When female friendships run deep, they can be some of the most rewarding, satisfying relationships a woman will ever have. And sisterhood takes friendship to a whole new level. It is the notion that instead of just having one or two close friends and/or a small posse of friends and then distrusting everyone else, you can still have your closest friends and posse and also join a larger tribe of women whom you can rely on and trust implicitly as a form of support. This support can be like a cradle to nurture you as a mother. The support is like a giant safety net to catch you when you feel like you may fall into the abyss of isolation, depression, or anger.
This is a short excerpt from The Way of The Warrior Mama.
Working with women has shown me that the healing path can often be a rocky one. However, it is my hope that after reading these steps, you find that while you once equated raising your daughter through adolescence unscathed to a death-defying, daunting climb up Mount Everest, now you envision it more like a slow, steady climb of a majestic, but safer mountain. As far as your own healing is concerned, you may have once thought all the healing you could do was done, or worse, you thought that you could heal the cracks in the porcelain only so far. You now see that you can regenerate and renew your mind, body, and soul.
But old habits die hard, sister. As all the research shows, those habits of mind whether they are tired, old phrases you say to yourself or old habits of not fully taking care of yourself, those thoughts and feelings have taken years to carve neuropathways into your brain. Some experts say it takes anywhere from 45-66 days to develop new habits. When you have a number of different habits, it can be daunting to take it all on at once.
One of the greatest obstacles is doubt. As a survivor, you may have internalized your pain to the extent that you doubt your value as a person. You are so comfortable with doubt that life will feel funny without this security blanket to carry around with you to protect you from fully opening up. You have lived years doubting yourself and doubting that you can achieve full happiness. Have faith in yourself by looking at all of your sisters who have overcome tremendous excruciating pain. You can do this.
I have found that working with women in circle is one of the most powerful ways to heal. However, if you feel more comfortable you can enlist the help of a friend who is also on the path to self-healing. Develop a system where you hold each other accountable for self-care on all fronts. At the beginning of your journey, map out your goals, either visually through drawing a mind map (a diagram using images and words to brainstorm) and/or writing down what you wish to manifest in your life and what you wish to manifest for your daughter.
While it can take time to find women with whom you truly connect, finding sisterhood is possible. I have found in my work that there is power in finding real in person sisters, but online sisterhood can be very healing as well.
This is a short excerpt from the book, The Way of The Warrior Mama. Official book launch date is December 11, 2018. Get your copy now!
For some, the word sisterhood might conjure up images of naked women dancing around a fire (maybe not such a bad thing until you try it? Something to put on the bucket list?) and/or women who float around their daily existence calling every female sister and loving everyone. While I believe there are some individuals out there, past and present, who have done such an intense amount of healing and inner work that they really feel a sense of love and gratitude for every being, the rest of us still have our egos and our particular likes and dislikes. Sisterhood does not mean you have to like every woman you meet, but you could try respecting them. When did it become accepted in the common culture that women are catty? That we all gossip about one another? That we are so hard on one another? If there was equal pay for equal work, if women held at least half of all political positions and CEO jobs, if women were valued first for their minds and souls rather than their beauty—basically if women were not suppressed—would they feel this negativity, this self-hatred, and this need to tear their sisters down?
Without dwelling on cultural causes and blaming the patriarchy, how about we stop putting ourselves and our sisters down and stop reinforcing the stereotype? What if we as women were to start propping each other up more, and when we think something negative about another woman, we hold our tongues? This taps into the abundance mindset rather than having a scarcity mindset. At a young age, we learn a scarcity mindset, such as the teacher will only give out so many As, there are only four spots on the basketball team, only a select few students get into Harvard. And as we become women, it appears that only a select few make it to positions of leadership. We have the mindset that there are only so many pieces of the pie, so we had better look out for ourselves and watch out that another woman doesn’t take our place.
This is a short excerpt from the book, The Way of the Warrior Mama.
For me, the ultimate healing moment came inside a Red Tent. The womb-like comforting yet sensual vibe of the surroundings felt incredibly safe for me. But clearly we can’t spend all our days inside a Red Tent. How can we carry this feeling inside our minds? We need to create a Red Tent-like mindset where we create a safe place inside ourselves. Visualizing an imaginary or real physical space, whether it’s a beautiful beach or lake side you have visited or your favorite reading nook in your current or former home, can help you create that inner safe, cozy place where no invader can come in. When you are imagining this space, make sure that all the soothing colors you love are in there. Images of nature help.
As with visualization techniques that Olympic athletes and others use, it is best if you incorporate as many senses as possible. Is it a warm spring day, or are you inside a cozy room at night? Do you smell anything that is appealing and soothing to you? Do you hear gentle music or the sound of birds or crickets in the background? Are your bare feet touching the sand, or are you surrounded by soft blankets and plush carpets? Whatever it is, start to visualize this image.
First you can do this visualization technique at home in a quiet spot and imagine yourself feeling, breathing, and seeing safety all around you. At first you may need to imagine that you are inside a bulletproof Wonder-Woman–like invisible airplane where no one can hurt you, where no one can see you, and you are free and safe. As you get used to visualizing this image at home in a state of quiet and calm, you can call upon this image when you out in the world driving or doing errands or at work. To help remind yourself of this image of safety, you can draw a small image of it and carry it with you in your purse, or print out a picture of a similar scene of nature from the Internet or screen save an image for your cell phone or desktop. These are tricks to remind yourself to stay in the conversation of how you can feel safe and strong. For more in-depth exercises that incorporate visualization and other techniques to help you feel safe, deal with lingering feelings of unworthiness or shame, and help you feel more resilient about handling life’s stresses, I have found the website of Linda Graham, a psychotherapist trained in mindfulness, to be an excellent resource for recorded exercises. I often like to use these guided visualizations as well as my own when in circle with other women.
One way to foster self-love is to join a group of women or sister goddess mamas among whom bragging is not just encouraged, it’s expected. One key component of the training in the networking groups that sprang from the former Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership in Women, founded by Naomi Wolf, is teaching women how to openly talk about their accomplishments and strengths and to commend their female peers for doing so. They encourage speaking about one another by sharing their female colleagues’ assets and skills with another person. In other words, networking.
The ideology behind Woodhull and other women’s leadership groups is for women to achieve full equality in the workplace and elsewhere where they have to learn the same skills their male counterparts learn from an earlier age. For example: how to negotiate a salary, why competition can be a good thing, how to public speak, etc. Forcing yourself to talk about your strengths is a great way to start liking yourself. In Mama Gena’s weekly classes, we had to come with a brag each week. Anything from, I took a luscious bath or I bought myself some expensive lingerie to I got a new job, and then everyone would applaud. It was such a good way to boost each other up. That kind of stuff starts to seep in!
You do not need have to have experienced rape or sexual trauma to feel scared and anxious about how to protect your teenage daughter. You and I know all too well that my story and that of countless other females (and males) is far too common. Where is the middle ground between burying our heads in the sand and hoping our daughters emerge from adolescence relatively unscathed (which, sadly, means still probably experiencing an unwanted, demeaning touch, remark, or cat call in the street by virtue of being female), and being in a perpetual state of panic and policing our girls, forever anticipating the worst and sheltering them from every possible danger? The question remains: how do we protect our daughters? After speaking with experts, wise older crone mamas, and younger mamas—some trauma survivors, some not—and learning from my own healing journey, I’ve created a general roadmap with major landmarks to guide you and help keep you and your daughter on track.
Our desire to protect our young starts in utero. Even before our child is born, we parents are in protection mode, worrying about how to keep the unborn fetus safe from all the various evils, including unhealthy diet, BPA products, raw seafood, etc. While there are many different parenting philosophies rest assured that if you want some guidance, you can find a book to help you. You can find many books on how to parent an adolescent, too. What parenting experts, therapists, experienced mothers, and women survivors all emphasize is teaching your children boundaries and using their voice. Girls need to know that their voices will be heard early on, long before the teenage years.
On August 25, 2018, The Way of The Warrior Mama received the CIPA EVVY Merit award in both the Parenting and Family category and the Self-help category. The awards dinner was fun and a nice validation. I also connected with a fellow author. So over all, it was well worth attending the awards dinner!
Learn more about the book and how to stay connected here.
Sit down with your daughter and watch her favorite TV show, then discuss the issues raised in the show. Know what media she is consuming. When she is at an appropriate age, watch films and documentaries with her that address serious issues from human trafficking in films like Taken to the exploitation of teenage girls in the international modeling industry in the documentary Girl Model.
Joining or creating a mother/daughter book club is another way to select media that matters. It also makes it easier to talk about issues by talking about them through the characters.
In every women’s circle I lead, I find that creating a centerpiece altar is crucial. Creating your own personal altar is also essential. Perhaps you have heard meditation and alternative healers recommend building an altar. Does this seem like a nice idea, yet somehow you never get around to it? Here’s another way to look at it: if a sacred church were pillaged and desecrated by a raging group of bandits or violent lunatic fundamentalists from an opposing religion, what would the most devout group of followers and the leader of the church do once the bandits had left and it was safe to go back to the church? Most likely, they would return to the church, even if it lay in rubble, and pick up the pieces. For however long it took, they would sweep, dust, and repaint that church, and then they would lay down flowers and relight candles and grieve the destruction that befell it before decorating it and making it even better than before.
If you have experienced abuse, you may feel like you are damaged goods. There is no question you have been violated. But there is also no question that your soul, your beauty, your sacred goddess self is there, and you just need to build yourself an altar. Even a candle, a small object that has meaning to you, a rock, a leaf, a feather, your favorite gem stone, or a picture or photograph of you or someone you love or even someone you don’t know but who inspires you, or a picture of a rainbow or a beautiful beach surrounded by a lush forest, whatever it is, create an altar for yourself. You could create this altar in a passageway of your home so that every time you pass by it, you can touch your heart and say a mantra or a phrase that empowers you—or just pass by and smile. Or you could create an altar by your reading area or the place where you meditate or go to sleep. In fact, you could create several altars and see how creating physical manifestations of your own devotion to yourself and your life can start to deepen your self-love.
While Britney doesn’t find inspiration from goddesses, altars have played a part in her self-love. Britney began creating altars when she started therapy over 20 years ago:
“I do find it helpful to have small altars throughout my house. My first altars were where I would sit and meditate back in the early days. Now I walk for my meditations and have several altars scattered through my house. I have a shelf of women’s power statutes, an area where I have photos of people who have died in my life, a shelf of tidbits from my daughter’s childhood. I love walking by these areas—they keep my memories alive.”
Perhaps the ultimate archetype is that of Maleficent. I will be forever grateful for experiencing Kristy Arbon’s ingenuity in showing how we can develop mindful self-compassion by learning about the modern-day tale of Maleficent, the evil fairy in the Sleeping Beauty fairytale as told in the Angelina Jolie film. In the Maleficent archetype, we learn that she was an innocent child just as we all once were. In her story, her wings were ripped from her, a metaphor for a loss of innocence and also a common metaphor for rape, the shattering end of innocence that can haunt us until we face it and learn to heal it. For survivors, this story is particularly powerful because even if it is a fairytale, like all archetypes it comes from a shared experience. For Maleficent, as with all of us, there was a defining moment in her story, a loss of innocence and loss of naiveté. She hardens and tests her boundaries and power but then through looking after Sleeping Beauty her maternal and feminine side comes out. Kristy Arbon:
“She sees that innocence in this other young girl and she develops this fierce protection for this young girl. So, she mobilizes this power she has, this hardness, to protect this young girl. Towards the end, there’s this mobilizing to an even greater degree of her power and her strength, to extend her desire for protection to the whole land that she’s taking care of, so this maternal instinct that she has for this girl extends to the whole land. It’s like a social activist sort of piece she has there. The personal becomes political for her. There’s a forgiveness piece in there so she learns to rise above old hurts to a forgiveness piece. Then right at the end she gets her wings back.”
These stories remind us we are not alone because, as Kristy Arbon points out, many of these stories are hundreds of years old, allowing us to feel a kinship with women—sisterhood—throughout time. By feeling less alone, we feel more connected—an integral part of our healing.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Way of the Warrior Mama: The Guide to Protecting & Raising Strong Daughters. Sign up to be notified when the book is released. The book is a Finalist in the CIPA EVVY Awards.
We spend an inordinate amount of time teaching girls to be nice and respect others, and not enough time on how to respect themselves, their bodies, and their minds. If all we tell our girls is that they are made of sugar and spice and everything nice and that in life you have to smile, say yes, and be agreeable, then we are training them to be victims. Sometimes the answer lies in the ability to say yes or no to a hug. In writer, storyteller, and teacher Jamie Waggoner’s Artemis’s workshop, girls learn about:
“A goddess who is very empowered in her maidenhood, in her girlhood, womanhood, she’s all about boundaries, working with nature and putting your sights on what you want. Those are kind of her big three lessons and unapologetically going for what you want. Those are some pretty good lessons for girls, right?”
Jamie tells the story of Artemis, who, against her father’s wishes, chose her own path and used her bow and arrow to aim at her goals in life. Artemis’s story teaches girls that they can be independent and reach for the stars. Then comes the hugging exercise. Participants, both women and girls, pair up, and then one decides to be the person requesting the hug and the other the person being asked to be hugged. In front of the group, each pair does the exercise. The person asks something like, “Can I have a hug?” and the girl on the other end can choose to say yes or no. There is great power in letting girls know at an early age that they have the right to say no. Jamie of course teaches them that they should be polite and respectful in saying no, but that there is nothing wrong with not wanting someone to touch you if you do not feel comfortable or in the mood. The idea being that if a girl learns this now at an early age, it will be much easier for her to refuse an unwanted physical or sexual advance from a man or a woman later. As Jamie points out, this exercise is also important in helping build body memory. By practicing in safe spaces like a workshop or Red Tent, girls and women can consciously learn in a both a psychological and kinesthetic way so that when they encounter a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable their body and mind will respond appropriately. … more … “Learning to Say No to an Unsolicited Hug”