When My Femininity Came Knocking

For over two years now, I have been single and celibate, not so much as kissing a man in that time.  Somehow, it is the celibate part that gets attention more than the single part.  Somehow, it has become ‘unhealthy,’ and I am denying myself ‘the expression of my femininity,’ like sex can somehow make one feel more like a woman than any other thing in the world.  Sometimes I believe these ideas that have been cast upon me by other people.   And sometimes, when I have spent four days in spandex (not the same pieces for all four days of course), and I’m covered sweat yet again, both my own, and other people’s, I do have moments when I feel a bit less than feminine.

So it was nice to put on a dress and heels, and catch a random man cast an appreciative glance, smile or even greeting my way.  To this stranger, I am not the yoga teacher, the person who fixes his posture or the person he shares his aches an pains with.  I am not the person who cashes the till or locks the studio up at the end of the day.  I am not the asexual best friend who he jokes around with.  He doesn’t know the decisions I’ve made and the thoughts in my head.  To this man, I was just a woman walking down the street who might give him my number or go home with him.

Perhaps, given the chance, the encounter could have progressed. When I was younger, believing that every avenue needed to be explored, it probably would have.  Perhaps numbers would have been exchanged.  A call here.  A text there.  Trying too hard to make something happen when it could have been left as a nice random exchange.  Perhaps I would have tried to make him like me because the more men wanted me, the more of a woman it made me feel like.  I was never a flirt, but that didn’t mean I that I didn’t sometimes wonder if the amount of attention received meant that one was a better woman than another.  Those thoughts always flew away as quickly as they came however.

There were always more interesting things I wanted to do and learn.

There were people I wanted to meet and know; their stories, their lives.

And in these explorations, and doing things, I am too learning that the expression of femininity might not be limited to the late night trysts you have with a man in darkness.  If it is, I want more than that.  Perhaps I am old fashioned, but I am learning that femininity is more than looking like a stereotype of what the average male wants you to look like.  It is not the long hair, or the diets, or the oh so flirty way you say his name as you saunter towards him.  It is less than that, and it is more than that.

It is about how you feel.

I am in my feminine when I am bathed in sweat, dancing between the postures.  When I have spent a day in spandex, or elbow deep in numbers trying to find that missing link in the counting.  I am there as I sit here in my towel, exploring these thoughts.  When I am the shoulder to cry on, the teacher, the best friend, the sister, the daughter and even when I am cracking the whip.  I am in it as I sink in the bath at the end of the day, and I am in it as I haul a box across the way.  I am in it in my anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, happiness, joy.  It is there when in my interactions, when I speak, touch, listen, and love.  It is in, and a part of me and no person has a right to say that I am not honouring it by not feeding my base desires.

And perhaps, my deeper desires are stronger than my base desires.  That desire to be seen as a whole, a person, a friend.  Perhaps my femininity is in wanting to turn things inside out, to stand there emotionally and mentally vulnerable, to allow him to see me from within and move from there.  Perhaps, in my 33rd year, I am starting to believe that romance is not a roll between the sheets, but conversation and deep friendships instead, and that as a woman, I owe myself this right to hold any part of myself back until I feel completely ready to share it.

Perhaps, I am learning that instead of jumping into the arms of a random person who is attracted to me on sight, I would rather be with the person who knows me.  Perhaps, right now, my femininity is expressing itself in the ability to let go of instant gratification, slow it down, appreciate the journey and just allow space for things to happen.

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The Power of the Symbolic Act

As I reach my 33rd year, and with this new moon in Aries, I am thinking a lot about new beginnings.

Something shifted this year. An old life ended, and a new one is just beginning. Bhairava https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/the-terror-of-my-own-universe/ has been my companion for a while. What I feel is akin to falling in love – my heart is ready to float out of my chest into the unknown, but I am terrified. What was before was familiar, but what is coming is unchartered territory. I can’t go back. I’ve been pushed out of a door that shut and bolted itself right behind me, and strangely all I can think of is my hair.

Why do you wear your hair the way you do? It is part of your identity, the person you want to show the world. A good hair day makes you feel good and a bad one can sometimes stop you from stepping out of the house. Women through history have perfumed their hair on special occasions. Even Muslim women who wear the head cover pays attention to her hair, brushing it until it shines. A successful courtesan tends to her hair painstakingly. When a Hasidic Jewish woman gets married she either shaves off all her hair or wears it very short under a wig. When a person completes the Islamic Haj, he or she is required to cut off a bit of hair to signify a new beginning. The power of symbolism is that one simple act can signify a million different things to different people.

Sometimes it’s not about the hair at all. It is an act that signifies something greater.

And there is something romantic, beautiful and strong about this kind of symbolic act.

Symbolism through history has had a strong impact. It is the ring on a finger, the burning of old love letters, the tombstone for a person whose body was lost at sea, the solidarity of standing silently in protest. After intentions are made, a symbolic act gives something just that much more strength. Like Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram instead of his son, a symbolic act can be an act of devotion, of surrender.

The practice of yoga, is amazing for the physical body but it also feeds our souls with posture that signify more than the obvious. There is mountain pose symbolizing the balance of Ardhanaishvara even without perfect symmetry. There is Hanuman Asana, signifying the devotion of the Monkey God as he leaped to Sri Lanka to rescue the beautiful Sita. In Natarajasana, there the peace and balance of Lord Shiva in the face of destruction. Then there is Shavasana, corpse pose, signifying that all things must end. And of course there are the mudras, each a symbol of the intention.

So based on all this, this year, I feel like something symbolic is needed, so I did something terrifying.

I chopped off all my hair.

The process :-)

The process 🙂

The last time I did this I was 19 and fearless. At that age, I fell hard and fast, mourned deeply and then would do it all over again the next week. I didn’t worry if any man would find my short hair attractive and if I didn’t have dates, then I would find something else to do (getting caught smoking by the campus guard and running because we thought it was a ghost perhaps?). We did stupid things, and then we laughed about them. Life was simpler, and so was I.

Without my mane, I feel a bit exposed, vulnerable. A lot more visible are the wrinkles, the dark circles, the freckles that I’ve just recently stopped trying to cover with makeup. More than that, every emotion I feel seen through eyes that can’t be hidden with a flip of the hair. In cutting it all off, I am allowing myself to be vulnerable.

So this is my act of surrender along with an intention to let go of the past and a prayer for the future. This is my goodbye, hello, sacrifice, gratitude, asking for blessing, forgiving and asking for forgiveness, letting go of love and inviting love in, shedding old skin so that a new one can take shape. This is me allowing myself to stop waiting for my father to come home.  This is one book closing so that a new chapter can begin.

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A symbolic act need not be great. It doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone but you. It can be as simple as a new journal or as complicated as a move to a different country. It can be laying your forehead down on the mat in surrender, or holding your hands in a mudra. What matters most is the intention behind it. It is your journey, your choice, your story. Doing something symbolic is, in itself, a form of therapy.

What symbolic acts would you like to bring in to your life, your practice, and perhaps to seal your intentions?