I was about twenty or twenty-one when I was first introduced to the theory of masculine/feminine, sexual yoga and the work of David Deida. It was shortly after a somewhat awkward conversation with a man I was dating who had asked me about my relationship to vulnerability. If it weren’t for the fact that this is as funny as it is, I’d be humiliated to tell you that I actually had no idea what he was talking about. Vulnerability? Like…what do you mean? No, I don’t feel vulnerable. I’ve got my shit together, can’t you tell? I can still recall how guarded I felt, like there was something to protect, though I didn’t know what. I was closed. He was looking for something, a way in perhaps, some softness, some chink in the armor. I gave him nothing but a bunch of intellectual run around. He was frustrated, I was offended. Neither of us got laid that night.
Then I started to dive into Deida’s work, reading about the divine masculine and feminine. I tried to read Blue Truth (which I think was supposed to be for women, like The Way of the Superior Man is for men), and I was all, what is this shit? It’s all flowing and poetic and confusing. Lay it out for me champ, what the heck are you trying to say? Intimate Communion was one I could understand. Theory. Linear. A little bit of A to B action, if you know what I’m sayin’. I started getting a bit skeptical, watching myself as I got into this material. The masculine made sense—agency, purpose, drive…yeah, I get that. But the feminine—surrender, vulnerability, full hearted-opening-past-every-contraction-to-be-penetrated-by-consciousness-and-what-is-this-guy-actually-talking-about!? This feminine stuff—while I could feel a stirring desire to allow myself to be touched by what was being communicated—there was something about it all that felt fluffy and weird and, frankly, dramatically frightening.
I started to tune in to what it felt like to be energetically me and apparently ‘masculine’ really ruled how I was showing up in my life. I owned a company, led staff and was a fast-paced, A-type. Every minute was Go Time. I had targets and goals and purpose, deadlines and objectives and measurable results. I ate vulnerability for breakfast and kept it where it belonged, behind the steel trap door of my fearless cognitive strategizing and fantasizing. Don’t get me wrong, I was plenty open and connected in certain ways, but not the ways that really let you into the mess of things, not in the ways that could possibly make me relinquish control and knock me off my five year plan or allow me to take direction from anyone else, let alone a man. That’s when I was all….
Shit… I’m a dude!
Theoretically, most women’s sexual essence is feminine, even if they have a strong developed masculine, and I could feel that deep beneath the pace, direction and texture of my life. I had a lot of close relationships with women and my company was a hair salon, so, you know, lots of ra-ra-woman power around. I had never identified as being masculine before and the pain of this realization cannot be understated. I was devastated when I found out that I was a man…ahem…masculine. It sure didn’t help that I’d date men who would tell me that I needed to be more feminine or that my masculine energy put them in their feminine. It was at once offensive and heart shattering. What’s the ultimate gender insult for a man? That he throws like a girl? Is he in some way female or at least missing his testicles? Well, telling a woman she’s too masculine is kind of like telling her that she’s ugly, stale and undesirable. And stinky.
While I was none of those things, I could certainly feel the ways in which I was inaccessible and the ways in which my energy moved outward. I started to notice how I’d have a problem solved and a direction chosen before you even had a thought about it. But I didn’t know how else to be. I was of the competence school, you know, don’t wait for a man to bring you flowers, plant your own. My striving way—what I see now with fresh tenderness as my beautifully capable and deeply protective manner—were all strategies I’d developed to do well in this world, to step up and take care of myself and not wait for someone to handle it for me. What I thought was leading me towards being a confident, successful strong female had landed me right smack in the midst of being an inadequate woman. Fuck.
So, like any masculine chick would, I took this beast on. I was going to become feminine, dammit, and I was apparently going to do that in the most masculine way possible. I would study. I would understand more and engage in practice with focused determination and eventually I would be girl enough! So of course I hopped the first plane to a David Deida Intensive which, as a woman, no matter how masculine you try to be in there, you do get some damn good practice. Over the next several years, I practiced in whatever way seemed like it would make me more ‘feminine’—going to women’s retreats and workshops, doing Yin yoga and partner dancing where I successfully learned not to ‘back lead’. I did deep belly breathing with pelvic movements with…wait for it…an imaginary paint brush held by my lady parts, painting circles on Mother Earth. I went to a secluded spot on a lush island during my ‘moon cycle’ and lay naked in the penetrating sun, menstruating on a massive phallic rock. No, I’m not kidding. I actively and rigorously and agentically tried to overcome my active, rigorous agency. All the while, I was feeling a bottomless and excruciating desire to simply relax into who I was and who I was not. But my strong masculine energy felt unacceptable and as though I was failing at being a woman, while emulating the qualities of femininity, in a contracted and pressured way, felt forced and awkward.
Then a funny thing happened. Maybe funny isn’t really the right word. In a rather compressed period of time, I became a mother and went through a divorce and if you put both of those together and still insist on trying to have your shit together, you’re a masochist. It just takes far too much effort, and everyone can see through it anyway and what’s the point? Why should I muscle down and push through? Why should I be unflinching and impenetrable? That kind of life transition aims to destroy a person, or at least the parts of a person that wants to hold onto any illusions that they’re in control of anything or that surrender is just a frivolous concept. If those two things won’t beat you up and crack you open and rip apart every plan and goal and future trajectory you’ve created in your mind that you’re following with steadfast masculine rigor, well, you might actually be made of stone.
It was in giving up trying to be more feminine, and showing up for the events of my life with fullness, awareness and heart, that I finally started to feel this sense of leaning back and opening up and gushing with feminine vulnerability. I can sense a different quality of radiance that comes from someone who’s allowed them self to break open. You’re totally welcome into the messes now, there are plenty to choose from and it feels good to share in a new kind of intimate exploration of our humanity with so many in my life.
Using theoretical models for our development can be really helpful. But it can also be a way to categorize, drive, criticize and chastise ourselves and others. It took almost a decade for me to accept how I am, and in doing so, relax my habitual way quite a bit. I wonder for you, dear reader, are there ways in which you are contracting around concepts or theories for your development? Are you working with a model that is supposed to help you grow and expand and instead you’re all caught up in ‘Doing Development’? This one has been brutal for me. And what about the models of masculine/feminine, how does this play out in your own engagement with life? Is this helpful or, like I did, are you using it to contort or marginalize aspects of yourself? While I am aware of these qualities to my energies, there’s now a lot more of swirl and surrender rather that identification and categorization.
Am I finally feminine? Probably. I do know that my massive bleeding heart wants to embrace every suffering soul that’s ever lived. That’s supposed to be feminine, right? I still haven’t a clue what being penetrated by consciousness is supposed to mean, but I’m pretty sure that happened like 20 minutes ago when I was lying naked in the sun. I still get a ton done and make decisions quickly. I have focused vision, my life purpose is still the most interesting thing to me and since it’s about helping others express their life’s purpose, maybe that makes me a feminine midwife. Or maybe just masculine. Or maybe a midwife of the masculine. I don’t know. I do get a rush out of doing pushups with a steady gaze and love to dance with abandon to songs with heart drenching lyrics. I open to my sorrow and the chaos of my interior with curious trust and totally dig fire gazing with a group of men. I can let others lead just fine, especially my son. And while I have a strong sense of direction when it comes to my work, if you drop me in the wilderness, I’m a damsel in distress, forgetting which way is left. I honestly don’t know what energy is leading me moment to moment and my interest in analyzing it has waned. What I do feel is deeply loving and committed and a lot less interested in how I fit into the map. I’ll step up to handle things and take care of others with the same kind of decisiveness that’s always been there, but with a little more sweetness and a ton of room to ask for help or support or holding in return. I’ll compete with the boys as long as we’re having fun, and trade foot rubs with the girls if it deepens the intimacy. Do I feel masculine? Sometimes. Do I feel feminine? Sometimes. Does it matter? Not really. And the next guy to tell me I’m too masculine will get a great view of my full, ‘masculine’ ass as I’m walking away.
What’s Hot for Chela Right Now…
Practice Focus: Heart-based prayer, cultivating a second person relationship to spirit. Early morning juicy yoga and writing sessions.
Currently Watching: I don’t watch TV. I know, I sound like a pompous ass. Sorry. Pretend I’m watching some cool HBO series.
Shadow Element or Emotion Discovered While Writing This: I don’t want you to know how musically stunted I am so I didn’t tell you that I’m listening to whatever someone else loads onto my iPod, and instead distracted you with the cute sound of my child.
Chela Davison is a Certified Integral Coach™ who gets all hot and bothered about the issues that matter most to our individual and collective humanity. She loves to press into the messes of life, challenge culture and leave sloppy wet kisses on your soul. She started her first company 12 years ago and has since been working with individuals and entrepreneurs to line up their life’s purpose with the work they’re doing in the world. She’s a writer, editor and one of the Creators at Beams and Struts, a magazine for hungry brains and thirsty souls. She can be found hanging around on her own website, laying down more words on her blog at cheladavison.com. She is a mother. And she likes you.