The final article in this Series compares two ways of interpreting reality. One of them suppresses and sidelines the Wise Woman Tradition; the other invites it forth. We’ll also touch on how healing ourselves is an essential part of any effort to heal the world.
Collectively, we’re standing at a juncture where we get to choose between two narratives about what “reality” is, and how the world works.
One of these narratives, which Charles Eisenstein calls “the story of separation,” is based on worldviews developed during the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries.
The alternative narrative is what Charles Eisenstein calls “the story of interbeing.” This story is based on a synthesis of indigenous wisdom and 20th and 21st century science.
Let’s draw some comparisons between these two stories.
The story of separation
The story of interbeing
|Everything is separate. What happens here makes no difference to what is happening over there.
Shifting a problem away from yourself is the same as solving it.
Everything is inextricably connected. Change in any part of a system/group/pattern/constellation impacts the whole.
You can’t, for example, throw your rubbish away, because there is no “away.” And we can’t wait for “them” to solve our problems, because there is no “them,” only “us.”
|If you want to change something, you must use force. The bigger the change you want, the more force you need.||
Change can come about in unseen, unexpected, and spontaneous ways. It’s not always dependent on force.
Worth is always measurable. The worth of adults is measured in wealth, status, followers, beauty, youth, power.
The worth of children is measured in behaviour and accomplishments that reflect well on their parents and teachers.
|Worth is a given, and need not be measured.
You are uniquely, immeasurably worthy, just because you’re you.
|Security, certainty, and prestige are very important.
Earning money is how you obtain these things, so earning money is much more important than enjoying yourself, relating to others, or relaxing in nature.
Certainty never lasts for long.
Security comes from relationships, and from right living in relation to the living world around you.
Prestige is not needed, since individual needs are generously met by the collective and nobody needs to take anything from anybody else by force or by superiority.
|Power is always obvious and is measured either in physical strength or in forces a powerful person or group can bring to bear on other people or groups.||
Power is often subtle or even invisible.
Power with others (rather than power over others), arises from power within self, which in turn is seeded and nurtured by others (for example, the more experienced providing mentoring to the less experienced).
|Messiness is to be avoided in all its forms.||
Messiness is to be embraced and enjoyed, since it’s part of life.
Natural processes like birth, learning, growth of all kinds, are haphazard and random if left to nature; it’s better to control and standardize them, often to medicalize them.
|Nature is to be trusted and aligned with.|
The Medical Doctor And The Wise Woman Healer
Another way to illustrate these two interpretations of reality is to think about how health care typically works within each of them.
Recently, I went to a medical doctor who lives in the story of separation. First, the office staff collected my data. They weighed and measured me, noted down my blood pressure and oxygen levels, heart rate… then, suitably reduced to numbers on a sheet, I was ushered into the next room to wait for the doctor.
The doctor spent more time looking at the computer screen than at me, entering data and analysing it to come up with a diagnosis. Fifteen minutes later, typically, you leave with a pharmaceutical prescription and instructions to come back in 3 months for more testing. (In my case, I refused the prescription.)
Conversely, here’s the kind of experience I’ve had when I go to a healer who lives in the story of interbeing.
First, the healer looks into my eyes, and I feel safer immediately. For an hour or more, she listens to me. Really listens.
I’m nourished by her undivided attention and unconditional acceptance. The healer listens to my story, rather than taking my data. She asks questions that draw parts of the story out of me that I had not previously recognised. This in itself is deeply healing.
And when finally the healer in the story of interbeing prescribes, the prescription is full of nourishment. Real food. Rest and renewal. Connection.
She may prescribe supplements, homeopathy, or other remedies, and she sometimes also calls on modern scientific medicine, but these are secondary to the nourishment; they don’t replace it.
One Story Makes The Wise Women Way Invisible; The Other Reveals It
In the story of separation, wise woman ways of relating and nourishing are indeed invisible, because they are not measurable and can’t be quantified.
In the story of interbeing, feminine lore and wisdom are valued and we recognise[i] the wise woman’s tremendous forgotten resources, wisdom, perspective, compassion, and nourishment.
We’ve never needed these subtle, gentle forms of power more than we do now.
Healing Myself Is Healing The World
When I was in my twenties and thirties, I wanted to help heal the world.
Then in my early forties, painfully humbled by parenthood, I gave up that grandiose plan in favour of healing myself to lighten the baggage I would hand on to my children.
Now at 50 and with my first child bumping against adolescence, I have learned that healing myself, in a sense, is healing the world. At least, it is if you choose to inhabit the second narrative I described above, the story of interbeing.
The work of healing ourselves, one by one, in the deep darkness of the low places we descend to during hard times, times of grief and loss, and during our midlife rites of passage, is the work that matures us into adults who can hold space for the changes our world so desperately needs.
I understand now that when a person—any person, but perhaps especially an older woman—sits quietly, breathing in healing and breathing out peace, that’s a recipe for powerful magic.
The magic is in the peace she engenders, in her communion with Mother Earth, and in the personal power she generates, which she will use for way-finding and peace-making in her community.
This magic is invisible because it cannot be measured or quantified or defined or standardised or duplicated or patented or commercialised.
If you’re looking for proof, I can’t provide it. I can’t quantify what can be achieved when a woman sits on a rock, breathing.
But even without proof, I was deeply comforted on that recent morning by the presence of post-menopausal women sitting in silence above a campsite full of homeschooling families as the sun rose.
I see The Wise Woman
I see older women, the invisible ones, like the old trees: garnering nourishment and support to share among families and communities.
I see older women, becoming less invisible, working in increasingly powerful ways all over the world, tending to the web of life: invoking a new (and ancient) story of peace and connection in which the children and grandchildren can thrive.
In Susun Weed’s words:
“I see the Wise Woman. And she sees me.”
Kate writes at ARealGreenLife.com about thinking differently and living a more natural, connected, and sustainable life. Download this complete article Series and check out her other free downloads, here.
[i] The world “recognise” can be broken down thus: “re” – again; “cognise” (as a verb) – perceive, know, or become aware of. So, to “recognize” is to become aware of something again, that you were aware of before but had forgotten.
[iii] Here is a striking example: “Women Are the First Environment: Interview with Mohawk Elder Katsi Cook”