I was born in Afrika, in Angola, and one and a half years ago, in February of 2022, I went to live for some time in Zimbabwe, being the first time in 50 years that I returned to my birth continent. I deeply bowed to my ancestors, whom I felt singing and dancing, as we do when our children return from a long, very long journey. My father was Portuguese, my mother is Angolan, and from my mother’s lineage, the myth that has been told through generations is that we descend from the iconic Queen Ginga of the Ambundu Kingdoms of Ndongo in the 16th and 17th centuries. From this very same ancestry, I certainly also descend from slaves and slavers. Not an easy union to reconcile within one's own soul.
Slaves and slavers, ancestors from Africa and Europe, queens and peasants, all steaming under the surface of consciousness in a boiling pot of grief, imprisonment, violence, and powerlessness. But also of passion, rhythm, instinct, rootedness, strength, and relentless hope.
Engaging in this alchemy of the psyche, this inner boiling pot, is not always for the faint of heart, but it is a fundamental process for evolution. It has taken a lot of personal work, patience, and resilience, and it has also helped a lot that I have devoting the last 20 years of my life to studying, researching, and writing about the conscious feminine. I teach and learn that the feminine is the 4 P's: process, paradox, presence, and pleasure. For instance, process is a feminine value, and product, the final result, is a masculine standpoint. Both women and men integrate the two polarities, of course. And by "feminine," I don’t mean gender, "preferred identity," or the chromosomes, hormones, features and modalities that are biologically specific and predominant from/in each sex. I mean the "Yin" (the Chinese word used for millennia) feminine characteristics present in every human being, such as receptivity, emotions, an inclination towards relationships, and the nurturance of inner life. The sun and the moon are ancient metaphors for these two complementary modalities present in both sexes, being the solar disc representation of our Yang, or so-called masculine polarity: our orientation to action, ideas, and ideals.
So, returning to my inner boiling pot, I had the sunny, hot beaches of Angola and the high, snowy mountains of northern mainland Portugal to reunite with myself. But don’t we all do? We all need to reconcile our opposites, our saints and our demons, our brightest endeavors and our dark nights of the soul. To a lesser or greater degree, we all have to reconcile several pairs of paradoxes in our human condition. Hard task that demands being awakened and the courage to start to accept the stand point we are at, right here, right now, no matter how difficult it may be. So, this is the first P that defines the conscious feminine: paradox. Embracing paradox is a key to peace. The feminine is master here because of its cyclical nature—the menstruation cycle mirrors the moon's and this is a matrix of our psyche: when we are in a new moon-pre-period mood, we are secretive, inner-oriented, not available, even rough, and very sensitive. When the tide changes, we turn into a full moon-ovulation state of mind: we are gloriously opened, willingfully engaged, and pleasurably blossoming.
The feminine wisdom embraces the full circle: 360 degrees of the elliptical of life. We need not remind ourselves that this means all angles of Eros and Thanatos, life and death, to have and to let go. And do not mistake this capacity for embracing paradoxes with weakness; on the contrary. Remember that in the inevitable moments of chaos, confusion, and difficulty, the capacity to bring together and draw the best out of all parties, movements, and factions is the hardest job and the most precious talent. Embracing paradox is the feminine value that teaches we can be very different and coexist peacefully, enriched by the complexities each other brings to the table. This may seem like a nice thing to say, but it is not very poetic when in a warlike situation. Or when women worldwide still endure paramount difficulties in their daily lives. But it is this very same capacity to embrace the paradox that keeps us alive!
And this is also an excellent key to a world so shaped by greedy love for power yet so inexperienced in embracing the paradox that teaches us to let go, to release, and to give away.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am afraid Shakespeare was wrong: "It is not to be or not to be." The question is: to be or not to be? We are what we know about ourselves and what we carry unconsciously. So, paradox teaches us to build bridges between opposites and complements, helping us come to terms with very different views of the world, whether inside us or in the international relations arena.
I recently visited Robben Island, the island/prison where Nelson Mandela was held captive for almost 28 years. The island had been a "human garbage can": lepers, paupers, and the mentally ill had been dumped there like waste for centuries. Life always brings us living metaphors for our own evolution. So as a worker of psychology and the human shadow, I knew that participating on that tour/pilgrimage meant looking at my own inner outsiders, my unexpressed selves, and my untapped potential waiting in the dark of the unconscious.
I knew that it implied another level of integration of the layers of human shadow. Only with compassion, humble presence, wise openness, and profound patience can we welcome these prisoners that we keep in the scorching dungeons of the solitary—the severe prison cell that we transport. Too often is the case, in the individual as well as in collective groups, that these undesirable fellows are only outside. The enemy is always outside. Is it? Are we acquainted with that part of us that seems to always look for the opposite of what we think we consciously wish for? That part of ourselves that, despite our conscious vigilance, seems to sabotage our best intentions and strongest efforts? Is the enemy always outside?
If we don’t engage in this serious act of inner reflection and learn to embrace paradoxical tendencies within ourselves, we will continue, even today, to throw bombs and missiles at one another. As we can see today, most terribly in Europe, for example, we have to be able to disassemble our inner grenades—our violence we see in the streets of the world, our raw instinct not yet cooked by the fire of consciousness. This is for me a fundamental aspect of the process of becoming conscious—feminine and masculine.
The other P is the process, as the feminine carries a baby unfolding for nine months, which is the living definition of the word. The P of product is the final result; the goal to achieve is a masculine value; the process is the means, and the feminine teaches it can't be compromised. The ends don’t justify the means. As you cannot force a baby to be done in the belly, running the risk of an abortion, you can't force events that have their due timing, whether by speeding or delaying them, without consequences. Is the process that transforms us—be it by writing a book, educating a child, or negotiating peace between nations at war. And often the process invokes not only our vulnerability to accept being transformed along the way but also another feminine value: our orientation to relationships (and not only to actions). In any negotiation, we have to be relationship-oriented in order to be successful, both in our marital relationships and in the arena of international ones. And this is paramount for a win-win situation (not a winner-loser one) out of the fundamental truth that to have life, we have to protect it as the most precious value.
Beyond belief systems, frontiers, or other walls In a turbulent and restless world, consciously integrating the feminine polarity means rehabilitating the wisdom of the body, valuing the role of emotions in our evolution, and protecting the paradigm of "win-win," which, as the so-called African Ubuntu philosophy teaches, connects us and makes all accountable for achieving the solutions that are good for everybody involved. A win-win situation is much feminine wisdom, out of the fundamental truth that to have life, we have to protect it as the most precious value. Beyond belief systems, frontiers, or other walls. Our feminine soul, when awakened, is the inner compass that tells us when an ideal is working against life or, instead, is honoring this most sacred value. And this is paramount today, in our restless world. The essence of life centers on the process, the journey, not the goal. The feminine modality teaches us to enjoy the journey, nurture relationships, potentiate love, and protect the soul.
The P of presence
Fostering presence in the present requires great personal work but is so rewarding! We have to grow roots in our body and soul, which often means healing emotional pain. We need to nurture our psychophysical energy to develop vitality and promote wellbeing. It is also a courageous act of faith that grows stronger, this breathing one hundred percent in the now, each moment received as a whole, and as the right place to be, no matter what! Presence in the now is an act of alchemy that transforms the future, flooding it with new potential by being fully present, here and now, in the field of all possibilities that is the present. There are also special gifts when we are ever more present in the now and are not victims of the anxiety of achieving the end results, especially at any cost. Let me mention just a few more:
- Life won't slip through our fingers.
- More creative and inspired solutions arise when we are fully present for the requirements of the moment.
- There is more pleasure in enjoying life in the moment; time is a non-renewable resource! With no regrets for the time that went by and that we couldn’t properly value.
And last but not least, the final P, the one of pleasure, Head, mind, ideas, and thoughts are archetypically connected with our Yang, masculine dimensions, and the rational, analytical left hemisphere of the brain. Body, heart, feelings, and sensations are archetypically linked to our Yin, feminine polarity, and the emotional, non-verbal, intuitive, right hemisphere of the brain. Our feminine modality is more interested in quality than quantity; if, for example, we reach the end of a year and want to take stock of the year, a masculine approach would emphasize the quantity of items, money, journeys, and experiences collected. A feminine one will take note of the quality of life, for instance: "This year I feel much happier in my relationships, or my lifestyle became more pleasurable, or I forgave my mother and are now in much more harmony." While both modalities are needed and are okay, ultimately, happiness distills from quality, not quantity, and maintaining intact our sensors for pleasure is vital for making the most of life! What gives you pleasure? And how deeply are you compromised with it? Really? ...
One final thought about pleasure being a feminine mastery: What is the only organ of the human body whose only function is pleasure? ... you are right, the clítoris...
To summarize, when we go through life to the best of our ability:
- Embracing our paradoxes in a new synthesis of wisdom and more creative solutions.
- Valuing the journey of the process—at least as much as we value the end result, the final product, and the aim achieved.
- Practicing conscious presence in the now.
- And last but not least, owning the final P, the one of pleasure: the pleasure of being alive and of sharing together the biggest adventure, that of life itself!
We are capable of renewing ourselves; we are able to fully enjoy the feeling of being at home in our body-soul; and we can give birth to ever more complete, fulfilled, purposeful, unified in our humane and divine natures, versions of who we really are! Who you really are!
Thank you, blessed be...