Thursday marks the International Day of Peace. Though today is Wednesday, dear Hayra had sent out an invitation to join her in a Peace Ceremony in honor of this energy. When 3:00pm struck and the ceremony was set to begin, I had been writing my first blog - determined as I was to finally finish a post to get a heckler (Patricia) off my back.
My shallow-rooted self almost convinced me not to go.
“Stay and finish what you're doing,” he said. "You know you’re too busy for ceremony.”
“Too busy for ceremony?!” I thought, mortified. I got up without another thought to find the group for ceremony.
Moments later I approached a circle of women standing by a pear tree. I immediately noticed there were no other men present beside myself. Of course it would be women, I thought, who took the time to honor peace. I felt sadness by the thought. How had I had almost discounted this? I felt a renewed determination within myself to be of service to these remarkable women.
A few words were said, and off we went to the labyrinth, the place we would have our ceremony. I instinctively trailed behind the group, lost in my reflections. When we arrived, Barb told of the history of the labyrinth to deepen our intentions there. Hayra then instructed that she would ring little bell-chimes, and when we felt called, we could enter the labyrinth one at a time.
I felt an unexpected well of grief bubble to my inner surface. Despite the long-trauma that has afflicted our world - along with the unthinkable hardship our beloved mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters have endured - it is still they who show up to pray for peace. I was surrounded by stunning brilliance: the Sacred Feminine that possess both grace and power, shamelessly held by each woman before me.
I have once heard, that in some Indigenous traditions, The People are represented by a great hoop. Within this hoop, children, women, and men each have a place in which they belong, a sacred role for them to fulfill for The People. Children, I was taught, are in the inside of the hoop - playing, learning, growing in their gifts. Surrounding them are the Women, facing toward them in a layer of nourishing, life-giving power.
However, in a hoop that is broken, men indeed surround the women and the children, except they face inward, toward the center. It was revealed to me that it is not the role of men to face within the circle in this way. Such is an orientation of control, power, abuse, negligence. No... instead, the sacred role of Men is to surround the women and children, but to face outward, into the world, as shields of their people. True masculinity, in its life-enhancing form, protects the life within and around women and children. That is our sacrifice and source of honor for The People. Women are life-givers. Children are life and living legacy. Men are life-protectors. A completed hoop.
At the labyrinth, we were asked to hold an intention as we ventured into its winding center, which represents a journey to our inner life, the place of spirit.
Hayra chimed the first bell. What would my intention be? In honor of a completed Hoop of the People, I decided my intention would be to wait for my fellow women to go before me into this sacred place. I would wait at the entrance, and enter last to ensure they each made it safely inside. (Symbolically, of course, nothing was threatening us.)
The bell chimed, and one at a time a woman entered the labyrinth. Patricia entered, then Christy, Barb, Mary, Anita, Carol. In honor of my intention, I offered to let Hayra - holder of the ceremony - go before me, knowing she'd likely decline. She did. I respected her wish and stood before the labyrinth. She chimed the bell for me, and I, too, entered.
I began to wind slowly through the labyrinth, passing by the others, surprised at the distance I felt between them as if those labyrinth stones were really forty feet tall. Yet I also felt immense closeness to the others, a delightfully paradoxical juxtaposition. My thoughts drifted to our ancestors, the Celts, and the ancientness of this labyrinth’s design as well as the intentions they may have held there, thousands of years in the past, in times felt but no longer remembered.
To the outer edges I went, then to the inner circle; all when I least expected it. Each step I held my intention of honoring and protecting these women moving around me, on inner journeys of their own, trying to find a rhythm of beauty in my gait to reflect how I might walk in the world in honor of them.
With surprising slowness - so much path being coiled into such a tight space - the others made it to the center one at a time, which, coincidentally, was the only place where green grass was growing. Witnessing them standing there within this sacred space gave me goosebumps. As I entered I noticed they had left a spot for me, right at the entrance with enough room to hold us all in this special patch of green.
I felt power here. I wanted to stay in this beautiful space forever. Yet, just as I was getting settled in, not even a full breath had I took, Hayra chimed the bell again. I had anticipated leaving last in here as well, fully honoring the trajectory of my original intentions. Then I realized, in that split second, that I should in fact venture to the outer world first. Going within represented to me a kind of safety, dangers that are less physical and more spiritual in nature. The outer world represented, to me in that moment, a type of inverse. And so felt it was I who should be first to face that world, symbolically shielding any burden that might exist there.
The bell chimed, breaking the silence. I broke away before I had time to exhale, making my way outward. Just as we entered, one by one we exited the labyrinth, forming a circle together. We then held hands, and were instructed to breath in from the left our bodies and exhale to the right, to push a spiral of counter-clockwise energy between and through us. Hayra offered her beautiful words, of seeing the wounded, perpetrators of hurt within herself, the parts of her that were once wounded, the wounds that echo there still.
My mind wandered to the Old Way, a way in which it was often the hunter who would eat last after a kill. First the elders would eat, then the children, then the women, then the men, then, only when everyone else had eaten would the hunter eat. In honor of this tradition, I chose to stay silent in this space, opening space to others who wished to express their thoughts.
No one else spoke; the tender silence perhaps spoke more than any one of us could. We hugged, straggled a bit, and the ceremony for peace had come to an end.
I write about this because, in the dominant life-destroying Monoculture, there is seldom a clear expression of what a healthy masculinity in the world can truly look like. The counter-cultural 60s represented a resurgence of the Sacred Feminine in both women and men. As storyteller Robert Bly describes it, this was a wonderful, powerful, and necessary shift. The world desperately yearns for the Sacred Feminine once again. Except that... the world equally yearns for the Sacred Masculine. Authentic masculinity - mistaken as it was for the horrific wellspring of the world's pain, exploitation, war - was cast into a place of dishonor. Masculinity was feared, thought to be wantonly brutish, and so it was suppressed. Many men grew into the feminine-sided nature of themselves - guided as they were by powerful women - with tenderness and emotional openness unfathomable to men a generation before them. What they did not grow into, however, were the qualities of the Sacred Masculine in balance with their Sacred Feminine, a balance that gives men their true power as men.
Life-preserving, but not life-giving, Bly describes this condition. Heart without a skeleton. Compassion without fierceness. Vision without action, which may be just as harmful as action without vision.
Divine Duality... Sacred Opposites that, only together, lead to the living mystery of our existence. I recognize I have a long, long way to go in healing the sham separation so imprinted within me of these luscious counterparts, spacious yet whole. Nonetheless, I offer this story as a humble step toward trusting the regenerative capacity of Life that moves within us all.