Creating Sanctuary to Reclaim Freedom

One week ago marked the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 WTC tragedy. It was certainly a day of mixed emotions. Countless happenings throughout the city brought together residents & tourists alike to confront and share the feelings, images, memories, and various aftershocks stemming from that fateful event. In this space of raw human need and communion, I made my way to the serene yet vibrant Be Wild Woman Center for

Wild Woman Art Gallery: My Body is My Sanctuary
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Freedom Salon ~ Honoring 9/11 with Beauty & Joy

I had been excited about the art gallery for several weeks already, as it had initially been scheduled to take place for a charmed third time at the Walt Shamel Community Garden’s annual Art on Dean show (i.e., until Hurricane Irene danced across the East Coast and rained all over our parade!).

So I donned my wild womyn artist’s hat and rummaged through my magic box of words. Finding poems to fit the theme was fairly easy; making something purely literary into a visual piece was the challenge. I was primed for marvelous possibilities, however, and it wasn’t long before the *BEST IDEA EVER* sparked in my consciousness.

Pictured here is my hand-crafted replica of a Sheela na gig giving birth to three of my poems. Materials include terra cotta air-drying clay, Spanish moss, paints and ink, paper, ribbons, pennies, buttons, and glitter.

Fascinated by the abundance and diversity of goddess figurine artifacts from around the world, I was drawn to the Sheela na gig in particular because of her daringness to be completely exposed. One can barely take one’s eyes away from her larger-than-life vulva, which she shamelessly holds wide open for all to see. At the same time, however, she is not a conventionally sexy or beautiful woman; her bug-eyes, often withered skin, and occasionally fearsome countenance can be startling, even slightly disturbing.

Becoming comfortable with my body, just as it is, and allowing myself to be vulnerable have been a major part of my self-actualization & healing journey. Creating sanctuary in my body has meant learning to embrace ALL of it, light and shadow, the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘ugly,’ the parts that are soft & juicy as well as those that are rigid & painful.

And it is only within the past 3-4 years that I began to write poetry about my body. Before, my writing reflected more from my emotional and mental realms, so it was interesting to retrospectively witness in the midst of this project my shift to include the physical in all its rawness, vivid colors and shapes. The main themes explored in the three poems I chose for my Sheela na gig piece are menstruation (“moon blood”) and the different ways in which the body is measured and thus categorized.

I absolutely loved being able to both do and share with others this creative experiment of mine. My Sheela na gig joined the company of several amazing artworks by wild women Kiana Love, Olivia Wilber (Liv Arts), Anita Teresa, Elena Simon (Tiger Lil-e), Krupa Devi, and Dana Divine. As we toured the gallery, each artist had the opportunity to speak about her work and how the body as sanctuary manifests therein.

How wonderful to hear and express, in one’s own words, how wildness shows up not just conceptually but in living reality for each of us – and then to feast on deliciously fresh foods, plants our seeds of intention, send our prayers sailing with the angels, reclaim freedom through movement and sound, and continue the work & play of being sacred mirrors for each other, inspiring, empowering, healing.

Even in the midst of suffering, we can celebrate life.

>> Recommended site: The Sheela Na Gig Project

Wild Woman Loves Chocolate!

May your road be paved with
chocolate – bittersweet to journey
through exotic lands of mystery
and intrigue…

~ Nanette Littlestone

At Be Wild Woman’s Easter Wombing & Garden Celebration earlier this month, I had the pleasure of paving a small bit of that road with an Elemental Cacao Journey. Drawing from my longtime love of chocolate in its many delectable forms and my growing experience as a science educator at The New York Botanical Garden, I was able to shed some light on the hidden “roots” of this amazing plant derivative.

When asked who in the room liked chocolate, all of the women gave a rather enthusiastically affirmative response – not too different than the one I often got from the kids at the botanical garden! For such a widely adored treat, though, it’s surprising how little people really know about it. Just as surprising is what one discovers upon delving into the wild world of cacao. From the rather quirky personality of the cacao plant to the lore surrounding its origin and uses, chocolate can definitely take you to “exotic lands of mystery and intrigue.”

Aside from a merely instructive approach, I’ve found that, in both learning and teaching about chocolate, an intuitive creative way of exploring deepens one’s fascination. It expands our awareness of different manifestations of wildness, and how the wildness both in nature & ourselves can be infinitely beautiful, nurturing, and empowering.

So to all my fellow chocolate-lovers: snag yourself a bar of the darkest chocolate you can find (I used Lindt Excellence 85% cocoa) or, if you’re adventurous, raw cacao nibs. Then delight your mind-body-spirit with the following sensory exploration & yummy info bites..  

~ * ~ * ~ 

Earth

Earth is associated with the sense of touch. Hold the chocolate in the palm of your hand and explore its texture with your fingertips, be it the smooth slippery surface of a chocolate bar or the multiple rough facets of cacao nibs.

This solid substance was once held tight within the seeds of a cacao tree, an evergreen bound to the narrow tropical region of our planet.

These seeds were once wrapped in the sticky sweet flesh of large, rotund fruits that ripen in a rainbow array of colors.

These fruits were once the ovaries of teeny tiny flowers luring teeny tiny flies with the promise of a sugary snack.

While the leaves of the cacao tree sipped the streaming rays of the sun to make food for the plant, its roots dug deep into the soil, anchoring it, keeping it firmly in place, drawing up water and minerals for further nourishment.

We too have our roots in the soft yet steady belly of the earth, this ground that supports, cushions, feeds.

Earth below your feet, cacao in the palm of your hand – find comfort in their gentle touch.

Air

Air is associated with the sense of smell. Inhale deeply the aroma of the chocolate in your hand. Follow the trail of that aroma as your breath streams into your lungs, lingers, and finally flows out with an elated sigh.

Continue filling and emptying your body with nourishing breath, breath that is shared with nearly every living creature, from human to plant to microbe.

The rainforests where the cacao tree dwells are the lungs of the planet and thus does the cacao tree share in that cycling breath, taking in our discarded carbon dioxide, giving us oxygen with its exhales. This sacred exchange is essential to our lives.

The ancient Mayans who realized the edibility of cacao considered it food of the gods, a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the “feather-serpent” ruler of the dawn, morning star, and winds. The Aztecs reserved it for rulers, warriors, and wealthy people, using the seeds as currency.

Let the spiritual wisdom of the ancients perfume your primal sense – find joy in the divinely arousing scent of cacao.

Fire

Fire is associated with the sense of sight. Softly gaze upon the chocolate in your hand, observing its particular shade(s) of brown, the play of light and shadow across its surface, all of its unique nooks and crannies.

Let your vision be emblazoned with thick dark chocolate. Become completely immersed in it, in intimate relationship.

Perhaps you imagine you are a tiny speck of dust tucked within a cacao seed.

Just as the sun powers the planet, illuminating and enlivening everything it touches, the power of your will and imagination makes all possible.

Just as the cacao tree soaks up its golden ambrosia to make nutriment, you can absorb the essence of cacao for your own transformation.

In The Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients Lexa Rosean suggests the following uses of chocolate in ritual or spellwork: dark chocolate for romantic or sexual love, milk chocolate for nurturing and friendship.

See with your inner vision your heart’s true desires – sparked by the sacred fire within you, catalyze the change you wish to create with the solarized energy of cacao.

Water

Water is associated with the sense of taste. Alas, give in to the swell of temptation and eat a morsel of your chocolate – slowly! Pay attention to the sensation of it brushing across your tongue, tickling your taste buds with flowering layers of flavor, melting into the rising tide of saliva.

The flow of blood quickens throughout your body in thirsty anticipation.

This crimson water, like a river ever replenished by the rain – rain, falling from sky, seeping into soil, indispensable drink for the cacao tree and all plants – is alive within you, carrying nutrients and hormones and protective cells to keep you healthy.

Cacao is a natural healer, saturated with antioxidants, promoting a healthy heart and brain. It unleashes great floods of mood-elevating serotonin and pain-relieving endorphins.

Praised as an aphrodisiac, it may even in modern times be blessed as a gift from the foam-born Love Goddess herself.

As the chocolate seeps into your blood, dance gracefully upon its waves of pleasure – when the waters have calmed, rest assured that you have been cleansed and nourished.

~ * ~ * ~ 

Still curious about chocolate?

Visit the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden for a glimpse of live cacao trees.

Or learn to say “chocolate” in different languages.

Or try hot chocolate in the ancient Mayan and Aztec style (xocolatl) – an infusion of ground cacao nibs (a French press works wonderfully for this) flavored with honey, vanilla extract, and chili powder.

Or host a sensual tasting party with fruits and different kinds of chocolate.

Or all of the above, plus more! The possibilities are endless and the path is yours to create.

*May your road be paved with chocolate*

Spring Brings Wild Garden Blessings

Alas, Nature reawakens. Day triumphs over night. The buds that had slept so tightly sealed all winter are beginning to open. Birds are chatting, squabbling, searching for mates. The ever-nervous squirrels have an extra pep in their step. And I too feel a quickening in my body. A readiness. An urge to… spring into action!

At Sunday’s Wild Wombing Day Garden Blessing, I set the intention to clear away self-doubt and bring into my life a fresh perspective—“new eyes,” so to speak, as per one of my favorite quotes by Marcel Proust:

The true voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.

So much – perhaps everything – is a matter of perception. Self-image, our sense of identity and purpose, how we respond to circumstances, all depend on the lens we are using. When we look at the beauty and bounty of nature, when we realize the amazing potential of our own life’s seeds and nurture them lovingly, when we close our eyes and look within to find that eternal divine universal spark, our experiences and expressions change for the better. We blossom. We shine as brightly as stars.

Through the looking glass of nature, I feel, we can find our way back to the wonderland of our mind-body-spirits. In that space, we can do anything – and anything is possible. And after we’ve rediscovered that fountain of blessings within ourselves, we can spread the wealth!

First sending our positive energies to the Be Wild herb garden plots with chants, sage smoke, sound, and Amma water, we extended our blessing to all of the Walt Shamel Community Garden. Appointed as Water Bearer, I sprinkled the garden and anointed each woman in the circle. Giddy with joy in this simple act, I felt like a nymph prancing through the garden with a gift of sparkling cider for the soil and early-sprouting plants. Perhaps I was channeling Hebe, the youthful cupbearer who served ambrosia at the feasts of the Greek gods.

Then came time for us to get our hands dirty in our healing herb plots – turning the soil for aeration, clearing out rocks and weeds, mixing in fresh garden compost. We could see how much of the soil had regained good health by the rich brownness and feel of it; we could just as easily see which spaces need more nourishment and time to heal.

There was one patch of soil that had previously been left idle. Working diligently with hand-rake and spade to integrate it into the garden, I was filled with an unexpectedly deep sense of connection to that tiny bit of land. So I’ve unofficially adopted it, and will make sure it gets the TLC it needs!

In just a short time, this wild woman gathering recalled feelings from last year’s Wild Wombing Day. I felt completely present, cheerful, connected—to both the women in our circle and to the Earth. At the close of our circle, I read the following poem by Rosario Murillo, who is the First Lady of Nicaragua, a Sandinista revolutionary, a poet, and definitely a wild woman:

I’m going to plant a heart in the earth
water it with love from a vein
I’m going to praise it with the push of muscle
and care for it in the sound of all dimensions.
I’m going to leave a heart in the earth
so it may grow and flower
a heart that throbs with longing
that adores everything green
that will be strength and nourishment for birds
that will be the sap of plants and mountains.

What will you plant this Spring? What beautiful flowers will bloom in the garden of your life? With whom will you share and enjoy the fruits?

hugs&love~
Noelle V.

Healing the Womb, Part 4 ~ Womb Visions

It’s been six months since a dozen women gathered in a cozy room on the Upper West Side to embark on a journey of Healing the Womb. That first evening, we each shared our personal experiences with wounds of the womb, each story a conscious reconstruction of thoughts, feelings, memories, struggles—things that are not always easy to put into words but that had to be in order to communicate what we had been through. And even though the translation would never be perfect, we knew that this process was powerful, that words have power and the sound of our voices expressing our truth created a deeper resonance between us. We told our stories. We listened.

Then we learned to listen to ourselves, to our bodies, which spoke not with words, but with sensations and feelings. We delved deep into our bodies, opening a channel of dialogue, learning to trust our intuition, to trust in the truth of that nonverbal internal process. Thus did we begin to reclaim and cultivate safety—and realize that we knew exactly what that felt like in the womb, before birth, before we had a language to consciously understand and translate it.

We enveloped ourselves in that feeling of safety, clearing the clutter and setting the boundaries of our safe space. There was “my space” and “your space” and we asserted that distinction both with and without words—discovering the underlying energetic pattern, rediscovering that the power of invitation was ours alone. We practiced holding that safe space for ourselves, then holding space for others—another mode of nonverbal communication that allows expression & healing to happen.

And then we opened to the flow of creativity to make the invisible womb visible. On the last day of our journey as a group, we ventured within to see what our wombs looked like. Using simple tools (crayons, markers, glitter, stickers, and paper), we visualized our wombs through artistic expression.

Visualization has never been easy for me—my dreams are rarely very vivid and I mostly tend towards words rather than images in my waking life. But when I stopped trying to see and allowed my body to show me, the feelings and sensations then manifested into colors, forms, and textures, and continued to manifest throughout the process of drawing, flowing through my hands rather than my eyes.

It is said that the hands are extensions of the heart. We indeed had to look at our wombs through the lens of the heart, with compassion and curiosity, just as a child would—and using art absolutely speaks to that younger, imaginative, freer aspect of ourselves.

At the Healing the Womb benefit workshop held on February 8th, Kiana had guided participants in a meditation that visualized the heart and womb as roses. We were to take notice of all the different qualities of our roses—color, size, shape, whether they were in bloom or wilting, what kind of environment they were in, etc. My womb rose had been blue and crumpled. On that final day of the Healing the Womb program, though, my womb was no longer sad and withdrawn.

I saw a vibrant red flower
that wanted to rise, rise, rise
snugly held
in a nest of grass
and this flower was also a cup
in which lied a pool of clear blue water
nourishing
and there was room
in that cup for more water still
and surrounding that flower-cup was a
halo of golden light
some of which poured right down into the cup
illuminating any dark spaces
and just within that halo
smaller whorls of silver light were floating
around my womb like fairies
sparks of wisdom

My womb was alive, had seen the light of day, had tasted sweetness, had felt the support of a women’s healing circle, and wanted more than ever to grow!

Today, I still look back upon my Healing the Womb experience with fondness—for all the women who shared their stories, for the tools and support I received for my healing, for being able to hold space for others’ healing, for the relationship I’ve reclaimed with my own body & emotions, and for the opportunity to help launch and make this program available to women in NYC & beyond.

Too many of us are hurting and have been convinced, in one way or another, that we simply have to endure the pain. This is not true! Our bodies know how to heal and they are constantly telling us just what they need. It’s time for us to be present, to listen, to truly take care of ourselves, and then extend that to our families, communities, and environment.

Healing the Womb, Part 3 – Womb-to-Womb

Grounded – I had become aware of the strong foundation that lay beneath me and of the solid weight of my own body.

Centered – I had followed the flow of my breath as it danced between the spaces without and within, into and out of my core.

Connected – I had learned to use the heartlink to open myself to the inexhaustible stream of divine blessings, sending my love and gratitude in return.

Protected – I had envisioned the cave in my mind’s eye and felt its promise of safety right down in my womb.

Now, it was time to expand that feeling of safety and comfort into my daily life.

The use of the word “safety” in common language almost always refers to protection from some external threat (though there is of course the idea of saving one from oneself). When our safety is compromised, we tend to respond with one of the 5 Fs: fight, flee, fidget, freeze, or faint. In altercations with other people, these can manifest as angry or violent outbursts, “running away” from the situation, a frenzy of nerves, a sense of paralysis, or even “blacking out” as a means of escape. It just so happens that I’ve experienced all of these! And so, learning how to maintain the integrity of my safe space when I venture out in the world, especially during social interactions, was invaluable.

The “womb-to-womb” interactions during our group sessions were relatively easy because all of us were already co-creating a shared safe space. And yet, there were still some challenges and insights to be offered.

We each first set the boundaries of our spaces, extending our hands outward both to feel how far the “me” space actually reached and to clear out whatever didn’t belong. With a better sense of our “sphere of influence,” we then moved into pairs to feel what it was like for our “borders” to simply touch. We recognized the flexibility of those borders, how they can expand or shrink depending on our environment, and discovered unexpected nuances (like asymmetry). It was all very interesting – kind of like having our own personal amoebas! (Okay, so maybe only a science nerd would make that analogy…)

Much like a cell membrane, however, we have the power of selective permeability. We decide who can or cannot enter our space, how close they are allowed to get, and how long they are welcomed to stay. We practiced inviting each other into our spaces as well as announcing when we wished our “guest” to leave. Obviously, this requires a lot of trust and respect. I actually felt a bit strange having such complete control of my space – I guess because I’m so accustomed to letting it be ill-defined and thus allowing others to go through it as they please. I can think of several instances when I’ve been uncomfortable or even repulsed by people who’ve entered my space, but kept silent from fear of hurting or disappointing them! This is something I still need to work on.

Another aspect of our womb-to-womb interactions was learning how to hold safe space for someone else. And just what does it mean to “hold space”? A great article on holding space starts with this quote from Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

It’s really as simple as that – being there, well and truly. And I discovered that I LOVE doing it! But that should have come as no surprise, as I’ve been holding space for years – holding space for friends and relatives every time I listened to their woes and fears. Even people I didn’t know very well (but most of whom eventually became closer friends) found a sort of easy comfort in talking to me about their problems. By holding that space for them, helping them feel safe, being open and aware and compassionate, there’s a certain harmony that facilitates healing and fulfillment for both parties – it’s amazing how that works!

Womb-to-womb interaction is not necessarily just between women, of course. Everyone has a sense of “personal space,” especially when that space is trespassed. “Invasions of privacy.” People standing too close or touching us without permission. New Yorkers know even eye contact on the train is a no-no! But if we set the boundaries of our space, remain aware of that space, and maintain its integrity by consciously choosing who and what we permit access, I’d say the “battle” has already been won!

Healing the Womb, Part 2 – “Wombing”

Being able to share one’s story is therapeutic all by itself, but that was only the beginning of our womb-healing journeys. As we began to (re)connect to our wombs, it was also time for us to learn how to womb.

womb (woom) v. to create and cultivate safety and healing both inside your body and in your life

Using “womb” as a verb transforms it from simply a place, passive and easily forgotten, to a proactive process that women can (and should!) incorporate into their daily lives. Wombing allows us to release the pain and fear held within our wombs and begin radiating strength and joy instead so that we can be truly powerful wombyn!

I understood this right away on an intellectual level, but didn’t know how to make it real on the physical and emotional levels. For me, the only tangible associations for the word safety were things like “safety belts” in cars and long lists of safety hazards in college science labs. In these contexts, safety meant precautions against accidents and possible trauma. The idea of safety as a means to facilitate healing was new, and I never realized that I needed to actually make it safe for my womb to open up again—to healing, to love, to myself and others. Except –

what did safety feel like?

In a private session, Kiana guided each of us in finding our personal safe space, which could be real or imaginary. Since I couldn’t think of a real place in my life that had given me a feeling of safety, I allowed my imagination to create one for me.

I found myself in a cave, a beach cave, with a bit of morning sunlight streaming through its opening. I was deep enough into the cave that I could not really see outside of it, but impressions of an ocean, gently waving, soaring seagulls, and sunlit sand trailed the edge of my consciousness, as if I could almost see beyond the solid rock walls around me. No one else was on that beach – no one even knew of its existence. It was a secret place. I could have easily wandered along the shore without fear of any danger, but I felt most comfortable in the quiet dimness of my cave. The surrounding walls guarded me, yet there was still an outlet to the world if and when I was ready to go there.

In retrospect, it’s interesting that my mind latched on to the image of a cave. I’ve actually never been to a cave before, but somehow I knew exactly what it felt like to be inside one. Like an ancient memory. “If the Earth is our Mother,” says Rachel Pollack in The Body of the Goddess (which I only started reading a few days ago), “then a cave becomes an image of Her womb and a place to enter Her actual body.” Prehistoric peoples definitely felt the mystical allure of caves, filling them with painted and engraved images. Perhaps they too experienced safety and a sense of the sacred in these dark, protective, earthy womb-spaces.

It’s also interesting to note that later on, in recorded history, we see the sanctity of the cave distorted in Greek philosopher Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”:

Plato imagines a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of the cave entrance, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners. (from Wikipedia)

Just as Western patriarchal society began its rapid ascent, even the womb of the Earth Goddess became a prison rather than a sanctuary, a place of illusions rather than divine inspiration and creativity. Is it too great a leap to say that this parallels the perpetuated idea of women as weak and in need of protection from men?

Without any contrivance, the womb is arguably the safest place in the animal body, and it is woman who possesses this extraordinary gift! Even though we’ve been convinced otherwise through centuries of mis- and non-education, that power resides within us, cannot be stripped away, and it is up to us to reclaim it. Wombing then is not only creating and cultivating safety and healing in our bodies and lives, but also remembering that it is indeed our birthright.

Healing the Womb, Part 1 – Womb Stories

When I heard the idea to incorporate “womb stories” into the Healing the Womb project, I got excited.

By coincidence (synchronicity?), I was just beginning to explore the significance of story/narrative in human interactions and memory, especially after stumbling upon Nancy King’s Dancing with Wonder: Self-discovery through Stories in the library a couple of weeks before. For me, this was one more step away from science and closer to spirit. After all, abstract theories and statistics don’t touch us, move us, nestle deep within our hearts like actual life experiences and the voices that tell them. Even our daily conversations consist mostly of stories. This vital exchange keeps us connected to each other, to the past, and to our own desires and fears.

At the first session of the Healing the Womb program, I listened to nearly a dozen women share their womb stories. It wasn’t until then that I realized just how varied and widespread wounds of the womb are in our community, and how easily these wounds are hidden and neglected. Fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, sexual abuse, sparks of life miscarried as well as those carried to term, fear and anger and confusion…

The womb holds space for all of these things,
but who holds space for the womb?

Consciously holding space for our wombs was the first step of our healing journey. We could no longer look at the womb as a burden or enemy – or worse, not look at it at all. Just as we could open our hearts and arms to a friend or child in pain, we had to begin to do the same with our own centers of creation. “You can put your hand over a screaming soul’s mouth, but it’s still screaming, and not likely to stop until you listen” (quote from BJ Gallagher’s book Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Other Women). ‘Soul’ can easily be replaced with ‘womb’. It was time to break the silence and listen to what our wombs had to say.

Kiana’s advice to be “curious compassionate observers” of ourselves echoed the “ABC” approach I’d read about in Helene G. Brenner’s book I Know I’m in There Somewhere: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner Voice and Living a Life of Authenticity. ABC stands for:

Acknowledgment
Being with
Compassion

This practice was especially important for me because the major intention I’d brought to the circle was to reclaim my emotions. Years ago, I had resolved to become more detached because attachment (specifically, to people) and subsequent abandonment left me hurt, confused, and insecure. The only way to avoid the pain then was to stop myself from feeling altogether – or so I thought – and if anyone doubts the power of will, I tell you that it works! But I realized that by not feeling anything, or being so disconnected from my feelings that I could not sense them, I had lost myself. And not only was I disconnected from my emotions, but from my body too. It’s no surprise now why dis-ease manifested itself in my womb-space. Here was a pain that I could not ignore!

Being sick and unable to pinpoint the source of my pain scared me, frustrated me, made me sad and angry. I wondered, What did I do? Why me? I cried alone. But instead of being with my body and giving it compassion, I blamed it for giving me this mysterious pain, a pain that came and went as it pleased, that gnawed at me constantly for four months straight, and that still creeps in once in a while even now.

Interestingly enough, when Kiana asked me to participate in the Healing the Womb program and documentary, I wasn’t sure that I – my story – was worth being among the other women and their womb wounds and stories. I haven’t been through the kinds of things that they’ve been through, I thought, which was the same as saying that my sufferings didn’t compare. This was an old habit I had of minimizing the value of my experiences, and another thing I had to look at with the eye of the curious compassionate observer.

I admire, thank, and bless the women in the Healing the Womb program for their bravery and trust in sharing their stories with me and each other. Being part of that circle of support, understanding, and dedication made me realize that, yes, I too belonged there, my story was worth telling, and that all of us holding space for each other as well as for ourselves was really powerful. Though our wounds are multi-colored and multi-faceted, we can come together and share this strong ground of healing and communality.

I *feel* inspirited.

Vagina Voices Unleashed!

Wild is an audience of hundreds emphatically chanting the word “cunt” within the walls of a church.

That will be a long-lasting and vivid memory for me (and countless other folks, no doubt) of this past V-Day’s benefit production of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues at the 4th Universalist Society. Although I had already seen three previous productions and delved into the realm of “women’s issues” (for personal as well as academic purposes), I never felt like more than a casual observer of this ongoing women’s movement. This year, as a Be Wild member and V-Day volunteer, I was able to put my energy directly into that movement.

I was surprised to discover just how many of my friends had never seen the show-or read the book, for that matter-and subsequently delighted that I had provided this opportunity for them to finally experience the vagina-victorious phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. It was also a surprise and a delight to see the many men in attendance, as such strong and positive messages/mantras spilling from women’s lips have long instilled a certain fear in the “opposite” sex.

women’s voices ~ women’s sexuality ~ women’s wildness
Why are these things so terrifying?

Simply, because they are very VERY powerful. And not only men are afraid of that power. Many (if not most) women are afraid of it, too! It is all too easy to blame our repressions on “The Patriarchy” and to settle into the role of perpetual victim. But where is the hope, the potential, the strength to be found in that? It is not enough to merely survive and we surely don’t have to accept what we’re given if it does not serve our needs-we must reclaim our power and use it to live fully and meaningfully. That is the spirit of both Be Wild Woman and V-Day’s mission.

In addition to the Healing the Womb workshop held on February 8, we wild women helped continue the fundraising effort by making V-Day bracelets to be sold before and after the show. I loved putting my creative energy into something both beautiful and empowering-the red beads symbolize passion and blood, while the three silver “V” beads indicate what the V in V-Day stands for:

Victory, Valentine, Vagina

I also like to add other words into the mix, like vivacious, voice, visionary, Venus, and even my own middle name, Vanessa! It’s interesting to think about the letter V itself, too-open and inviting at one end, yet sharp and protective at the other; two arms raised upward as if in triumph or, alternatively, two fingers raised in a peace-sign as a call to end the violence perpetrated against women worldwide.

What other words and images do you think could help foster a sense of safety and vitality in women’s bodies and lives?

Becoming a Wild Woman

Hello! I’m Noelle, a recent college graduate and proud member of Be Wild Woman. I stumbled upon and joined Be Wild Woman online at www.meetup.com in September 2008. I remember being seized especially by the word “wild,” a word that really had no application in my own life and that I hadn’t even thought of claiming or seeking for myself. But that was really just a matter of semantics.

Conventionally, “wild” is something you hear in association with (non-human) animals or otherwise reckless and thereby dangerous people. But to be wild does not mean being totally out of control in an unhealthy or unsafe way. “Wildness” is the natural state. “Wildness” is what happens when we are living authentically, embracing and expressing all of the different parts of ourselves, especially those that we’ve neglected or tucked away out of fear of what other people may think of us. And (re)becoming a “wild woman” is so essential because women have traditionally and systematically been rendered “tame,” silent, passive, and self-limiting.

Through various studies and experiences, I had already begun to realize these things. I began to look at the state of modern society’s woman through a critical (feminist) lens, which then enabled me to reflect on my own situation. Was I being wild, free, true to myself and to others? Was I allowing my light to shine out into the world? Did I accept and love and take the best care of myself? The answer was a resounding “no” every time and that is when I knew there was some serious inner work to be done.

Though I was a virtual member of Be Wild Woman since September, it wasn’t until early January 2009 that I attended my first event and met Kiana Love in person. It was the night of the final full moon ceremony at Alex and Allyson Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in Chelsea (Manhattan), NY, where Kiana held a Women’s Blessing and Healing Circle. Besides Kiana and me, there were two other women there that I did not know, but seeing how open and friendly they were made me feel more comfortable. We sat in a circle on the floor, eyes closed, getting into a quiet place within. Kiana cleansed the space and each one of us, fanning sage smoke with a feather around our bodies, guiding us to invite Spirit blessings into our hearts. Then there was a guided visualization, after which we worked with the Goddess Oracle Tarot. With the cards facedown, scattered on the floor at the center of our circle, each one of us picked up a single one-whichever card seemed to call to us through our fingertips.

I can’t explain the exact mechanism by which I found the right card (and am perfectly content leaving such things up to Mystery), but it was Hestia, Greek goddess of the hearth and home. The image showed a cloaked woman holding a flame in the palms of her hands. With the full moon in Cancer and my 6 personal month number and standing “issues” with my own hearth and home (physical & emotional, outer and inner), it all made perfect sense. Hestia was reiterating what I already knew in theory, but had yet to put into practice:

“Home” is within you;
tend to that flame
and everything else will follow.

After some communion with the cards, their images/messages, the women in the circle took turns sharing their impressions. I was the first to speak, which meant very little time for me to collect my thoughts or find the “right” words (a reminder to speak from the heart and not from the head). I concluded that “I know what I need and I know that I can get it.” It was an affirmation without my even realizing it; Kiana told me to repeat it to myself and doing that gave me a new sense of power-that I can really do it! Listening to other women voice and work through their own inner stirrings was equally as valuable, and it was that intimate exchange, simple and free-flowing, that made me want to go back for more circle experiences.

These intersections, these lines and arcs of communication, are the basis of this community of women and the means through which we begin to heal and dance free of the chains that keep us from being the wild women we were born to be!

*peace&love*