Through the miracle of current technology, while stretched on a Sacramento hammock, I watched the sun go down at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England this summer solstice. These stones, carefully aligned around 3000 BC, mark the turning of seasons and supported rituals tied to agrarian survival. See witchcraft 101 for more on that. Right now the sun is far north in its east/west trajectory, beaming abundant energy to nourish all living beings. Good to remember in the heat of these dog days.
Coincidentally (or not?) scholarly evidence notes that patriarchy has its roots around the same time of 3000 BC. The word patriarch derives from the Greek: joining patria (family) to arches (ruling). There are indications that the practice of inter-tribal trading of women for the purpose of marriage was the start of this cultural trend. The rest is history. I was reflecting on all this yesterday, my first Father’s Day since my papa passed. He was so indelibly shaped by a patriarchal culture stretching 5000 years behind him.
The word “father” and the charged notion of patriarchy evokes a response unique to each of us, created by history both personal and generational. The expression of masculine energy in our communal culture is under critical examination right now . The Biblical reference—the sins of fathers becoming the burden of his children—truth? And as long as we’re diving into ancient history, here’s another fact. The first written record of laws relating to slavery dates around 2000 B.C. It was probably not a big leap for the patriarchy to move from trading women to enslaving humans.
So here we are shaped by and dragging the bounty and burdens of 5000 years. What can we do about that? How might we contribute to a shift in the culture? Lately I’ve been doing a fair share of reading and listening about racial justice and equality. I hear that you have, too. I’ve been here before. This time around my perception of what might be needed, what I might contribute is being influenced by how I usually offer opportunity for change.
There is intellectual work to be done, that is for sure. But there is just so far reading and talking and listening will move us. There are 5000 years of conditioning locked into our bodies. Resmaa Menakem is one of the voices I’ve been hearing. This video introduction to racialized trauma offers a quick overview of the territory. Trauma held in bodies: white, black, police, communal.
When we consider the physiology of exactly how trauma is “held” in the body, psoas muscle (see picture below) gives us a window to our human interior. Psoas and me have been getting increasingly intimate over a number of years. If you are in my classes, you are probably rolling your eyes right now. Fear is a life saving human response to danger. Activation of psoas readies us for a quick response of fighting or fleeing or freezing in the face of threat. If I find myself alone on a dark street and I perceive a large dark figure coming toward me, I might clutch my purse a little closer. This is a visible fear response. What’s not visible is that I’m also clutching my psoas muscle. Both of them. When I eventually pass this dark figure in safety, I release my purse. But because I didn’t run or fight or freeze, my psoas is still clutched. Again.
Holding a safe container for us to identify the physical sensation of a clutched psoas is a skill I can offer in this moment. Does it contribute to a shift in the culture? Hah! Baby steps. But if we clearly know the sensation of a clutched psoas we have embodied access into our unique body signals. We can be aware and curious when this sensation arises. What is triggering it? Is the clutch an appropriate response to danger or is it a conditioned response to culture? The other skill I offer is how to remedy the chronic clutch. Whether the response is an appropriate preparation for danger or a culturally conditioned contraction, there is an antidote: quieting, softening and lengthening the tender loins. Ultimately we would like a pair of healthy supple toned psoas offering us feedback we are able to discern.
In honor of my own clutch, in an effort to quiet and soften, I will be taking some time off in July. See below for what’s happening for the balance of June. And mark your calendar for a mid-month reunion Saturday July 18 for Essential Recharge. Sunday 5R Sweats continue through July. Not sure about Wednesday Waves yet. This is traditionally the time of the year we take a break through Labor Day. But traditions have lost their hold. Can you feel that?
Remaining here in support of feeling that and everything else that is arising.