A couple of weeks ago I attended a retreat on Evolutionary Enlightenment with Andrew Cohen. A woman raised the topic of women’s liberation. She described, how many of us women are still concerned, first and foremost, with finding a – or the right kind of – man.

Andrew was impressed with her honesty and asked her, why that would be the case. “Do men make you that happy?” he asked. Every woman in the room burst into laughter, proof for how deeply we know that this is not the case.

Why do we live in such a contradiction?

The longing for and the desire for a man emerges from parts of ourselves buried deep within our biology and the history of our gender.

For one, and this is nothing new, the survival of our species depended on us being drawn to men, and them to us. In fact, this is, dare I say it, the prime reason we are drawn to each other, whether we intend to produce babies or not.

And related to that is the fact that for thousands of years, men acted as guarantors for the physical survival and security for women –even if they enslaved, abused or traded them, their power meant they were the source of any protection and safety.

It is sobering –to put it mildly – but also clarifying to look at these roots of our longing and ask the question anew: why are we still spending so much time and energy attracting Mr. Right, while knowing perfectly well, that our needs have changed and that we will not find lasting, profound happiness in any sexual relationship or romance?  (That does not mean that they cannot be beautiful or significant, but the fundamental approach to them would be different.) The current conclusion is that men should adapt to our changing needs – but does that make sense? Is that fair? And even possible?

I think it is a lot more exciting to look at exactly what it is at this point in our history and development that truly gives us fulfillment. In my experience this has to do with a higher creativity, self-realization in the biggest sense and deeper spiritual development – none of which men have the power to bestow upon us in the context of a sexual relationship. What is possible though is that our independence in these matters enables us to meet and come together in new, more satisfying and deeper ways.

Then our lives do no longer run contrary to our intelligence.

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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.

Last week, a client told me, that she had mentioned to her husband how much the endless winter up here in Massachusetts was getting to her and how wonderful it would be to spend a few days in the sun somewhere. He did not immediately respond and as a result, she said laughingly, she did not talk to him for a couple of days. Then he finally got it, she reported, got on the phone and organized some tickets to Florida. They ended up having a fantastic four days in the sun together. “He always gets it eventually,” she laughed and I happen to know that the two, being close to 70 years old and having raised 4 kids together, really appreciate being together.

Then she told me another story – she invited all their kids from around the country to surprise him for his birthday. She was wondering how on earth she’d be able to secretly do all the necessary cooking and cleaning in preparation, but realized there was no need to worry. She could have six pots on the stove, and he would walk through the kitchen and not even notice, utterly on his own planet.

Now, such a situation used to go against every idea I had about what a healthy relationship should be. From my postmodern, psychological view point, people should agree (close to) all the time, should always be perfectly straight with each other, everything should be on the table at all times, always voiced, etc etc. Full transparency.

These days, I think differently – recognizing that the other is indeed the other and that that will never change is actually liberating. It eliminates much of the interpersonal glue and neediness that comes with trying to create absolute unity where it does not need to be – in a relative sense.

I don’t think my client has thought through her attitudes – for her and her generation, this kind of acceptance of the guy being the guy and the woman being a woman comes unquestioned and naturally. It does seem though that for those fifty and younger, a whole list of requirements started to accumulate about what our partners should be able to provide – in many ways, these can be summed up to mean: be more like me! I won’t go into the details of the implications of this, but just want to say here that having gone through the futile effort of being equals in the wrong ways, I am much more excited now by what opens up if I do not primarily focus on difference or specialness of being a woman (or him a man) and secondly not expect him to be a woman, my mirror image, in a male body. Learning to trust and focus on the deeper, fundamental non-difference, in an absolute way – makes room for those differences to remain unproblematic.