Published: American Association of Marriage & Family Therapists- eNews Winter 2014
By Nadia Brewart, Ph.D.
Lipstick and Soul, An Invitation to Women: Open Your Heart to the Mysterious Feminine and Let Love In
Shaver’s evocative title captures a “truth”: There is a certain mystique to integrating the mundane (lipstick/external world) with the esoteric (soul/internal sense of being) to touch the sublime (self-love/cardinal virtues/ “inner presence”). Shaver’s experientially-based book invites female readers on a journey to uncover, elucidate and move into a space of presence which she calls the “mysterious” or “inner feminine.” The mysterious feminine, Shaver declares, “…is a wonderful, warm, loving, all-embracing humane energy that resides within each one of us as well as all around us” (p.xiii).
To enter this space, Shaver offers a format in each chapter, which provides readers tools for reflection, transcendence/expansion of the boundaries of the rational mind, and experience to settle into a place of intuitive knowing through ongoing practice. To this end, she effectively utilizes various voices (beauty advisor/intimate friend/facilitator-guide), poignant quotations (from celebrities to artists, to philosophers, to ordinary folk with wisdom), metaphors (mostly beauty-oriented), experiences (autobiographical/imaginative), writing activities (stream of consciousness/cognitively-focused); and, while not specifically identified as such, mindfulness-based concepts/approaches (non-judgmental awareness, centering with the breath, mini body scans, mindful eating, mindful activities), and “homework” for further integration, knowledge and guidance along the journey.
The journey itself is three-fold. In part one, “Book One: Be Bold,” readers assess their current state of openness and their blocks. In addition to the approaches noted above, through a self-assessment questionnaire, readers are able to identify their “blind spots” and recurrent patterns, which thwart the process of connecting to one’s inner, authentic core. In this early stage, Shaver encourages readers to freely express their challenges, making room for new possibilities.
New possibilities are cultivated in “Book Two: Be Beautiful,” which embeds two phases. In the first phase, the veneers (defense mechanisms, unconscious blocks) of the core self are identified and addressed, feelings are experienced and embraced. Building upon phase one, phase two continues to lead readers to their inner core, experiencing feelings, identifying and confronting the “saboteurs” of the heart. With gentleness, vulnerability and receptivity, a natural beauty emerges.
This natural beauty, a pulchritudinous soul, is where Shaver finds the “mysterious/inner feminine.” In the final stages of the journey, “Book Three: Be True To Yourself,” readers encounter the flexibility, strength and wholeness of shifting between what Shaver describes as “masculine and feminine presence.” Here, there is attunement to cognitive and emotional states, rootedness and integration of various facets of self; thus, responses to self and others are grounded-as opposed to reactive. It is this place of the authentic core that beauty emanates, where the well-loved feelings cannot be sullied or compromised by life’s difficulties.
Therapists desiring to move their clients to this place can utilize activities from Shaver’s work. Her book can also be offered in a women’s group format, which Shaver herself conducts. As there is much process work, therapists and readers might reap the most benefits from approaching the work slowly, perhaps no more than a chapter a week. And, clients must be receptive to writing/journaling activities as this tool is heavily focused. Social constructivists and/or postmodern theorists/therapists for whom the language and gendering of experience and selves are culturally and historically situated, may still utilize the activities, while deconstructing-as Shaver does herself in some areas-the implications of gendered notions of the feminine.
RECOMMENDED READINGS: Under development
In a room where
people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence,
one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot.
Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
Please see below for full document on 12/28/15 blog post "The Trieste Declaration of Human Duties"
"Be patient to all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Resolve to be always beginning-to be a beginner." Rainer Maria Rilke