As women’s voices come into sharper focus around the world, I feel a deepening appreciation for these journeys I lead with women, even though I’ve never entirely been clear of my purpose, even while sensing it somewhere deep inside.
I’ve continued because women have continued to enroll, and asking to return, finding and shaping their own meaning with each journey, and it is the light in that reflection that pulls me forward.
This morning, I searched for clips from last night’s Golden Globe Awards because I’d heard that the #metoo/#timesup movement would be front and center.
Although I have never read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale for fear it would be too chilling, I really liked the character Elisabeth Moss played in the series Madmen–the secretary turned copywriter–so I leaned into her voice as she quoted Margaret Atwood:
We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print.
Yes, I thought, that is us.
That is my mother and my grandmother, and my great-grandmother.
Marginalized from the very world we’ve conceived, delivered and nurtured.
And then Elisabeth claimed what the #meTOO movement has brought forward:
We are the story in print and we are writing the story ourselves.
That’s it, I thought!
We are writing the story ourselves.
In the journeys I lead, we do just that.
We speak for ourselves.
Not what others want to hear, but what seeks expression through us, which is something I find unique to each woman.
There is a Native American saying that celebrates the necessity and gift of each voice:
It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story.
The more women, the better.
The more women speaking, the better our world.
The more women shaping the story, the more the story represents us all.
A handful of years ago, just around the time I began leading these journeys, I had the opportunity to realize my grandmother Lila’s dream. She never got the chance to work at the United Nations, so each spring, I join thousands of women from non-profits around the globe to participate in the annual Commission on the Status of Women.
While I don’t play a part in shaping law, policy or politics, I hold deep respect and appreciation for those who do, and over the years, I’ve come to understand and respect my own place in the fabric of change–facilitating the play of consciousness–what we call in yoga–the divine lila.
Each and every voice inspires mine as we write through the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives. Births. Endings. Dreams. Celebrations. New beginnings. Confusion. Despair.
Some women come with strong, developed voices–seeking tenderness and flow.
Some come with whispers–seeking permission to shout (or to be heard while whispering.)
Some come without knowing why they’ve come and later speak of finding soul.
Some come seeking light; others seeking company in the darkness.
As we plumb the depths of the body’s energy centers, we meet, as Ram Daas says: in the silence behind the words.
I sensed that same sacred space when I listened to the clips of women speaking at the Golden Globe Awards. I was particularly moved to tears (sobs really), as many of us were, by Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille award.
What placed me at the center of the silence behind the words, however, came during the backstage Q&A after her speech.
“You have no idea the power of noticing another human being,” Winfrey said, “…what it feels like when somebody knows that they have been seen by you. It is the greatest offering you can give.”
I’ve heard this from women journeyers again and again. They feel seen.
We provide that for each other.
I’ll never forget my first time at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Faced with the impressive work of women whose education, action and leadership far outstretched mine, I questioned my place, even while I felt so right among them, simply bearing witness.
On my last morning in the city, I returned to my favorite breakfast spot before catching the train to Vermont. When it was time to leave, I looked back longingly, and a woman behind the counter must have sensed my energy, and so she wished me well, meaning to say, “See you,” but in her beautiful emerging English, said instead:
With those three precious words, I knew.