I write this piece with a humble heart, knowing full well that we men only get an occasional glimpse into the enigmatic depths that comprise humanity’s better half.
In one of the last interviews he ever did, legendary Lakota elder Russell Means once told our team,
“We men go from diaper to diaper – it’s a simple fact. You need a woman to take care of you at the beginning of your life, and at the end of your life. If you’re foolish enough not to recognize that throughout your life you’ll never know love as a male. You’ll never know love.”
It’s common knowledge in most indigenous cultures that the fully realized woman is the unshakeable foundation upon which civilization must be built. Being born female is the ultimate honor, beyond anything that male counterparts are capable of achieving – but it comes with great responsibility. Women are charged with giving life, nurturing life, and preserving the ways of the ancestors.
Maybe this is why the grandmothers are the traditional power brokers in tribal society. Because they alone know what it means to bring life into this world – the ultimate test of spiritual and physical fortitude – something that we men cannot possibly understand. A leader might think twice about sending young men and women off to battle if she herself had birthed them.
“A mother’s love doesn’t stop with her children, it goes to her mate. And to be a recipient… (Russell gets choked up for a moment) of that deep love, that is stronger than I could ever hope to be… wow, I am so blessed.”
I’ve seen this high reverence for “mama” in my travels, and received a heavy dose of woman’s wisdom in my first few Ayahuasca ceremonies, but I never fully understood the power of the divine feminine until my wife gave birth to our son, River.
Now, I fancy myself a pretty good dad and husband, but I’m blown away every day by the capacity Michelle has to stay present with our turbo adventurous little guy, no matter what he’s gotten himself into. She has an undepletable well of patience and warmth that I can only aspire to someday match. When Michelle is in her zone, she can shoulder the world and do it with joy, appreciation, and grace.
The divine feminine is a mysterious force that can’t be clearly defined by language, and is therefore overlooked in the modern manmade world – one of the casualties of the patriarchal society in which we live.
Most men, including those in positions of power, are never truly tested “the old way” as part of their rearing. Speaking from the perspective of a middle class, Caucasian American male who was born in the 1970’s, I can say with some certainty that my adolescence lacked any real rites of passage.
Sure, there were plenty of decoys – like the first day of school, first communion, getting a drivers license, being old enough to buy cigarettes at 18, and the golden drinking age of 21 (which never really made much sense, come to think of it). But this was a far cry from the meaningful coming-of-age challenges that native cultures designed for their young men to prepare them for adulthood.
Terrence Mckenna summed it up perfectly when he said,
“Our style of society is the historical equivalent of a temper tantrum. It has no viability. It’s completely self-limiting. It’s destructive and hands nothing on to its receivers.”
Anatomically speaking, we men are built to wander and either conquer or be conquered. Roaming freely about the world, we build and destroy with relative ease, waking up each morning with approximately the same physical and mental assets that we had the week before. Our bodies don’t change much, and without some skillfully crafted interventions (rites of passage), our mind and spirit won’t shift either.
Women are an entirely different story. There is no taking an evolutionary “pass” if you inhabit a female body. The laws of the universe just won’t allow it. From early adulthood onward, a woman’s physiology attunes to the rhythms of the earth and moon and she goes through the process of metamorphosis on a monthly basis. Not to mention the whole “bringing life into this world” thing…
I’ve heard many men give quiet thanks to their creator for being born male – usually after watching their wives go through childbirth. To many of us, the burden of womanhood is almost too intimidating to contemplate, but like most things – the harder road yields infinite advantages.
The two most important words on the spirit path are encoded into a woman’s chemical makeup. Surrender and vulnerability. You know what it means to experience and hold the space of ultimate discomfort and uncertainty. It’s part of your birthright and puts you a lifetime ahead of us seed bearers.
There is a phenomenon that occurs like clockwork in Amazonian Shamanism that speaks to this power of the woman’s heart. While most men (including myself) absolutely crumble in their first Ayahuasca ceremony, women tend to have a blissful experience right from the start. It took my wife Michelle about three ceremonies to even feel it!
I am in constant awe of the collosal yet nurturing force of the feminine, and between you and I, the re-empowerment of the grandmother as head of society might be the only hope our world has of righting itself.
Director, The Sacred Science