Women face many challenging transitions on the pilgrimage from girlhood through womanhood: menses, love and heartbreak, motherhood, menopause. Devoid of a central narrative, these rites of passage too often happen in shame and secrecy, leaving women doubting their personal power and self-worth. Bestselling author and founder of The Way of the Happy Woman®, Sara Avant Stover saw how women erroneously viewed these initiations as “curses” and sought to present a new model that reflected the power and wisdom unique to the feminine path.
The Book of SHE celebrates all that it means to be a woman, from mythological underpinnings to the cycles of our day-to-day lives. Drawing on archetypes including Mary Magdalene, the Dark Goddess, and Green Tara, Stover will guide you on a journey home to psychological wholeness, personal empowerment, and, ultimately, full feminine spiritual Awakening. Brimming with mystery and magic, this provocative book makes ancient wisdom and healing practices accessible to every woman who is ready to revel in her full femininity — the dark and the light — through joyfully becoming the heroine of her own life.
|Publisher:||New World Library|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
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The Book of She
Your Heroine's Journey Into the Heart of Feminine Power
By Sara Avant Stover
New World LibraryCopyright © 2015 Sara Avant Stover
All rights reserved.
Leaving Your "Normal" Life
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.
— Maya Angelou, Rainbow in the Cloud
I'm going to tell you a story you've never heard before. I'm going to tell you a fairy tale the way it's meant to be told. It's not a story where, in a land far, far away, an evil witch torments you until Prince Charming saves you. It's one that transpires in your own body. One where you perpetually plague yourself, until you wake up to the realization that you're the only one who can liberate yourself through your own true love. In this story, you embrace the best and worst parts of yourself, and in so doing, you transform your obstacles into opportunities to become the woman you know you're born to be.
We come to know our true potential through opening to whatever life offers us — the good, the bad, and the ugly. The mess is the portal to our womanhood. Our bodies know this well. The greatest initiations of our lives, birth and death, are painful, grotesque even — no matter how hard we try to make them otherwise. Who are we to think that everything that transpires between those two milestones should be hunky-dory?
The Chinese character for crisis includes those for both danger and opportunity. We need to acknowledge the truth about our naturally tumultuous womanhood, and, together, weave a larger, more inclusive narrative of empowerment that acknowledges that chaos and destruction are always half of our reality. Birth and death, joy and sorrow, gain and loss, success and failure — these are all partners. You can never have one without the other. It's exhausting to try to get more of the good by pushing away all the bad. Clinging and craving create a game we can never win.
Instead of freezing, fighting, or yearning to be rescued, how can we learn to flow through these natural fluctuations? How can we reunite our smart minds with our even wiser hearts and bodies, so we're not living in a constant state of inner war? How can we learn to trust that disasters are often thresholds to the very miracles we seek? Becoming a Heroine is a choice. It involves being willing to view our lives through a new, more honest and accurate lens. It beckons us to unlearn everything we've ever been taught about what it looks like to be a successful, happy, and powerful woman.
As a devoted spiritual practitioner and closet psychology nerd for two decades and counting, I've noticed two things. First, those practitioners immersed in the spiritual world need to embrace a better understanding of their own psyches. Without psychological health, spiritual practitioners get lost in the weeds of spiritual bypassing, a phrase coined by one of my teachers, John Welwood, in 1984. They seek only to transcend the mess of life and embrace the light, blissful side of reality.
Second, those experts in the psychology field need to expand their view into a larger, spiritual context. If we don't incorporate spirituality, we get stuck analyzing and rehashing old childhood wounds without ever meeting the part of ourselves that never has, and can never be, broken.
Currently, neither approach is whole, and the consequences are grave. As we move forward, we need to understand that cultivating psychological health isn't the end of the road; it's the launching point of the spiritual journey. We need both, in different degrees at different stages of our lives, in order to weather the inner work required to become fully functioning adults and fully realizing spiritual beings.
Welcome to Your Heroine's Journey
This Heroine's Journey merges the spheres of psychology and spirituality into a singular, embodied psycho-spiritual path to psychological wholeness, empowerment, and, ultimately, full spiritual realization. It is not the same as Joseph Campbell's "Hero's Journey," a singular, central narrative of becoming that is found woven throughout diverse religions, regions, and times (e.g., the stories of Moses, Odysseus, Christ, Gautama the Buddha, and more modern, pop-culture adventures such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Matrix, and The Wizard of Oz).
The Hero's Journey follows the distinct phases of Departure/Separation, Initiation, and Return and was conceived by Campbell in 1949 with only men in mind. Women, who were primarily housewives at the time, were believed to not need to undergo the journey. The Heroine's Journey, therefore, takes into account a woman's neurobiology as well as her separate cultural history. The goal of the Hero's Journey is individuation. The goal of the Heroine's Journey includes individuation but then transcends it to also include spiritual liberation.
The more gender-specific map of the Heroine's Journey better helps us to understand the unique twists and turns that our initiation into empowered womanhood entails. It ensures that we arrive at our desired destination — living in full alignment with our deepest, truest feminine nature. This map has primarily been hidden from us as women, thus contributing to our sense of disconnection from and confusion about our feminine strengths. When women everywhere have a detailed map to look to, we are less likely to think that we're lost or derailed when embroiled in a struggle. With a unifying perspective about our pathway into empowered womanhood, suddenly what we have previously labeled as "strange," "shameful," and "neurotic" becomes normal, natural, and even necessary for our growth. Elements we once saw as scary and dangerous become the void we all must leap into in order to taste our full potential.
With such a map we discover that the way out doesn't come from targeting and eradicating what's wrong with us. Instead, we learn to recognize that we simply need to be kind and loving to ourselves, no matter what. Even in our darkest moments, we're not off track at all. We're actually exactly where we need to be. When we cultivate embodied wholeness and ultimate freedom through the practices described in this book, we, as goddesses incarnate, can perfume the world with the fragrant balm of love, compassion, and sweetness that it needs now more than ever.
In order for the Heroine's Journey to take root, it must expand to encompass the two levels of reality that we're always operating within — the relative and the Absolute. Relative reality is the world of duality. Night and day. Life and death. Light and dark. Good and bad. Pain and pleasure. Male and female. It lives within time and space, and our perception of it is housed within "I," "me," and "mine" (our egos, or our conditioned personalities). Absolute reality is transcendent. It exists in the ever-arising now-ness — beyond time and space, duality, and our perceived sense of separateness. It lives within us all along; yet, as all spiritual traditions teach, we often live in delusion, forgetting our true nature of open, loving, limitless, spacious interconnectedness. Of course, the relative can only operate within the Absolute — only one can be real.
When we extend the Heroine's Journey to address these two dimensions, it does not leave out any part of us — human or divine. It shows us that once we become whole and individuated, we can't stop there. We must go to the furthest reaches of our human potential. We must extend our hearts and minds, beyond our hurts, closures, and limiting beliefs, to express divine love and wisdom right here, in this world, and in this most ordinary of moments.
Also, because of our intimate relationship as women with nature, the Heroine's Journey happens simultaneously in the world and in our physical bodies, but it always begins within. We then need a more detailed guide for how to work with our female bodies — particularly our cycles, the cornerstone of our womanhood, which conversations about feminine empowerment still bafflingly ignore.
The Key Ingredients of the Heroine's Journey
Journaling to cleanse our minds of debris, metabolize emotions, and connect to our inner wisdom by writing down our free- flowing, unedited stream of consciousness.
Buddhist meditation to help us become the observers of our experiences by cultivating "witness consciousness," and to activate our resilience by "being with what is" within an inner mood of loving- kindness.
Divine Feminine practices to awaken our inner goddess natures through play, dance, sacred sexuality, pleasure, communing with like-minded soul sisters, and spending time in nature.
Devotional practices to open our hearts and invoke a disposition of surrender through prayer and living our lives as offerings.
Archetypes to help access latent parts of our psyches that are needed to unlock more of our divine potential in a new season of life.
SHE Cycles to heal shame about the core of our womanhood, train ourselves in partnering with mini-cycles of death and rebirth within our monthly hormonal cycles, and taproot the infinite creative power of the Goddess that lives within every woman.
Explorations of childhood trauma through practices like connecting to the earth — inner and outer — and activating Mother and Father Love in order to feel safe and at home in the world, even amid tremendous instability and uncertainty.
Shadow work to reroute lifelong patterns of self-sabotage into pathways for empowered sovereignty.
Voice Dialogue, a method developed by psychologists Hal and Sidra Stone in the 1970s, to allow us to map out and speak with all of our inner "selves," discovering what each needs and has to offer. It opens the doorway to greater self-understanding and acceptance to "end the war within" between our disowned and dominant inner selves by consciously communicating and collaborating with them.
The final two essentials — SHE Yoga, which includes women's yin and flow yoga as well as yogic breathing and energy cultivation practices to enliven and awaken our physical and subtle bodies, and seasonal living to align our entire life with nature's cycles while eating responsibly grown, seasonal, local food suited for our individual constitutions — can be found in The Way of the Happy Woman.
As we explored in the Introduction, more women are stepping into power today than at any other time in history, and it is clear that we all need a new model to follow. In 1990, Maureen Murdock wrote a groundbreaking book called The Heroine's Journey.4 A Jungian therapist, Murdock worked with women between the ages of thirty and fifty and noticed a commonality: they (as well as their male counterparts) all disconnected from their feminine essence to "get to the top." These observations compelled her to adapt Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey for women, and in so doing, she discovered a different recurring pattern, or monomyth of individuation, which existed throughout the lives of all the women with whom she was working. My work expands upon hers and reflects the stages I experienced within my own life and witnessed within the lives of the women I mentor — spanning from psychology to spirituality, victimhood to empowerment, relative to Absolute.
Like the Hero's Journey, the Heroine's Journey moves clockwise along a circular path. In both instances, we end up exactly where we started, but with a radically different view. At the end of our lives, we can see the entire arc of our existence as one large cycle, and we can also see lots of mini-cycles throughout our lives. In fact, we can be at several stages of the journey at the same time. Here is an overview of the main stages.
The Archetype of the Father's Daughter
One evening when I was ten years old, I sat in my white eyelet nightgown at the kitchen table with my father. In front of us, we spread my fourth- grade report card out on the white-and-blue-checked tablecloth. I proudly pointed out all the "excellents" checked off — from reading to math to music to handwriting. In celebration, he pulled a crisp twenty-dollar bill out of his leather wallet and handed it to me, a rare moment of connection for us both. A near-orphan from Minnesota who worked his way up to earn an Ivy League scholarship and then a high-paying job in Manhattan, my father had also always been a straight-A student. He transformed his life from rags to riches by focusing on the one thing he could control — his ambition. I inherited a love of learning from my dad, as well as my immense drive and ambition to succeed, both of which I still value greatly.
But these gifts came with a price. Growing up, I continued to follow in his footsteps. From the fourth-grade "excellents," to high school "high honors," to Ivy League Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude, I built my identity and self-worth on the recognition I received through my scholarly success, along with my thin, pretty appearance. I knew that, no matter how lost and insecure I felt inside, as long as I looked good and did well in school, I would receive the love and validation from the world that I so desperately longed for. I later realized that for the first two decades of my life, even though my father, typical of many men of his generation, often traveled and worked long hours away from home, I was my Father's Daughter. I internalized the linear, results-oriented model of patriarchal success that he embodied so well, to enable myself to survive first in my family of origin and later in the world.
Most of us are Father's Daughters, although not always in the same way. Maybe we had fathers who were physically present, but often domineering, aggressive, or even abusive. Or we might have had fathers whom we viewed as too weak and passive, so we aimed ourselves toward becoming the exact opposite. Maybe we had amicable relationships with our fathers and were "Daddy's Little Girls." If we didn't receive enough attention from our fathers, we became "armored amazons," fending for ourselves to get our needs met — and thus becoming Father's Daughters in a roundabout way. As Maureen Murdock explains,
The armor protects [us] positively insofar as it helps [us] develop professionally and enables [us] to have a voice in the world of affairs, but insofar as the armor shields [us] from [our] own feminine feelings and [our] soft side, [we] tend to become alienated from [our] own creativity, from healthy relationships with men, and from the spontaneity and vitality of living in the moment.
It's no coincidence that most of the women who are drawn to undertake the Heroine's Journey also fall into the archetype of Father's Daughters, and that the first stage of our journey requires that we shed this identity. We've built our selfhoods around being good girls and succeeding at all costs according to deranged masculine principles. As a result, we're tormented by the belief that we need to be extraordinary in order to validate our existence. At some point (or usually many points) along our life journeys, we've felt that who we are at the core is bad. To hide our rotten interiors, we squashed and squelched our inner femininity, while grooming and starving our outer, shapely shells. Some part of us rejected the feminine as distrustful. Our vulnerable, feminine centers withered and withdrew, feeling unloved, unseen, and uncared for by those around us, and we looked to our fathers for love, safety, approval, and recognition. We became Father's Daughters.
Excerpted from The Book of She by Sara Avant Stover. Copyright © 2015 Sara Avant Stover. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPrelude: Mary Magdalene,
Introduction: The Dark Side of The Way of the Happy Woman,
Part I: Preparing for the Journey,
Chapter 1: Leaving Your "Normal" Life,
Chapter 2: Entering Your Inner House,
Chapter 3: Healing the Mother Wound,
Chapter 4: Crafting a SHE-Centered Life,
Part II: The Descent,
Chapter 5: Dancing with the Dark Goddess,
Chapter 6: Ending the War Within,
Chapter 7: Unlocking the Magic in Your SHE Cycles,
Chapter 8: Meditating on Your Mortality,
Part III: The Initiation,
The Golden Dakini,
Chapter 9: Unveiling the Sacred Heart of Real Feminine Power,
Part IV: The Ascent,
The Temple Priestess,
Chapter 10: Turning On Your Brights,
Chapter 11: Marrying the Divine Masculine,
Chapter 12: Birthing Your Beautiful Life,
Part V: The Homecoming,
Chapter 13: Becoming a Whole and Holy Heroine,
About the Author,
Join The Way of the Happy Woman(r) Community,
The Book of SHE Resources and Programs,