Many women laugh nervously when I suggest that they join a group of ladies for a Goddess retreat or workshop—
Not because it’s unheard of, but because so many older women have gotten away from viewing themselves as goddesses, even the notion is foreign to them.Learning how to embrace a Goddess viewpoint of ourselves is of vital importance, for ourselves, as well as the next generation of women. After all, how can we set a good example if we don’t love ourselves?
We are often ridden with dissatisfaction with our self image for our entire lives. Perhaps late in life, after menopause, we give up the active hostility and settle down to a state of quiet peace, but so many of us never truly embrace what our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, have passed along to us.
When I was a girl of about 14, I excelled in putting myself down for having mousey hair, brown eyes, for having nothing that “stood” out like my friends, for being a “plain Jane.” I didn’t like my “normal” look and never stopped talking about it. My mother was patient for a good long while, but after getting an ear full of self-loathing one morning, my mother had heard enough.
She turned to me and said, briskly, “Every time you put yourself down, you put me down, your Mam-maw down and your great Mam-maw down.” (In the south where I grew up we called our grand-mothers, Mam-maw).
I was pushed back on my heels: was that really what I was doing, calling my mother “ugly” and my grandmother “plain”? I hadn’t realized that in putting myself down, I was insulting my entire feminine lineage.
I’d like to say I never engaged in negative self-talk again, but the truth is that I still struggle with that tendency, even today. It is so easy to simply get into habits of self-degregation, making it easier to criticize our thighs, our bellies, the size of our noses or our mousy (or grey!) hair, than to embrace what we’re born with.
There’s probably no woman alive that hasn’t, at some point measured her beauty against an air-brushed image on the cover of a “women’s” magazine. We compare ourselves to our siblings, our friends, our co-workers, in-laws and even famous actresses and models. But how can we be a goddess, or at least feel like one? We start by changing our habits.
As a Yoga teacher I often find myself talking about change. Even the word yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning, “to yoke.”
When I practice Yoga I am yoking myself to the change I want to see in my life. Many women who begin practicing Yoga with me see changes in their bodies which leads to creating change in their minds and spirits.
I use Yoga as a discipline to embody my goal of embracing the Goddess that lives in each and every one of us.
At the heart of Yoga is a principle called Ahimsa, or non-violence (which is one reason that many yoga practitioners are vegans or vegetarians). But, non-violence begins in how we view ourselves. If we are in the habit of running ourselves down, belittling our bodies or brushing aside compliments, we are committing a violent act against ourselves.
The next time you find yourself criticizing your looks, the way you do something, how you don’t do something or denigrating your own opinion, ask yourself, “Would I say this to my best friend?” (Or “my daughter, my granddaughter, my mother, my sister.”)
How to bring alive the Goddess in yourself? Embrace every imperfection for what it is—an individual expression of the Goddess, passed on to you by your ancestors. By honoring yourself you honor them. Pamper the Goddess within by doing activities that will help to honor Her. Every woman will have her own list of Goddess-invoking activities, but here’s a few of my personal favorites:
1. Create a craft night for yourself, friends or family.
2. Make a cup of tea and sip it like a Queen.
3. Bring nature indoors, nurture a house plant.
4. Engage in meditation, yoga or another gentle practice; if you are the type of person who enjoys working in groups, join one!
5. Write a letter to your younger self and tell her why she is special, beautiful and perfect. Give her the kind of generous praise you’d offer to a beloved young person.
6. Apologize to an aspect of your body you’ve always disliked, and do something “nice” in an physical way to follow your apology with an affirmation.
7. Take a luxurious bath and wash every wrinkle, mole, imperfection or blemish—with love.
8. Listen to your favorite music, as loud as you like!
9. Dance!!! (Can you tell this is one of my favorites?)
10. Dig up roots and dust off that hidden dream or interest that you have shelved or left forgotten for too long. Find a way to bring that dream to your attention, decide if it still fits you, and pursue it if it does.
11. Call an old friend that you haven’t talked to for a while. Or write a good old fashioned letter!
12. Look at photographs of your mother, aunts, grandmother and great-grandmother, and work to see yourself in them.
13. Put an affirming post-it note on your bathroom mirror. I like one that says “You are a Goddess!” My screen saver reads, “Krista is a Goddess.”
14. Send yourself flowers (or chocolate).
15. Light a candle for the light in you every night, or day.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: elephant archives