I spent the weekend in the woods, at a great old lodge in a State Park with nothing fancy at all, sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag in a tiny, unfurnished room with two other women. The lodge, at times, had more than 25 women. This is not a spa. It is a hunting lodge. There is a kitchen and (exhaustible, we learned) hot water, but that's pretty much where the modern conveniences end. Its heated with electric baseboard heat, which is LOUD and clanging 24/7. (I did, at one moment, around 4 am Saturday morning, verbalize the burning desire to take an ax to the baseboard in our room. I admit it. It was LOUD -- have I said that, yet?)
The ladies present had wildly different lives, sleeping habits, personal preferences, and diets. Some of us knew each other well. Some were entirely new to the rest. Many of us were of the same religious group, but not all. Some are experienced in that path, while others are only beginning. Some are formally educated; some not. Some are passionate about current events, while others were completely (and, maybe blissfully) unaware. Gay, straight, single, paired, monogamous or not; old, young, in-between; working out of the home, unemployed, or not; parent, grandparent, pet-parent, or none of the above. Even the body sizes, shapes, and styles were extremely diverse.
The one discernible thing that we all had in common was the personal possession of a vagina. (I can feel some of you blanch at the use of the word 'vagina' so I'm going to say it again: VAGINA! Its not a bad word. Its an awesome word. Say it three times fast: Vagina! Vagina! Vagina! Say it slow: V---A---G---I---N---A---. Let it roll around in your mouth while you enunciate each letter: vaaaah-jIII-naaaah. Shout it REALLY LOUD: VAGINA!!!!!) There is no shame or distaste in being a woman. But, that's a tale for another day...I digress.
So, last night, I drove away from the lodge and came home. I attended a commitment I have, completely outside of that group. I got all of my things into my house -- putting away the leftover food, catching up with my family, changing bed sheets and other chores. In other words, returning to 'normal.' And, eventually, I went to sleep, curled safe onto my own comfortable mattress in my own room with my own husband and my little dog tucked behind my knees as he always is. I was back in my own space.
And, SOMETHING was missing.
I woke up feeling the absolute absence of my sisters and realized that I miss something else that we have in common. I miss the 'soul speak' that we have -- the deep level of sharing and honesty between us. There is no attempt to cut one another off, to prove our 'rightness' or to invalidate someone else's feelings or beliefs. Instead, there is a deep bond formed which was born of the desire to connect to one another on a level far beyond the surface talk of colleagues and coworkers -- separate even from passionate debate about one's perspectives and perceptions -- and that of casual acquaintances.
In combination with the gift of total acceptance that we give each other -- no desire to change one another or abandon or scorn another, only to listen and to understand someone else's deepest knowledge -- it is the most powerful and dignified experience of life. It is humans acting as they were meant to act -- as creatures of Divinity.
It is nothing short of the recognition of what each can teach the other; and, the true interconnection of which we are capable -- the wisdom known only to those who can allow themselves the precarious pleasure of vulnerability. This state of vulnerability is so much more potent than nakedness or sexuality. It is a rawness of one's soul -- of inner truth. And, in turn, an awareness of one's self which is inaccessible in any other arena. I sometimes do not know how to clarify what I believe until I hear it come from someone else's lips. I have been told by others that I explain a concept in a way that makes it easier for them to comprehend. In its simplest form, I believe that its the same thing.
I do not mean to say that I think we should demand or convince others to believe what we do. In fact, I am saying quite the opposite. No one need believe the same as me. Instead, I want to know what YOU believe. I want to be non-judgmental in my listening, so that I can truly HEAR you. And, I want to tell you my own truth -- not to convince you, but to be open to you. When listening, I needn't crowd my own head with all my divergent thoughts and opinions. I need only be present.
As a trained therapist, I used to believe that we could not help others when sharing ourselves. My thought around that has morphed to: If we all connected on a basic, true, and genuine level, there would be little need for therapy. Does that mean that I think there is no helpfulness in therapeutic interaction? Of course not. Every field offers the opportunity to assist and serve others. Therapy is no less. But, I've come to believe that it is the goal of therapy not to teach people to solve their own problems (although that is certainly necessary and valuable) but to help people remove the barriers that prevent them from honestly connecting to others in a way that isn't degraded or needy or controlling -- to help them meet others on solid, equitable ground.
In this way, I believe that we must be fearless. We must allow ourselves to be sometimes injured in order to change the flow of the world. Because, under the sickness, the chaos, the ambition, and the agendas, we are all basically the same -- creatures of the Divine. We've just forgotten.