Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at Maria Shriver’s California Women’s Conference, along with a whole host of other luminaries such as Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues) and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who I consider a total rock star.
On the night before the actual conference there was an event known as The Village, in which many of the speakers signed their books and many businesses had kiosks where women could shop or learn about various services. Following the book signing, where I was standing beside Bob Greene, Oprah’s personal trainer, I went into the pre-conference party where a wide variety of celebrities were present, including actress Geena Davis and CBS news anchor Katie Couric. Generally speaking, this kind of party is not my cup of tea. But there was one guy there I really wanted to meet. He was a cute Hispanic man with scores of women flocked around him, including Katie Couric and comedian Kathy Griffin (who does the Celebrity D-List riff).
I was certain that cute guy was a nutritionist with a forthcoming book with Hay House. And I was very impressed that he had managed to attract such a celebrity following. I thought I remembered seeing some clips of him on YouTube, talking about decreasing sugar in the diet. So I went up to him, introduced myself, and told him I really appreciate his work. Unlike what you would expect from an up-and-coming Hay House author with an interest in good nutrition, he didn’t know me from a hole in the wall. And I couldn’t understand why.
Turns out it was Mario Lopez, from Saved by the Bell and Dancing with the Stars. My daughters filled me in. And so did my CEO of Everything, Diane, who told me that he’s a major heart throb and that her niece has a photo of him in her bedroom. Who knew? Obviously NOT me. I love Dancing with the Stars, but I always forget to watch it. Same with most other television. I’ll bet many of you can relate.
Anyway, what I noticed is that Mario Lopez often stands with his right hand over his heart, perhaps to protect the unsuspecting public from getting an overdose of his considerable heart energy and cuteness. He also has amazing biceps. I know because I touched his arm when I said hello. My daughter later sent me a YouTube clip of him on the Ellen DeGeneres show appearing without a shirt for a charitable cause. Talk about a six-pack. I now have a picture with him (see photos in the On the Road section of the Women’s Wisdom Circle!).
And I have decided that maybe I should do a remake of the movie Clueless, called Clueless 2. Earlier this month, when I had to be on the Today show and then MSNBC with Maria Shriver, I was told to meet at 30 Rock. I knew that that was a TV show written by Tina Fey. So I figured we were meeting in the studio where they make the show. But I had no idea that 30 Rock is an ADDRESS: 30 Rockefeller Center.
These little episodes provided me with a good laugh at myself. And also proof positive that you can have a very successful life without tuning into the mainstream media much!
During the first week of May, I took part in a live teleconference that was part of the Inspiring Women Summit, a global gathering of over 26,000 women from 117 countries. My topic was the pleasure-health connection, and I participated in a conversation on this subject with Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., Elayne Doughty, and Regena Thomahauser (a/k/a Mama Gena).
We all talked for 20 minutes before going live. Our moderator suggested that we entertain the question Why don’t women allow themselves more pleasure? My friend Regena instantly took the conversation in a more pleasurable direction by saying, “We all know why women don’t allow themselves pleasure. We’re conditioned to serve others from birth. How about we instead explore all the wonderful ways that each of us is including pleasure in our own lives, and then take it from there?”
Great idea—we all agreed. Then each of us reported in on what we were wearing. Regena had on red satin tap pants and 5-inch stiletto heels. Joan was in sweat pants, having just finished a day of work on her latest book entitled Fried—all about burnout. I was in yoga pants and a tank top, but then donned my tango shoes just for the fun of it.
Happily laughing, we started the call. Our first question was What is the science behind the pleasure/health connection and why is this important for women? I began by talking all about nitric oxide as the molecule of life force. Nitric oxide is produced by the endothelial lining of each blood vessel of our bodies, increases circulation, and is also the “uber” neurotransmitter, which balances all the others, including serotonin and other feel-good hormones. I also talked about an observation I had while teaching at Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts. I noticed that when women had the courage to make pleasure a deliberate pursuit in their lives, they would heal from physical ailments. Joan Borysenko, a cell biologist, also talked about the fact that nitric oxide is increased in all states of love and appreciation, whether that’s appreciation of nature or animals.
After we had established the scientific basis for pleasure, we all dove in and shared our own approach to pleasure. Mine includes taking a bath each night before bed and reading. I also dance regularly. Joan talked about how her dog made a trip to the garbage can a wonderful event, which was fun to be part of. And Regena and Elayne talked about the fun of dressing up and creating “costumes.”
We had a ball on this call. And we all reveled in the idea that our conversation was then taken up by small groups of participants and has also been recorded and is available free to all women. We loved the idea that women in Egypt, Lebanon, France, Canada, and all over the world have access to this kind of celebratory information. And Elayne, who works with Eve Ensler in the Congo—where women are routinely raped and beaten—also shared that these women, despite everything, still have a huge amount of joy in their lives.
Pleasure is a game changer. And understanding its importance can save your life. Really.
Today I got a funny email from my colleague Lissa Rankin, M.D., who is on her book tour for What’s Up Down There. I wrote the foreword for this book and love Lissa’s very fresh, very saucy approach to all things gynecologic. Because I’ve broken trail for her as a pioneer in helping women reclaim their inner wisdom—and their vaginas—she keeps me in the loop about what’s going on with her book tour, her Web site, and her ongoing campaign to wake up the culture.
Today’s email was about the fact that CBS.com posted and then immediately removed her piece called “15 Crazy Things About the Vagina.” They had asked her to do this because their piece on “15 Crazy Things About Sperm” was so well received. Not so with the piece on vaginas. You can barely SAY vagina in the mainstream media, let alone celebrate it.
Why can we have all kinds of ads about erectile dysfunction, a Viagra car on NASCAR, etc., but we can’t say the word vagina in a tampon ad? I’ll tell you why. Because women haven’t claimed their power in the world the way that men have. Sure, we don’t have a penis, but we’ve got some powerful stuff down there none-the-less. The minute women realize how much power is in their pelvic floor and their pleasure, the whole game will change. And mark my words, the game is changing.
But what do we do while it’s changing? Well, here’s what I wrote to Lissa today after reading her hilarious blog on her experience:
Guess what, sister? The harder you resist something, the bigger it becomes. That’s right. What we resist persists. I remember, years ago, reading the work of the famous feminist Sonia Johnson (From Housewife to Heretic). She was a Mormon who got excommunicated from her church for supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. Anyway, when she talked about Patriarchy (which you could also call the Dominator model or the Addictive model), she illustrated it with a very powerful image: Patriarchy is like a bunch of guys in a castle on the top of a hill. When you try to attack them, they just erect bigger and more powerful defenses against the attack. In other words, attacking them makes them STRONGER! You try to bludgeon down the door and they put a stronger deadbolt across it.
And that is why, confronting what you DON’T like head on is so exhausting and counter-productive. Think about it. How long have we had a “war on cancer?” President Nixon instituted that one! How well is it working? And how about Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Has that particular move decreased the number of women with breast cancer? Has it soothed anyone’s heart or breasts? What’s the first answer that pops into your head? No, right? I thought so.
So here’s what you do instead. Make an end run around what you don’t like. Turn your attention to what is working. When it comes to the word vagina, for example, let’s hear it for Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues! This amazing play goes up every year at thousands of locations worldwide. My daughter was in it when she was in college. All the proceeds go to Ensler’s V-Day charity, which is working to make the world more vagina-friendly. I took my daughter to the V-Day launch on Valentine’s Day in New York City when she was 13. The Vagina Monologues were performed by Glenn Close, Whoopie Goldberg, Calista Flockhart, and special guest singer Phoebe Snow—to name just a few of the luminaries there that night. There were no censors. Instead there were buttons that said “Vagina Friendly” and lots of V-Day t-shirts. The event, which was hosted by Gene Shalit, was a sell-out and a complete success.
You also need to laugh a lot. Nothing defuses an angry situation like laughter (or a puppy or small child). Lightening up gets the angels on your side. And be cheeky. Lissa is doing a very good job with that. I told her to keep up the “too saucy” part, because it always makes me laugh.
Andrew Weil, M.D., taught me something very valuable about 20 years ago when we were having breakfast together at a meeting of the American Holistic Medical Association. Andy, as you might know, did the first (and only) double blind controlled trial on marijuana. (It’s in his book From Morphine to Chocolate.) That study made the-powers-that-be angry. But he took it all in stride. Here’s what he told me, “You can say almost anything if you're not angry.” (Well, except fun things about the word vagina in the mainstream media.)
Please remember, my dear readers, the patriarchal “Dominator” model of reality is disintegrating all over the planet, along with the Newtonian, linear view of reality. Despite what you hear on the news (which is the old model just trying to keep you continually in a swivet, so that you’re not available to change anything), ALL IS WELL. And besides, we are eternal beings. (That’s the part that always gets me through the night.)
Have a ball with whatever is bugging you. That energy of anger (which lets you know what you don’t want) is powerful. It gives you great material! It’s jet fuel for your passions.
Keep on keeping on, sister. And that means YOU!