Tag Archives: spirit

embracing the feminine

divine embrace

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, I wanted to share a couple of videos that I feel embody the spirit of embracing the feminine.

To embrace means to hold, to accept and support. The feminine is what is specifically female, the qualities one associates with being a woman – defining the feminine is a little more tricky because this word holds both positive and negative connotations. Nevertheless, the feminine is what makes women quintessentially female, and I have long felt that the modern women’s movement is, at heart, the struggle to embrace the feminine.

Long ago, it was not such a struggle. In matriarchal cultures, the divine as seen in the feminine was respected, nurtured, and honored. Through time and the evolution of both society and religion, women’s roles changed. What was considered in the realm of the female became circumspect, and the qualities that made women feminine were marginalized and the “reproductive processes” that traditionally were attributed to women were seen as inferior to the “productive processes” of men.

In the quest for civil/human/equal rights, women have been told in many different ways that to be considered equal to men, to work and live alongside men, women needed to behave as men. The feminine qualities that make women female needed to be left outside of the office, the boardroom, the lab – and that is how women would succeed in a “man’s world.” Women went from burning their bras to wearing power suits, and called it progress. Or even worse, women became complicit in their own exploitation, understanding themselves only within the context of a male lens.

What I have long believed is that there truly are differences between men and women, and it is these differences that provide a wider view of the world, and all of our places within it. To be equal does not mean that men and women are the same, or can perform the same tasks in the same way, or even have the same mindset. To be equal means that our gender differences are respected and articulated, seen as distinctly different from each other, but each holding equal value.

In today’s world, gender has become understood to be much more than the physical body. So when we talk about gender in today’s world, we must see beyond the binary assigned to us at birth. When we talk about gender, what we are really talking about are qualities. The qualities assigned to each gender – feminine, masculine – are not only qualities within us, but qualities that society has inculcated and projected upon us.

Personally, I feel that we are all much more gender fluid than society would have us believe, and I think that we all have feminine and masculine qualities.  Men cry. Women are not always caregivers. Some men are born women. Some women are born men. What makes us identify with a certain gender goes far beyond what gender we were assigned at birth. The qualities assigned to each gender are largely constructs of society. Truth be told, our souls know no gender, only spirit.

Nevertheless, what we consider to be feminine – as, according to the first thing that came up when I typed “definition of feminine” into google is “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness … Synonyms: womanly, ladylike, girlish, soft, delicate, gentle, graceful.”

Contrasted with the “definition of masculine” (which also was the first thing that came up when I typed “definition of masculine” into google): “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, especially strength and aggressiveness … Synonyms: virile, macho, manly, muscular, muscly, strong, strapping, well built, rugged, robust, brawny, heavily built, powerful, red-blooded, vigorous.”

We can begin to see part of the problem with even the denotations of these words, much less the connotations. What seems better? To be strong, or to be soft? To be delicate and gentle, or to be powerful and vigorous? But what if we recognized that to be strong is also to be soft? What if we understood that to be delicate and gentle can also take enormous power and vigor? Because this is truly the reality of how these polarities work. There is no true either/or, in reality. The nature of duality is to be whole, to be one.

The problem really lies in the mindset that one set of qualities is better or more valuable to society than another, which is what brings me to the original reason for this post: embracing the feminine, the long marginalized and often seen as inferior qualities within both women and men, whether assigned or identified with either gender, whether these qualities have been projected onto us, internalized, rejected, or innate within.

Traditional feminine qualities such as caring, empathy, sensitivity, nurturing, giving, understanding, communicating, patience, kindness, vulnerability, beauty, selflessness, loving, sensuousness, warmth, compassion … are incredibly powerful qualities. They are very much needed in the world. These qualities are not limited to a particular gender, though they have been traditionally associated with women.

These qualities to be cherished and, above all, valued, for the light they bring to the world.

Please enjoy the following videos, both of which have brought me to tears, lifted my heart, inspired me with hope, and encouraged me to embrace the feminine – in all of us, for all of us.

Namaste. x

 

“Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full of hope? Where are you, wise woman covered in wounds? Where are you?

The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace.”

 

*

 

“so the mother in me asks, what if… what if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead, but a country that is waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labour?

What if all of our grandfathers and grandmothers are standing behind us now, those who have survived occupation and genocide, slavery and Jim Crow, detention and political assault … what if they are whispering in our ears – today, tonight – you are brave. What if this is our nation’s great transition?

What does the midwife tell us to do? Breathe.
And then? Push.
Because if we don’t push we will die.
If we don’t push, our nation will die.

Tonight we will breathe. Tomorrow we will labour … in love, through love, your revolutionary love … is the magic we will show our children.

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa.” – Valarie Kaur

 

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the handless maiden

The Handless Maiden by Ericka Lugo

Once upon a time, a miller lived with his wife and daughter at the edge of the forest on the outskirts of a beautiful kingdom, miles away from the village. Generations earlier, a special path had been cleared for the Queen’s horses through the wood, and for many years it was the exclusive mill of the entire kingdom. However, a new mill had been erected in the village with the latest technology, employing not one but several millers, and within only a few years, the new mill had grown so large it overshadowed the little mill by the forest. The miller even lost his account with the Queen.

Hard times fell upon the miller. He had once been prosperous, even wealthy, but now he was very poor. He had once pampered his wife and daughter, and they had an esteemed position in the village. He had hoped that his daughter would marry one of the king’s court by the time she was of marrying age. Now, even the lowliest villager would not take her. His wife and daughter foraged for food in the forest and picked apples from the trees behind the mill to sell at market. The miller’s wife begged him to take a position at the new mill and put his skills to use. But his pride was too great, and he refused.

When the miller’s wife grew hot and bright with fever, there was no money to bring her to the doctor. The sickness spread throughout her body and within a week, she was dead. The miller’s daughter had tried in vain to nurse her mother back to health. At her bedside, she had solemnly promised her mother that she would take care of her father. Through her grief, she took over all of her mother’s duties, and she still foraged, cleaned, bought and made household goods, and sold apples at the market. She cared for her father the best she could, but he was inconsolable.

The miller took to drinking sour mash, and spent his days in a drunken stupor. He cried and prayed for his fortune to change. One day when his daughter was at the market, a strange visitor knocked on the door.

“Whaddya want?” The miller slurred.

“I want to help you,” the stranger answered.

“You want to help me? You can’t help me. Can’ya bring my wife back? Can you bring my mill back? Can you restore what has been taken from me?”

“Yes.”

The miller roared with bitter laughter. “How?”

“Give me what is behind the mill.”

“And then what?” The miller asked, thinking of the rows of apple trees behind the mill, their only source of income.

“Then you will have a new wife, a new life, and all the riches you desire.”

“Sounds like you want me to make a deal with the devil.”

“Only if that is what you want.”

The miller and the stranger looked each other in the eye for a good few minutes, as if trying to read the others thoughts.

“Give me what is behind the mill, and you will have your heart’s desire.”

The miller thought about his daughter, and the back-breaking work of picking and selling the apples. He imagined her good, sweet face, so much like her mother’s.

“Okay,” he said.

“It’s a deal,” the stranger said, extending his hand.

The miller took his hand, and for a second, he felt a hot jolt course through his arm. Their handshake was hard and firm, binding.

The stranger bowed, “thank you, Sir. I will go collect her now.”

“Her?” The miller asked quickly, but too late. The stranger turned on his heel and was already out the door.

The miller ran after him. His daughter was under one of the trees with the bushel next to her. His heart dropped. He watched as the devil approached her.

“No,” he shouted, running towards them.

The miller’s daughter turned around in alarm. She saw the stranger approaching her. She saw the pain and anguish on her father’s face as he rushed toward her.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“My dear, your father has just given you to me,” the stranger said, smiling.

“No I didn’t!” The miller shouted.

“We just sealed the deal with a handshake,” the stranger reminded him, and the miller’s hand flashed as if on fire.

“No …” the miller said weakly, clutching his burning hand to his chest.

The stranger reached for the miller’s daughter, but when he tried to take her hand, he realized that he could not touch her. She was too pure; she was protected. He growled with anger, then turned and walked away.

“Cut off her hands!” he instructed the miller as he rushed past him. “I will be back.”

The miller sunk to the ground.

“Father, what is going on?” his daughter asked him.

“He asked for what was behind the mill … the apple trees … in exchange for … in exchange for …” The miller couldn’t continue. He broke down crying.

“What?”

“I won’t let him take you. I won’t.”

“Who is he, Father?”

“The devil.”

The miller’s daughter shuddered. She knew that her father was in a bad sort these days, but now he thought he was making deals with the devil? She was very worried about him. She brought him into the house and made a pot of tea. She consoled him in the ways that she had watched her mother console him, with food and drink and nonsense words, then she put him to bed like a child. She found his stash of sour mash and threw it away. Her father’s drinking was out of control.

She replayed what had happened over and over again in her head. None of it made sense. She decided to stay home and watch over her father instead of going back to the market. She had returned early because she sold all of the apples she had brought and wanted to get more. There was much to do at home anyway, and she began her household chores. She checked on her father regularly; he was sleeping like a baby.

Hours later, another visitor knocked at the door. The miller’s daughter started, afraid that it was the same stranger from earlier that day, but it was not. It was a local man from the village, come to talk with her father about business. He explained that the mill in town had an overage and he wondered if her father would be interested in contracting some of the work.

“Yes,” the miller’s daughter answered for him. “He will be ready to begin tomorrow.”

The little mill on the edge of the forest prospered, and the miller and his daughter fell into a comfortable routine, the visit from the stranger long forgotten. The miller’s daughter had grown to enjoy selling apples at the market, so she continued, even though it was no longer necessary. Day after day, the miller’s daughter grew more beautiful, rosy and healthy. Sometimes the miller watched her and was reminded so strongly of his wife, he felt his heart swell. Sometimes, as he hugged her good-night, his body responded before his mind, and his erection was swift and hard, pressing.

Months passed, and the miller became obsessed with the idea that his daughter was his wife’s replacement in nearly every way, except one. She looked so much like her, she could have been her twin. She loved him, she cared for him, she cooked and cleaned for him. He loved his daughter, but he desired a wife.

The miller’s daughter began to feel a little uncomfortable under her father’s hungry gaze, though she did not know the reason behind it. She was a young woman, no longer a little girl, but she was still innocent. There was a man she had met at the market who said he loved her. Once, he kissed her on the mouth, and she felt her soul sing. He wanted to ask her father for her hand in marriage, but the miller’s daughter wanted to wait. She wanted to make sure her father would be okay without her.

“Father, when do you think I should get married?” she asked one sunny morning after her father had awoken in a particularly good mood.

“Do you think you are ready?” the miller asked, his brow starting to furrow.

“Yes,” his daughter answered.

“Are you telling me that you met someone?”

The miller’s daughter’s face flushed.

“Where?” he asked sharply, his mood quickly turning.

“At the market, father.”

The miller’s face grew dark. He left, returning to his bedroom. After a few moments, his daughter knocked softly on the door. He opened the door angrily, his face contorted with rage. He grabbed his daughter by the arm roughly and pulled her into the room. She stood, shaking with confusion, as he held her by the shoulders and kissed her hard on the lips. The miller’s daughter shook her head, trying to get away from the terrible kiss.

“Did he kiss you like that?” the miller said angrily.

“Stop, father. Please …” she said, caught in his tight embrace.

He pushed her onto the bed and his full weight fell on top of her. He removed his belt with one hand while holding her down with the other, then he used the belt to bind her hands above her head. She rolled from side to side, trying to get away, but he was too strong, he overpowered her. He pushed her skirt up with one hand while unbuttoning his pants with the other.

“No …” she cried, moving her body violently, bringing up her knees to kick him. He staggered from the blow, and she rolled off the bed, hitting the floor with a thud. With her hands still bound, she used them as leverage to stand, and then she ran, out of the room, out of the house, and into the woods, as far and as fast as her feet would carry her.

But she was off balance, and she tripped and fell on the path. Her father caught up with her, and found her lying helpless on the forest floor. He bent over her, and grabbed her arm. He held her steady, her hands still bound. With his other hand, he pulled the belt around her wrists higher, immobilizing her outstretched arms. In one swift motion, he drew a long sword from the sheath on his back, the sharp edge glittering briefly in the light before it fell upon her wrists, slicing through skin, blood, bone.

“Let the devil take you,” he said.

She was stunned by the blow, in shock from the loss of blood. She did not scream. She did not make a sound. A murder of birds in the surrounding trees flew up suddenly, releasing a cacophony of shrieks and caws, leaving a throbbing silence in their wake. Her hands gone, the belt loosened and fell to the ground with a dull thud. Her father released his grip on her arm, letting her fall among the dirt and dried leaves.

She cried and cried, her tears cleansing the wound. And when there were no tears left, she cried more; she was wounded, her soul blindsided, her heart broken. The devil hovered around her, but still he could not touch her; her tears had washed away even the sin inflicted upon her, and she was still pure. At one point she gathered enough strength to stand, but she could barely walk; she staggered piteously until she got caught in the thorny bramble that had overrun the path, and she tripped again, and fell unconscious.

Perhaps it was the scent of the blood, or the hand of fate interceding, but the prince’s dogs led the hunting party astray. They had been down the ragged, unused path for over an hour, and it seemed that the dogs had taken over the expedition. A sense of urgency had replaced the hunting party’s earlier joviality, and one of them wondered aloud if they should turn back.

“No,” the prince said.

“But, there’s no game in this part of the woods. We’ve been out here for hours … soon the light will be gone …”

“Keep going,” the prince said, his sense of desperation growing. His dogs had never acted like that before, and it was making him anxious.

Far ahead on the path, the dogs started barking.

“Finally!” someone shouted, and the hunting party ran to see what the dogs had found.

None of them were prepared to find a human body among the tangled bush. None of them were prepared for all the blood.

“Is she dead?”

The prince stepped forward, carefully clearing a path through the thorns and bramble as he advanced. He knelt next to her, trying to find a pulse before realizing that the young woman’s hands had been brutally chopped off. Blood had soaked through the front of her dress, but there seemed to be no other wounds. Her heartbeat was weak, but she was still alive.

“We need to go back. We need to get help,” someone said.

“I won’t leave her …” the prince said, tearing off pieces of his shirt to make a tourniquet for her wounds.

Another member of the party came up with a quick plan, and they dispersed. Two would search for the village doctor, another would alert the Queen to prepare for their return, and the last would herd the dogs while the prince carried the young woman back to the castle.

Each day, the young woman grew stronger. Each day, the prince loved her more. She was so sweet and beautiful; she was a child sent to him downriver in a bulrush basket, and he promised heaven and earth that he would love and care for her for the rest of his life, if only she would love him in return. He needn’t have worried; she had been cast from her home and into the dark forest, left for dead, then rescued by a prince. She loved him so much she thought her heart might burst.

Within a few months, the prince and the handless maiden were married. As a wedding gift, the prince commissioned a pair of silver hands to be created for her. Though her silver hands were not functional, they were amazingly beautiful, as delicate and light as a piece of lace. She imagined that they were like a piece of jewelry, an adornment, and she loved her husband’s heart for thinking of the gift. With time, she was able to manipulate the appendages like a simple machine, and she could pick up and move some items using her silver hands, albeit clumsily.

In marriage, the handless maiden and the prince loved each other fiercely. Each night, she fell asleep in his loving arms, safe and protected, thinking this must be what happily ever after feels like.

The Queen was overjoyed with the union, and the entire kingdom rejoiced when only a couple of months after the wedding, they announced a pregnancy. In the far away, fairy tale kingdom, true love ruled the minds and the hearts of the people. Outside the kingdom, however, war loomed. Though the prince wanted to stay for the baby’s birth, it soon became a necessity for the prince to oversee negotiations with a hostile neighboring kingdom. The Queen promised that she would care for the handless maiden, and write him immediately after the baby’s birth. The prince left, promising the entire kingdom that he would stay until a peaceful resolution had been reached, no matter how long it took.

After the baby’s birth, the Queen did as promised, and sent a message to her son, telling him that the baby was a beautiful girl, and that both mother and child were fine. A messenger was sent directly, but it was a long trip to the neighboring kingdom, and the messenger stopped mid-way at the crossroads, seeing a shady tree that would be perfect for a short rest. Unbeknownst to the messenger, the devil was waiting there, and while he slept, the devil changed the message to say that the baby was hideously deformed.

Upon receiving the message, the prince was surprised; however, he sent another message back immediately, saying that he loved his wife and child, no matter what. Again, the messenger took a brief respite under that same shady tree, and again, the devil was waiting to switch the message. After the note had been delivered to the Queen, she sent for her most trusted advisor. When he entered her rooms, he found the Queen in a debilitated state. She shakily handed the note to him. He read it quickly.

“This is not from the prince,” he said.

“It has his seal.”

“He never would have written those words.”

“It is his hand.”

“Something is very wrong.”

“I know,” the Queen sobbed.

Early the next morning, the Queen told the handless maiden that it would be best for her to leave the castle until she figured out what was going on. Right now, both her and the baby’s life were in danger. The Queen packed a bag of provisions, and placed it carefully on the handless maiden’s back. Then, she swaddled the baby and strapped her to young woman’s chest. They would be safer in the woods.

“A week, my sweet child,” the Queen said with tears in her eyes. “Hide well.”

“What if he can’t find me?”

“He will find you. His love for you is true. I would swear my life on it.”

“I’m afraid,” the handless maiden said.

“You are stronger than you know,” the Queen said. “I would swear my life on that, too.”

And with that, the handless maiden was cast into the woods once more. The baby was breast feeding, so she did not have to worry about her nourishment, but the handless maiden grew weaker as the days passed, and she began to run out of provisions. After two weeks, she stopped counting the days. She walked and walked, stopping only to find shelter for the night. She rarely stayed in the same place for more than one night. She was lost in the dark forest with a baby strapped to her, not knowing where she was going or what she would find when she got there.

Days, she felt brave and free, and she sang with a chorus of birds to the baby, enjoying simple, quiet moments with her child under the sun dappled canopy. Nights, she burrowed with her child close to the ground, their shelter camouflaged under bushes. Though it offered no real protection, she tried to feel safe, and she pressed her baby to her breast, her heartbeat strong and loud. Never had she seen such a quiet, happy baby; it was as if she understood that it was best to be quiet in the dark forest, to hide until it was light again.

One day, the handless maiden was feeling especially weary. She had been moving through a dry area of the woods, and had not had anything to eat or drink for days. She did not know that the devil was watching her relentlessly. He had only three chances to take her, after the deal he had made with her father, but he could not take someone so pure. Because of that, he had already lost two chances; he was biding his time, waiting for the final opportunity to present itself.

When the handless maiden came across a small pond, she nearly cried, she was so thirsty, and she bent over the fluid surface to drink. The baby, swaddled and attached to her chest, saw something shiny in the water, and lunged forward to reach it, falling head-first into the pond. A pain she had never known seized the handless maiden as she plunged her useless silver hands into the water, to save her child. When she pulled the baby out from the depths, the handless maiden nearly fainted from shock; her hands were no longer silver, but flesh and bone.

She knew that no matter what happened next, she would survive.

When peace had been restored between the kingdoms, the prince returned home to find his wife and child missing. He searched the woods day and night, but he could not find them. The weather began to turn, and dry leaves fell from the trees. He found one of his wife’s silver hands washed up by the edge of a pond, and he began to fear the worst, but he would not leave the dark forest without them.

He had found her once before, unconscious, wounded and broken. He would find her again. But when he saw the apparition before him on the path, a beautiful young woman singing to a baby, alive and whole and happy, he thought he must be dreaming. He approached cautiously, but the woman sensed his presence and looked directly at him. She was no longer the handless maiden, or the miller’s daughter, or even the prince’s wife. She did not need to be saved. Everything had changed. Still, he reached for her hands, and brought them to his lips, kissing her palms and the tips of her fingers. Nothing had changed; her heart was the same heart, and he loved her.

He picked up the baby, took his love by the hand, and together, they left the dark forest and returned to the castle, where they all lived happily ever after.

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the handless maiden by doncella mancaThe Handless Maiden by Doncella Manca


love

love_poem_400x400

It’s no secret that I love love. Love is an essential component to nearly everything I do. It is basically the driving force of my life, and the lens in which I view my work and my purpose in this world.

This quote by Joseph Campbell is very important to me: “Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” To me, this relates to trusting oneself while traveling into the unknown, following one’s instincts, and following our passions as a guide in which to live our lives. I feel that what we love is the single most important factor driving and determining our individual paths.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about love.

Romantic love has been a challenge for me throughout most of my adult life. I feel like I had a good beginning, a sweet beginning, and I am so grateful for those early experiences. But moving on into my later teenage years and way into adulthood, I never connected with another person the way I had longed for when I imagined love. Romance and relationships and sex always seemed to come hand-in-hand with issues and problems, and while I was willing to work through these things with other people, I never had the kind of “true love” that people say exists, the kind of love that connects people at a soul level so deeply that they are bonded (happily) throughout their lives.

I think that these types of soul connections happen in different types of relationships, not only romantic relationships. Nevertheless, it seems that finding this kind of connection with a romantic partner can be very elusive. Yet, it does exist.

A good friend of mine has been married for over 20 years, and she and her husband share this kind of connection. They had known each other for less than 3 weeks before deciding to spend the rest of their lives together. Within 6 months, they were married. Over the years they have supported and nurtured each other, helping each other reach their individual and collective dreams. This isn’t to say that they don’t have problems or conflicts, but maintaining a good and healthy relationship is important to both of them. She says that they make a choice to be together, not as a residual throwback to 20 years past when they first fell in love, but as a choice to fall in love with each other all over again, each and every day.

Interestingly, even though they had known each other for “only” a few weeks, neither my friend nor her husband felt that they were jumping into things. She says that they both just “knew.”

And that is the elusive part of romantic love – it’s intuitive nature. It’s not something that can be quantified or defined. It is felt, sensed, understood in the heart and soul before the mind can make sense of it. You can’t buy it in a store. You can’t place an order for what you want. You can’t mold another person into the right one for you, no matter how much you think you love him or her. You can’t even work with the law of averages and go out on hundreds of dates, hoping to strike a match. You can be open to romantic love, but you cannot force it, or even truly understand it – to understand this kind of love is like trying to hold a rainbow in your hand.

Recently I came across an article online that was titled something to the effect of “the relationship types you will have before you meet your true love.” The article itself was kind of funny, but I think it also spoke to a great truth, in that many people have to go through different experiences with different kinds of people before they are ready to meet someone on that soul level, their minds/bodies/hearts open in acceptance.

So many times throughout my life I have wondered why I got involved with certain people. Many times even if I sensed that the relationship wouldn’t work on a fundamental level, I still loved them and tried to make it work. And maybe we were not a match in the “true love” sense, but I think the love I felt for them was true. The lessons I sometimes learned were difficult, but I think each relationship I have had has taught me important things, which helped me grow and evolve as an individual.

Recently I was thinking of my children’s father, and a single image kept recurring. When I met him, I was 22 and working in a bookstore full time. After we met, we had a grand meeting of the minds. Within a very short time, I was translating his favorite book”Nadja” from the original French, and he gave me 19 poems about my eyes. I worked in the “home” section, which included all books on cooking, crafting, gardening, etc, and he worked in “genre fiction.” I loved working in the home section very much, and it truly was my own little home. One day, I was organizing books in antiques & collectibles, and I was standing on a step-stool because the shelves were high at the top. He came into my section and held up a ring to me, a bright orange plastic pumpkin ring.

I think he mumbled something about how he was on break and saw it and thought I might like it and if he had more money, he would wish to buy me something nicer, something to that effect. But in my memory, he didn’t say a word. It was his gesture that spoke volumes. I accepted the ring, just as I accepted his love – wholly, completely, without hesitation. And even though a relationship between us failed miserably and he left me to raise two babies alone, I don’t hold any animosity towards him, and I actually think that staying away was the kindest path he could have taken. Despite all the things we went through together, when I think of him, the first memory that comes to mind is that time he offered me the pumpkin ring, and I accepted it. He changed the course of my life. Love changed the course of my life.

Did we have a soul connection? I think we did. But I also think we were very young, too young to deal with the relationship we found ourselves in. In retrospect, I understand that there was no way that our relationship would be able to sustain the trials and tests of time. But I also know that there was no way that I would have been able to turn away from it, either.

Elizabeth Gilbert has an interesting view on this. She says: “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in…”

In some of my research on this topic, I came across the idea of a “dark soul mate” and I believe that this is what Elizabeth Gilbert is truly referring to.

Linda George discusses the idea of light and dark soul mates in her article, “The Astrology of Soul Mates.” What she relates is quite profound, and gives much to think about, so I am going end here by quoting her article.

Soul Mates. The words evoke a sense of divine partnership, a blessed union where two hearts, two souls, two people, come together as One.  The state of Oneness prevails through all of life’s adversities. The couple is melded together through thick and thin, and there is always and throughout pervasive feelings of telepathic connection, unconditional love, and simmering sexual passion.

Ah, bliss.  We all share this innate longing for our “other half.”  Since the age of romance began, literature has fed us the imagery of such a perfect union. Much is illusory, a fantasy; but still, we crave this perfection.

Our bodies hardly need encouragement.  It is the prerogative of the body to seek its “other half,” the yin for its yang. And for our higher selves, our souls, the desire to merge comes from an instinctive “knowing.” Our higher self knows that only through relationship can we bring our “unwholeness” into our conscious awareness, in order to heal—and thus become whole.

We cannot do this on our own.  We need another to help us negotiate our gaps and wounds, and to teach us how to open, and keep open, our hearts.  There is no healing with a closed heart.  We must open and let go. And this we do best when we are loved and loving.

The words “Soul Mates” are a bit like the words “God” or “Love.”  We can create any number of interpretations for these words; they are capable of expressing the highest truths, as well as truth’s opposite. From the pain of deception, loss, betrayal, and separation to the joy of profound intimacy and deep merging with another, the Soul Mate relationship can bring us any or all of these.

I use the word Soul, together with the word Mate, tentatively. And for the reason mentioned above—the words are too easily misconstrued.  They are minimized, mangled, and mutated, changed from two innocent, singly comforting words to something almost intimidating:  Do you have a Soul Mate? Is your partner your Soul Mate, or a watered down version of one? And if he is, why is living with him so difficult? He can’t be.  Or: Will you ever find that elusive Soul Mate? Do you even believe in such things?  If they’re for real, why hasn’t yours shown up yet? Where IS he?  The subject of soul mates seems invariably to be accompanied by feelings of ambivalence and vulnerability.

There is a lot of confusion about Soul Mates (as there is about anything to do with the mysterious Soul), which is why I wanted to talk about them.  After forty something years of living and loving, I have come to the conclusion that every significant relationship we enter into is with a Soul Mate. When we give our heart to another—for however short or long the duration—we are entering into the sacred territory of the Soul.  This person has then become a Mate of our Soul; our Soul Mate.

Now, we need to qualify the above.  Significant relationships are all Soul Mate relationships, but there are soul mates and Soul Mates.  There are “dark” Soul Mates and there are “light” Soul Mates.

Some of those with whom we enter into a significant relationship have come into our lives to demonstrate the less attractive side of relating—and to show us the less attractive side of ourselves. You may have known such Soul Mates in your past; your relationship with them would have been marred with darkness, destruction, and desperation. Soul Mates have been known to kill each other!

The Soul has a “knowing” that our conscious selves do not possess.  This knowing ineffably, sooner or later, draws us into the orbit of people with whom we have shared a past, a past that is outside of our conscious awareness. We “mates of old” have karma to resolve together; perhaps we have agreed to come back into a relationship to complete something we didn’t finish up in the past, or to do it differently. As an evolutionary astrologer I would add to that: ideally, complete in a positive and integrated way.  Sometimes we finish our relationships, but we neglect to complete the work we were in them to do!

These Soul Mate relationships serve the great purpose of assisting us in our awakening. They unerringly dredge up the old karmic patterns, the needs and expectations that we have unconsciously crafted through lifetimes of experiences: pain, fear, disappointment, loss, betrayal.  Once our relationships show us—often in glaring Technicolor—where exactly our “issues” are, we may be forced to go through more than a few dark nights as we learn to meet ourselves and transmute our woundedness into something more life giving.

We both signed up for this relationship, we Soul Mates.  And however long, short, or in between, this partnership that takes us to the deepest and often most painful places is an agent for the Soul.  Always, “darker” Soul Mate connections will end in a parting of the two personalities–one way or another. The karmic contract will expire and then there is no longer a necessity to stay together.  Hopefully, the work has been done and each party has healed some wounds and come to a place of greater self-awareness.  If not, then there is always the next lifetime…

Light Soul Mates are those are not fueled by the need to complete karmic contracts. They are, rather, about growth. These are two Souls who have come together in a significant relationship, in full consciousness.  That is, the personalities have matured emotionally and spiritually to a point where they understand that they are responsible for their realities—in or out of a relationship. They know that life is an ongoing journey of unfolding, learning, and growing—and that this new relationship will bring up a new set of lessons and challenges. This conscious awareness draws partners of a like mind.  The couple is concerned with each other’s growth and wellbeing as much as their own.  They also know that love is the reason they are together.  This is why their relationship is light-filled.

We cannot hope to create positive, fulfilling, loving, life-affirming relationships if we are fractured spirits ourselves.  No one can rescue us from ourselves.  If we understand the deeper significance of our principles, if we know about the light and dark expressions of these, then we move to a higher awareness.  We are “awakened” to our greater potentials and we can consciously choose to bring them into our lives.  When we do, our relationships naturally transform. Our self awareness spills over to become a tolerant, compassionate, benevolent energy in the relationship. We know ourselves and our partners more deeply. Tolerance, for both, arises from this acceptance.

All of our relationships of significance are with our Soul Mates, but the more conscious we become, the more we move toward light Soul Mate relationships—and away from the dark, destructive ones. Once we have made friends with ourselves, come to a place of acceptance (self-worth) and celebration for who we are, in the depths of our hearts, then we attract souls who resonate in kind, who love us because we do too!  These are the lovers with whom we will grow and evolve.  We draw them into our lives to share a divine partnership where two hearts, two souls, two people, come together as One.

Until we do this work to make friends with ourselves, to love ourselves, we will continue to attract relationships that offer us a reflection of what we feel about ourselves.  The dark and destructive Soul Mate is simply the mirror showing us how little we are valuing ourselves.

Nothing in this life is more valuable than the journey we make into the center of ourselves.  The master keys to creating joyful, loving lives are self-knowledge and an awakening to who we really are.”

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