this is a guest post contributed by Hilary Hart.
When I was a child, I often visited my father on Martha’s Vineyard where he lived after divorcing my mother. I would come into that old Victorian house and open the closet door to put away my suitcase. On the floor sat two pair of shoes, lined up next to each other neatly. On the left, a pair of orangey-brown leather work-boots – the kind with the high ankles and the dual colored rope laces. Next to them, a pair of white moccasins with colored beads that my father bought me from a wooden concession hut at Gay Head, at one time home to the Wampanoag people.
I was happy when I opened that closet door and saw the shoes. Both pairs reassured me. The softness of the moccasins and the beauty of their blue and black beads evoked the myths of the native people of the area, which even then carried power for me. To walk through the fields behind the house in those shoes was a journey recalling the grace of nature, the power of the outdoors, the belonging that comes from being alone with the birds and the tall grasses.
The work boots were also beloved. I would put them on and yank the rope laces before heading out to climb the trees, build huts, and find my way to the ocean, protected from brambles and ticks. They gave me the feeling of being capable of anything.
The image of those two pairs of shoes has always stayed with me. I can still feel how much I related to each pair. Now, of course, I recognize that they reflected two essential aspects of myself– what we call in the contemporary spiritual community, “the masculine” and “the feminine.” My father had given me an early reference point for something truly essential. I had two basic modes of moving through life – one sensitive and receptive, gentle and persevering, trailing the beauty of ancient winds delivering prayers. The other – strong and productive, tough and willing, undaunted by hard work and eager for adventure.
Despite the potency of that early awareness, I lost touch with the meaning of those shoes and the real balance they reflected. The moccasins were lost in the recess of my being, eclipsed by the complexities of my growing up and particularly growing up in a patriarchal world that had done its best to annihilate those moccasins, the native people who wore them, and an entire way of life sensitive to the Earth and Her ways.
Much later, as an adult, I worked hard to re-discover the wisdom and experiences they represented through introspection and spiritual practice, which included a deeply personal sorting – as in the story of Eros and Psyche – of what truly matters from what doesn’t. The mythical cycle of being given to, forgetting, searching and finding again, plays out individually for many of us, as it does collectively as well.
As a global community and particularly in the West, we have allowed the feminine aspect to be lost under a destructive and debilitating fog. We have very little collective reflection or expression of how to honor creation, relate to life’s sacredness, or create real community with human beings and between human beings and the whole of life. And on a personal level, most of us suffer from an inability to receive, be tender, watch and allow, and to truly connect and relate – to each other, the Divine, or the Earth. We have taken up the work boots and let them trample the moccasins out of our awareness.
The collective forgetting has gone unabated, and our world is out of balance. But just as on the personal journey back to what’s forgotten, we need to take responsibility for our part in this greater dereliction. We need to admit to ourselves that trampling through life is easier than moving slowly, listening, feeling, and being receptive. It’s easier to talk than to really listen. It’s easier to watch TV than to contemplate or meditate. It’s easier to spend the evening inside with a computer than to walk through your community greeting your human, plant, and animal neighbors. It’s easier to poison the weeds then to painstakingly dig them out. We all feed the engine of the patriarchy; we all suffer for it. For the more energy we give to the habits, patterns, and drivers of the patriarchy, the more we cut ourselves off from the depths of life and its nourishment. Lost, lonely, disconnected and with few signs for where to turn for what we truly need, we re-invest in the same system that harms us. Our desperation for connection and the security of belonging are channeled into the back-eddies of consumerism, and the cycle continues.
But wholeness and healing waits for us. We need to turn back, remember, honor what’s become just a shadow. We need a way back to life’s nourishing center – not just for our sake but for the sake of life as a whole. One of the great gifts of the feminine, so reflected in those moccasins of my childhood, is the genuine awareness of life’s sacredness and the capacity to move through life knowing, feeling, sensing, and being with it. The masculine wants to draw our attention on the next big adventure, the journey to outer space, the higher mountain, the next accomplishment. All the while something very different waits for us to join, love, nourish, and connect. What waits is simplicity – things as they are, not as they could be or want them to be.
The simple things of life hold tremendous potential, because they have been abandoned. They have been left alone by our projections and our demands; they are free of power dynamics. This means they are allowed to be themselves. The patriarchy does not care too much about baking bread, picking lice from our child’s hair, or walking our dog. It can’t corrupt the enjoyment of sun on one’s shoulders on a cold day, the sound of water in a creek, the way a dove’s call echoes our own longing. It has successfully distracted us from these things, but the return is as simple as listening, watching, being with.
When we give our hearts to simple things, we bring light to life, we bring love to life. This is not a spiritual dream, but an esoteric happening. The human heart is tremendously powerful, but the power is amplified when it reaches the core of life, where it can serve the whole. A dandelion is the doorway to the center of the universe if we admire its golden color, if we respect its power to cleanse the body. A cougar at a kill invites our awe, which nourishes the whole circle of creation.
The simplicity of the natural world and of human nature – those utter inevitabilities, such as death, hunger, need – command our respect, offer a direct relationship to what exists free of fantasy. Simple things are a doorway between our heart and the heart of life. When we step through that doorway we are where we belong, and the seemingly endless need and despair can finally be carried away on the wind. We are connected, and our love and attention feeds life from the inside out.
Today, the talk about “the feminine” has a tendency to become complex. But the feminine loves simple things. She is ecstatic at a good rainfall on a hot day, she celebrates a lover who calls to her and opens to her, she prepares garden soil with the power of a mother, and she knows when enough is enough.
It does not matter that there are no books or movies about the power of a bluebird standing silent, on a fencepost. Or a small hand in your own. Or a tree bearing fruit. Somewhere, we know these things and trust them. The moccasins wait for us to walk that knowing out into the world, our soles in skin, skin on Earth, bringing our hearts to simple things.
by Hilary Hart.
Hilary Hart’s writing and teaching focus on women’s spiritual power and the role it can play in our global evolution. Her most recent book, Body of Wisdom, brings together dreams and experiences of women with teachings from today’s most visionary spiritual leaders to describe the esoteric foundations of women’s power and its functions in our collective evolution.