Do you remember the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”? The title refers to interactions with UFO’s, E.T.’s, or aliens. A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO. The second kind is physical evidence, like vegetation being pressed down or tree branches being broken, to prove the existence of an alien. The third kind is actual contact with an alien. I see this as a metaphor for our COVID-19 quarantine experience in which we can have a “close encounter of the third kind”. Here’s what I mean.
For years I’ve been aware of a cultural pattern I have called the “pusher/striver/driver.” I’ve been aware of how it lives in me and all around me, how it so often runs me (or at least has), and how I live it in my daily life. That has been like a “close encounter of the first kind”.
Now I notice that, as we are being pulled back from our usual outer focus and pulled inside (literally and figuratively), I am coming face to face with that “pusher/striver/driver” more clearly and strongly than ever. It is very challenging, can be very scary, and sometimes feels like a life-and-death struggle (“facing the dragon”). However, experiencing that pattern so strongly, as challenging and scary as it can be, is just a “close encounter of the second kind.” Read on for the close encounter of the “third kind” that I referred to.
During this “going within” downtime, I’ve noticed that I am frequently close to deep tears, the kind that I can’t access to cry. I believe this is at least partly my resonance with the grief, fear, anger, confusion, and distress that so many people are experiencing during this chaotic “time-out-of-time”. I also began to suspect that it is the deep feminine energy, which has been pretty much an “alien” in our culture for thousands of years and which is asking, insisting, demanding to be finally acknowledged. As I’ve begun to be more in touch with that energy, I’ve experienced a “close encounter of the third kind”—that is, being in contact with an energy that is very feared and unfamiliar in so many ways.
Interestingly, when I am in touch with that deep feminine energy, I experience feelings of deep connection, safety and security, deep nourishment and vitality, and deep peace and “all-right-ness” that are life-giving and are different than I access from other sources.
In that space, I am full, rich, able and eager to give and contribute out of my expanse instead of at my expense. And when I give from that overflow of energy, I know that it is a genuine gift, freely given and freely received, which is a benefit to all involved. That is completely different than a common experience of giving from obligation, “shoulds,” or fears.
When I feel and actually follow a deep urging to cancel a scheduled activity or even clear my calendar for a whole day and allow myself to answer the call of the feminine, to be still and “in the flow”, sometimes I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I feel the deep connection, centeredness, and resourcefulness out of which creativity comes.
On the other hand, I’ve discovered that as I connect with that feminine energy, a deep fear comes up in me that is very strong and is also sometimes quite subtle and sneaky. I’m aware that my system is immensely afraid of that contact with the feminine and those feelings it evokes. It feels absolutely “life-threatening” in a way you might be surprised at, might not even imagine. I mean, what could possibly be “wrong” with having the feelings I describe above? That’s what we all yearn for, work for, and want in our lives. Right?
Right, except that our “Empire” patriarchal culture tells us that we can only have that by living a “compete, conquer, control, dominate, disconnected” kind of life. Its identity is fear, leading to scarcity, greed, and the other experiences with which we are all too familiar. The “Empire culture” paradigm does not, and cannot, provide the life-giving experience of connection, cooperation, creativity, realness, and humanness that we deeply yearn for. In fact, I’ve seen that people experience trauma and a kind of “P.T.S.D.” from the intense “Pushing, Trying, Striving, Driving” energy that the culture demands.
Just to be clear, when I say “Empire patriarchal culture” I am referring to the disconnected, unhealthy, “shadow” masculine energy that has been, and continues to be, so prevalent in running our world. There is also the healthy, radiant masculine energy as well as healthy, radiant feminine energy, and embodying both of those energies in ourselves individually and collectively in our culture is necessary and critically important for us to flourish and thrive.
So, connecting with and beginning to allow, pay attention to, and honor this authentic, deep feminine energy is a radical, transformative act, striking at the root of our basic beliefs about how life works, or at least is “supposed to” work.
The cultural “pusher/striver/driver” is intent on preserving itself and maintaining its control, and it has all kinds of tricks to do that. In fact, it is usually on “auto-pilot”. In my mind I hear messages that I must do such-and-such or be like such-and-such in order to be productive, be worthwhile, be valued, be worthy, be a good person, be deserving, and survive. Let’s not forget survive! This pattern is wired into survival issues at a deep level.
And of course, this message is all around me, playing constantly in this culture in which we treat ourselves, each other, and the planet as commodities to be consumed. It’s ubiquitous, a cultural “imperative”, the river we’ve all been swimming in for years. Can you relate to this?
In her blog, Tara Mohr describes this eloquently and relates this specifically to women’s experiences. Over the years I have talked with, counseled, and coached many men as well as women, and I see this applying as much to men as it does to women. In my experience, most people, regardless of gender, suffer in our culture because of the culture, even if they are not aware of it.
Here is an excerpt from Tara’s blog:
“As they make a downshift in tempo, many women are being harassed by a voice in their head that says: “You aren’t doing enough. Look over there at what so and so is doing.” And then it goes on to threaten, “Stay in this downtime too long and you might never go back to hard work, to accomplishing anything, to being on track.”
“If we rest, listen to our bodies, steep in replenishment and simple pleasures, will we ever contribute anything of value again? Will we create and work hard again? “Yes. Absolutely. “If we rest, listen to our bodies, steep in replenishment and simple pleasures, will we ever go back to working out of martyrdom, self-betrayal, and over-busyness again? “Maybe not.
“Tasting something different, we might not ever be willing to work in our old ways again. “That little voice in our heads warning “rest and you might never get back on track” isn’t just irrational; it is afraid of a real change (emphasis is mine) that might come if we restore, slow down, replenish. We might discover some other way to work, to be – one that gives far less power over to the inner taskmaster.”
“. . . Listening to their bodies, women feel more of their joy and start to build lives more around joy than around consumerism and striving.
“Our rest and our pleasure weave into the fabric of what we create. There is no separation between how we replenish and what we then extend outward. “Most of us were raised on the myth that striving is required, day after day, to make a real contribution to the world, to accomplish anything. Put another way, most of us were taught that good work always comes out of hard work. This idea is so foundational for many of us that we hardly notice it.
“They have forgotten entirely . . . about the incredible work we create – not out of toil – but out of improvisation, play, and self-trust.
“That what we create out of a spirit of play, more than out of striving, creates value. That our heartfelt, lived experiences can be translated into art or innovations or services that have tremendous impact.
“This alternative story is very scary to consider (emphasis is mine) because if it’s true, that means a lot of our toil was unnecessary. . .
“We can find a whole new way of being a creative, contributing woman in the world – one who contributes not in spite of her rest, downtimes, and body rhythms, but because of them. “If the culture had imparted to us that our rest and pleasure were the allies to our impact and achievement, it would have raised legions of women who drank up pleasure and breathed in enoughness and who didn’t ever attempt to cut up or cut off any part of themselves. “But our culture was not ready for women like that. So instead, it guided us to our treadmills. Ready, start, run. “Maybe now more than ever, it matters that we step away from our treadmills. “Many of us find ourselves in a downtime we didn’t design or desire. But we can still choose whether to fill it with false busyness, to be run by an inner taskmaster who fears slowing down – or instead to lean into what calls us now: what kind of restoration, what sustenances, what seeds of curiosity?”
As I’ve said in my previous blogs, I see this downtime or quarantine experience as a “corona chrysalis” in which we have the opportunity to transform ourselves and our culture, both individually and collectively. None of us have any idea how that transformation will actually feel, look, or be for us as we go through it. We can’t know. It’s not possible to know, predict or control, because it’s an organic process that we are all co-creating as we go.
This is one way transformation might look as we transform ourselves and our culture to being “cultural butterflies”. It involves new way(s) of being, out of which come new “doings”, or perhaps the same “doings” but with a different energy, attitude, focus, orientation, purpose, and result. This is the real “hero’s journey”, and it is an “inside job.”
As I see it, this transformation is about birthing and unfolding the emerging culture of heart-based connection, kindness, generosity, harmony, cooperation, humility, and reverence for all of life into full expression. This will occur as we bring the both authentic, deep, radiant, healthy feminine and masculine energies into full embodiment and co-creation for abundant life and well-being in our lives and our world.
Not a small calling or opportunity! Are we up for this? Care to join me on this journey?