Wildness Becomes Me

Women Who Run With the WolvesPicking up the tattered tome and holding it in my hands is a coming home in and of itself. So much of who I am contained in the dog-eared pages, the underlinings and the notes in the margins. A long time ago I’d decided to date my underlinings and now, years later, the patterns and cycles of my life are laid bare in the sentences that spoke to my soul during this reading or that.

In 1995 when I first read the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes I had no idea how it would inspire and shape my life. How the old folk tales and stories, the archetypes and the metaphors would become so dear to me that I would come to rely upon them with a passion unmatched before or since.  The teachings and wisdom contained in the book would become my personal bible and my compass; not only granting direction in how to live my life, but how to face my life as well. Little did I know when I picked up that heavy black book with the gold embossed picture of a woman with a wolf, I was venturing into the hitherto unknown forest of my soul, and would never again be the same.

In all of my life, the things that have mattered most have come to me with grace and synchronicity.  Women Who Run With the Wolves was no exception. In 1993, on the tail end of a bad marriage, I happened to catch a few remaining moments of an interview on Good Morning America with Clarissa Pinkola Estes discussing her book. Estes’ says that when women hear the words wild and woman it causes them to remember who they are and what they are about. When women hear those words, an old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory of our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, which causes us to remember, at least for an instant, what substance we are really made from, and where is our true home. It was certainly so with me. And althought I didn’t hear much of that interview beyond the title of the book,  it did indeed foster a deep longing—the yearning had begun. Several months later that longing led me to a very special woman, a passing stranger, who would introduce me to the power of Estes’ book and the treasure that could be gained from carefully contemplating the wisdom it held.  This study, undertaken back then and continued today, has forged a relationship between me and the material that unceasingly funds my work, my identity and my soul.

The wild woman archetype speaks to the essence of a woman. The word wild say’s Estes is not used in its modern pejorative sense, meaning out of control, but in its original sense, which means to live a natural life. Not wild as in crazy, but wild as in natural and free. The book, a poignant and soulful look at women’s psychology, as viewed through the lens of a master storyteller, Jungian analyst, and cantadora healer contains the numen, the mystery and divineness of women’s native feminine power and birthright. The wild nature has vast integrity in it say’s Estes’. It means to establish territory, to find one’s pack, to be in one’s body with certainty and pride regardless of the body’s gifts and imitations, to speak and act in one’s own behalf, to be aware, alert, to draw on the innate feminine powers of intuition and sensing, to come into one’s cycles, to find what one belongs to, to rise with dignity, to retain as much consciousness as we can. Amen or Awomyn I should probably say.

I was very fortunate in 1996 to have the opportunity to attend a teaching with Estes’ in Colorado. Watching her perform The Handless Maiden was like sitting on the lap of Santa Claus as a child, or being in the presence of some equally magical figure. As she embodied the elements of the story, the elements of the story became metaphors for my life. And this is the astonishing beauty and power of Women Who Run With the Wolves. How seemingly simple stories can become roadmaps for one’s own life. And having found a roadmap, one can now find one’s way through the twists and turns of life.  It is good to have a map so one can know not only where one has come from, but where one is going and how far one has to go.

In 1997 I led my first Women Who Run With the Wolves study group. Seven brave women ventured into land of La Loba, Bluebeard, and Vasalisa. Recently another courageous group of women has journeyed with me into the wildness. For eighteen years now we’ve discovered we could sing ourselves back into being, reclaim what we’ve lost, find our skin again, and listen to the doll in our pocket. We’ve come to recognize our over domestication, our captured status, and our injured instincts. We’ve learned how the traps are laid, how important our handmade lives are, and that some beards really are blue. Most importantly we’ve found eyes in the back of our heads and the ability to see what we see and stand it.

We’ve tasted the wild feminine and vowed to never lose her again, but we have, over and over again, only to reclaim her again, and again, and again; each time becoming stronger in the broken places. Tempered by the fires of life and fate we’ve found a way to live the wildness every day and make it matter to us. Estes’ says if we could only remember that the work is to remember to do the work. And I couldn’t agree more.

In 2000 I gave birth to Wise Woman Retreats, an organized way to lend my natural gifts of leadership and inspired intuitive guidance towards the empowerment of women. I’ve continued now to lead women’s empowerment groups, retreats and workshops and facilitate study/discussion groups with Estes’ work as the north star. The unmoving, unwavering center that holds the tension for all our hopes, dreams, and visions, as well as our missteps and bad bargains.

Yes, wildness becomes me. It becomes me as I live softer and gentler, and fiercer at the same time. It becomes me as I live forwards and backwards and sideways, peering into all things, and being frightened by little. It becomes me as I cultivate my intuition and creativity and value their significance more with every passing day. It becomes me as I don’t turn away from the things I don’t want to see, but rather stand it; and in that standing, make choices and decisions that serve me and honor who I am, as well as who I am becoming. It becomes me as I let die what needs to die and give life to what needs more of it.

Yes, wildness does become me. Before attending an Estes’ teaching in ’96, Psychology In the Truest Sense,  I was asked to answer this question from her to gain entry. “How well do you know yourself with certainty”?  The answer I’d give now would not be the same as the one I gave back then, for I am not the woman I was back then, nor the woman I will become tomorrow.  It is a question that begs to be revisited at various junctures of this path we call life. I invite you to ask yourself this question now. And if the answering of it causes bereftness or a longing within you, then there is a thick black book with a woman and a wolf embossed in gold on the front cover waiting for you.

And, if you are a man (or a woman who loves one) take heart, Robert Bly, poet and keeper of the wildman flame wrote Iron John: A Book About Men in similar spirit. Although, in my humble opinion, not nearly as fleshed out as Women Who Run With the Wolves, it is a place to begin for men to reclaim and strengthen the wildman aspect of themselves.

Yes, wildness becomes me and it can become you as well.

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