The Year of the Body: Week 7
in which our bodies reveal the true source of our value, great ideas, and confidence
Friends, soul writers, lovers of prayer,
I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. In theory, it’s a sweet holiday but in reality, children’s hearts are broken when they don’t receive many valentines.
It’s early brutal training on the hierarchy of popularity. Get used to it kid, the brighter, prettier, perkier, richer kids are always going to gather into a tight clique, and you are not invited.
That hurts, but there’s something more going on here. Something that causes much more lasting harm. Harm that is hundreds, even thousands, of years old.
And your body knows it.
Consider who gets those piles of glittery valentines. It’s not the young scientists. Not the poets. Or the musicians. Or the gay kids. It’s not the creatives who dare to walk the halls in outrageous outfits. It’s not the brilliant who ask questions that annoy the teachers. It’s not the introverts who do everything they can to avoid the cafeteria. It’s not the outrageous girls. Not the radical girls. Not the loud girls.
It’s the beautiful ones. The popular ones.
But what makes them “beautiful?” What makes them “popular?”
What do those piles of valentines teach us as young children about what makes a woman valuable?
Her looks, of course. But also her demeanor. Her willingness to smile. To go along with the crowd. To please the boys. To close ranks and ostracize the unpopular. To giggle at mean jokes and pretend she doesn't see cruelty. To say yes, when she wants to say no.
We are trained early and often to stay within the confines of a limited spectrum of feminine roles that are acceptable in a patriarchal system.
Whether you learned those roles from within the circle of the chosen or from the outside looking in, you picked up quickly that to be safe you have to be careful whom you associate with and must stay within the proscribed fences.
- For some girls that meant aligning with their fathers and the strong male archetype, and exhausting themselves to become a success in the world.
- For some that meant seeking safety in a marriage that looked good to the rest of the world.
- For many it meant silencing their own voices, watering down, or even apologizing for their ideas.
Guess I won the trifecta because I did all three.
- I consciously rejected my mother who didn’t have a college education and didn’t seem very smart to me. And I tried hard—really really hard—to be a success, right down to wearing navy blue pinstripe suits.
- But even as I rose the corporate ladder, when I got pregnant, I felt so desperate to get married, that I proposed to the baby’s father. Somehow, I thought we would magically transform into a happy family. If you’ve read Writing Down Your Soul, you know how well that worked out!
- Now that third one—silencing my own voice. Given how hard I worked to be a success, if you had asked me, I would have said I didn’t do that. Other women did, but not me. And I had proof. I was a success in business. Then, when I became a writer, I wrote seven books. I would have proudly said that no one tells me what to say.
And then, a moment came last August when I came face to face with a pivotal decision. There was no turning around. And no way to avoid it.
I had to choose.
My agent told me not to use an endorsement I’d received from Rabbi Tirzah Firestone for the relaunch of Writing Down Your Soul (coming in April) because Tirzah called me a “21st-century witch.” My agent was sure I’d lose my readers if I let someone pin that label on me.
I had to make a decision: ask Tirzah to rewrite the endorsement or fire my agent.
There was no middle ground.
Mentally, it would have been so easy to convince myself my agent was right. Witch is certainly a loaded word, a word that has terrified women for hundreds of years. Not so very long ago you got tortured and killed if someone called you a witch. And, besides that, she’s an agent. She knows what publishers want. What sells. What readers want… Right?
But my body would have none of it. There was no thinking in this decision. No weighing the plusses and the minuses. No checking with others for their opinion. I didn’t even ask my publisher if they agreed with my agent.
This was a visceral, womb-level, full-bodied decision that surfaced as a scream—NO!
- No. Witch is not a terrible word. It’s been poisoned by patriarchy as a means to control women. But witch means wise. Witches were once the revered prophetesses and shamans of the community.
- No. I’m not willing to be silenced. I’m not willing to let anyone, even my agent, water down my words.
- No. I’m not interested in playing it safe in the self-help spiritual world. I want to step forward boldly and write about and talk about the mystical.
But it wasn’t my brain that said NO. It was my body. My wise feminine body.
And my body’s voice was loud and clear. Pay attention, Janet. Here’s the truth:
We are a witch—a sacred mystic witch—and we are proud to claim that holy title and do that holy work.
If you’ve been reading these Notes from the Field since last summer, you know what happened.
I fired my agent and within days a children’s book dropped in, new prayer intensives lined up to get on the calendar for 2021, new co-teachers wise in the ways of the body showed up out of nowhere, and I was handed the largest, most audacious assignment of my life: to create The Return of the Witches: Jeanne d’Arc Listening Novena.
There’s no well-trained logical brain on the planet that would say yes to creating that novena.
It’s huge. It’s wild. It’s radical. It’s terrifying.
- Who wants to study what was done to the bodies of 13 witches.
- Who wants to champion these women and hear their deeper stories.
- Who wants to find and name their perpetrators—most of whom were famous powerful and terrifying men.
- Who wants to rewrite the Hail Mary, replacing the name Mary with the name of each of these women—acknowledging that they were once sweet maidens with dreams of their own.
- Who wants to tackle patriarchy head-on.
- And besides all that, who in her right mind wants to offer an event that lasts 13 weeks. Does anybody sign up for an event that long?
Uh…me, that’s who.
Not because it’s practical. But because my body has planted her feet and posted her flag.
And I find I relish this work. I’m thrilled to step fully into my calling as a mystic witch.
Where did that confidence come from? Why am I so sure that this is who I am and what I am here to do? Why am I unafraid?
I had to ask myself these questions because I’m rather surprised myself. I must have carried these big questions to bed with me, because in the night last Monday, I drew two arrows, one straight arrow going left to right and one arching right to left.
The next morning, I redrew those little arrows in my journal. And the arrows taught me where strength comes from. It doesn’t come from me.
In our logical, linear, patriarchal world, we are groomed to set an intention, state a goal, and then work step by step to fulfill it.
You are both the originator of the idea and the source of the energy that gets it done. That’s what the arrow moving in a straight line from left to right depicts. And, if like me, you’ve walked that line, you know it is exhausting. And no matter how hard you work, somehow you never get to an endpoint.
But in a mystical, magical, spiral, Feminine Divine world, you are not the source of the brilliant idea.
Did I come up with mystic witch? No, I did not. Did I call myself a prayer artist? No, I did not. Did I decide to write a children’s book re-sacralizing the word witch. No, I didn’t know I could even write fiction. Did I decide to create a novena for witches under the guidance of Jeanne d’Arc. Uh, no. I could never have come up with such a brilliant outrageous massive idea.
So who did? That’s what the arcing arrow from right to left is telling me.
It’s She who shoots that arrow. Call Her the Goddess, the Mother—call her whatever name speaks to your heart. My names for Her include Beloved Mother Sophia and Our Lady of the Threshold. But you might call her Shechinah, Shakti, Mother Kali—any of hundreds of names. Or She might whisper a special name just between the two of you.
By any and all Her names, it is She who sends the great idea shooting through the ethers to land in your body.
And it is She who gently pulls you where you need to go to bring this idea to life. And Her ways are magic. Things happen. People show up. Ideas fall out of the sky.
It is She who feeds your fires of love and devotion. This is a big surprise when you finally stop working so bloody hard and just listen to the wisdom of your body and follow where She leads.
I noticed this last year. In 2020, I spent a lot less time working and a lot more deep soul writing and deep soul reading. After spending an hour or more in my chair, I’d look at the clock and think, I better open the computer and get some work done.
But I wouldn’t get up, because my body would say no, sit here a little longer. Read a little more. Stare out the window. And without fail, something would happen in that extra hour. An idea. A story. An awareness. And it would be just what I needed—that I didn’t know I needed!
And here’s the surprise. I did less work last year. Yet, I created the most powerful intensives of my life. And despite my agent's fears, more and more lovely people found me and joined those intensives. And less work resulted in more income.
It’s magic. Her magic.
So my sacred desire for you, in this holy year of the body, is to help you feel your own body-deep wisdom.
To help you welcome those sacred arrows arriving, inspiring, and feeding you.
Every prayer intensive this year is an adventure in awakening to the mystical magical wisdom of your wise and holy body.
In March, we are blessed to gather with Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, who created a radical writing process that draws that sacred voice out of your body—Somatic Writing.
Somatic Writing is very closely aligned with deep soul writing.
I’ve now had 4 somatic writing experiences with Tanya and all I can say is it’s pure magic.
I know everyone who loves soul writing will adore this intensive. Your relationship with your body and the land under your feet will be transformed.
Next Sunday you’ll have your first opportunity to register. But save the dates now: Tuesday, March 9, 16, 23 at 7pm eastern, and Sunday, March 28 at 2pm for the closing celebration.
Until next Sunday, may you hear, and feel, and trust the deep knowing of your most holy body,