When walking with a friend last week, she asked about what’s happening with the book. She meant the one I’ve been working on for a couple of years. It’s entitled The Long Walk Home: Confessions on the Caminoand has finally been released for ebook and on demaind printing. When she asked, I could tell her I was working with the publisher (Ember Press) to create a launch event or events. It’s exciting to think of sharing that journey with others, learning what interested them, confused them, challenged them or simply was enjoyed by them. Yet even as these are being planned, I was already seeing what more there is to be written on the themes my memoir explores. So I heard myself say to my friend, “It seems like the book launch is a also a launching pad for what has evolved since walking the Camino 15 years ago.”
While what I wrote about then, and the insights and revelations that I was given were true then and are still true now, they were also bearing points, showing me directions for the continued walk to see more truth and understanding. There is more to the seeming duality of the masculine and feminine; there is more to learning to trust; there is more to being helpless; there is more about the reality of community; there is more about love in its many dimensions, and its relentless pulling of humanity into the reality that we are not separate.
In all of that questioning, I am coming to an understanding of the need for balance in all of my life, for equilibrium and even equanimity in exploring these questions further. The writer, Kristoffer Hughes, even calls balance an alchemical act.
So what did that writer mean? I know that word alchemy. I know its origins are in the medieval ages, almost a forerunner of chemistry. Dictionary definitions say it was based on the supposed transformation of matter, particularly that of other metals into gold or a universal elixir. It thus has a related meaning to the process of transformation or creation.
So I am intrigued; How does balance transform and create in my further exploration? As it is with all search for my truth, ultimately it must come from my direct experience. I can read, listen and observe others’ wisdom and truth, let it affect me and open me to new thought and action, but it must first resonate with not what my mind knows, but what my own heart carries, intuits and has experienced.
With that caveat, I want to address one of the first imbalances I write about in the book– the history of the imbalance of the feminine in the Christian church. I called that particular feminine presence the Divine Feminine. While it survived in the stories of Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene particularly, this perspective has been subjugated, hidden and not valued in balance with the masculine perspective which ruled—the patriarchy.
Fifteen years ago, I carried some righteous judgement against that patriarchy only to confront it face to face at the Santiago Cathedral on the very last day of my pilgrimage. As the archbishop was trying to recess from Pentecost High Mass that had just ended, a crowd of pilgrims pushed me forward as they entered the sanctuary for the pilgrim mass that was to follow. I was thrown off-balance (there’s that word again) and was trying to not fall when I found myself standing directly in front of the Archbishop in all his robes, mitre and finery. He was justifiably annoyed at all this and snarled a little at me. You can’t make these things up. God was going to have me look at my judgement face to face. Instead of anger or resentment, I saw him as a human being who was tired and frustrated, like I had been on the Camino. I realized in that momentous literal confrontation that we needed each other and always had.
Much of my complaint has softened with that experience; now I see the masculine and feminine arguments as part of duality: us and them, black and white, right and wrong. I realize that being against something only perpetuates the judgement and aggression I want to stop. Mother Teresa once said that she would not join any organization or protest that was against anything.
“Tell me what you are for,” she said.
What I am for is a balance of the values that make the world go round. How then would balance of the masculine and feminine divine look? I do not know. I don’t know, but I know it is the way.
We can speak to the need of the strength of feminine values of non-hierarchical structure, of compassion, of tenderness, of nurture, of resilience, consensus, community, relationships and vulnerability as just a few. And we can acknowledge the masculine values of physical strength, decisiveness, assertiveness, structure, logic, taking charge, protection, guidance, survival, and loyalty. What is the alchemy of the balance of these traits? I can only guess it would bring a peace we have never known, a joy that would out-rule discontent, and a creative catalyst for solving world needs that would astound. There would be equilibrium. Equanimity.
For me, the traits of being masculine or feminine are less important than a nondualistic way of being—moving beyond gender to personhood. The equanimity is honoring the distinctions and values and uniqueness of the masculine and feminine, but seeing beyond these differences to the fact that we are not separate from each other or anything in creation. We can be curious about our differences, and try to understand their value, but not to let them prevent us from loving each other, forgiving each other, honoring each other and most curious of all, being transformed.
At the end of our walk that day, my friend told me a story about her former male boss who broke down in a staff meeting and cried because of the recent school shooting of children and teachers in Texas. The room was stunned and silent; this was completely out of character for this owner of a large construction company, embodying hierarchy, toughness, logic and assertiveness as his style. But the boss was unapologetic. His tears were real and justified. AND it allowed everyone else in the office to go back to their desks, to grieve these senseless deaths themselves and to talk to each other about this transformed boss and how the shooting had affected him and them. There was deeper community. There was vulnerability. There was strength and there was leadership.
And a balance of feminine and masculine. I think it would look something like that.