The patriarchal society and programming that I describe in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom has a lot to do with how you think about your body and care for yourself. When I say patriarchal society and programming, I’m referring to the belief that the masculine ways of being (and doing) are superior to the feminine ways of being (and doing). This has been a part of the world’s culture for thousands of years. And after 5,000 years of patriarchal programming, it’s no surprise that women get sick in the uniquely female areas of their bodies.
Anne Wilson Schaef calls it, “The original sin of being born female.” This refers back to the Bible story about Adam and Eve… God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and declared that Eve would bring forth children in pain and suffering, because she tempted Adam. This kind of programming teaches women—at the deepest, deepest level—that the processes of her female body, including the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, labor, and menopause, are burdens to be endured.
This belief system has left women with the idea that a woman’s body is not “good enough.” And nothing could be farther from the truth. These processes are embodied with wisdom—clues that tell us that something in our lives is out of balance. Whenever we trivialize our bodies or are ashamed of their normal processes, we are not only missing these clues, we are contributing to our own ill health. To truly thrive as women, we need to reverse or abandon this programming entirely.
Instead, we must be kind and gentle to our bodies, and not think in terms of controlling them. That is a patriarchal way of viewing them. Our bodies work best when we love them the way we would a two-year-old child. When a child is learning to walk, we don’t yell at them when they fall and say, “Get up you little dummy!” We are calm and patient.
The organs and processes that identify us as female tend to be very vulnerable. Therefore, diseases of the breasts, uterus, ovaries, and the menstrual cycle are very common in women. The key is in knowing that our bodies never lie. They are always pointing us in the direction of the truth—and health. If you get a breast cyst or have breast pain, you can be sure that your body is asking you to take more time to nurture and care for yourself.
Women have been programmed to feel very guilty if they take time for themselves. Instead, I want you to honor the way you feel. And to be gentle and kind to yourself. We are not responsible for our illnesses. We are responsible to them!
I have learned that the processes of the female body are physical metaphors for the way in which God comes into and through our bodies. As the Medieval mystic Meister Eckhart said, “For all eternity, God lies on a birthing bed, giving birth. The essence of God is birthing.” When you see your body as holy and sacred, your entire life changes.
My deepest hope is that women all over the world will wake up to the power and privilege of being a woman. And will know that their ability to create pleasure and joy in their bodies, relationships, lives, and families is the key to living heaven on Earth.
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