Growing pains

Elizabeth Lesser: Cofounder of the Omega Institute

My first job in life–like many of you, probably, I have had multiple careers over my 55 years–was being a midwife. I delivered babies and educated couples in the delivery process. So the idea that something is being born in the world is apt for me, because my first passion and work was the delivery of life. If you know about the female anatomy, the cervix is this wonderful, feisty muscle at the bottom of the uterus, and it needs to stretch a lot when the baby is born. That is very painful. It is what contractions are when you are in labor, and it goes on for hours and hours. The cervix is responding to hormones that are getting sent to the uterus and the uterus is thinning and pulling on the cervix, stretching and stretching. It is very painful, and what we teach women in labor is that the most effective and quick labor happens when we relax and have faith.

Fighting against pain is the worst thing you can do if you want to work with change. When change gets really intense and painful, if I fight it, I am going to inhibit movement. But if I move with it and am open, I know that the pain is for a reason, and the reason is new life. Labor is a very good metaphor because that new life is a real thing–a baby–and you get this enormous gift at the end of a painful process.

I believe that that is what the Earth community is going through now. We are in a very painful time. Something new wants to be born, and we are experiencing pain and confusion. Labor is also very confusing – especially the period of labor called transition, right before the baby is born, when you are very confused and scared. We need to relax and understand that a big part of the fear in the world right now, and the terrorism, comes from rejecting change.

What is being born? About 50,000 years ago, our ancestors the Cro-Magnons started living in caves in southern France and Spain–and maybe in this area of Austria as well. I have visited those caves in France, where you can see on the walls the story of the organizing myth of that time. This myth existed for about 12,000 years and was very different from the next human myth, the story that we tell ourselves about reality. The Cro-Magnon myth was about the Great Goddess, about animals, and about our symbiotic relationship with the Earth. Then we moved to a different myth, which I call the myth of the conqueror, and it had some wonderful aspects to it, like, for example, we don’t have to be afraid that a pack of woolly mammoths will eat half of us. The myth of the conqueror enabled humans to do amazing things. We have made huge advances in science and medicine, built great cities, and we have divided and conquered.

I think what is being born now is a new myth. We have outlived the myth of the conqueror, which utilized the male in us, the male sense to go out and take, and conquer, and create in the linear way that the left brain does. The new myth that is arising is a more feminine one. I do not mean that women will now rule the world–although that might be a good thing, but it is not what I mean. What I am talking about is feminine values, which I do believe exist.

What I am talking about is changing the whole story of what it means to lead and to be powerful. Instead of only using only one of our intelligences, the logical left-brain intelligence, we should start to activate our emotional intelligence–our capacity to love and know each other, and our spiritual intelligence, which is a less ego-full way of perceiving reality. These to me are feminine qualities. I feel them wanting to be born in the world, and it is our responsibility, both men and women, to elevate and dignify them, so that they become the guiding ethos of our world.

I’m interested in how we do it for real, in everyday life. So if we are talking about bringing the feminine out into the world–these principles of not conquering, but sharing the limited resources of the Earth–how do we do it? I would say that the first place to start is in our own homes, and in our own lives and relationships.

Another practice for me is spiritual practice. Working on the rough edges of my ego through the practice of meditation and other forms of spirituality is important. It makes my business work better. It makes the way I am in meetings more effective, and it allows me to balance within myself my own masculine and feminine.