I grew up in the Bible belt, the daughter of an unusually liberal, intellectually curious, social justice-minded Southern Baptist minister. I spent almost as much time in church services, choirs, Bible study groups and dinner table discussions of theology, philosophy, ethics, and church politics as I spent in school on English, math, and history. This childhood immersion in religion gave me an intuitive sense of the Sacred and a deep thirst for spiritual experience.
My mother was an intellectually brilliant woman and an accomplished pianist who felt restless and confined in the housewife role that was standard at the time. She was right in the middle of the “Feminine Mystique” generation that pioneered the modern feminist movement. The underlying cultural assumption while I was growing up was that women basically had to choose between marriage and career.
In the Bible belt culture of that time, the topic of sex was generally avoided as much as possible, except in church youth group classes for adolescents on the social skills needed to navigate resisting hormonal urges. It was understood that marriage was the only appropriate context for sex. Birth control was not widely available—certainly not for unmarried women—and Roe v Wade had not yet happened. Sex was shameful and dangerous unless you were married, but marriage was likely to be a trap in other ways.
Our family moved several times in connection with my father getting his Ph.D. and changing churches every few years. This experience gave me an awareness of the different worlds that people live in and the nuanced differences they express in cultural attitudes and values from place to place.
Between my sophomore and junior years of high school, my father was forced to resign from his church because he was on the “wrong” side of the civil rights issues raging at that time in the South. We moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, where my high school was 98% Jewish. I was suddenly part of a very small, insignificant minority. Most of my friends were North African and Eastern European Jewish refugees who were, like me, somewhat marginal to the mainstream subculture, though for different reasons. This experience gave me both a "front row seat" for the major cultural changes brought about by civil rights movement and further experience with subcultural diversity.
In the late ‘60s, I attended Radcliffe College, the former women’s college of Harvard University. My graduating class was the first to get Harvard diplomas. Since this degree was associated with the men's school, it was “naturally” considered a more prestigious honor for the graduating women. Many of the older 'Cliffies, however, thought the Harvard degree was actually a step down, since Radcliffe was much smaller, and hence more competitive than Harvard.
My college years were a time of almost unprecedented cultural change. The “second wave” feminist revolution, the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, experimentation with drugs, interest in altered states of consciousness, openness to eastern spiritual practices, environmental consciousness, and opposition to the Vietnam war--all gained momentum.
I noticed during the “sexual revolution” that the swinging of the cultural pendulum from repressed sexuality to more sexual “freedom” did not necessarily yield better outcomes. This lifting of the lid on the Pandora’s box of sexuality may have in the long run opened the possibility for deeper consideration of a more life-supporting approach to sexuality in our culture, but to date, little or no deeper knowledge has made it into our mainstream culture to prevent the myriad problems that consequently arose along with the increased sexual “freedoms.”
At Harvard, I majored in Social Relations, an interdisciplinary social sciences degree, focusing mainly on psychology and anthropology. I was especially interested in Jungian psychology, culture, mythology, and archetypes of the collective unconscious.
Tuned to the issues between the sexes and the suffering that disharmony in this area brings, I studied how different cultures manage relationships between the sexes. Looking for cultural universals, I observed how gender roles are defined in different cultures. As a simple example, one cross-cultural study noted that, women in all cultures want to be “beautiful.” However, the specific criteria for beauty could be quite different from culture to culture.
I planned to be a clinical psychologist and eventually specialize as a Jungian analyst. However, my career trajectory changed during my senior year at Harvard, when I started meditating. I noticed many positive changes—more happiness and less stress. As I continued to experience increasingly profound benefits from my meditation practice, I realized I could do a lot more good for a lot more people teaching meditation than practicing clinical psychology. So, a year after my graduation from college, I attended an intensive teacher training program with the master/ teacher who had brought out the technique I was practicing.
There followed about seven years of very intensive work teaching meditation in centers on the east coast, alternating with long meditation courses with my spiritual master. I taught hundreds of people to meditate, gave in-residence intensive courses for meditators, administered one of the major centers on the east coast, and generally enjoyed a deeply satisfying career as a meditation teacher.
In the late 1970s, I worked on Congressional staff in Washington, D.C., on both the personal staff and the Committee staff of a Member of Congress, where I enjoyed an “insider” perspective on the relationship between collective consciousness and the wielding of political power.
After some additional adventures traveling and teaching meditation, I joined a three-year reclusive program for women, with a very long meditation schedule during the day, along with some time for intellectual and artistic activities, physical exercise, and socializing within the group. Though tempted to continue as a “lifer,” it became clear to me that I still wanted a more “worldly” life, including marriage.
When I left this all-women's community, I again experienced some culture shock, finding that most of the women I met back "in the world" were still suffering in their relationships with men. I still wanted a deep, enlightened relationship, and I hoped that my decades of spiritual practice would prepare me for that. As I started exploring relationships to find a mate, I discovered that, even though my perspective may have been broadened in some way, I was still subject to the same relationship issues and vulnerabilities as any other woman.
But with the momentum of desire for marriage and a whirlwind courtship, I fell in love and married a good meditating Canadian man at age 40. We had a beautiful daughter when I was 41, and I spent about 10 years primarily as a wife and mother.
During this time I studied architectural design, working with a team of three other mothers with young daughters to develop economical, ecological, mother-friendly housing for the college campus where we were living.
I also studied life coaching. My deep knowledge of the structure of human life and my experience with holistic design helped me organize and appreciate the appropriate use of the vast array of “coaching tips” and approaches offered by the coach training program I was in. I designed a coaching program to address the specialized needs of visionaries and cultural creatives and developed this into a part-time coaching practice, which I maintained until I got too involved in my own creative work to continue.
When my daughter was older and I was ready to return to a full-time job, I joined a consulting company that specialized in applying an ancient, holistic system of architectural design to present-day housing needs and construction methods. Over an eight-year period, I got extensive experience working on hundreds of projects with many outstanding architects. I was also privileged to attend an intensive in-residence training program with a traditional Vedic architect whose family had been practicing this ancient system for many generations. As I started designing houses using this system and my designs were being built, my architectural design and consulting career blossomed. Clients experienced major positive shifts living in their new homes, and my appreciation for the power of truly holistic "embodiment" deepened.
Unfortunately, my relationship with my husband did not succeed as a marriage, and we were divorced after 17 years of marriage. This further motivated me to continue my search for deeper knowledge and needed shifts in the area of intimate partnership.
In late summer of 2011, I came across Tami Lynne Kent’s beautiful book, Wild Feminine. I tried some of the exercises that Tami said had evolved from her experience as a physical therapist, specializing in women’s pelvic health. I immediately recognized the value of what she was teaching. As I continued my own exploration, more layers of knowledge started revealing themselves to me, based on my meditation experience and related knowledge, attunement to cultural issues, Qi Gong training, etc.
I also started gathering more knowledge on the “outside.” I attended a workshop on Mayan Abdominal Therapy and learned about the attention and priority given to care of the womb and women's reproductive systems among indigenous people. I researched the latest findings on women’s sexual health issues, studying different and sometime controversial approaches to strengthening the pelvic floor, preventing and addressing organ prolapse, and a variety of other issues.
Valuable “pieces of the puzzle” kept showing up with reliable synchronicity, displacing or fitting into the knowledge I already had. As my holistic design instincts kicked in and the structure and content of the workshop unfolded, I realized that I had a truly holistic and multidimensional approach to women's health and self-care. Giving the workshop and getting feedback from the women who attended, I further realized that this was a very powerful and strategic leverage point for deep healing for women--for the empowerment of women and the feminine aspect of life that is so desperately needed in our world today.
When I was first considering whether to "go public" with what eventually became the WholeBodyGoddess workshop, I hesitated to bring this private, delicate, subtle knowledge out to share with a wider group of women. It deals with the reproductive system, and this field is so personal, complex, and generally overrun with ignorance in our culture that I hesitated to address it.
However, it seemed that every time I considered not going ahead, I would turn on my car radio or look at the news. There was always a story or article about violence against women, rape being used as a weapon of war, yet another revelation about the sex scandals and coverups bringing down the Catholic church, a sex scandal afflicting one or another political, religious, or spiritual leader, an article about rampant sex trafficking in one or another place around the world, an article about the youth hookup culture, the current predominance of out-of-wedlock births, innumerable examples of corporations valuing profits above protection of life and health, stories about degradation of the environment, and on and on and on.
The common thread
running through these phenomena seemed to be underdeveloped appreciation for
women and the feminine aspect of Life and extreme dysfunction in relationships
between the sexes. I realized I could
not turn my back on the WholeBodyGoddess work. And, of course, it is obvious on every level that the female body is the "original home" of every human being born on earth.
I thank my pioneering “sisters” who have participated in the workshop over the past couple of years, given me feedback or other clues for further refinement, and encouraged me to continue. I am looking forward to meeting other members of my “tribe” and enjoying the process of enriching our multidimensional health and deepening our capacity to nourish and protect our world together.