Certainly the most crucial
step toward personal sovereignty is to know our Selves.
After all our years as mothers and others, we need to reestablish
who we are as individuals, separate and distinct from our
relationships with those around us. Who am I if I am not
a mother, a daughter, a lover, a wife, a friend, a partner,
a teacher, a student, a boss, or an employee? Who am I if
I am not associated with some undertaking, enterprise, creation,
project, product, or service? Who am I, in fact, if I just
am? As I live and breathe? And how do I feel about it? For
these answers and the answers to all of life’s questions,
we must look into our heart and allow ourselves to feel
our feelings, to own and embrace them for the wisdom that
they convey. Marion Woodman, the Jungian analyst, writer,
and specialist in feminine development research, calls this
process, “coming home to ourselves.”
Soul searching, like the
practice of any devotion, requires solitude, quiet, and
quality time. But life is hectic and our inner needs have
often been relegated to the bottom of our endless to-do
lists, our dreams and desires deferred, left on the back
burner to simmer. Over a hundred years ago, Florence Nightingale
observed, “Women never have a half-hour in all their
lives (excepting before or after anybody is up in the house)
that they can call their own, without fear of offending
or of hurting someone. Why do people sit up so late, or,
more rarely, get up so early? Not because the day is not
long enough, but because they have no time in the day to
themselves." If our intention is to know ourselves
and to grow our power, we require dependable periods of
uninterrupted time and inviolate space that we can call
our own, a protected seclusion conducive to our sacred Self-communion.
Seclusion is withdrawal
on all levels. It means separating our identity not only
from other people, but also from outwardly dictated and
directed activity as well. Sometimes it is necessary to
step back a few paces from our bustling lives, stop racing
around, and just slow down so that we can absorb and process
our experiences. In a culture that defines itself in terms
of clocks and dollars and duty, it is difficult to allow
ourselves to claim the time and mental space to devote to
an occupation that results in no visible product. Non-product,
however, and nonproductive are definitely not the same thing.
Down time is not negative. It is not not doing something.
What we are doing when we jump off of the treadmill is resting,
reflecting, ruminating, regenerating, rejoicing, and opening
to the myriad ways of receiving the reassurance and guidance
that we need.
When we carve out
a niche in our busy lives to do the sorts of things that
feed our soul, we are affirming our self worth, acknowledging
that we crave and deserve our own undivided attention. When
we claim the psychic space and set aside the personal time
to pursue the knowledge and mastery of our Self —
when we assume the entitlement, the ability, and the authority
to do so — we are able to access and transform our
perceptions, our perspectives, our experience, our expectations,
and, in the process, our entire reality. By taking the time,
by taking our time, we bless ourselves with true devotion.
We consecrate our precious lives, and celebrate the continuously
wondrous miracle of the unfolding of our Selves.
Sacred Seclusion enables us to know, own, and honor ourselves
as unique, individual entities. To admit our abilities and
limitations, our talents and truculence on the physical,
mental, emotional, and spiritual planes, and to love ourselves
with compassion and no judgment attached. A practice of
solitude and separation — be it occasional, frequent,
or constant — teaches us that we do not need the approval
or permission of any outside source to validate our personal
experience or emotions. In knowing who we are, we are empowering
ourselves to know what we know and feel what we feel.
The Queen Suggests...
A Day in Bed
For years, I have
been practicing a Ceremony of Seclusion for myself that
I call my Day in Bed Ritual. There will simply come a day
— I never predict which day — when I wake up
knowing that today is my Day in Bed. I know with a deep
knowing that if I don’t lie down, I will fall down,
collapse under the strain. I do not feel sick, mind you,
just out of steam. In my mind, this is not a sick day, but
rather, a Well Day, a day to devote to my own inner needs.
Over time, I have learned not to fight this overwhelming
laziness. I gladly give in and let go of my goals.
I get up long enough
to make a cup of tea and bring it back to bed with me, where
I stay for the next 24 hours. Oh, I get up periodically
to pee and drink and muster up something to eat, but after
each brief foray, I return to bed to spend the day blissfully
quiet and alone. I read. I nap. I spend time with my journal,
write a letter or list or two. I masturbate. I read. I nap.
I luxuriate in doing nothing. I imagine myself to be Elizabeth
Barrett Browning or Colette or some other fabulously romantic
invalid writer propped up on a throne of pillows, her devoted
dog or cat nestled in the covers at her feet.
These short periods
of respite and regeneration work remarkably well to keep
me cool, centered, and balanced. And best of all, I rarely