I have learned, in recent years, that it is very easy (and very necessary) to step out of ordinary time and space sometimes. You just have to draw a circle, declare the intention, and step in. It’s that simple. Last weekend, the circle was a little more complex than usual; the Nurse spent many hours building a sweat lodge, then another long day making a fire and heating rocks for a ceremony.
Always when we step into this kind of space, some things from ordinary time and space follow us in, and some wait at the door. This time, there were some ideas from a talk I heard by Robert Moore that followed me into the lodge. Moore has done a lot of work on the psychology, spirituality and initiation of men. I’m glad there are people like him in the world because this is greatly needed to balance and support the work of the feminist and womens’ studies movements which, in most circles, are a great deal more accessible. Because our concept of gender tends to be so binary, we often define one gender in terms of its relationship to another. A man is what a woman is not, and vice versa. The difficulty is that, while women continue to redefine what being a woman can be, there needs to be a similar redefinition for men. Otherwise, masculinity gets relegated to smaller and smaller spaces as femininity becomes more expansive. The answer is not for women to stop seeking greater personal power and stronger voices. We must give up the idea that what women gain, men lose.
As things stand in our culture now, men are often severely punished for stepping out of a very tightly circumscribed masculine space. It is dangerous, often physically dangerous, and in too many circles, unforgivable, for a man to do something “unmanly.” If men are to find a healthy pride in the masculine, to define masculinity as something other than brutish power, control, violence, and subjugation of the feminine, we must let go of these either/or conceptions of gender. We must allow masculine and feminine space to overlap.
Inside the sweat lodge, the balance was oddly perfect. There were an exactly equal number of men and women. There was the dark, womb-like space of the lodge, and the hot, masculine energy of the heated rocks in the center. I listened to the breath and the voices of the men who sat in the lodge with me. I felt so grateful for them. I want to tell that they are all men I am proud to know.