Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Tend and Befriend Magdalene

Lifelong Healing

The Tend and Befriend Magdalene Response

When I read about Joan Norton's Magdalene Circle radio broadcast on "The Weeping Magdalene," I  was struck by the wisdom that weeping connects us to wholeness and harmony.

At first, I thought that weeping in times of challenge and crisis, like Mary Magdalene did, must cause the goddess-in-our-cells to release the tend and befriend harmonizing hormone oxytocin.

A closer look showed I was half-right:  While weeping does not produce oxytocin, it does remove its opposite, the fight or flight adreno-cortisol hormone from our blood. And this clears the way for a tend and befriend response by the parasympathetic nervous system.

The  parasympathetic nervous system is located in the brain stem, called the "old brain" by some. This  nervous system has to do with emotions, is felt in the body -- often in the stomach -- and produces the hormone oxytocin.

Oxytocin is sometimes called the birth hormone because it is released during childbirth. It is also produced during breastfeeding, hugging, cuddling, and all kinds of intimacy. It causes us to tend and befriend ourselves and others, especially in times of crisis.

Many sources say that as we women evolved, we developed the tend and befriend response as we reacted differently to threats than men did. The masculine fight or flight reaction, which dumps adrenalin and cortisol  into the body, didn't work for women -- then or now -- because we women could not fight or flee when we had small children, oldsters, heart-life, and hearths to care for.

Interestingly, men evolved so that their bodies process and eliminate adrenalin and cortisol much more rapidly than women's bodies do.  Since adreno-cortisol can cause all kinds of health problems  from diabetes to heart disease, getting rid of it fast is important.

Because we women can't discharge adreno-cortisol quickly, we're much better off if we don't go into the fight or flight response when we encounter non-life-threatening challenges in our daily life.

On the other hand, adrenalin and cortisol work well for men in daily life. These hormones allow men to be successful warriors every day in a business environment they created "in their own image" and that fits their biology, not women's.

Knowing this, women are beginning to experiment with consciously bypassing the fight or flight response and going into the tend and befriend response. I connect this tend and befriend response with qualities of the Goddess and with Mary Magdalene as the "Goddess in the Gospels." 

Fortunately, if we women find ourselves overcome by stress and unable to bypass the fight or flight response, then weeping can restore balance. Weeping is purposeful crying.

Researchers, including William H. Frey II, a biochemist at the University of Minnesota, report that crying eliminates stress hormones, specifically, the flight or fight adrenocorticotropic hormones. He reports that women cry more easily than men and five times more often. It seems that women are hard-wired to cry often because our bodies need to release toxins that men's bodies generally release in other ways.

The process for women to manage stress well and to be in harmony with the goddess-in-the-cells may be twofold:
  • Learn to activate the oxytocin/tend and befriend response before flight or flight takes over.  We can do this by taking a few conscious breaths and asking for this response, by meditating, by praying, or by creating a connection to the inner goddess in some other manner.
  • Alternately, if we women are overcome by stress, we can allow ourselves, like Mary Magdalene, to have the natural response of crying, which releases the stress hormones from our bodies.
The Goddess Earth Mother has also given us several plants, whose essential oils help release and sustain the oxytocin response in women. They include sandalwood, myrrh, cedarwood, and possibly frankincense. These oils activate the parasympathetic nervous system along with the limbic system, which some scientists say will counteract the fight or flight response.

Sources:  Dr. Ellie Drake, who founded Braveheart Women, a social network for women.
                 THE FEMALE BRAIN by Dr. Louann Brizendine, M.D.

The Temple of the Body

Lifelong Healing

We all know now that when the patriarchy thundered through Europe with the fiery death-dealing machinery of the inquisition, the Goddess was attacked. She, who had arisen again through Mary Magdalene and was ready to rise in everyone, was attacked where She resided -- in the human body, and mostly in the female human body.

The formal machinery of the inquisition lasted from the twelfth through the early nineteenth century, and its cultural and psychological legacy continues today. To protect those who held her form in the feminine lines of our bodies, the Goddess hid her vibration so well that even we – whose cells were her chalices – did not know where she went.

Some said she was hidden in the moon.

Others claimed she was hidden in the land, in the wild cry of the hawk, in the deep, silent presence of a pine grove, or in the sudden rainstorm, for they experienced her there.

Like many, without knowing for whom I searched, I found the Goddess, lost her, and found her again many times and in many places during my life.

Most recently I found Her hidden

in a coming-of-age conversation my guardian aunt had with me fifty years ago.

“Your body is a temple. It is the dwelling place of God,” my aunt told me. “And sex is beautiful when God is present in the bonds of marriage. But sex is awful, ugly, and sinful without God’s blessing. You’ll get pregnant and shame yourself and your family and your child. And you’ll go to hell for it, and don’t you believe you won’t suffer these dire consequences. Because you will.”

It was 1959. I was eleven.

God was a great big white man who called the shots from on high, so I did not tell my guardian aunt that my older brother and I had been having sex from the time I was seven. Or before then that my father, her brother, had abused me as a baby, as I later learned, he had abused her, too.

I listened to her speech, hid my shame from her, and lived and breathed and acted like a virgin. I knew she would disown me if she knew my secret, and I would be homeless in the land of the fathers, who clearly could do what they pleased.

I believe now that the ritual coming-of-age talk, though usurped by the patriarchy and twisted to serve it, held the barely audible whispers of the Divine Feminine. Across the decades, those whispers tutored my unconscious about my divine nature and warned me that I would be misused by men, empowered and degraded by the patriarchy.

Here’s how the "talk" informed me of my nature and warned me of this misuse:

“Your body is a temple. It is the dwelling place of God,” my aunt told me. “And sex is beautiful when God is present in the bonds of marriage."

Our women’s bodies are natural receivers as well as transformers. That’s how we are built. We receive higher vibrations or lower vibrations and transmute the lower energies into higher ones and the higher into lower through our chakras to keep the balance between body, mind, and spirit. And that’s what natural or constructed temples do. This transformer effect is always operating. During sex, this effect is heightened.

"But sex is awful, ugly, and sinful without God’s blessing."

The patriarchy captures our women’s bodies while it conditions our hearts to be open constantly to men. In a patriarchy, we women often receive and transform the lower vibrations for our fathers, brothers, nephews, or rulers.

And abused, hyper-vigilant women, like me, often keep our awareness focused on men’s more destructive vibrations to clear them and thereby, protect us from abuse. Because we are always monitoring our situations to see if we are safe and using our energies to clear or appease our abusers, we have little left to live authentic creative lives.

"And you’ll go to hell for it. . . "

Conditioned by the patriarchy, we clear men who come into our presence. Unless we know what we are doing, we take on their negative energies.

Sometimes we also use the transforming power of our presence to clear destructive vibrations on a social or political level where our actions are seen as “service.” If this work is unconscious, it is dangerous to us women. For we not only clear the negative, we also take on the imbalances unless we know how to discharge them.

". . .and don’t you believe you won’t suffer these dire consequences. Because you will."

This process debilitates and destroys our bodies, causing sickness. Taking on this negative energy creates a personal hell because it cuts us off from our true selves, our souls.

Here’s what I have come to understand about my Body-the-Temple:

• The Divine Feminine, the Goddess, is in every cell of our feminine bodies (and in the cells of loving men).
• The Divine Feminine balances the body, balances the being, so that each of us can live harmoniously in the world with all other beings.
• She balances us vibrationally through our energy centers, the chakras.
• She balances us “chemically” through our endocrine system, for each endocrine gland is governed by one of the body’s chakras.
• When we are balanced, we are in harmony with the Divine within us, and our very presence can balance others.
• Sometimes we do this unconsciously.
• Other times, we knowingly say or do the things to balance or offset the negative energy of those we encounter.

Vibrationally speaking, here’s what happens during sex:

• Our vibrational energy increases as our chakras are stimulated during sex.
• These centers or vortexes open and turn more energetically and connect with those of our partner.
• A woman’s body is a receptor. As the partner, who has the intention to penetrate, enters it physically, he also enters it energetically through the chakras. Gender doesn’t dictate this. Intention does.

Here’s what I have learned about how my woman’s body, my Body-as-Temple, functions on the vibrational level during intercourse, a time when the transformer effect is heightened. I learned this by using a pendulum before and after intercourse.

• I used the pendulum to map the direction and openness of my chakras and my partner’s chakras before intercourse.
• As a Healing Touch practitioner and aromatherapist, I knew how to balance my chakras and did this regularly. So, not surprisingly, my chakras showed a balanced pattern: they moved clockwise, had medium spin, and equal diameters of about 3 inches.
• Some of my partner’s chakras moved clockwise; some moved counterclockwise; some were still. Some were 3 inches in diameter; some were only one inch in diameter. I wrote down the pattern.
• After intercourse, I used my pendulum again and mapped the chakras.
• My partner’s chakras were open and balanced, mirroring my pre-sex balanced pattern.
• My chakras mirrored his pre-sex chakra unbalanced pattern!

I had taken on his imbalances and balanced him. I believe this is how my woman’s body was created to function. But I also believe that in a culture where the Divine Feminine is honored in the male and female, that all men would learn to balance themselves without using our bodies to do it. Even now, our individual partners can learn to balance themselves if they are loving and conscious.

But this transformer effect is always present, even around strangers. It is simply heightened during sex. So, in this culture women’s bodies are always at risk of being used – consciously or unconsciously, physically or vibrationally -- by others to clear and balance themselves.

What, then, can we women do to re-balance our bodies, so we don’t hold the negative energies of others?

• I return to the Mother through nature, and she re-balances me.
• I engage in healing modalities like Reiki and Healing Touch, among others, to rebalance myself.
• I find aromatherapy – especially sandalwood, cedarwood, or myrrh – rebalances me by activating my limbic system and producing the balancing feminine hormone ocytocin.
• Most recently, I re-imagine the coming-of-age “talk” as an artifact of a ritual prayer that once opened women to the Divine Feminine within our cells and let its original power speak to my soul.

Here’s my inner recovered text of what I believe was an original ritual initiation prayer:

My body is a temple. It is the dwelling place of Goddess. I am in sacred union with the Goddess who is present in each of my cells, and anyone who comes into my presence will experience her power. From this sacred union will come offspring that will be blessings to all others and me because they come from the Divine temple that I am and that protects and balances me. Always.