Most of us were never taught the sacred art of relationship and intimacy.
Instead we are thrown into a fast-flowing current of romantic relationships at puberty, a time when our identities are still fluid, and we’re exploring not only who we are, but the nature of the world around us.
Our dominant Western culture doesn’t value the teachings to show us how deeply we belong to ourselves, to the natural world around us. So by the time we reach puberty many of us ache with un-belonging, with a sense of lostness. And then we are offered so much to fill that gaping hole.
We are bombarded with messages about how ‘love’ should look, how we should look and behave to attract a mate. We are urged to buy products to ensure we fit in, or stand out in just the right way.
Our world reflects back values that are not at all rooted in the sacred. If we get any messages at all from those who should be our elders, those messages may be tinged with judgment or fear or prejudice carried down through generations.
So it’s no wonder, as we grow into adulthood and find partners, that even the most loving relationship begins to falter under pressure. Often couples don’t know where to turn, and sometimes there’s a resistance even to seek help, as if that were somehow to admit failure, a fall from grace.
What a relief it is when we can step out of believing that we have to do it all ourselves – that we have to have the perfect relationship, be the perfect partner, have the perfect children – and all without calling in anyone to share and help and support us!
Sobonfu Some, the African author, teacher and activist who sadly died in 2017, had these powerful words to share with us, to support us to reset our relationships in a sacred context, held within a greater family and community.
“Intimacy in general terms is a song of spirit inviting two people to come and share their spirit together. It is a song that no one can resist. We hear it while awake or sleeping, in community or alone. We cannot ignore it… Two people come together because spirit wants them together.
What is important now is to look at the relationship as spirit-driven, instead of driven by the individual… Once a relationship is taken out of its spiritual context, it faces many dangers. A deep disconnection is created, not only on the spiritual plane, but also at the personal level…Sobonfu Some
So relationship becomes a crucible for the workings of Spirit through us. We are taken, with this understanding, out of our narrow individualistic perspectives, into a vaster field of possibilities.
We can let go. We can begin to learn to trust one another, in a new way that allows our hearts to be revealed to each other.
We were never meant to do this alone. In other cultures that have retained their ancestral practices and traditions, a couple is offered the support of the village, through ritual, practical support, ceremony and the listening ears of many elders.
It’s time to recreate our villages, here in our culture. To remember our relationships as sacred and to honour each other as mirrors of the divine.
In our work with couples, we are guided by the 11 Gateways to Intimacy. These act as a framework within which we can find a map to navigate the problems which so often come up in intimate relationship.
Whether in a weekend like Intimate Love, or a yearlong training like Garden of Love, this map proves valuable time and again to couples who come at all stages of their relationship.
Creating time specifically for tending the relationship. Not watching tv together or doing practical stasks but time to simply BE together without everyday life distractions. Couples often say “but life is too busy for being” – It is like tending to our garden – without watering, the flowers will die and without regular weeding, they take over.
Relating from our centre and caretaking our own inner young places of hurt . This is the foundation stone for optimum relating. When we connect with our partner from a place of loving kindness towards ourselves so much more love is possible together. For many reasons we might struggle in loving ourselves or get affected by our partners actions or words and lose touch with ourselves.
A lot of couples get stuck here, one seemingly speaking Italian and the other Japanese and getting lost in translation. The ability to truly hear each other and speak with an honest open heart that is in the service of love is soul food. Both for moving through conflict as well as for being able to express needs and for meeting our partners needs from love and choice rather than shoulds or ‘deals’.
Expressing gratitude with each other on a regular basis, especially if there has been a drought. Expressing the little things day to day that we appreciate about our partner or ourselves is food for the heart. Remembering the good stuff and why we are in relationship rather than focusing on the ‘problems’ helps keep our hearts open even with the hurts.
Emotional maturity and intelligence
Conscious mature emotional expression is healthy and natural and keeps the energy open and flowing in our bodies, hearts and minds. Pent up emotions are like damming up a river. Toxic emotions destroys intimacy. Learning to express our emotions beyond blaming our partner or ourselves keeps the relationship alive and brings a vulnerable open intimacy.
Taking the risk to express to our partner our ‘undefended self’ creates trust and a deeper field of love. Choosing to show the parts of ourselves that we believe will be judged or rejected is profoundly healing both on a personal level as well as serving to deepen the heart connection together.
Non sexual loving touch
Physical affection and tender loving touch that does not have a sexual agenda creates safety and trust and can sometimes speak louder than words.
Expressing Love through the body and our sexual flow of energy. Going beyond sex as obligation, or using it as a stress management tool, or avoidance of deeper intimacy. Sacred sexuality is a true meeting of Love and Freedom and when this is experienced between you it can transform the whole relationship.
Remembering our playfulness and innocence is vital. To delight in the wonder and miracle of life through the eyes and heart of the magical child inside of us bring a softness and creative connection to the relationship.
The relationship is something Sacred, a sense that you are held by something more than each of you at the level of your humanity and that reminds you of your essential state of Grace. This is specially helpful to in times of difficulty and hurt.
Culturally we have been taught to keep quiet about our relationship struggles and pretend to the world that all is OK. We end up feeling shame and a sense of failure if things are not perfect. We tend to try to sort the problems out alone or ignore them and hope they go away. Rarely do either of these methods work. Having support either with someone professional or good honest friends you trust is a wise and mature act of care for the relationship. This also transforms the personal as well as collective shame that we carry about feelings of failure. It helps to transform not only our own relationship but in the collective field as we discover we are not the only one’s experience these struggles. So take a leap and see if any of the options below could meet your need for support.Qu
The creation myths of our own lands, the ones that still are told in Scotland of the Cailleach for example, are signposts to our indigenous knowing, where women were the holders of such power that they literally created mountains, lakes and whirlpools. They were not meekly waiting in the sidelines for a hero to rescue them, instead they embodied the raw might of love, rage and passion.
Kings derived their entitlement to rule from the goddess of the land, in annual rites his oath to uphold and protect the land would be heard and the goddess petitioned for her gifts to support him in his role. There was a balance, and a harmony in that relationship that has been disrupted by patriarchy for centuries. In the wake of that disruption we have all, men and women, been uprooted.
We find ourselves in a wasteland, haunted by a sense of being lost, having lost something precious. These myths are signposts in that wasteland, a trail that can lead our souls back home. The trail can lead us back into more balanced intimate relationships, as it can lead us collectively back into harmony with nature and mend the terrible disconnection from which comes so much destruction and poisoning of our land, air and water.
We not only have a heritage in these lands of deep beauty and wisdom, we have a role to play in these times. For women to draw inspiration and strength from our own indigenous tales is to support our stepping out into the world with all of ourselves, hiding nothing, and in full radiance, with the roar of our rage and the howl of our passion on the winds.
Art by Joshua Mays
As the news features Extinction Rebellion, Climate Strike and more, I see a rising tide of longing to actively resist the damage wrought by our society.
Yet sometimes just ‘surviving’ feels like all we can do.
The truth is that we live in a culture that values productivity over quality of life, that teaches disconnection over relationship, speed over true presence to the moment and ‘doing’ over ‘being’.
It’s hard to find the time for ourselves, for what our hearts call us to do.
Women in particular often struggle, as we are taught from an early age to put others’ needs above our own, sometimes even that to speak out about our own needs is unacceptable, somehow. Instead we are praised even as we burn out, as ‘superwomen’, taking charge of a starry career, managing work and family and friendships, juggling and ‘multi-tasking’.
We live in times that call for a deep change in the way we live our lives. Many women have stepped out onto the frontline of direct action and resistance to the damage our culture inflicts on the natural world. And many women are simply trying to put food on the table for their families, struggling with the everyday.
Personal and collective
There is a connection between women’s personal and collective stories. Because when we start to take care of ourselves, we reclaim the spaces that have been colonised by patriarchal culture. We open up and out into a wider field and reclaim the connection with each other that is our birthright. Self-care is a radical, revolutionary habit – and through it we as women find each other again, in our sacred commitment to our own hearts.
As we stop, take a look at the burnout, the isolation, the brutalisation of our own hearts, we can take a breath and commit to something different. Even to taking 5 minutes every day where we simply breathe ourselves back into our own bodies, is a huge step along the path to wellbeing.
As we change our inner landscape, we know that the outer world around us begins to change.
We reclaim our power and our agency, through this simple commitment to self-care. It places relationship to ourselves at the centre of our life, and from that place we can take inspired and sustainable action to create a more beautiful world.
I’m offering a free call for women ‘Bringing Ourselves Home’, on the importance of self-care and the central place of a circle of supportive sisters, because after 2 decades of women’s work, I’ve seen the difference that this makes not only to the women with which i work, but to their families, their communities and their loved ones.
Register your free place here – join us on 5th June at 2pm (there will be a recording if you can’t join us live)
Art by Arna Baartz
Have you ever sat with a dear friend and cried tears that were long held back? Tears that were perhaps sparked by a particular loss, or frustration, but that flow beyond that trigger, tears that wash our hearts through of all the multitude disappointments, misunderstandings, exhaustions, sorrows of daily living?
Our hearts were made for connection this way. When we are lucky enough to count in our circle friends and beloveds who can see and hold us this way, without judgment or the need to ‘fix’, we are blessed. They are those friends who can simply lean into the discomfort and intensity of those feelings with us, holding a hand perhaps or simply offering tissues and tea and a space on their sofa for us to unravel. Their presence in our lives is healing.
A radical choice
In a culture where we are so often taught from an early age to wind up the drawbridge, bolt the gates, present a face that’s unassailable, serene and defended, it is nothing less than an act of revolution to choose to open our hearts in this way. We have an epidemic of loneliness, of mental health challenges – we all know people who are struggling, alone, locked up inside the paradigm of ‘I’m OK’, and we all know that place for ourselves, at least from time to time.
To ‘soldier on’, to ‘buck up’ is a pathological response to pain that shuts it up, buries it deep inside our hearts. Like Pandora’s Box though, those buried pieces of anguish are likely to resurface and wreak havoc from time to time.
That’s why I offer the work of the village, of the circle here at Earthheart. In itself it is powerful medicine. Coming together in community is a new habit for so many of us and perhaps an uncomfortable one at first, as we grow used again to the old ways of offering our hearts up with all their burdens, and all their beauties. Yet the more we do it, the more readily our hearts respond and relieve themselves of the roars of rage, the sobs of grief, the wails of disappointment that we’ve been holding back in an effort to fit in, to not cause a fuss, or simply so that we can keep our heads above water in the whitewater flow of our busy lives.
It is a fundamental human need, this urge to connect and open. The myriad small ways in which our hearts are hurt by the ways in which our society forces us to live, require a simple remedy. Gathering around a fire, around an altar, in a space held with prayer, respect and grace where we agree to listen with all of ourselves and without judgement, is the remedy our ancestors knew and it remains the way of many tribal cultures to this day. It is preventative medicine – a regular opening of the pressure valve in order to prevent a catastrophic build-up. It is a way for humans to open out a little more each time so we can better accommodate the everyday stretch of our lives.
A commitment to our own freedom
Can you find a way to commit to this choice, to find a trusted friend in whose company you can begin to open? To make of that witnessing and sharing a regular practice so that your heart grows used to the exercise and finds its flow once more? Make of it a sacred space and time, as simply as you like, perhaps sharing a meal or tea beforehand, or as elaborately as you wish, creating sacred space and an altar by which to gather.
Let’s remember ourselves as the powerful beings we truly are, when we are no longer constrained by our fear but stretched wide and full and free by love.
I’m always so grateful when people I’ve worked with take time to write to me, or post on their social media about how their lives have shifted since their work with me. The following beautiful words are from Tallie Maughan:
“I have been reflecting recently about how powerful the work of Jewels Wingfield has been to me. It’s easy to forget when you get used to a new normal that once upon a time things were different. I’ve travelled a long way since I was Jewels’ student, but by god/dess did she help me get started. As my teacher she gave me the keys to my sexuality and in doing so I believe she helped midwife everything that has been birthed through me since.
It feels vulnerable to say it so publicly, but I feel that it needs to be said more in our culture: sexuality and authentic
power go hand in hand. Sexual liberation is deeply connected to more freely intuitive modes of being, and that’s where all my own best ‘ideas’ have come from (and I believe that’s why sexuality and personal power have been repressed together in an era that still needs #metoo.)
I am very pleased to see that Jewels is continuing to cut new ground. In the last few years her journey has led her
further into an articulation of an indigenous ancient future, close with the trees, in the heart of the forest. At some point she disappeared through them and sort of dropped out of sight.
Well, she has reemerged from a kind of woodland chrysalis, and her own ‘conscious menopause’ with a new vision, again making tracks through the ancient forest for us all to follow. Now she is offering guidance on menopause and menopausal sexuality as part of our spiritual life.”
Menopause! Sexual Power!
“I almost want to do The Calling now just because, you know, it’s like getting to play games with the older cool kids in school. But I’m not there yet. If you actually are going through menopause and can legitimately participate, and especially if you don’t feel great about it yet, I have a sense this is a course well worth joining.”
Thankful to all the volunteers, like Maitari Simone, over the years who have brought their skills, their commitment, their love to this land in the midst of the forest that nourishes so many!
I’ve been reading so much lately about the interdependence of all life forms. From ecologist Suzanne Simard discovering how trees talk to each other to this evocative article from Andreas Weber who says
“There is only one immutable truth: No being is purely individual; nothing comprises only itself. Everything is composed of foreign cells, foreign symbionts, foreign thoughts. This makes each life-form less like an individual warrior and more like a tiny universe, tumbling extravagantly through life like the fireflies orbiting one in the night.”
We are not born to struggle alone, although in our patriarchal society the values of the warrior, the lone wolf are over-emphasised. There is immense strength to be found in coming together, to share celebration, joy, happiness as well as the more ‘difficult’ passages where we can feel grief or anger that’s overwhelming when faced on our own.
An interview as part of the ‘My Menopause’ series, with Katie Phillips of the School of Self Love