When Women Are Good to Each Other

I love women and I love being a woman. Some people might call me a feminist. On a drunken night out one of my colleagues told me that she imagined me burning my bras. I was flattered.

Feminism has become a dirty word these days. It evokes images of radical lesbians and man-haters who don’t wax their underarms. For the record I love all kinds of men and my armpits are hair-free.

What I don’t love is injustice against women and inequality for women. I simply cannot comprehend nor accept women being treated differently to men based on gender. Cannot. Will not. And I’m vocal about it. This includes the expectation that women will change their name upon marriage and gender roles in the home.

Deep down I believe that women are superior to men on many levels and I believe that men must embrace their natural femininity if we are ever going to achieve equality at home and at work. But that’s another post.

Today I want to write about what happens when women are good to each other because we all know that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. We can be competitive, bitchy, judgmental, unsupportive and unforgiving of each other in regards to issues ranging from fashion, career, lifestyle and mothering choices.

But when women are good to each other the results are uplifting, empowering and inspiring.

Yesterday I had about 20 women at my home to celebrate the impending birth of my second daughter. She is due in a week and I deliberately made the event as close to the due date as possible because I wanted to bask in the glow of positive female energy as I approach the birth. (This might sound crazy but new studies suggest being amongst female friends releases oxytocin, the brain chemical responsible for producing feelings of love, contentment, calmness, trust and empathy.)

I was surrounded by my mother and mother-in-law, my daughter, two sisters, aunts and my closest girlfriends. We formed a circle around my birth altar, which was adorned with candles and flowers. We let barriers down, opened our hearts and celebrated a new life and the amazing journey of motherhood. We participated in a couple of birth rituals and then did what we do best: talked and ate.

After feasting I beached myself on the floor in the room that I am preparing to give birth in. In one corner a girlfriend breastfed her baby, in another my daughter was beading necklaces for everyone. There was music playing, a small circle of smokers in the backyard and laughter throughout the house.

I believe that our greatest strength as women is our ability to communicate honestly and articulately but sometimes we are afraid of this power or we misuse it. What unfolded in my home yesterday was my version of feminism: women of all ages, backgrounds and life experiences coming together in joy to support and nurture one another. When women dare to reach out to each other we affirm our individual and collective beauty and brilliance. I love it.

I’m still basking in my good fortune and there wasn’t a hairy armpit in sight.


5 Ways I Opened my Heart Today

Yoga peeps often talk about chakras, which are energy centres situated along the spine. We focus on seven main chakras, which govern particular parts of the body physically and energetically.

Anahata chakra is the heart chakra. I like to remind my yoga students about this chakra often because I think that an imbalance or blockage here can stop us from taking risks and being creative and this means leading a pretty boring life!

Opening your heart means:

  • stopping and breathing before reacting
  • seeing past a person’s actions and remembering their intentions
  • giving someone your full attention, eyes, ears and body language
  • realising the impermanence of any situation and deciding to divert your energy
  • giving and doing for others just because you can and not because you want something in return
  • forgiving and forgetting

5 Times I Opened My Heart Today

1. When I opened my husband’s  t-shirt drawer and found tees that were either dirty, inside-out or rolled up.

2. When the old lady in the queue behind me slammed her trolley into my pregnant behind not once but twice.

3. When I had a quick coffee with one of my best friends.

4. When my niece was eating her chocolate bilby and getting melted chocolate all over me and my handbag.

5. When my neighbour’s children knocked on the door and happily bombarded me with talk about the Easter bunny, pre-school and Buzz Lightyear.

In what situations do you feel the need to open your heart and how does it make you feel?

Can you think of one way that you opened your heart today?

It’s All About Attitude

Yesterday I assembled a laundry cupboard. I was pretty proud of myself because a) the instructions included were worse than those you get with something from Ikea and b) I used my new drill. Oh yeah, it’s sturdy. My 8 year-old daughter was mildly impressed so I launched into a “You can do anything you put your mind to” spiel. And it got me thinking about attitude.

Attitudes are ways of thinking. We all know someone who has a ‘bad’ attitude. They’re usually lugging around some heavy baggage and their actions are fueled by the belief that the world owes them something. They might spend a lot of time dreaming about stuff they’d like to do but then convince themselves that it’s all impossible.

Then there are those who think that nothing at all is impossible to achieve and they navigate their way through life accordingly. They dream about stuff and then they put in the hard yards to bring those dreams to fruition. Needless to say, these people are pretty happy with themselves.

People With Positive Attitudes Who Inspire Me…

Jessica Watson– 17 years old, attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo, non-stop and unassisted. Resisted a lot of negativity from critics and media before setting sail from Sydney Harbour in October last year. She is now less than 1500 nm from Western Australia. When I was 17 I was smoking cigarettes behind a Chinese restaurant and dying my hair fire-engine red. Jessica has a conquer-the-world attitude and I love it.

Tim Cope– Australian adventurer, writer and film maker who spends his time travelling the world and documenting his journeys. In 1999-2000 he and his friend Chris Hatherly were 20 and abandoned their studies to ride 10,000km through forest and desert from Russia to Beijing. Did I mention the -40 degree winter and that their mode of travel was recumbent bicycles?  It took them 14 months and a lot of guts but they made it. Read Off The Rails for the story.

Marianne Elliott – writer, yoga teacher and human rights activist living in Afghanistan, living her best life and encouraging others to do the same.

But it’s not just big adventurers who inspire me. I’ve found that people with positive attitudes attract other people with positive attitudes. And when they get together there is an electrical kind of energy sparkling between them. This is how I feel when I talk to my dear friend Aleks (lawyer, model and open-hearted yummy mummy), my boss John (business owner, motorcycle-riding osteopath) or my cousin Danielle (teacher, thinker and free-spirited song writer ;)).

People with positive attitudes make things happen for themselves (including laundry cupboards).

What are you making happen right now?

Celebrating Women’s Day the Yoga Way

“In the grand scheme of things, women in the West were permitted to vote last week!”

Mark Whitwell, Yoga of Heart

If I had a guru, his name would be Mark Whitwell. Mark has been teaching authentic yoga in the lineage of Krishnamachrya and his son TKV Desikachar for over 20 years. I first met him in Sydney in 2009 and then did a weekend workshop in January.

I quote Mark because today is International Women’s Day (IWD). First celebrated in 1911, IWD recognises the economic, social and political achievements of women worldwide. Most women today have some knowledge of the way our lives have changed over the past century. We are also aware that the basic rights of women are still being developed in many parts of the world.

A woman’s feminine experience depends largely on the historical and social context into which she is born. I am a 30 year-old Australian woman who has had full access to health, education and political opportunities. I grew up with the freedom to dress, speak and act the way I pleased. As an adult I pursue a career full-time, sharing home and child-care duties with my husband. All my friends have similar lifestyles; we keep our maiden names, work hard and we spend our own money. We have no idea what it is like to have no access to education or employment, to be told what to wear and to serve a man before ourselves. We believe we are equal. We believe we are free. But are we?

In his book, Yoga of Heart, Mark talks about the continuing power struggles between women and men:

“Men are afraid of women’s power and many women are trying to to duplicate men rather than relax and be themselves.”

He believes that yoga has the power to change this and free both men and women from restrictive gender roles. In a nutshell; yoga can help both sexes to soften and recognise our mutuality rather than our duality. It is only when this happens that we can find our true power as humans.

Do you think women try to duplicate men? And do you think that men are afraid of the power of women? What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Random Acts of Kindness

Today I was standing in line at a department store. There came a man to my left who placed an item on the counter. We acknowledged each other with a quick glance the way strangers do. Then he looked at my baby bump and smiled, “Congratulations.” It was a broad smile and he spoke confidently.

“Oh. Thanks,” was my reply. And that was it. No further questions or small talk. Just one big congratulations and my uncertain half-smile response.

So why was I weirded out? Why was my initial thought that he must be a bit loopy? Why couldn’t I just accept his warm wishes without query or judgment? Was it because he was a man? Would I have assessed the person’s mental status had the comment come from a woman? Was it because there was no follow-up conversation? Had my response quashed the possibility of a follow-up conversation? Or was it just because he had said it in such a broad voice?

I like to think that I am a kind, friendly person who often talks to strangers (usually the elderly, women and sales staff). I enjoy a bit of banter and sometimes even find myself engaged in a power-D&M with someone I don’t know and will never see again. But would I say, “Congratulations!” to a pregnant woman while standing in a queue and then nothing else? I don’t think so.

I wonder if this guy is the epitome of open-heartedness; someone who makes it a habit to say something nice to random people on a daily basis. Someone who talks to people instead of just staring at them or pushing past them. Or maybe he is a member of The Australian Kindness Movement? Run by volunteers, the organisation believes kindness has positive health benefits for you and the person you are being kind to. They host National Kindness Days and are members of the World Kindness Movement, which celebrates connections through acts of kindness.

Have you experienced the kindness of strangers? Do you make it a habit to show kindness to others? And are you interested in striking up conversations with random people?