Fierce Femina

IMG_2787 How to raise up our girls?

She might be small but she's fierce. May she be kind and surefooted. Please tell her, her body is a bridge between the Earth and the stars. Might she grow to honour her connection to the entire universe. When she looks at the moon, might she see her own special place in the heavens. Please make her choose proud over pretty, strong over salacious, clever over compliant.

We bring so much shame into the lives of young girls. So much sanitation in regard to their bodies. So much pressure to stay clean, be quiet, be good. "Hide your power, no one wants to see it." Apparently, at a certain age, it's ok to flaunt your sexuality but please make no mention of menstruation or that fire in your belly. Don't scare the boys away. Men like to be taken care of. Put others first. Fix your hair and smell nice.

Yet it surprises us when our girls fall victim to acts of violence or abuse?

Please God (poetic licence) let my daughter know what she's worth. Not to me but to herself and the entire universe. Let her squarely know that shame doesn't suit her loveliness. Let her know that all men (and women) should honour her and treat her well. Self respect is her unconditional birthright. As is safety, not to mention love.

Please don't think that for one second I'm suggesting that women allow themselves to fall victim to violence. I am not suggesting that they take responsibility for the abhorrent actions of others.

I'm merely trying to understand why we accept sullying the loveliness of young girls with the ugliness of indignity? What does it teach them? Is it possible that they might take that awkward shame inside themselves? That they might own it in a way that prevents them from seeing their perfection?

I don't understand why culturally, when girls reach puberty, we teach them that their bodies are just a little bit unfortunate. We are cursed with menstruation. We roll our eyes at their hormonal outbursts and how difficult they can be. For us. Without a second of remembrance for how it felt to be thirteen years old.

As women, we often contribute to the wounds of the feminine. Unaware and from a place of our own fear and hurt, we damage our daughters. We silence them, we ask them to keep our ridiculous secrets and play our silly games. We stand before them insecure, poking our thighs and staring disapprovingly in the mirror.

All she sees is her lovely mama.

Imagine if we honoured our girls. Imagine if we told them that they bled with the moon, belonged to the Earth and were filled with light? Imagine if we taught them that their sexuality was natural and guided by love. What if we listened to their feelings and asked about their dreams? What if we celebrated menarche with gifts and reverence? What if we delighted in our own ageing bodies and taught her to do the same?

Imagine what titanic creatures might emerge if we taught them to embrace their power.

While we're at it we could also tell them that Justin Bieber is a douche, high heels are torture, Kim Kardashian is 42% actual plastic and it takes a village to prepare for that ridiculous bathroom selfie. In fact, no selfie will ever actually, be a reflection of your true self.

Any man that has a bar fridge next to his couch is a bad idea. Don't date a man that hates his mother and that gorgeous fifteen year old that broke your heart will possibly turn into a portly 35 year old with an overinflated sense of importance. Oreos might be vegan but technically, so is a care tyre.

'Gorgeous'  is heaps of fun for about two weeks, then, you actually have to live with him. Bad shoes are totally unexceptable. As are bad boys. Or girls. No bloody cars with noisy motor-thingies or fluffy dice. Stoners end up stupid. The nice guy winds up being........drumroll.......a nice guy. Who would have guessed?

........I could go on.

The first time I saw you, you took my breath away. Just because you're you.

You are love.

M xx

Conscious 'what the'?!!

cropped-img_1180-copy.jpg It was quite a few years ago that I met her.

I had begun to deepen my interest in yoga and had signed up for a workshop run by a beautiful yogini that specialised in postnatal yoga. I arrived nervous, feeling out of place and in the wrong clothes-I'm pretty sure I had baby cereal in my hair. She, by contrast, looked like she had spent her entire life in some approximation of a yoga pose. She threw her mat down next to mine and enveloped me in a warm haze of patchouli.

I forget her name and I forget most of the workshop. I can't remember the teacher's name or anyone else from that day- but I clearly remember the first thing that came out of her mouth after hello. She complained about the fact that it was a new moon and asked if I was bleeding.

Whoa mama! What? I remember feeling a bizarre mixture of shame and confusion and fear and excitement. This conversation was heading off the rails for me!!! She followed through with asking me where I was in my cycle and whether I new anything about conscious menstruation?

If I could have politely excused myself at that point I probably would have. But, there's the whole-pick-up-the-mat-move-to-the-other-side-of-the-small-room-weirdness. I considered telling a fib but I wasn't sure I'd be able to sustain my furby in the harsh light of further questioning. Instead I chose to tell the truth. "Um....I have no clue what you're talking about?"

Menstruating-Where are you in your cycle? How long is your cycle? How does it compare with the lunar cycle? You look like you bleed with the full moon. Do you chart? What brand of cup do you use? How's your rhythm?.......crickets. Nothing. I just stared at her slack jawed and totally stumped. Thank goodness the class started at that point and I was saved by the arrival of the teacher. The first thing she asked us was where we were in our cycles....The day passed in a blur of my own bewilderment.

But...I left the class with a burning curiosity to find out what these amazing women were banging on about. I had a long reading list that included Alexandra Pope and Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and I was inspired by how confident and self-assured they appeared.

So what is cyclic awareness? For those of you that find yourself in my shoes of old, I'll give you a quick rundown...

Women are cyclic creatures. 

We have circadian cycles- an approximately 24 hour cycle (in humans its actually 25.9 hours) of sleep and wake which is triggered by exposure to light (the day/night cycle) which then triggers cyclic shifts in hormone levels. It is a universal rhythm to which all living things respond – animals and plants.

Behavioural cycles - are one’s daily habits. It’s what time you sleep/wake, eat, work and exercise. One’s schedule may work with or against circadian rhythms. 

And we have menstrual cycles- the reproductive cycle of ovulation and menstruation. We are biologically driven to behave differently at different times of our cycle. As a general rule, we require rest at menses, are more vital and energetic at ovulation and more introspective as we approach a new cycle. Interestingly our menstrual cycle is approximately the same length as the lunar cycle and often corresponds with us e.g.. ovulating with the full moon and bleeding with the new moon.

This is however, only a general rule. All women are different and there cycles are also different. That is why it is a powerful process to chart your cycle. Being aware of your own unique rhythm allows you to understand your own specific needs. When we keep track of our cycle over a period of time, a clear pattern usually emerges. We may feel and act in a similar way at a specific time.

For instance, maybe you have heaps of energy from day 10-14. You notice this time is an excellent opportunity to get big jobs done with energy and enthusiasm. In future you might schedule work on these days. Or perhaps you notice your libido wakes up on the 13th day. Maybe you could plan a mid-cycle weekend away with your partner.

Perhaps when you witness a dark mood clouding the end of your cycle, you remind yourself that this is not crazy hormones. Rather it is your bodies innate intelligence telling you to turn inward and rest.

Within this menstrual awareness is enormous power and insight. We begin to truly understand ourselves and also the other women in our circle. If we begin to listen to our bodies and respond it’s signals, we create balance and ease in our life.

Armed with my new knowledge and a healthy dose of skepticism I began to chart my cycle and a really weird fact started to emerge. I (crazy, loose, batty ol' me) was predictable.

No kidding. Weirder still was the fact that I did in fact bleed around the full moon- handbag full of crazy right there.  :)

After a few months noticing my unique rhythm, a strange unexpected consequence occurred- I began to understand my fluctuations and plan my life accordingly. I threw myself into work around ovulation. I stopped worrying about dark clouds that gathered before my period and welcomed rest. I responded to my loved ones by showering them with attention at ovulation but took introverted space when I bled. I kept an eye on the moon and silently thanked her for making me feel connected to the Earth. I walked barefoot on the grass more and started listening to kirtan.

It's a slippery slope my friends.

So when she sat down and spoke to me that day- it was the first step for me on an important path of discovery. Conscious menstruation has been an amazing tool for self realisation, deepening my relationship with myself, my family and the universe. I can't explain the strange sense of self confidence that comes with understanding your own unique physical and emotional blueprint.

That's why I now teach about finding hormonal balance through charting and practicing yoga. To come to a workshop just click on workshops and see what's coming up. And don't worry if your a little green when it comes to the red moon....I still remember how that feels and by reading this, you've already taken your first step on the path.

Namaste.xx

mudra7sml

Yoga approaching Menopause

In this workshop Michelle Spencer will address the hormonal and spiritual changes that eventually lead to menopause. These changes often start to arise from the age of 35.  Yoga practises can provide both mental and physical balance to minimise symptoms and help us to enjoy the transition to the middle and later years of life.

Saturday 5th September 10.00 am – 4.00 pm

Fee: $105 which includes a light lunch

Location: Pine Rivers Yoga Studio, Cashmere

1 Pinedale Rd, Cashmere

www.pineriversyoga.com

A full cup.... (without the crazy)

024e0-img_0932 Are you brave enough to be truly happy?

Are you ready to look 'the drama' in the eye and politely refrain from opening the door?

"So sorry, we have our little cup of crazy. It's still full from the last time you visited, we won't be buying today."

It can be really quite hard to say no. Especially when your mum spent so much time telling you to play nice and you're very busy with the whole compassionate-Ahimsa-kind stuff. But it's wise to remember that while your days may be long, they are also finite, so it doesn't hurt to throw a little sweetness your own way too.

I have been guilty of being lead down the path of pessimism in the name of being polite. If I am to speak truthfully, it wasn't because I cared, it was because I didn't want to offend by saying no. Don't misunderstand me, I have also willingly spent a night in the storm, holding a friends hand, while she rocked and ranted. I've been that messy, tearful girl, all snotty tissues and tantrums. I know what true friendship is all about, that's a different dance.

I'm talking about the people that take and tax you. The ones that need and need and need. Those who don't understand boundaries and that you're busy just being content. The ones that mess with your qi and muck up your vibe. To those, it's ok to say no.

It's important to use your Big Girl voice and speak it with conviction. "No. Not today thank you, my cup is full."

Speaking of the wolf...

IMG_0927 copy Sometimes it's really difficult to tell the truth.

In yoga we call it observing Satya, but it's pretty much one of the first lessons we learn in this life...tell the truth. Simple.

But sometimes it's ugly,

shameful,

painful.

I made a commitment to myself recently to become someone who is brave enough to be honest and to tell my story. I've had my share of teeth clenching terror and cold dark hurting. The wolf has made it's den outside my door, I've been there.

But those days are past.

Now my life is all about warm hugs and muddy puddles. Singing around campfires and loud family dinners. The sun never leaves my back. I'm grateful that the tide has turned for me, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't use our voice in service for others. I have long ago forgiven and I often forget but I'm aware of my fortune in this regard.

Speak out against violence and abuse of any kind. Use your voice against those who harm our children and hurt our humanity. Just tell the truth.

Michelle xx

I am featured in the july issue of wild sister magazine speaking about the New Feminism. I was asked to tell my story in Be The Change. 

 

Martyr to magician....mama needs a minute.

IMG_1784 My twelve year old son told me I was doing a good job yesterday. High praise indeed from one so poised to straddle the great conversational divide of his teen years. "You always put us first."

"What a load of rubbish!" says I, laughing as I kiss him on the cheek. "You wish."

I'm no martyr. I may be all about slow food goodness and taking good care of my flock, but I'm not chained to the sink or about to put any 'mums taxi' stickers on my car. I love my children, which is why I'm devoted to being the very best version of myself. I have become a magician of sorts. I can make time appear before my very eyes....

It's really very simple. Everyday, no matter how busy we are, I put the kettle on and conjure up 15 mins. Sometimes I do it twice a day. I will do what I have to do to make this happen. I've been known to silently handover an iPad or leave a plate of cookies outside. I use the TV, barbie dolls or books, every child has their price! Then, I walk away.

I shut the door.

I hide in the sunshine and put my bare feet on the grass.

IMG_0007

In yoga, we would call this observing brahmacharya, which broadly means to conserve oneself. To just take a little time and refill your cup. I need to remind myself, if you give it all away, you'll lose yourself in these gorgeous humans. So great is my love for them.

I am best when I've found a moment, to carry me through to my next moment. That way I can give to them with devotional grace, free from feeling like the sacrificial wellspring of constant giving. To repeat my favourite phrase, which has become my mantra of sorts...

"We must gather before we scatter."

Michelle xx

The beauty myth... Lunacy over loveliness.

IMG_1748 There's been a bit of a fuss in the media lately about telling young girls that they're beautiful.

The assumption seems to be that little ladies aren't smart enough to believe more than one thing at a time. Poor critters. If they are told they are beautiful, they don't have room in their tiny minds to believe they are strong and smart as well.

Umm? Forgive me, because as you know I hail from the fairer sexes camp, but did I miss something?

I have a daughter and everyday of her life I think I've told her she's beautiful. I can't help it. I find myself watching her tiny furrowed brow while she concentrates on a puzzle or the way she sticks her tongue out when she draws and I say it out loud. That she's gorgeous, that the world could turn on those lovely eyes, that she's perfectly Her.

I tell her other things too. I tell her she's clever when she gets her spelling right, I tell her she's kind when she helps her brother and I even tell her she's a monkey when she won't eat her lunch. I don't believe she thinks she is actually a monkey but perhaps I've been giving her too much credit?

Ok, I'm a little cross over this....Maybe if we told our young girls that they were beautiful and smart and kind they might grow up to have a high opinion of themselves. They might just value themselves enough to develop healthy self esteem and live huge lives. Nobody is suggesting we dress them up like little dolls and only value their loveliness. My girl is always disheveled with twigs in her hair and mud on her cheek. I'm not playing dress ups here people, I'm raising a titan.

 How about we all give ourselves a little more credit, mothers and their daughters. How about we subscribe to the idea that we are magnificent, complex, multifaceted creatures. That we don't need to have it all, but we can have what we want and that we are beautiful.

In my little opinion the word should be infinitely less exclusive and said to more women (and men) more often.

Michelle xx

So you think you're a feminist?

IMG_1518 What does a feminist look like?

Not I said the fly.  (perhaps)

I have devoted most of the last thirteen years to the guidance of my three amazing children. Sometimes I have totally nailed the top job of motherhood and I've had woeful moments that I'd rather not talk about.

(Like the completely insensitive conversation I had with the kids when their cat died or the time I made my son wear the monstrous chicken sculpture on his head for the Easter parade.)

I am happiest in the kitchen and spend hours baking and preparing food from my kitchen garden. Nobody leaves my home without a full belly and a bunch of greens for later. The kettle is always on or there's something in the fridge. "Pull up a stool, I have time." This bright and airy space is where I most identify with being me, amongst the pans and promise of a good meal with family. This is home.

I totally rock a red lip and I love a good beauty tip! Nothing makes me happier than a few hours well spent with an amazing gal, good friends are the great treasure in this life. I am not the vain ingenue of my wasted youth but I still take care of my business. I eat well, I exercise most days and I spend too much money on clothes. I have flowing hair envy, because mine is a shaggy mop that grows oddly sideways. (??)

I'm devoted to my partner even when he's not at his best. Sometimes we are not, myself included.

All this and a big fancy hat I like to call 'feminist'. It looks good on me and it will look equally good on my daughter and great on my sons (yes, they get to wear it too). You only need one simple belief to wear it and it needs to be a non negotiable rule....choice.

Thats it.

So beautiful people, let it all hang out or pluck yourself like a broiled chook, I care not. Wear cheesecloth or jimmy choos, suspenders or birkenstocks. You can read The Feminine Mystique or Fifty shades of whatever, I haven't read either and I probably won't. None of it matters when it comes to celebrating your magnificence. I just want you to make choices and if you don't like your choices.

I want you to make new ones.

For you.

Nobody gets to take away that choice and if they want to, well, I would choose to look closely at their character. You still get to choose whether you want to put a thousand miles between you or share a china set. Hell, we all make dodgy choices sometimes, I know I have. To my children and my friends I would whisper "choose wisely". 

An unhappy relationship can make the days long and the years short. Choose well and be happy.

Michelle xx

A new feminism

    

I have become accustomed to beginning my days with meditation. A good catlike stretch brings a little life to my muscles and then twenty minutes of quiet. Somedays there I am, in the fullness of that space, I sense my infinite self....and then there are the days where it’s like I have a swarm of bees in my buzzing brain.

Even if my mind is busy, I still sit.

My home is a microcosm of humanity. A small planet where the consciousness of one member affects the consciousness of all. I am often at the centre of this heavenly body, I am aware of my place here, this is why I try to take care of my stuff.

 

Whether we are aware of it or not we give everything to our children. 

All residue of pain, all of our insecurities and our fears, we give to them. Our capacity for joy, laughter and all the greatest good-stuff. Everyday we give them a great big plate of whatever's deep inside us, good mixed up with bad. If you think you're hiding your junk from them, you're really just hiding it from yourself. I promise you they will see it no matter how hard you try to bury it. Our children will know us more than any lover or friend, they will explore us in ways that others wouldn't bother with. We are their first love and the enduring mystery of their beginning in this world.

A while back I read some feminist literature from the 70's. All blustery indignation and a good smattering of simmering exasperation, (lot's of talk about their nether regions?) Perhaps it was appropriate for it's time, but it all left me a bit sad and sorry.

 

 Our feminine power lies in our ability to give. We may not choose to be a mother, there are lots of ways in which we might scatter our spirit, but before we become fierce femina we need to clean up our rubbish. When we deal with the wounds of our past we enter a collective wisdom, a shift in our consciousness. We become the women our children will honour.

In choosing to embrace this new femininity we embody beauty. Not some shiny reflection of shallow comeliness, but a fierce majesty and generosity of spirit, compassion and grace. Sadly, our bodies will continue to head south. Any amount of modification will not save us from gravity, sooner or later we all head for the earth beneath our feet. Instead of fearing age, we should be grateful for each moment and mindful of what we gather.

In the end we are here to scatter.

 

Michelle xx