Revolution from Within – Part II
June 20, 2010 § 1 Comment
It’s my birthday, and the Revolution from Within is still on my mind!
A few months ago, some pretty heavy life circumstances pushed me towards my own “revolution from within” of sorts. One morning while writing on Salt Spring Island, I had a very clear thought: “What if I were always and already loved by something much larger than the circumstances of my day-to-day life? ” Hmmm… Could this be possible? The feeling in my body told me there was some truth to this thought, which seemed to “visit” me from out of the ether. Wasn’t I only supposed be loved on the basis of accomplishments and achievements in the world (and therefore risked losing love if my activities were to ever stop), on the basis of my beauty (and therefore not loved if my beauty were to not measure up, or disappear with age). Wasn’t I to be loved because of my “niceness” (and therefore risked losing love if my niceness were to ever turn to anger or disappointment)?
I had come to these questions and ideas on my own, the result of a natural thought process emerging from the pain I had been going through during that time. The fear of being unloved, the fear of being a failure in life, seemed to shake the core of these ideas, causing me to push through ingrained ideas I had been living with my entire life.
But I wasn’t the only one who had gone through this kind of questioning. In fact, Gloria Steinem would put words to my feelings in a book I happened to find for a dollar while shopping in a thrift store in Vancouver with my friend Carolyn. It was called Revolution from Within.
Gloria Steinem, who has been spearheading ideas in American feminism for decades, has touched on a topic that has extreme relevance to the feminist journey today. But a revolution from within can happen to anyone, man or woman. Being a woman, I’m especially interested in looking at the power of this shift in a woman’s story; I believe this to be the last phase – the pinnacle – of the feminist journey. The revolution from within is also a spiritual concept described in all the major faith traditions. Could the essence of feminism indeed also be a vehicle to the divine?
The revolution from within is the shift towards wholeness, when a woman’s self-worth is no longer dependent on external conditions – beauty, family, husband, youth, wealth etc. – but is felt as an inner truth, a connection to something larger than herself, which is at the same time her true self. When the revolution from within happens, a new kind of freedom is experienced, an awakening occurs, and a woman moves towards wholeness, empowerment and expansion in her life.
These are my words, but the personal account of Gloria Steinem is similar: “I had been raised to assume all power was outside myself […] I was valuing just about everybody more than I valued myself.” She describes a revolution from within as a “feeling of ‘clicking in’ when that self is recognized, valued, discovered, esteemed — as if we literally plug into an inner energy that is ours alone, yet connects us to everything else.
“Hierarches try to convince us that all power and well-being come from the outside, that our self-esteem depends on obedience and measuring up to their requirements, but it’s interesting that even the most totalitarian cultures have never been able to convince everyone. There have always been rebels and visionaries who persisted in believing that each person has a centre of power and wisdom within, whether it’s called the soul or the authentic self, Atman or the spirit. We don’t reinvent the wheel, just rediscover it.”
Around the time that I experienced the first inklings of thoughts about the revolution from within, I found this goddess statue half buried in the muddy sand at a beach near to where I grew up.
In the background of this photo is my grandmother’s house, tucked into the forest. Finding this precious gift was both mystical and strange, both beautiful and even a little awe-inspiring.
Feminism has been an interest of mine since I became a woman. My interest in women’s stories stretch back through the generations of women in my family history whose life experiences I have inherited. I have at once felt a great debt of gratitute to the women whose sacrifices and struggles paved the way for my own freedoms, my right to independence, my right to an education, my right to full participation in my society. I have also felt grief for the women in my family, throughout history, and living today in countries around the globe, whose circumstances have not allowed them to expand in life the way I have. I have many times also had an inconsolable feeling that something is perhaps still missing on this feminist path; that maybe we women have not recieved all that we were promised through having accomplished the feat of living in full equality with men. I have wondered if the end result of the feminist struggle was not the realisation of full equality with men, per se, but the full realisation of our true selves. If we have at times felt a great anger towards men, it has only been insofar as men have at times stood in the way of the realisation of our full potential. To be honest on this path, we have to admit that we have stood in our own way perhaps just as many times.
As I turn 32, I take stock of the fact that I can never fully live up to the expectations of women of our time. The circumstances of my generation of women have allowed for me new freedoms that have at times made me dizzy with the sheer plethora of decsicions that have thrown themselves before me.
A quote I came across by the theologian Paul Tillich last winter sums up for me the revolution from within:
“We cannot compel anyone to accept [herself]. But sometimes it happens that we recieve the power to say “yes”to ourselves, that peace enters into us and makes us whole, that self-hate and self-contempt disappear and that our true self is reunited with itself. Then we can say that Grace has come upon us.”
My birthday wish is that we all have the courage to say “Yes” to ourselves, in the most beautiful and true of ways, and of course, that all beings be happy and free.