“We have put the value of love — of life, self, and others, — in combative opposition to the value of personal empowerment. In actuality, these two values should be more like the Eastern concepts of Yang and Yin, which are not combative. Rather, they compliment each other as opposites while retaining their own identities, reaching toward a universal harmony. Love needs empowerment to have strength and substance, and empowerment needs love in order to have value, purpose, and meaning.”
— Massimilla Harris and Bud Harris (Into the Heart of the Feminine)
I grew up during the second wave of Feminism. I remember those years of women fighting for equality. And, I remember how they were treated for wanting equality.
Looking back now, I see that the call was for equality but not really for love for all of life, for justice for all, for the leveling out of the playing field for all.
It’s clear the feminine (as she appears in all human beings and in all of life) has been missing when we see the ways in which the power structures and institutions of our western culture values some lives more than others. When we discriminate against some lives and not others, when we commodify lives, when we don’t provide safety and care for all lives, we are witnessing the lack of the feminine in our institutional, systemic, and individual behavior.
Over the past two decades, many of us have found ourselves on this deep reclamation of the feminine. She called and many of us answered, not really knowing what that meant.
The feminine (yin) can only be known in relation to the masculine (yang), and the masculine only known in relation to the feminine. In Chinese Medicine, this relational dynamic is understood as an elemental way of seeing and knowing life. Everything is related and nothing truly stands on its own. So when I speak of the feminine, I speak from this perspective. I am not speaking of women and men, but rather the energies of yin and yang.
The feminine is dark as related to the light. The feminine is moist as related to dryness. The feminine is non-linear as related to linearity. These aren’t moral leanings. They describe life and all life entails, including death.
The feminine is the mystery. She doesn’t reveal herself in clearly defined ways. Instead, she reveals herself through symbol, intuition, dreams, and the deep imagination of the inner world. But, the feminine has been revealing herself back into the world of form and we’ve begun to see the world in new ways. We’ve come to see how the feminine appears in this world.
We have so far to go to truly hold all of life as sacred, worthy, and equal. I believe one of the reasons we have not done so is that we don’t know the feminine. We don’t clearly see her. And, because we don’t see her clearly in relation to the masculine, which has had a greater presence in our world, we don’t see that the nature of life itself is to live not for itself but for the whole.
This is how the feminine moves in all of us — not hierarchically, but relationally. The feminine cares for life — all of life. Not some life. And not just life that is commodifiable. She cares for all of life equally. The feminine is Eros. And Eros is love. Eros nurtures the impulse to live. And the living of Eros moves in such a way to ensure the preservation of the human species.
But the feminine is not moving within all of us because we haven’t become conscious of how she is within us. And we become conscious of how she is within us when we come to see what is hidden within us when we find the courage to face that which we haven’t wanted to see. When we do this, our hearts can break open. Our compassion can flow. And, our love can pour forth.
We can come to remember our wholeness.
While we’ve been seeking empowerment and equality, this twin ‘value of love’ has not been championed in the same way.
“We are liberating our empowerment, yet at the same time, we are denying our inherent abilities to like, nourish, and take loving care of ourselves and to make the love of ourselves, others, and life the dominant value we try to live by.” Massimillia Harris & Bud Harris
We want to be equal to men. We want to be empowered. But to what end?
Ultimately, it must be for the love of all things, all beings, all of life. For this is the nature of the feminine. She does not discriminate. She does not exclude. She does not favor one child over another.
“Empowerment needs love in order to have value, purpose, and meaning.”
What does empowerment do for us and the mess we find ourselves in if we aren’t caring for all beings, if we aren’t using this power to liberate all of life from the effects of our out of balance, hyper-masculine western culture, exemplified by racism and white supremacy? The feminine does not hold any aspect of life supreme over any other, any expression of life over any other, any incarnation of life over any other.
Yes! Love truly “needs empowerment to have strength and substance.”
We must do what it takes to free the Love within ourselves, otherwise, we are still stuck in the old paradigm of ‘what’s in it for me’ where there is little true value offered to the whole of life through our work. And when we do free ourselves, we then have the strength and substance to bring Love to the forefront of our work in the world.
When we face all of the intense conditioning within us — everything that feels so hard to face and own — we often feel guilt and shame when we finally do. But here’s the thing. It is through feeling these very things that love frees up within us. When we truly stay with everything that comes to call on us, asking for us to face it, our hearts can open to the life that is here — to all of life, not just some of it.
This is how we do the deeper work we must do. We do what is ours to do. We face what is within us so that our hearts can do what our hearts know is true to do. This is how Love moves.
And for those of us who’ve said yes to Love and have been uncomfortable saying yes to power, myself included, it is time to bring these two together. Power-over, how we see power playing out in our world, is a zero-sum game. But power born of love is power-from-within, and this power is the expression of our deepest being into the world. It is our life force. It is Soul born from the deep Love that moves all things. It is generative. It is inviting. It is intelligent in the way of Life.
It can be frightening to live our power when our true power has been suppressed. We’ve feared our power for suppressed power fears harming others. We know somewhere that if we unleash it, it can be harmful. Yet, by not addressing it, we harm, too. Our true strength and power are of life itself. When we come to trust life itself, we come to trust that which flows through us and that which flows through all — the Source of life itself.
We cannot have true empowerment without having the conscious understanding that we are given our lives as a gift, that all of life is of equal value, worth, and beauty, and that we are here to serve the continuation of life itself. When we are willing to see what is standing in the way of this knowing and willing to do the work to dismantle it, I sense we will be able to live for life itself and to live life as the gift that it is.
Again, the feminine is the mystery. When we sit in what we don’t yet know and are unwilling to face what we must feel in order to know it, we’ll suffer and cause suffering. Everything is conspiring for us to end this suffering and liberate ourselves and the whole.