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Adrienne Rich Tag


eva“You can’t do sweatpants. Ladies, number one cause of divorce in America, sweatpants, no!” This statement apparently “went viral”, or so the friend who tossed this scanty frivolity across cyberspace into my inbox explained. And the purveyor of this relationship advice? Celebrity Eva Mendes. Unmarried. And presumably wearing sweatpants.

My friend was intrigued. Did this mean women who wear sweatpants “let themselves go? And if so, do women who wear sweatpants deserve to lose their husbands?”

It was this conundrum to wear or not to wear sweatpants that got me thinking today. Not about how the media and social networking sites send our serotonin plummeting. Not about the millions of women on this planet who either cannot afford to buy sweatpants or those who are forbidden to wear them. I thought about how we spend our whole lives in search of our uniqueness and yet as little girls we begin to lop off, dislocate, hide away those parts of ourselves that are different. I thought about how we hard we try to conform.

We talk so glibly about being “goddesses”. The pretty ones with long blonde hair. Not those with ravaged faces and hair as tangled as a mango pip.woman driving We talk so glibly about women empowering other women. Yet around boardroom tables, in our schools and universities, in the shaded streets of suburbia and amidst the ceaseless chatter of social networking sites we criticise, complain, control and compare.

We’re hardwired to compare. In western culture this primitive survival default has evolved into competitive comparison. We are initiated in our families of origin by the voices of others who say we are too loud or too big or too greedy. We are told that we must try harder to be more, do more. We endure what Tara Brach calls the “hell realms” of schooling. We learn how to look, how to succeed in certain prescribed ways in order to “fit in”.

As adults we enter the portals of “hell realms” that require us to have certain credentials, to behave in ways that conform to group or company culture. We imbibe injunctions from the world around us and move through our lives in what Tara Brach calls this “Trance of Unworthiness”.

Poet Adrienne Rich once wrote, “Until we know the assumptions in which we are drenched, we cannot know ourselves.”


bookOur quest for self-improvement leaves us with an insatiable thirst. We criticise, second-guess, don’t dare to question, to ask ourselves, is this True – for me?

Control. It’s something we are taught early. Our bladders, our anger, our hunger, our fear, our desires… we wrestle with the animal instincts of our bodies, we tame our appetites, we harden the soft roundness of our bellies, flatten ourselves against the struggle of life. We want to belong, so they like us. We try hard, so very hard. And we give it all away.

Author and philosopher, Sam Keen warns, “think of these signs as similar to the warning label on a cigarette package. Caution: these practices may be hazardous to your spiritual heath.”

swan maiden

Most forms of psychotherapy suggest that change is slow and often painful. That it may take us years of silent struggle to untangle the twisted roots of shame and self-loathing that reach through the bleached bones of our ancestors. That we are enslaved by our genetic inheritance.

And yet neuroscience suggests we are growing new neural pathways, re-wiring our brains, continually. We have the ability to visualise outcomes. Change limiting beliefs (and remember that no-one has forced us to believe what hamstrings our joyous movement through life) and chose new beliefs, new stories about our past, our present. Our imaginations are universes of infinite possibility. Metaphysics suggests that change can occur quickly if we revel and delight in the changing circumstances of our lives and befriend our beliefs with kindness and gentleness. If we act “out of character” and embrace our impulses, act as if our beliefs were true in the here and now. Any mantra or affirmation that makes us feel calm and at peace, any thought that feels like an opportunity to learn or experience something new. So, as we journey down this river of life, we dip our school-shaped, society-sculpted oars into the ambiguity of our humanness… perhaps we will see our own reflection and gasp at our own unique magnificence – in sweatpants.



With thanks to Nedra Fetterman for sending me the link to Colbie Caillat’s – Try


Thank You

tyra Nur Athirah girl in snowIt is the hardest thing. To give something up. To surrender. A cherished dream. A job. A relationship. A habit, a belief an addiction.

There are places, in the remnants of the vast forests that flourished in South-East Asia, where monkeys are hunted for food. Paw-sized holes are cut in coconuts and filled with rice or nuts before securing them to a tree. When the monkey reaches into the hollow of the coconut and grasps the food, it cannot remove its clenched fist because the opening is so small . So it stays there. Trapped. Holding onto the nuts or rice, waiting for death. Just like those monkeys in the shrinking forests, we hold on to what traps us, unwilling to let go. We hold onto our sorrow, our anger, the self-flagellating pleasures of guilt. We hold on to our need to be right. The acrimonious divorce, the family feud that force-feeds each new generation with the bitterness of hatred, the darkness of war that slices up territory, bodies, hearts – all kept ablaze by fists clenched tightly.When we are over-invested in an object, a relationship, an outcome, we clog the circuits, get overbearing, clench into fear, until chaos leaps and licks around the edges of our lives.

Crisis is a wonderful opportunity to surrender. We may have to bow our heads as we’re caught in the vortex of a crisis that pulverises our bones. As Marianne Woodman says, “In fateful crises, we may really have no choice.” The dice rolls and we have to accept things just as they are. And in defeat we accept what needs action and what requires a shift in attitude. We reconcile the irreconcilable.  Honesty unblocks energy, energises the body and the mind. “Everything that occurs is not only usable and workable but it is actually the path itself. We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up,” says Pema Chödrön.

Surrender.  From Old French, surrendre, to deliver over. To give up. To yield is to trust, to accept what is, not what should be. Yet to surrender implies we make a conscious choice.

For so many of us, the days, weeks, months and the years of our lives are cling-wrapped and placed in boxes labelled with “shoulds” and “musts”. Control freezes the life blood in our veins, stiffens our limbs, Botoxes the natural beauty of our faces. Spontaneity and playfulness are stored in the attic, with the toys of our childhood. smiling-girl_Photograph by Catherine WhitfordWe plan our days, pencil in meetings with our friends, and pack our weeks with activities and to-do lists.

Perhaps today, slow down to allow a driver to pull in front of you or step back to let someone go before you in a queue. Surrender to the sensual enjoyment of slowing down enough to be present as you eat a meal, sip a glass of wine, savour the sweet creaminess of an ice-cream. Surrender to the exquisite delight of orgasm, the dankness of grief, or the red balloon of laughter, the languid pleasure of an afternoon sleep. Surrender, under this heavy eye of the new moon to being fully present to touch, to taste, to the breath that breaths you. E e Cummings knew the surrender of the kiss when he wrote, “since feeling comes first, he who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you.” And Adrienne Rich knew surrender of touch when she wrote, “When we enter touch, we enter touch. Completely.”  So on this day of the new moon, plant a seed of a new intention. Trust the integrity of this precious moment. Be present for yourself, for the person you’re with today. Flow with what is, to the newly minted moment…

Kissing-Sailor-And-Midway-Peter-KapasakisThank You Alanis Morissette

Photography by Tyra Nur Athirah, Catherine Whitford and Peter Kapasakis