Here’s one example of how women’s invisibility happens. What are your examples? by Lisa Sarasohn
By invitation, I submitted a workshop proposal, titled “Gate of the Mysterious Female,” to a Tai Chi conference. In the Tao Te Ching, ancient writing that points to the principles of Tai Chi, the “Mysterious Female” refers to the non-dual, world-creating Source Energy that both surrounds us and abides within our body’s center.
The two men on the four-member review committee objected to my use of “Sacred Feminine” in the workshop description as being gender non-inclusive. They suggested a rewrite that took out all mention of “feminine” and of the “Mysterious Female.”
I withdrew my proposal. Here’s what I wrote to the woman doing the committee’s administrative work; the last sentence here omits my first draft’s mention of the “apparently fragile sense of male entitlement” for the sake of tact.
My response to the review committee’s rewrite of my revised submission:
I appreciate your and your committee’s consideration of my workshop proposal. However, I don’t agree to the committee’s revised write-up — which omits “Gate of the Mysterious Female” as one of the Chinese names for the body’s energetic center. I therefore withdraw my proposal.
Of course, negotiating gender these days is a tricky business, and understanding “the Mysterious Female” as both non-dual and birth-giving is even trickier.
By my lights, gender inclusivity does not require gender erasure.
The committee’s process with regard to my proposal has been so instructive and so very valuable. It’s a great example of how our culture overrides and writes out the feminine — that is, the simultaneously inclusive and generative — sensibility.
Wishing you well,
author of The Woman’s Belly Book:
Finding Your True Center for More Energy, Confidence, and Pleasure
To create health, you have to trust your gut. And to trust your gut, you’ve got to reclaim the wisdom of your belly. The Woman’s Belly Book shows you how.
—Christiane Northrup, MD
author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
Tai Chi For Health: Living With the Principles 2019 Session Proposal
Session Leader Bio/Relevant Background:
Lisa Sarasohn, from Asheville, NC, is a devoteé of the body’s center, the dan tian. She’s studied several forms of Tai Chi and Qigong, her teachers including Ken Cohen, Chungliang Al Huang, Master Chen, and Michael Winn.
Through her decades of practice as a Kripalu Yoga instructor and bodyworker, she’s delved into a Japanese style of yoga focusing on the body’s center. She teaches the MELT Method® as a way to bring our bodies into balance by supporting our neurofascial connection to our center of gravity.
Lisa’s research, writing, and teaching at venues such as Omega Institute and Kripalu Center inform several books, including The Woman’s Belly Book: Finding Your True Center for More Energy, Confidence, and Pleasure; Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood; Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine; and Moving Images: Witnessing This Body of Knowledge. Her greatest pleasure is guiding women and men to experience the Source Energy abiding within us: May we know ourselves as sacred beings.
Session Title: The Gate of the Mysterious Female
Synopsis: We humans long to connect with Source Energy. We do so by cultivating our body’s center — known in one Chinese phrase as the Gate of the Mysterious Female. Come learn a form that draws upon Tai Chi, Oki Do yoga, and other movement arts to cultivate the body’s center and invoke awareness of Source Energy abiding within and around us. We’ll practice the form as a sequence of body prayers addressed to the Sacred Feminine.
The Valley Spirit never dies
It is named the Mysterious Female.
And the doorway of the Mysterious Female
Is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang.
It is there within us all the while.
Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter VI,
Translated by Arthur Waley
Behavioral Objective: Participants will learn and practice a form that draws upon Tai Chi, Oki Do yoga, and other movement arts to cultivate the body’s center as connection with Source Energy abiding within and around us.
Participants will learn that the dan tian is the one-point we humans have in common: Women and men around the world and throughout time have energized the body’s center through dance, healing rites, movement arts, and spiritual practice as a way to cultivate Source Energy. To name the body’s center-point and focus on its special significance, we have used phrases that translate, for example, from Korean as “Energy Garden,” from Sanskrit as “Luminous Pearl,” from Hopi as “Throne of the Creator,” and from Chinese as “Sea of Vitality” and “Gate of the Mysterious Female.”
How does your proposed session satisfy the retreat theme Living With the Principles?
Internal • Chen • Dan Tian Breathing:
“The dan tian … is central to everything we do in tai chi.” —Dr. Paul Lam, founder of the Tai Chi for Health
In learning and practicing this form, we immerse ourselves in Dan Tian Breathing. We focus internally, allowing movement to emerge from the dan tian and coordinating movement with the rhythm of our breath. We become all the more aware of sinking qi into the dan tian in concert with our exhalation.
Committee’s response to original submission:
The Retreat Program Committee, which consists of two men and two women, had a meeting this evening. The men were concerned that your session is solely for females. As our participants come from both genders, we were wondering if you could revise your proposed session to include both. Is this possible?
Here’s my revised proposal, clarifying that the session is for both women and men.[Note to SHEville readers: I replaced “Sacred Feminine” with “the Divine” in this text because I don’t care to impose my image of Source Energy on anyone else. In the session, I would offer and affirm the image of the Sacred Feminine as well as others in company with the workshop participants.]
Session Title: Gateway to the Divine
Synopsis: We humans, whether and however we identify our gender, long to connect with Source Energy. We develop a personal relationship with Source Energy as we cultivate our body’s center, the dan tian, with movement and breath. Come learn a form that draws upon Tai Chi, Oki Do yoga, and other movement arts to energize the body’s center and invoke awareness of Source Energy abiding within and around us. We’ll practice the form as a sequence of body prayers addressed to the Divine.
Committee’s response to revised submission:
The “Living With the Principles” Tai Chi retreat Program Committee meeting has completed their overview of submitted proposals, and we are pleased to inform you that your proposed session entitled Gate To the Divine has been accepted.
As goal of this Tai Chi Retreat is to be gender inclusive, open to those with years of Tai Chi experience as well as those just beginning, and to not concentrate on specific Tai Chi forms, but rather the intricacies of this art and its principles, we would like you to consider the following revision for the Program write-up:
We humans, whether and however we identify our gender, long to connect with Source Energy. Throughout time humans have energized the body’s center through dance, healing rites, movement arts, and spiritual practice as a way to cultivate Source Energy. To name the body’s center-point and focus on its special significance, we have used phrases that translate, for example, from Korean as “Energy Garden,” from Sanskrit as “Luminous Pearl,” from Hopi as “Throne of the Creator,” and from Chinese as “Sea of Vitality”. We develop a personal relationship with Source Energy as we cultivate our body’s center (the dan tian) with movement and breath. In this Session, participants will learn a series of movements that draws upon Tai Chi, Oki Do yoga, and other movement arts to energize the body’s center and invoke awareness of Source Energy abiding within and around us.