to make this possible. From being nothing more than slaves in much of early
history, women evolved into the clearly defined  roles of traditional societies and on, into
the good woman of the industrial age
– the keeper of home and morality. Only the suffragettes and then the women of
the 1960s began to search for their place and vision in society, in large
numbers and single-pointedly. Women today are the product of this long journey.
We have gotten used to surviving and providing for ourselves without needing a
man or a clan. Our bodies are our own, we are more highly educated, wealthier
and have more experience in the world than ever. We are living our own lives and are taking more and
more responsibility in all parts of society.

All this is what it means to be a woman today. But looking a
little further and deeper, at the question of what it will or could mean, at our
possible next steps, the picture becomes a lot more complex and layered. While
we were catching up with everything patriarchy had denied us, the path ahead
was very clear. But is there more for us to do, who have grown up with all the
advantages and privileges of women’s hard won freedom. What can or will it mean to be a woman now and in the future? The following
thoughts are based on the perspective, that spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen
developed in his work and investigation with the women at his organization
EnlightenNext*.

Many say that the ‘third wave’ of feminism, after the
suffrage and the sixties has the task to bring the rights of women to those
parts of the world, in which they are still being grossly and painfully
ignored. This is very important work – it is now a widely accepted fact that a
society evolves radically as soon as the living conditions of its women
improve.

But what does that mean for us, here, in privileged Europe
and the US?  And is there an answer to
this question that takes more than survival and material values into account?

For years people have been calling for honoring the ‘divine
feminine’, fostering the feminine in public life, supporting ‘female’ qualities
in the boardrooms of international corporations and in politics. Often these
qualities are described as empathy, willingness to cooperate, compassion, care,
receptivity and intuition. And though all of these can only be positive, they
are in many ways the exact attributes by which women have traditionally been
defined and in which we felt caught. Is this step really anything new, then? Or
are we simply expanding old stereotypes into new territory?

Does being a woman mean anything outside of these pre-defined qualities? At the time of integral
theory, developmental psychology, an evolutionary world-view , evolutionary
spirituality and unprecedented self-determination could being a woman also be a
creative act? What would radical
change, comparable to the one in the sixties look like today, at this stage in
our journey? A deep re-orientation, that completely redefines the meaning of
the word woman, in the way our
sisters dared to push for in the past?

A universal force that
makes its way through me

For a possible answer to this question let’s switch – from the
historical wide-angle-lens to a zoom:

Let’s take this act of writing for instance. Something wants
to be expressed, something that does not care, whether I happen to be inspired,
tired, insecure or very clear in my head. Something keeps me at the computer,
something for which I am struggling for clarity and precision. An inner
pressure, not clearly defined, but unmistakable as well. Does this creative
force have a gender? Does it have anything to do with me being a woman? I don’t
think so. It is a universal force that is entering the world through me, a woman. It does not have a
face. Certainly, my expression is
colored by the fact that I am a woman, but the force itself does not have a
gender, and maybe that is one of the reasons, why we feel so free when we are creatively engaged.

Another example: Outside my window the sun is sinking into
the spring-green tops of maples. When I watch it, is my perception, the
attention itself, female? Or does only the interpretation
of what I am seeing have a possible feminine flavor? Isn’t pure experience,
seeing itself, free from gender?

And let’s take sex. Dose the sexual impulse have a gender? Or
is it the urge to ensure the continuation of the human race, experienced in
female and male form and utterly impersonal, just perceived differently in a
female or male form? The urge itself is just that, an urge, a force – un-gendered.

And then there is the experience of meditation, the experience
of consciousness. This too has no gender. It is utterly free of all attributes, pure, clear awareness,
an indivisible One that is neither male nor female.

A spiritual freedom that is independent of outer circumstances

The deeper we go into ourselves the clearer we can perceive
that we are truly free. This is a spiritual
freedom independent of outer, relative circumstances. Before I am a woman,
I am a human being. Before I am a human being, I am consciousness. And in all
of it I am part of an immeasurably vast creative process called evolution. The
fact that – maybe even just in this particular lifetime – I happen to be born
as a woman then has a very different weight and significance. It is this
insight that for me points to the next step towards a next step, a  new consciousness for women.

Back to the wide angle lens  –

Women still have a lot less influence than men in the big
decisions of the world. Due to their roles as wives and mothers throughout the
millenia we had a lot less opportunities to gather experience in what it means
to shape culture and history.  In spite
of many exceptional and outstanding individual women, their numbers among those
who catalyzed deep, broad and lasting change is relatively small. And though we
are catching up fast, we have far fewer leading examples in politics, science
and religion than men do and no real, living understanding of our own history.  This is a crucial part of our self-knowledge –
It took me more than a decade to even begin to understand how important it is
to look at one’s own experience in a historical and cultural context.

Our time seems to demand a deep change from women and  from
men – gender roles are being rewritten everywhere and the question is from what
perspective we want to shape these new roles, which values we want to take
along and which we want to leave behind.

The thought-patterns and attitudes that have shaped us over
thousands of years have not just been extinguished by the change of the past 50
or 100 years. This shows in many ways: When we feel torn at work between using
the tried-and proven tactic of manipulation versus the clear, yet very uncomfortable
and often unappreciated direct instructions; when we enjoy wearing high heels
but are quietly worried about betraying our feminist principles in that (as
well as ruin our backs), when we long for a child yet are afraid to lose our
independence – all these are the often contradictory values arising from the
layers of biology, history and culture that form our selves, pulling at us.

Never before in history have women had so much choice. Never
were we, in such numbers and to such measure aware of so much – from our history
to our emotional and psychological structures to the unlimited depth of
ourselves and the fact that we too are directly tied into a creative process of
development.

Being a lot more than
what we are used to call ‘woman’

Based on this consciousness and the wealth of our experience
we have the unprecedented possibility to define the feminine (as well as the masculine)
anew. And with that a new kind of partnership that transcends the usual gender
limitations because it takes as its basis the genderless aspects of the self. This is a radical vision, a real
utopia, that I am only beginning to sense and to understand, but which is all
the more compelling and fascinating .

In this scenario, women can deeply trust in life. We can let
go and meet in a kind of intimacy, that is fundamentally based on what is most
real and true rather than on –often fleeting –personal sympathy. They can
independently and creatively work together towards their own destiny and leave
behind the age-old patterns of competition, manipulation and distrust in the
discovery of being more, a lot more, than what we are used to calling a
‘woman’.

This sense of self is anchored in a part of the self that
breaks the boundaries of being a woman: the growing conviction and decision to
trust more in the deepest part of the self that is already free, rather than the
more superficial layers of our experience – anything that is relative, passing,
circumstantial. This new identification allows unlimited spirit to enter and
work in the world directly. This may be the most revolutionary and biggest gift
we can give to women of future generations.

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