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“Come Home to Yourself”
The sensuous ebb and flow of the breath,
The warmth of the sun on the skin,
The touch of light on the eyelids, like a kiss,
The soothing sound of leaves rustling in the breeze,
The satisfying release of bodyweight into the support of the Earth –
Nothing in particular to do or be,
Just savoring the texture of life in this moment...
Relaxing, melting, softening into lusciousness.
Sinking down, letting go, deeper, deeper…
Breath spreading, massaging everywhere inside, a gentle caress…Ah…
Muscles release, a sigh of relief, all the way to the bones.
Here, now, the movement of life, touching me,
Healing me, revealing its simple truth –
I am immersed in the embrace of life.
Yes, I hear the Yes.
And my response, Yes.
I am this movement.
I am home.
From the Introduction to
Meditation Secrets for Women: Discovering Your Passion, Pleasure, and Inner Peace
By Camille Maurine and Lorin Roche, PhD, HarperOne, 2001
“Women and Stress”
We all long for healthy balance in our lives. Everyone knows now that stress is a prime factor in many health conditions. Too much stress takes us out of pleasure. Some stress is beneficial, and even pleasurable; optimal levels give us just the right degree of stimulation, and the excitement of a full and meaningful life can even strengthen the immune response. It’s the excessive and prolonged strain that causes problems.
At the biological level, the parasympathetic nervous system (that gives us the rest-and-restore mode) keeps our hearts and blood vessels open, while the sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight” part) constricts the heart and blood vessels, which keeps them toned. Every blood vessel in the body is filigreed with both nerve systems, because we need both modes to live fully. Finding the equilibrium between rest and action, letting go and going for it, is our contemporary challenge. In general, the mental and physical texture of daily life is too fast, dense and highly pressured, so we need to consciously cultivate the opposite tones.
Medical research is turning up some very significant information on how female biology differs from male. Most studies have been done on male subjects, and their conclusions generalized from men’s bodies (just as in the meditation field!) Thankfully, this situation is finally beginning to change. A recent report suggests that the female reaction to stress is less the typical male “fight or flight” and more “tend and befriend,” revolving around nurturing and seeking the support of others rather than aggression or escape. The study finds that this is true for both humans and animals, and is based in hormonal differences between the sexes. Aggression is an important energy for women to be able to access when necessary. But in the face of everyday stress we can also nurture each other, tend and befriend ourselves, and create a network of supportive relationships.
Many of the mental stressors that everyone contends with are not likely to go away. We are a headstrong society. Information overload, keeping up with technology, sitting at the computer for long hours a day, having to constantly strategize to maintain status or get ahead is almost a necessity of modern life. The electronic bombardment itself toys with our nervous systems. Even when people exercise, they are often reading, watching TV or under the headset, not really in the body at all. But being “in our heads” takes a serious toll, and the consequent lack of relaxation and deep pleasure is especially hazardous to women. Chronic, persistent stress weakens the immune system and plays a role in the development of heart disease. Stress also powerfully affects our mental well being. In addition, there is evidence that excessive head-centered attention may disrupt the female glandular system and hormonal balance, with far-reaching consequences to our general health.
Forgive us for bearing bad news, but taking this seriously can give us all the determination to make preventative choices. Each of us must come to terms with this conundrum in her own way. Though the situation at large is unlikely to change, there are many effective measures that we can take to care for ourselves. That’s the good news. Scientists consistently recommend these antidotes for women: exercise, expression, relaxation and self-exploration. We couldn’t agree more.
Women need exercise that they enjoy and look forward to, not just an onerous discipline. Find whatever calls you forth – walking, dance, yoga, swimming, martial arts. Challenge the temptation to make an object of your body, the notion that you must whip this lump of flesh into shape. The element of pleasure is extremely important, and if you can find exercise that pleases your soul, all the better. Dance has the added benefit of a poetic and emotional expressiveness. Some sports also facilitate a kind of expression. Women engaged in aggressive exercise like kickboxing have been shown to experience less depression and stronger immune systems. The kick-butt attitude gives a sense of power and control over their lives. In addition to dynamic forms that increase circulation, we recommend (no, insist!) that women make sure to include stretching to maintain flexibility and fluidity. Staying supple is especially crucial as the years go by; aging tends to dry us out and make us rigid – mentally and physically. This is preventable, so don’t forget to lengthen and soften those muscles, too.
As for relaxation, self-exploration and expression, the approach to meditation that we are suggesting addresses all three. Finding meditations that work for you is the ultimate in self-care and self-awareness. Nothing relaxes like the pleasure of meditation, which puts you in touch with your inner world. In that safety you can discover and support whatever needs to be expressed and embodied in your life.
From Secret #5 – "Dwell in Your Inner Sanctuary" in Meditation Secrets for Women: Discovering Your Passion, Pleasure, and Inner Peace, by Camille Maurine and Lorin Roche. Copyright 2001.
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ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEN & WOMEN – Claim Your Womanhood, Shamelessly!
I often add links to articles and other information here that support women to claim their female gifts and attributes.
This is extremely important not only for how we manifest power in the outer world, but for the dynamics of our inner world in meditation. Being connected to your deep feminine roots is essential for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Through working with thousands of women, as well as my own journey, I have seen the pitfalls and successes up close and personal. It is imperative to know how to cultivate and embody true sovereignty – our natural, body-based source of power. Hence the existence of Meditation Secrets for Women.
The ways that women differ from men should be a source of healthy strength and pride, not shame. There is no need to make either gender "better" – appreciate the differences! Yet fear lurks in the minds of many women. Because power and status are still defined primarily by old male values, admitting our innate differences can seem to threaten our hard won ground for equal rights. Question this assumption. Root out the fear, shame, and tyranny beneath it – the hidden, insidious disempowerment. How ironic is that?
The latest scientific research validates the biological and psychological differentiation between men and women, including brain structure and function. Here's an article about some of the medical implications that every woman should know: READ.
More on the female "Tend and Befriend" response to stress (beyond fight or flight).
When we wrote about this in the book, Shelley E. Taylor was just completing her research on the subject, not yet published. I had seen a note somewhere and included it in the book. Years later, lots of emails circulated as women were discovering the theory. It rings a bell for women.
Oxytocin and a number of other hormones are enhanced and cortisol is decreased. You can do a Google search for Tend and Befriend. There are lots of links and information. Here's one from the NIH:
The human stress response has been characterized, both physiologically and behaviorally, as "fight-or-flight." Although fight-or-flight may characterize the primary physiological responses to stress for both males and females, we propose that, behaviorally, females' responses are more marked by a pattern of "tend-and-befriend." Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process. The biobehavioral mechanism that underlies the tend-and-befriend pattern appears to draw on the attachment-caregiving system, and neuroendocrine evidence from animal and human studies suggests that oxytocin, in conjunction with female reproductive hormones and endogenous opioid peptide mechanisms, may be at its core. This previously unexplored stress regulatory system has manifold implications for the study of stress. (Click here for more articles from NIH)
I love this article by Elizabeth Debold on "The Divine Feminine, Unveiled" – and heartily agree!
TED Talk by Jane Fonda: Life’s third act (filmed December 2011)
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If you would like to share related information and articles,
please contact me and I will add them to this site.
– CAMILLE –