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I coach women and I hear a lot from my clients that they want to work on their feminine side.
When I ask them to describe what that means for them, they give me answers like: “feeling soft,” “flowy,” “being open,” “feeling connected to my body,” and “feeling more comfortable with my sexuality.”
When I ask them why they want this, their answer is: “I want to feel my feminine power—my power as a woman.”
I understand what they crave. Something in the following scope: from escaping their overthinking brain to feeling alive and attractive again.
But I would not define this feeling of flow, softness, or receptivity as their “power.”
To explain why, let’s look at the root of that concept: the inner feminine or masculine.
The teachings about the feminine and the masculine come from the tantric tradition. They are two currents or directions of energy, and a list of qualities have been attributed to each of them:
>> The feminine is the receptive. Qualities: soft, open, flowy, surrendering, relaxing, and nurturing.
>> The masculine is the emissive. Qualities: hard, driven, providing, and structuring.
The list of qualities will vary depending on whether the presenter uses the actual tantric texts or a more modern approach. But the idea is that the feminine being is more about feeling and the masculine about doing.
The feminine and the masculine are the equivalent of the yin and the yang in the Chinese tradition. Or the anima and the animus Carl Jung referred to.
They are both necessary in our processes of creation.
The feminine, or cultivating our receptive state, is what allow us to replenish and feel nourished.
The masculine, or cultivating our emissive state, is what allows us to take actions in the world.
When I am using the definition from the tantric teachings, I will put quotation marks around the words, “feminine” and “masculine.”
The “feminine”/yin/anima is how we gather life force within. Our modern societies tend to bypass that step and give credit to the measurable and visible results, the doing, the fast paced, the busy—which belong more to the “masculine” category.
We mammals want to be valued—it’s how we experience belonging. So to get more visible results we tend to bypass these feelings in order to achieve more. This is the unbalance of our modern society.
A word only “masculine”/yang driven is going toward depletion. But a word only “feminine”/yin driven is going toward chaos.
There is a big misunderstanding about those concepts because the words “feminine” and “masculine” evoke gender in our common vocabulary.
But it’s not how it should be. The teachings are about the inner feminine and inner masculine in all beings. It’s never been, “female qualities,” and “male qualities.”
There are two directions of energy inside of us, whatever gender we identify with.
It is damaging to tie the “feminine” qualities to the idea that they make you more of a woman. Why? Because some tantric teachers twisted the teachings. They did when I spent four years in a tantric school and some famous tantric teachers continue to do it.
They use the list of qualities this way:
>> You are more of a man if you cultivate the “masculine” qualities: emissive, provider, doer.
>> You are more of woman if you cultivate the “feminine” qualities: receptive, soft, open, surrender.
This is not written in the ancient texts!
One example of this misuse is when newly formed teachers offer courses and retreats focussed on, “your feminine power.” There, “your feminine power,” is to lean fully in to the “feminine” qualities. Maybe they mean well, but coupling those qualities with being more of a woman, sadly reinforce the same sad, old cliches and historically traditional roles.
The second example, which I witnessed in my tantric school, and with a lot of other teachers, is the use of the quality “surrender,” to influence the women to fully trust their tantric mentors so they become vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Feminine power versus feminine energy:
“Sacred feminine” or “feminine” retreat, where you dance barefoot under the moon light, perform rituals, and get in touch with your internal world, or at least your sensations, can be a very positive experience.
I would recommend it to any woman who feels burned out, stressed, or who needs to slow down and reconnect to her body.
I actually think they should exist for anyone who needs that—not only women. Our society doesn’t value it enough, but that’s what our nervous systems crave right now.
This body of work is about nurturing, healing, rejuvenating, and reinforcing sisterhood. I say yes to all of it.
But when it’s advertised or presented with sentences like: “Have your power back,” I think it can be a disservice. “Have your vital energy back,” would be more accurate.
Energy is not exactly power.
Power is relational. Energy fuels power. Power is the capacity “to act” or “influence.”
When my female clients tell me that they want “their power back,” they mostly want help to get unstuck, to create a new reality, and to relate.
Some of them need some nourishment and would benefit from the “feminine”/yin practices.
But the stepping stone is when during the work, most of them realize where their biggest energy leaks come from.
Here are the common themes from what they tell me:
>> They have no clarity about their needs and desires and spend a huge amount of energy accommodating those of others.
>> They never ask.
>> They don’t take space.
>> They struggle with boundaries.
If we come back to the tantric framework, all of these belong to the “masculine” realm in us.
Pluging these energy leaks is key. So we explore their “masculine,” their inner structure, meaning their needs and desires, and their boundaries.
Often, the underlying circumstance behind: “I need to work on my feminine side,” was someone telling them they were not feminine or woman enough.
Their self-concept as a woman is damaged. They think they are too strong to be loved. So, they are attracted by the magic “feminine power” formula which they usually translate as: “softening, opening, allowing=being attractive.”
You’re not being powerful when you cultivate a constant state of “softening/allowing/opening.” You’re being permeable at best, or at another’s disposal in the worse case scenario.
Because unconsciously, you wait for your partner to bring the (“masculine”) structure in the relationship and in yourself. Which by the way perspires as needy energy.
We get our “power back” when we are clear on our inner structure (needs, desires, and boundaries). Only then will we intuitively feel when it’s safe for us to soften/allow/open and even surrender. This also generates more of an inviting energy.
From there, inside of each of us and between us, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, happens the cosmic dance between the masculine and the feminine.
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