Awake

The word, “awake” has a proto-Germanic root, “weg,” which means, “to be strong, lively.” “Weg” is also the root of the word, “witch”. That’s right: “awake” and “witch” share the same root. How is it that “strong and lively” comes to be associated with “witch”? Let me put it this way. When activist, author and entrepreneur Marianne Williamson spoke on women and religion at the 2015 Parliament of World’s Religions, she said, “. . .[W]e must remember that passionate, free-thinking women have never been deeply appreciated by the great religions of the world, because passionate, free-thinking women raise passionate, free-thinking children, and passionate, free-thinking children grow up to be passionate, free-thinking adults, and passionate-free-thinking adults are very difficult to manipulate, and almost impossible to control.” To my mind, the ranks of women characterized as “witch” (or “strong, lively”) and the ranks of passionate, free-thinking women, just may have overlapped quite often and to a great degree.

Throughout world cultures as we know them today, for reasons vaguely or very much in line with what Marianne said above, women’s voices are silenced. When a little girl or a woman displays any signs of being passionate, free-thinking or creative, she is silenced by the culture with particular ferocity. And this is because passionate, free-thinking women represent a threat to the fabric of the institutions upon which the the modern world as we know it has been built. Within these institutions, women are meant to stay in line and know their place, OR, if they want “a place at the table” with the men, they, in many ways, must stuff themselves into a man-suit, and deny or hide the uniqueness of their feminine cleverness and strengths. The world still does not know how to fully accept, embrace and welcome all that a woman is in her uniqueness and her fullness. And Lord knows, when you allow women to think for themselves, they will raise children who think for themselves, and well, we just can’t have that, can we?

I read ‘The Dance of the Dissident Daughter’ by Sue Monk Kidd several years ago at a turning point in my life. In it, she describes what she calls her “feminist spiritual awakening,” a sort of detoxification of the unhelpful institutions, values, and beliefs that cut her off from her own authentic knowing, from her body, and from her own unique spirituality. This awakening came to Kidd in a series of strange and serendipitous situations which caused her to suddenly see with what was at first painful clarity, the ways that she and her daughter were both disenfranchised, treated as though their bodies were public property, and inadvertently forced by political and religious institutions to disown their own wisdom and unique relationships to the transcendent, and their inner authority.

I believe this happens to all women on some level. There is a sadness that women feel, that is often difficult to understand. It seems, for women, being cut off from their own voices, wisdom and knowing is inextricable from a process of becoming dissociated from their bodies, and alienated from their instinctual nature, authenticity, and calling. Sometimes this process is experienced as mounting mental health symptoms of anxiety, panic, depression, dissociation, depersonalization and derealization.

I chose the word, “Awake” not to allude to some appropriated idea of enlightenment, or anything of that sort. It is my passion to help women find their own still, small voice, or the voice of their soul, or whatever you want to call it, and to honor that voice as the utmost sacred authority in their life. For women, this process is often very much tied to coming back into their body fully, and hearing the wisdom of their body, and to looking inwards with compassion. When a woman wakes up to this, she can reclaim her story and her life, and can carry herself with dignity and reverence. Women’s voices are needed on the planet today like never before, and I consider it part of my work to help women reclaim their voices and use their voices courageously.

There is a lot that goes into choosing the name of a business, including but not limited to doing google searches and vast database searches to ensure no one else is already operating a business under the same name. During that process, I stumbled upon a book, written by Dr. Tererai Trent, a woman from Zimbabwe who overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to becoming educated, and eventually earning a PhD, after having been sold for the price of a cow to her abusive husband’s family and bearing five children by the age of 20. The book was called, ‘The Awakened Woman’. As it happens, Dr. Trent was recently interviewed on Sounds True by Tami Simon, and I listened to the interview this morning. Dr. Tererai Trent’s immense strength and unswerving commitment to her dream of earning a PhD, not just for herself, but to set an example for her daughters, and to be of service to the community, reminded me why I have chosen this work. When women step into their power, they become forces for good and healing and inspiration. When women look beyond the easy path that the world has laid out for them, and listen to what they know, what they know is possible for themselves and their communities, they become forces of grace, and they walk on the earth with loving feet.

I feel moved to include that it seems to me that the masculine and feminine energies, when in their healthy, wild, instinctual state, were meant to work together as partners, in the individual and in the world. I also love the wild masculine, and believe that it too, is essentially on life support in the culture, and I love and celebrate men who are doing the work of reclaiming their own true, wild nature. This could be a topic for another blog post. But on the individual level, this leads me to my final reason for choosing the word, “Awake”. Many of the old fairy tales were meant to serve as allegories, or teaching devices, for instructing us on the nature of various processes of psychological transformation, wherein each character represents a certain aspect of the psyche of one individual. I love the idea of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, if we think of it from this perspective. In this context, the woman who is awake is the woman who has found a way to wake herself up, from within, and with true love.

It is not always easy to stay awake. It takes practices, daily reminders. I will close with a poem, written by curandera Elena Avila, included in her book, ‘Woman Who Glows in the Dark,’ which I think illustrates this:

Woman Who Glows in the Dark

I woke up to my illusions,
And now I can’t sleep.


I have no desires,
and now I can’t eat . . . what you dish out to me.

I’ll stay awake forever if
I have to.

I live in the crack of an egg —
in the space between galaxies and earth mud. Along the thin borders   of enlightenment and darkness.

I saw through the smoky mirror, and my third eye winked at me!

Time is an illusion,
and eternity lives in the cracks of everything
that is dualized.

I like living
in the middle of
either/or; and gray is my color in black/white. I’m cozy in the nucleus of past/future and . . .

I am the ember seed in
light/dark.
  I am Woman who glows in the dark.

I’ll stay awake forever
                           if I have to.

                    -Elena Avila

Published by annaliseoatman

I am a heart-centered, trauma-focused, licensed therapist with five years of experience working with traumatized, system-involved children and youth, adults moving through addiction and recovery, and older adults in skilled nursing facilities with HIV/AIDS-related health struggles. I earned an Oxbridge Masters in Philosophy (Mental and Moral Sciences) at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and a Masters in Social Work, with a concentration on mental health and direct clinical practice, at the University of Southern California. I love empowering, and healing trauma, and doing soul work with passionate, free-thinking, creative women, or anyone who has ever identified as having the female experience. My approach is warm, empathic and grounded, and I integrate an attachment perspective with a somatic and depth approach to healing trauma.

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