How often do you agree to do something, that you do not really, really want to do?
Agree to help out.
Stay at the party later.
Go to the movie they picked.
Listen to their problems.
Work late. Again.
Do you find your desire to please other people is an even stronger pull than speaking your own truth?
Have you said yes to an experience with someone because they wanted it, and really and truthfully, you did not?
Maybe you have felt obligated or obliged?
Or you wanted to avoid conflict?
Or maybe you wanted to try to impress them?
Which leads to the question — Is what someone wants from you, your responsibility?
How do we, as women, get to that sacred impenetrable place of knowing our own truth deeply and divinely, with such glorious conviction that we can actually say ‘yes’ and mean it wholeheartedly and, as importantly, say ‘no’ with love and strength and joy?
There are so many reasons and so many ways women have been taught to betray ourselves. Literally, taught.
The wild and free truth that lives inside your body has been tamed and domesticated and suppressed in service to the patriarchal world culture. Women are raised to doubt and question and ignore ourselves because a woman who knows what she desires and requires is impossible to control.
I was teaching a workshop this past weekend, and there was a moment where I wanted the women in the room to feel into how men, representing healthy masculine, can serve and support. Whether we are LGBTQ+ or hetero, identify as women, men, or gender non-conforming, we can all benefit from the experience of not just feeling, but, generating, the support of the men in our lives. So, I had the guys create a drum beat, tapping in rhythm together on their thighs, or clapping with their hands. And I had them close their eyes.
Then the women all stood up, and slowly began to dance and embody our sensual freedom, sensual pleasure, sensual radiance. We were embodying healthy feminine energy. Eyes closed, the guys created an amazing safe space for us. And we danced, for ourselves, and for each other. Women giving women permission, women turning each other on, women enjoying the beauty of dancing together in the garden to the beat of the men … Things were cooking, the women were becoming more and more free in their movements. There was more laughter, more relaxation. More fun, more freedom. It was time to toss in a curve ball.
So, I stopped the dance, and asked the women a question. I asked if it would feel good to them to continue to dance but, this time, have the men open their eyes? I encouraged them to say no, if it did not feel good and yes, if it did. I told them that even if there was just one woman who was not comfortable, to please say so.
Without hesitation, the women all said yes.
I pressed in again — Are you sure?
Unanimous yes was the response.
The men started drumming, the women started dancing, and then I had the men open their eyes.
The women were beautiful and amazing. And the wild freedom that had been cultivated in their bodies was still present, but yes, I gotta say, a bit less vivid, less alive. We stopped the dance and gathered to talk about the experience.
The men were so grateful to have been of service. They loved holding frame for the women to connect to their bodies and their sensuality. They were overjoyed to be able to help. They loved drumming with their eyes closed, in pure service. They were honored with the privilege of witnessing the women dance, and were deeply moved and grateful.
One really and truly remarkably brave woman named Sarah, stood up. She admitted that she while she had agreed to have the men witness, that she actually did not really want that experience. She was enjoying the sensation of connecting to the other women, and the safety of not having male gaze on her body as she danced. She realized this only after the fact, and expressed regret. I told her how grateful I was for her sharing. And that, in fact, I was amazed that she was able to share it so quickly after the experience of betraying her inner truth. I asked her if she had ever been able to catch herself that quickly before. She said no.
For so many of us (myself included) the path to expressing our truth is long and arduous. I grew up not knowing I had the right to say no. Ever.
Self-love is self-protection, and most women grow up without it.
‘No’ is an act of self-love.
And most women grow up without it.
One of the gifts of sisterhood is that when we are together, we can each find and recover, not only our sense of truth, but the courage to speak it.
I explained to Sarah that connection with our truth grows even more strongly and more powerfully, over time, in community. It is why my Womanly Arts Experience events and Womanly Arts Mastery program are exclusively for women. There is a sense of permission, a sense of possibility that happens when women connect with women, in real life…When women are held in a safe space, feeling into their bodies together, sharing their truth, their feelings, honoring the feminine aspects of themselves (sometimes for the first time), approving the f—– out of each other en masse, there is an almost magically strong alchemical response, where it is as if our very molecules begin to reassemble. It is both an evolution and a rebecoming of something ancient. A feeling so strange and familiar and holy all at once.
It’s in a place like this where we can reclaim our true yeses, where we can know ourselves, where we find, again, at last, our radiant aliveness. And when that happens, sisters, there is no going back. Once a woman in this culture is taught to reconnect with her truth (and it is so teachable — this is my life’s work), that’s a thing she can never, ever unlearn. And her yeses and nos become gifts to the world.
Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena”
The School of Womanly Arts
Regena is a feminist icon, a teacher, a speaker, a mother, a best-selling author, and creatrix and CEO of The School of Womanly Arts.