Monday, April 28, 2008

The Freedom to Choose

I was rather startled to notice today that I haven't written anything new on my blog for almost a month. I remember having the intention many times ... and then there was always an abundance of other rich and creative things to do. I realize that I am truly blessed with sovereignty: the freedom to choose.

During April, there have been several juicy meetings with wonderful women including a trip to the East Coast. New friends and co-creators from the Jaipur summit have been tuning in to explore ideas and possible projects; several visits are on the horizon. My friend Charlotte Backman invited a circle of us to join her for a new 'goddess' painting class and I discovered that I am called to create many different divine feminine images -- so many that I finally bought paints and set up a studio in my home (a much simpler solution than moving in with Charlotte so that I could have access to her paints 24/7). It is a hot spring in my gardens and there is much work to be done to keep up with the abundance of nature. I have enjoyed many sunsets, watching the hummingbirds dart from flower to flower and I have made a commitment to put bluebird boxes in my trees so that we can help contribute to the continuation of this beautiful species. And I enjoyed a nap now and then on a quiet afternoon.

I was sharing a wonderful lunch recently with Vivian and Audrey Heredia, the mother- daughter team that has nurtured the McCharles House in Old Towne Tustin for the past 25 years. We are all three enjoying a new phase of our lives, having gently set down some old responsiblities and allowing nature to inform us with more space and freedom. When I remarked that I have fewer commitments on my calendar than I have had for years and yet there is so much creativity flowing out of me that my time is full, Audrey replied: "Just like taking off a girdle ... you can relax and expand."

Saturday I will facilitate a workshop on feminine leadership called At the Intersection of Sovereign and Sacred. An intimate circle of women will gather in a lovely garden to explore the abundance of our gifts and the mysteries of our unique cosmic blueprints. When I first birthed the idea for this workshop, I thought that because of my own experiences with leadership I had something important to teach. Now I realize something more about the real power of living at the intersection of sovereign and sacred ... and I am excited to show up on Saturday to listen, to relax and to allow myself to expand.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Good News from Jaipur: 'God is not a patriarch."

Global Peace Initiative of Women invited 450 global citizens to gather for a summit in Jaipur, India from March 6-10, 2008. They carefully selected leaders from more than 50 countries representing business, education, politics and civil society. More importantly, they invited spiritual leaders – both men and women - from almost all of the world’s faith traditions. For four days under the gold and white roof of a large open sided tent, we were all together in our commitment to ‘Making Way for the Feminine for the Benefit of the World Community.” I had the privilege to be in that tent and I am still integrating all that I learned and experienced in that faith-full community.

One of my new friends from Jaipur recently wrote “There is still such a powerful fragrance from the conference. Are you finding this too?” There is indeed a lingering fragrance from Jaipur and like any good perfumes, it is complex blend of scents with base notes, top notes and excellent binding agents.

The base note for this Summit was provided by our host country. India is herself a complex blend of ancient spiritual traditions and modern economic challenges, of beautiful landscapes and brutally difficult living conditions. Everywhere I traveled I saw breathtaking paradox and juxtaposition: women dressed in delicate, brilliant saris and bangles carrying baskets of wet cement on their heads as part of a road work crew; children begging in the street in front of state-of-the-art medical centers; lumbering up the steep hill to the Amber Fort on the back of an elephant while the ‘driver’ chatted on his cell phone; large Tata trucks making way for a single cow or a herd of goats on rural roads. I needed to be able to hold an internal space for the contradictions of India in order to be present for the people and the evolving human story of this land. Our host India required all of us to remain flexible, patient and alert – an interesting combination of qualities as the foundation for our gathering.

The complex middle range of the summit’s fragrance is made up of the many diverse voices of the participants. There are some that stand out for me:

~Yangjin Lamu is a beautiful young woman from Tibet who sings prayers in a voice that rings with the clarity and mystery of her land. The first time I heard her sing was at an informal gathering in one of the hotel rooms several nights before the summit convened. She stood with her back against the wall and closed her eyes and began to create the most powerful sounds I have ever heard. I could literally feel my DNA vibrating into a new pattern.

~Sister Joan Chittister is a fearless truth-teller and I hung on every word as she invited us all to step into responsibility: “Half the world is invisible and mute and the other half doesn’t even notice ….The greatest burden is to have no burden to bear at all…. No seed ever sees the flower… If you are wondering is your life work is over and you are still alive – it is not!” In fact, every nun I met in Jaipur embodied clarity and honesty, whether they came from Australia, India or North America.

~Dr. Tho Ha Vinh who is the head of global training for the International Red Cross described how the human story to date has been about men shedding blood and women shedding tears to wash that blood away. “The women are constantly redeeming our violence.”

~From a panel of African women: “Women are capable of doing very foolish things in the name of love.”

~From a discussion of material and spiritual development in India: “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for one man’s greed.”

~From a circle on spiritual economics: “A natural leader simply walks through any door that opens.”

~From a circle on visionary leadership: “Leadership is an alignment of strengths that makes weakness irrelevant.”

~Truth and wisdom was brought by a team of youth leaders from all parts of the world. These young people have been mentored and nurtured by GPIW over the past several years and stand ready to lead in a new way. One of them had the courage to observe that this conference on the feminine was actually organized in a masculine way, with very little open space and few opportunities to be in dialogue. He pointed out that the real feminine energy at the event unfolded during the breaks, when people were drawn together organically for spontaneous connection.

And indeed the top note of our lovely fragrance was definitely provided by love. People were falling in love with each other all over the place -- at breakfast, lunch and dinner, during tea breaks and during inspired conversations on the sofas in the lobby. It was food for my soul to be able to hug a laughing, relaxing Joyce Oneko and to share stories with my roommate Janet Pinto like teenage girls at a pajama party. I am excited about the new relationships I developed and hints of new creative collaborations on the horizon. It was a miracle to spend so much time in a frequency of love.

Binding all of this together was a God called by many different names, an incredible master weaver who brought us all together in this one place and who held us in a loving embrace so that we could relax into one another and into a vision of another kind of world. There was a feminine and fluid aspect to the God who brought about the real miracles of the summit in mysterious and unexpected ways; there was a soft and warm divine lap into which we could all snuggle. We had a lived experience of the words of one of the summit speakers: “God is not a patriarch.”

I am brought back to one of Joan Chittister's questions from the first day: "Everyone is speaking truth -- then what?" The real impact of the summit will be brought into form by each of who attended and will manifest in a nesting holographic pattern of deeply personal transformation, individual action, organizational collaborations and global connections. I am responsible for bringing my own threads into that complex pattern.