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.


§ One Response to Revolution from Within – Part II

  • John Latchana says:

    A belated happy birthday!

    I have just read your blog “Revolution from Within – Part II” I feel that I want to comment but every time I re-read your blog I realise that there are different depths to your thinking and I change my mind as to what I want to say. I suppose that I was never one for the Arts, my interest lies in Science and Technology.

    I suppose each birthday is a milestone in our lives and for some it is an opportunity to reflect and take stock of who we are. As you rightly acknowledge this is not a feminist issue, but of human nature.

    I could not help thinking about Maslow’s hierarch of needs when I read your blog. At a simple level The Revolution from Within can be viewed as the last part of the jigsaw puzzle, when this slots into place an individual will achieve ‘self –actualization’. In the world today most people are struggling, at the base of Maslow’s pyramid, to achieve their basic physiological needs and have no time to sit back and contemplate; this is a luxury afforded to a few of us in the West.

    To me a ‘revolution’ is a complete turnaround, it is far too drastic and does not fit well with the calm state of mind that we are trying to achieve. Revolution has connotations of blood and gore, of violence and of a lack of control that ultimately results in the movement initially overshooting its aims to the detriment of itself and innocent third parties. From what I have read in your blogs, you are a good person with good thoughts and intentions. Do you really want a revolution and risk throwing away all those good qualities? Would it not be better to tinker with how you view the world and how you see yourself within it?

    I suppose we are all individuals and we all think differently about how we would like to change our lives; I personally like to changes to happen in an evolutionary rather then revolutionary way. Evolution conjures up a quiet, slow and incremental progression to some thing that is usually superior.

    The feminist and other equal rights movements have achieved much but the fight for equality will never be over. There is something the human psyche that makes us want more than our fair share of the world resources and if necessary we will bully the ‘underclasses’ to get it. We do not need to go to some third world country to see that the fight for full recognition of our equality is far from over. Scrape away the veneer of respectability and you will find examples of bullying in any neighbourhood. I could not help but feel that your granma’s tree would not have been chopped down if there was ‘a man in the house’.

    What if we can achieve that level of contentment that a Revolution from Within gives, will it last for the rest of our life? Can you as an individual ever attain and maintain that level of contentment in isolation of what is happening to your brothers and sisters around the world? When bad things happen to yourself, your family or friend or in the world at large it is bound to affect you and upset the equilibrium; how do you recalibrate? Would you recite a mantra, meditate, practice yoga or pray? Is this how early man discovered religion? Forgive me I am rambling, my education is lacking in this area and I better quit whilst I can still understand myself!

    I am sorry that you have had an emotionally stressful time recently. Anyway, use your birthday to draw a line under the bad times and be yourself. S*** happens and it is easy to blame yourself for something you did or did not do; something you said or did not say, or simply because you are different. You are loved not because of your beauty, you accomplishments or niceness. It is because you are you, and neither ‘the you’ or ‘love’ can be defined in such simple terms. In fact we all perceive flaws in ourselves; little do we realise that some of these flaws are the very things that draw people to us. If my neighbour does not like me because of some perceived flaw it is his problem not mine.

    Once again happy birthday

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