Recently I was reading an article about male-female dynamics that said the number one complaint women have about men is that all guys want is sex. The number two complaint is that he doesn’t even know what he’s doing once he gets there. The man’s number one complaint, for his part, was that women make everything so difficult.
I loved this. Not because I am a fan of the war of the sexes (if there is such a thing) but becauseit points toward something so much bigger. If we pull back the lens, these very day-to-day complaints start looking like clues in the mysterious game that I like to call “Masculine/Feminine.” Part of me cringes to use those terms. They have been co-opted by a whole lot of people who use them a whole lot differently than I do. So let me be clear. Masculine/Feminine is not a synonym for male/female or man/woman. The latter are rough approximations of a very nuanced truth, the incarnation of masculine/feminine qualities painted with very broad strokes. Man/woman is an impressionist’s version of a water lily; masculine/feminine is the lily itself, with all its uniqueness and subtleties and gradients.
So you can look at the complaints men and women have about each other as clunky approximations of the deeper, more precise, and more relevant forces working in the world. The forces I call “masculine” and “feminine.” Male/female are physical-realm analogues of underlying principles, which are begging to be brought into relationship within each of us. We see in the male/female dynamic the desire for wholeness within ourselves. This article will explore how to bring the two into communication, and to see how to maintain connection.
So, a request. If you look at what follows as being associated directly with men and women, rather than the forces of masculine and feminine that are within all of us, you could easily accuse me of gross generalizations and gender stereotyping. So just don’t do that, okay? When I use “her,” know that I am referring to the feminine within all of us; when I use “him,” the masculine. Thanks in advance for your understanding.
The basic experience of masculine is the desire to act. The masculine force is forward-moving, direct, focused and bright. It is powerful, but it does not generate power. You might think of it as the turbine on a ship; it’s what makes the ship go. It’s the part that is easy to see from the outside but without the coal-fired engine down below, it’s not going anywhere.
The coal-fired engine is the force of the feminine. It is dark, rich, unpredictable, and generative. The feminine is where true power comes from; it is the creative force that fuels the turbine of the masculine so the ship can move forward. Without cooperation between the two, the ship is going nowhere.
Once each of us learns to be at ease in both positions–to go above, where the masculine operates, and below, where the feminine is found, and to understand the customs of each domain within ourselves–we will finally be able to transition out of polarized role-playing (man as “masculine” and woman as “feminine”) and into something infinitely deeper.
* * *
So we’re on the same page: we all have masculine and feminine forces within us, and both need to be activated in order for us to feel whole, complete, catalyzed. Here’s the quandary. To come together, the masculine and feminine must cooperate. They must work together. For starters, both of them need the creative energy of the feminine in order to get into flow. The feminine cannot access her power alone; she needs him to help pull it out of her. It requires a kind of mining, and mining is the masculine’s specialty.
But problems arise right away, for his approach to mining alienates her. She desires gentle coaxing; he seems to bark orders. The feminine feels like she’s getting yelled at from above. To her, he sounds all-knowing, entitled, and demanding. He may be saying, “Let’s go to the store.” But for some reason she hears, “You are incompetent. Why didn’t you go to the store already?”
For his part, the masculine can barely understand a word out of her mouth. Truth is she can’t always put into words what she wants to say. Because words are not a problem for him, he assumes that she is being evasive, dramatic or tricky. He gets frustrated. She gets hurt. He’s just trying to help, and can’t understand why she can’t just take the help he’s offering. Why she can’t get herself into shape.
The feminine has impediments the masculine doesn’t understand. She has flows and rhythms that she needs to answer to. He’s up there looking down, and things look so obvious; just do it, already! She’s down there with gunfire and emotions, saying, “Yeah, you think it’s so easy, you come down here and do it!” She’s the man in the trenches. He’s the general.
Of course she wants his guidance. He has a bigger view from up above. Of course she wants some vision and perspective. But she does not operate in the suggested ways. Not because she is defiant, not because she is oblivious, but because she has a different set of circumstances to contend with.
The other element is that beneath this game, she knows that she holds the power that they both need. He in his position doesn’t understand why she won’t just give it to him. It’s simple enough, from his perspective. Just give it to me and we will both be happy. When she can’t—she just can’t—he perceives it as manipulation, sloth, recklessness. In truth, they are both bound together by the same dilemma. Her sex is power, electricity, fuel. Both want it converted to a usable form, which is what happens when they meet. But he gets frustrated trying to “get it right,” and she gets frustrated because she can’t just “give it away.” He has to earn it.
Her inability to offer well-thought-out, articulate reasons leads him to believe that she is not very smart. So he speaks to her as if she’s stupid, which offends her. After all, she has the power he needs. Should he not treat her with a little more care?
Moreover, isn’t it obvious? If he doesn’t earn it, he won’t respect it. If he doesn’t respect it, he won’t know what to do with it. He will risk wasting it and how will her power and vision be activated in the world without him? So what she is waiting for is a kind of reverence. Not adoration. Simple reverence for what she is carrying inside of her. Reverence slows his impatience, softens his entitlement, adds subtlety to his directness. Then she involuntarily opens. But to the masculine, reverence is humbling. To admit how deeply he desires to serve? To recognize that it will be through surrender rather than force that he will get it? Humbling indeed.
But it is the only way. In fact, both masculine and feminine must surrender to the power of the lower. It is only in this surrender that the power can actually begin to ascend. They are not surrendering to one another; they are surrendering to the power that exists inside of her.
Surrender comes more naturally to her than to him. She is closer to the creative source, and understands how to surrender to it intuitively. This is where we get it all mixed up when we get to the concrete experience of male-female relating. Because the feminine knows the pleasure of surrender, women tend to surrender to the men they love. More aptly said, we abandon ourselves to them in the attempt to surrender enough for two. We try to surrender for both of us. The feminine is formless, so has an easier time tying herself into the shape she thinks she should be in. But desire will not take that which is not offered. So she can attract, entice, seduce—but she cannot surrender for him. For he himself is also standing at the edge of the cliff, asking to be taken with complete abandon. He must offer himself. Only then will he receive the life in which he can become himself. She must do the same, but to the orgasm itself, not the signifier which is the man. Both dive into the same pool together—the pool of feminine, of Orgasm in its truest sense—and from that pool they emerge refreshed.
* * *
Both men and women are looking to awaken–but they take different approaches. Man awakens by pushing through difficulties. Woman awakens by going through them. The difference is key. He operates by following concepts; she must swallow them, metabolize them, and determine experientially if they work for her. She needs to make mistakes to know for herself. It can look so useless and futile to the masculine, watching her go through something when he knows just how it will end. But this is the work of the feminine. She must know for herself and her mistakes are her practice field. Impediments are her fuel. He needs her power to push through the difficulties. She needs his vision to get through while in the midst of them, converting them to yet more power. She does her work in the darkness, scarcely able to see a few feet in front of her. She aims toward the light but when it is too bright, it burns. His genuine attempts to guide her through—by making the light brighter, giving firmer command and evermore direct communication, cause her to retract. To withdraw from the light that is burning her. The withdrawl in turn feels like she is shunning him, she doesn’t appreciate him, she is criticizing him. What she is trying to say is, will you dim the lights a little? I can’t feel with that light shining in my eyes. What he is trying to say is, you’re in trouble. Here’s a big bright searchlight to help you find your way out.
I had been asked to do an interview. I went to a woman named Cheryl who trained female politicians how to talk about difficult subjects. I figured my subject qualified. As we got started, another trainer in the room said “You just need to…” Cheryl stopped her and pointed out the fact that I had altogether stopped breathing. That I had gone into protective mode. She said I looked like a bear ready to pounce. She said, “Nicole does not respond well to ‘shoulds’ and ‘have to’s.’ If she feels like she has to, she will dig in.”
What I wanted to say was that that’s not me per say, it’s the feminine. Which was fully operational through me in that moment. It’s the part of us that knows exactly what is required for us to have the experience we need to have. She does not respond well to outside ideas no matter how good they are. Outside ideas feel like condescension. She may need to make mistakes, but those mistakes will be hers. They will be real and she will know them for herself. Yes, it will make a mess. Yes, it may be embarrassing. But she would rather be embarrassed than pretend. If she chose to simply follow the rules she would eventually get exhausted trying to hold herself into a shape that was not her own, and would at some point explode back into formlessness. If, on the other hand, she goes through it, each drive gets fully converted.
What’s beautiful about the interplay between masculine and feminine is that very often, both will come to the same conclusion. Our methods will be different: the masculine will conduct the research, and the feminine will volunteer to be the research subject. But in the end, the answer will be the same.
While egg on the face is the masculine’s worst nightmare, it is the sign of a delicious meal for the feminine. I can remember after eating sopapilla for the first time and accidently burping at the table. My friend from Chile said “provecho!” which she translated to mean, “Good! You enjoyed your meal!” I was shocked. Coming from a culture where masculine “table manners” rule, I couldn’t believe it when I heard such a feminine response. I’d involuntarily made a social faux pas and it was deemed a good thing! A sign that I had relished the food fully, that I had thoroughly enjoyed the gastronomie of the experience.
My boyfriend, of course, was rather embarrassed by the whole thing.
The feminine, as it turns out, is not afraid of the body. It’s quite familiar with its processes—with, if your masculine will let me be blunt—blood, urine, poop, and vomit. Each is simply part of the experience of being alive. No need to exalt it, mind you. But no need to hide it. And certainly no need to rise above it. She couldn’t if she tried, frankly, because the body is life itself. And why would she try? It’s hard for her to take the masculine’s social rules and norms seriously—she changed the masculine’s diaper, for chrissakes. (His little behind was so cute! she says.) (I’m so embarrassed I could die, he says.)
There are no layovers on the feminine path. That’s not to say she doesn’t stop over, it’s just that she includes it as part of the journey. She can be interested in anything. Not the masculine. He’s trying to get somewhere and all these damned rest stops just cause him anxiety. To him they signify laziness.
The masculine wants everything straightforward and understandable. My more masculine students, women included, watch my more feminine students flailing around dramatically and think it’s insane. “Why don’t they just pull themselves out? Why all the histrionics?” they ask. “They are doing their work,” I offer gently. The feminine works things out from the depths, down in the morass. And you can imagine that down there, it is hard to distinguish which way is up. She doesn’t have the perspective to discern what is true and what isn’t. She can’t get the distance to say, “Oh, I get it. It’s is an elephant.” She knows instead, “it has this big long trunk-like thing” and “it seems to walk on all fours.” In other words, she doesn’t have a lot of object reality. Things are connected to other things which are in turn connected to other things. To the masculine, it can feel like an uninviting primordial soup.
It is for this reason that I often say communicating with a woman is a bit like playing charades. She’s pointing to notions. Instead of saying “Just tell me the answer for goddsakes!” you must circumambulate with her. If you are willing to go around a topic until it is elucidated, something beautiful, beyond anything ever seen, can rise to the surface.
An example of this is John and Monique. One day, John, truly frustrated, was telling me that Monique just wouldn’t tell him the truth. She would only criticize him. She always said “something felt off,” that it just felt like there was something going on with him. He kept asking her to tell him what it was. But she wouldn’t say! He was nuts with frustration. Finally, I asked him straightforwardly if something was off. He pondered a bit. “Yeah,” he said. “I felt guilty for not following through with an agreement we had.” “Why didn’t you just say that?” I asked. “Because she didn’t ask,” he told me.
She operates in feeling tones. There is vagueness to her perception. She knows, “off,” “on,” “clear,” “unclear.” She knows heat, light, vibration. She knows reality in its unformed state, prior to the addition of meaning. She keeps pointing toward a feeling, and he keeps staring at her finger. “Yeah,” he says. “I get it. Finger! But that isn’t helping me much!”
He just wants to “do the right thing.” Doing right is his motivation. If you do the right thing—and there is always a right thing—you get the prized brass ring. You get freedom. He can see the ring is just out of reach. He can see that all it will take is a few more times around and he’ll have it. If we could just follow these few simple orderly steps, he tells her, we’ll get there. It’s obvious.
Not so obvious for her, because that right thing is connected to so many other things! Nothing exists in a vacuum. She can’t simply rise above it all, up out of the soup to see this so-called “right thing.” All of these things look like “right things” to her. Each has its own unique inherent value. The value is accessed by going deeply into each possible answer, rather than rising up to one specific “right thing.” She ends up drowning in unconverted fuel, while he’s driving in a car that’s running on fumes.
To make matters worse, he continues offering her instruction. He’s speaking s-l-o-w-l-y, more and more clearly. More and more toward broadcast English, the precise, well-articulated language that TV broadcasters use to communicate to the widest possible audience. Broadcast English does not match her experience. In the feminine realm, the world does not contain either/or, true/false, good/bad. It is never all or nothing. It’s both/and. As much as she might try to make it so, it seems to seep over into the other and cause a big mess.
Because he is speaking in this tone, the tone of giving direction, she can assume he doesn’t understand where she’s coming from. And that he’s an idiot, to boot. Can’t he see that if she does that one thing he’s asking for, these fifteen other things will be affected? Little does she know that he actually can’t. What he sees from above is the one bright option that shines above the rest. The others are all background. This is why we say that the world is both unique and connected. From above, there are distinctions to be made. But from within, the world is a connected tapestry that cannot be touched in one place without every other place being affected.
What, then, is the masculine to do? He has a schedule and a destination. He can see the dangers that lie ahead. He’s trying to protect her and she’s wandering off into the woods. She asked him to guide her and then she goes in the exact opposite direction he’s pointing. As counterintuitive as it may sound, the advice I offer is to go in the direction that she is going. She cannot hear you when you’re back on the trail. Go into the forest with her and from there, make suggestions. We’ve all had the distant voice of authority tell us where to go and how to be. It feels just that: distant. It’s not until we feel connected that we can see the sanity of the other. It wasn’t until my brilliant visionary boyfriend came down to OneTaste and actually met with my staff—each of whom he’d all these ideas about—that he understood. They were contending with unseen factors. Yes, of course they wanted to be good, hard workers; yes of course they wanted this thing to fly. But they had walls of fear, old emotions, real desires that made the road there a little more circuitous than he had imagined. Suddenly, down in the trenches, he was more like Mother Teresa than Donald Trump. These people need help! He exclaimed. Which was exactly what I had been trying to tell him.
Which brings us to the next quandary, which is that yes, the feminine needs help. But not in the forms we’re familiar with. Not soggy, bleeding-heart help. Not “doing it for the feminine.” Not “being her savior,” and not “helping her out of this mess.” Remember, this “mess” is her territory. It’s where she does her work. To help her out of it is to render her incapable. No, what she needs is for the masculine to see what she is working with and to adjust the map and schedule accordingly. To offer something realistic given the circumstances. Not instruction, which feels like constriction, but space. Room and time to work itself out, to take all the contents out, and let them breathe, before it can move forward. We fear that we will get stuck there forever, so we’re shocked to discover that more space and time are all that’s required.
Otherwise, she perceives herself as under attack. He’s trying to help, but she has gone into fight or flight. She will either withdraw or defend. She will “bring him down,” to where he can see what she sees. If you’ve ever tried to pull yourself up by the bootstraps only to find yourself more dug in, more entrenched and sticky and caught, then you have felt the effects of the feminine. If you’ve ever tried to force yourself to “just get over it,” to “get on with it,” but sinking deeper into your bed with every try, then you’ve felt the pull of the feminine. This is why we perceive the feminine as a murderer. She appears to be a killer, a saboteur who thwarts all of your best efforts. She pulls you down and sits on top of you, rather than just saying stop. She can’t say “stop,” because she does not yet speak in language. She knows only how to operate behind the scenes. So she communicates her wishes to you by either supporting or killing your efforts. She operates through incentive—or punishment, as it sometimes feels like—rather than instruction.
Here is where the feminine can use a little help on our part. She could use some education in the art of working with resentment—of communicating it and clearing it out before it builds up so heavily that she has no choice but to retaliate. As it stands, one minute she seems so happy, willing to shapeshift to our every desire, and the next minute she’s gone. I see a lot of students who’ve been clunked on the head by feminine resentment. They’re perplexed. Their voices trail off with a pitiful, “But things were so good….” What they didn’t see was that she had reached her limit. Tiny resentments had built up until there was a mountain between you.
The only thing to do is to pull the resentments out, one by one, in real time. Ask the silent feminine part of yourself every day, “What resentments do you have? Are you sure you’re still happy?” It seems like a drag in the beginning, when things seem to be going so well. Why focus on the negative? But the payoff comes at the end. The less often she volunteers to acquiesce, the more often she will volunteer to surrender.
If, on the other hand, the feminine has been socking resentment away, get ready to be kicked when you’re down. Like a house of cards, everything will fall to pieces and you won’t have a comforting caretaker. She’ll just say, “I tried to tell you.” Now, to your credit she was trying to tell you via telepathy, without any such details as “words” or “logic.” But she did try. She remembers every time you overrode her desire, every time you put your own pleasure and enjoyment on the back burner, every time she wanted to just curl up for a nap and you let your agenda take precedence over her feelings and needs. The masculine doesn’t keep such grudges. He can’t; he needs to have as little weight as possible if he wants to get where he is going. The feminine, on the other hand, is perfectly happy carrying around each violation like a pack mule. She is accustomed to gravity. She knows that resentment can be transmuted into fuel, so she sees it as a precious resource. Why would she drop it off before it has been fully converted?
The conversion happens with simple attention. So in order to keep your feminine operating on your behalf rather than against you, it is recommended to be proactive. Go into those darker parts of yourself—and your partner—and see what’s there. Even when things seem to be going fine outwardly, you might want to double-check. Even when you know you won’t like the answer, trust me: you really do want to double-check. Look for red flags. When you know that you really aren’t up for some activity, some next round in the ring, but you decide to “push through” anyway. Watch for phrases like, “If I can just push past this one thing, I’ll get to where I want to be and I can rest.” Check right there, because that’s not how the feminine works. This destination, whatever it is, however much it appears to be the final one—it’s just another note in an entire symphony to her. She cares just as much about the ride as she does about the destination. She cares just as much about packing the car, for that matter. Same goes for the conversation about the ride after it’s over.
What then, do these two need to come together? She needs time and space. She’s a rosebud. If you pull her apart too soon, you’ll end up with a handful of petals. Instead she needs all the things that a rose would need: time, attention, care, warmth. Steady sunlight and water. To the feminine, all of these add up to one thing: approval, just as she is.
He, on the other hand, needs something to do. The masculine mind goes a little batty just sitting there staring at roses. He needs to know that this thing is “going somewhere.” So much the better if the tasks he’s given are meaningful ones that will reap a reward. Discrete tasks that build into a cumulative outcome are the best. The masculine mind works best when presented with nearly insurmountable goals, broken down into bite-sized pieces. The completion of which is acknowledged along the way. It’s like rock climbing. You set your sights on a perilous ascent, but you work your way up step by challenging step. Each time you find your foothold, that step is a reward in itself.
The feminine mind can find this linearity challenging because it requires perspective. It requires her to be able to get the big view; otherwise she won’t know which steps to take and in what order. This is where we get the idea that women are insatiable with their demands. They are constantly asking their men to climb here, then over there—a series of meaningless tasks that never get them anywhere. In fact, this is not a woman’s issue but an issue of the feminine that resides in all of us. The feminine is not big-picture oriented. If you can’t see the big picture, it’s not easy to see the steps necessary to achieve any sort of big-picture goal. It’s thus nearly impossible for her to break the goal down and deliver the action items in a systematic enough way that the bigger goal is in fact deliverable. At best, she can say vaguely, “This is sort of what I want.” Then the masculine will run around, desperately trying to accomplish the tasks he thinks will please her. But of course, she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted in the first place, so no matter how well he did, her response will be, “Well, no, that’s not quite it.” Until he finally stops trying—and perhaps stops asking to help.
* * *
There’s a story of a princess sitting with her ladies in waiting in a castle when a handsome prince arrives to court her. He asks what she desires, and she says that there is a dragon just over the hills. Kill the dragon, she says. Return with the head and I shall be yours. Emboldened by such a specific task, he heads off, slays the dragon, and returns with the head. The princess shakes her head. In his absence she has realized that there is another dragon needing to be slayed. This one has not one but two heads. He must go, slay it, and return with both heads. Which he does. But when he returns, ready to receive his princess, he is met with yet another task. This time the dragon has two heads but is double the size of the first two! The prince is tired. He’s doubting. But he sets off again. Again he returns, two massive heads in tow, and falls at her feet. She looks down. She has one last request. This time, there is a dragon—fiercer than the others, and at closer range. He could come over the hill at any time and decimate her kingdom. How could they be together and enjoy themselves knowing this? He cannot argue. He mounts his horse and sets off in the direction of the dragon.
Never to be seen nor heard from again.
Having finally given up hope, the princess turns to her ladies in waiting and sighs. “See? I told you. They always leave.”
The feminine often has “just one last thing” for the masculine to do. She is the embodiment of the desire to possess, own, and devour. At the same time, she desires true connection with the masculine. The nature of her tests may have altogether different intentions than they first appear. Yes, in the beginning, the test may be about his fitness, or whether his intention is strong and true. Can she trust him if she unveils her true power? Will he honor it? Respect it? Her requests that he “do something” for her is not just a request for meaningless action. It is the way she strips back any extra that might exist between them; anything that blocks his ability to see her. His superiority, his composure, gets burned through. Only then, when the masculine is worn out and vulnerable, is he tender enough to truly feel and have reverence for the power that is the feminine.
At the same time, the feminine doesn’t always know when to quit. She will run until the power is completely drained; until there is nothing left for him to give. Her fear has no “Off” switch. It is only as she starts to rise to meet the masculine—to incorporate some of his vision, some of his traits—that we can learn to set boundaries. The feminine is allergic to the word “No.” And rightly so—“no” is not a word that should be used when there is a “yes” to be found. But when the quest for a “yes” comes up empty—when going after that last dragon would stretch you out of your right range, would overextend you, would have you abandon some part of yourself—then the masculine “no” is a gift the feminine is only too happy to receive. She may kick and scream a bit, but soon she will realize how a true “no” contains and comforts her. How you can meet her with as much structure as she has formlessness. And that is her ultimate win. For more than getting the task accomplished, the feminine wants to be seen and met. It is only when she is met that she knows that she can let loose entirely. Only when she is safe enough to let loose can she truly learn to play. If she fears you will answer her requests until you fall over dead, never presenting her with a boundary, a hard “no,” then she cannot unleash herself fully.
So the lesson for the feminine is to make requests that can be met. For example, rather than merely saying “I want to be happy”—which leaves him to travel the globe blindly looking for the things that might accomplish the task—she can drive it down to the particulars. She can get an overall feeling of what would make her happy, and approach the “how” in bite-sized chunks. First, this. Then, that.
The magical element in the feminine nature is her ability to believe. Faith is the pre-cursor to surrender. It has an alchemizing effect. She can make just about anyone into a genius, into someone capable of doing just about anything. She does this not through instruction but rather through a simple, underlying belief that they can. A turned-on feminine can surrender herself over to a masculine she believes in. This very surrender invites the best of the masculine to come forward. It magnetizes his own intuition. Suddenly, he knows just what to do. Here, the feminine is adding agency to her surrender. She believes in him, which in turn makes him into someone she can trust enough to surrender to. For his part, if he can surrender enough to hear how much she believes in him, he too is changed: his agency grows even stronger.
When the feminine is turned off, on the other hand, she tries to subsidize this belief with direction and instruction. In the deepest world of the feminine, this can only be an impediment.
* * *
I once went to see a teacher, intending to ask for what I wanted. The problem was, I didn’t really know what I wanted. I knew only what I wanted my life to feel like. The sensation of it. I had felt it during meditation. I knew it only as the “clean, clear place.” It felt like the room where eternity existed. There was saturation there; everything seemed to drip with this vibrant electricity. After meditation it was like the world around me would come alive with the sensation of this “clean, clear place.” Like everything was alive. The trees would appear to be vibrating, the dark rich soil had a palpable field of warm richness above it. I told him that I wanted to live in that place.
He didn’t laugh or make me feel ridiculous. He didn’t balk at my vagueness or the fact that we likely could not purchase this “thing” at the supermarket. As I rolled my eyes up and to the left for long periods of time to look at the mental feeling picture of this place, to attempt to draw it forth for him, he did not rush me. He simply asked for more description. And then, there was a moment when I believed he truly got what I meant. I didn’t know which was better, the hope of having that sensation—or simply the joy of having someone see it, meet it with me. But he didn’t even stop there. Yes, he said. He knew this place. He even knew a few tricks for how to get there. Then—and this is key, so have the masculine pay attention here—he asked me if I was interested in receiving help. Yes, I said. I was. Okay, he said, then the last question is whether you are willing to be completely honest. (As honest as the feminine can be, I now see he was asking.) What you want is good and right, he said, I just want to understand what it is. I will support it in any way I can, but I don’t want to build a mansion and have it be that you really wanted a high rise. Okay, I said. I will do my best.
He told me there were two ways I could get what I wanted. First, I could create it myself. Or, I could find a space where it already existed (there were many) and I could make my place there. I was struck by that answer. I knew he himself taught people how to find the “clean, clear place.” I assumed he would encourage me to stay with him; to make my world inside his version of it. Almost by rote, I said I would take one that already existed. He looked at me and smiled. “You hadn’t struck me as that kind of woman,” he teased. Okay, I said, you’re right. I want to create my own. I felt like the bottom fell out from under me, just admitting it. It sounded so greedy, so narcissistic. Good, he said. That’s just what you are built for.
We continued to break my dream down in this way. He continued to give me simple menu options, and I said yes or no. I tried to be more specific where I could. Finally, we were agreed that I would start a community of my own. He asked me what I needed in order to do that—that he would help, but I would have to make the request. It’s safe to say that I had no idea. I mean, who knows what it takes to start a practice community? But I took him seriously. I knew I needed to be honest, and ask for exactly what I wanted. So I waited patiently until the answer came.
I needed training. He had run a community for 30 years, I needed his wisdom. And I needed a practice partner, someone I could depend on. Before I knew it, he had called in several teachers who agreed to train me. He asked me who I wanted my practice partner to be and when I told him, he asked if he needed training. When I said yes, he agreed to undertake the training himself. When I asked him why, he said that there was nothing to him that was more attractive, that gave him more meaning in his life, than helping feed a woman’s appetite. He understood the wily ways of feminine desire. He played with it, rather than trying to fix it.
* * *
Ask your own feminine what she desires. She may know what she wants and volunteer it. But be warned: first answers are often a ruse, a misdirect. She may want to tell you what she wants, and she may not. She may say it, and she may not. Even if she does tell you her true desire, she may later sabotage your attempts to give it to her. She may receive it, but be ungrateful for it. She may express her ingratitude with yet another unrelenting list of desires.
But don’t be discouraged. At the heart of your feminine is the one who knows what she wants, knows how to say it, is willing to receive it, and knows how to be grateful. It is here, with this one, that we reach the first stage of authentic desire. Being willing to acknowledge what she wants and ask for it. To find her agency.
But agency is not the last stop. There is another stage to follow, which is where she learns how to want what she has. This is the stage of surrender. But surrender can only be won during the first stage. Only then can it be a choice. Surrender outside of authentic desire is acquiescence once again.
The final stage, then, is when giving others what they want becomes your own most fervent desire. Too often women begin at this final stage, never learning the preceding stages. Because we are closest to our feminine, we are asked to give and give, assuming we do not need to fill up first. Our giving is generated from an altruistic idea: give unto others and others shall give unto you. But such an approach begins in emptiness rather than overflow. Only when we give out of the excessive remainder of our own fullness can we give joyfully and sustainably.
It was that teacher’s vulnerability that allowed me to open. He extended emotional collateral. He exalted my desire, and in doing so he was able to coax and tease and taunt it out. He had befriended it in such a way that he could play with it. And, in that case, I was willing to give it up to him. Because feminine desire is a precious commodity. It is the energetic equivalent of virginity. It is virgin territory that even she has often not touched. I discovered the shape and color of my desire with that teacher. Until then, it had been a vague notion in the background, one that gnawed at me. It was hungry, but I was never quite sure what to feed it. When he and I both gave in to the respective demands of my desire, we were each nourished in our individual ways, together.
It takes a lot of power for the feminine to speak her desire. She has to push through a lot of ideas. We have to turn on brightly enough that our power becomes usable. Only then, when we start to play with our masculine and feminine, do we learn that true power is shared power. Until now, feminine power has come from an ability to be discerning, to hold back. Women, for example, are taught that our worth is determined by our ability to “not give in.” We are never taught to truly feed. And it makes sense, for in a “no” there is power. But even the most powerful “no” is no match for the full “yes.” When we choose to say yes in deference to our own hunger rather than his needs, the locus of our power returns to our own bodies. The feminine develops agency when she can feel her own hunger, her own desire. Then she is able to meet the masculine in such a way that there can be play.
The greatest impediment to play is what we call “overstroking.” A “stroke” in this case is any action—a word, a touch, a feeling—that one person gives to another. Strokes feel good—until they don’t. Overstroking happens when you continue to stroke after the connection has been lost. Strokes without connection do not feel good, and anytime a stroke goes past the point of feeling good, the feminine will sense her boundaries are not being respected. Sensation begins to degrade immediately. All it takes to rectify overstroking is to ask for a change in the stroke, to acknowledge a decrease in sensation, or to ask him to stop, talk, and get reconnected. And yet, in trying to be “good,” we often tend to push through the experience of being overstroked, regardless of how it feels.
We see this in conversations all the time where one person keeps talking and the other is mindlessly nodding. Each nod signifies a tiny resentment being added to the pile to be dealt with later. The answer is to pay attention to sensation and to the feeling of connection. If you don’t know whether your feminine (or someone else’s) is feeling overstroked, hold back a little bit. Let her feel her wanting. Not so much that she goes crazy and gets desperate; just enough that you are stroking and she is still wanting it. Let her feel the gap between her desire and what you are offering. Turn-on builds in that gap. But most of us—men especially—are afraid that if they stop stroking, she will go away. They might never have the chance again. It’s happened before, they lament, not stopping to realize that women have left before because you have overstroked them before! They got the hell out of there because you didn’t let them up for air. You didn’t allow the necessary space and time for her to feel herself. And without this she cannot feel her desire for you. Yes, it takes a little faith. Faith is the bridge the masculine must travel to get to the turned-on feminine.
Another key point of understanding for the masculine is to distinguish between when she is turned on and when she is turned off. When she is turned on you could step on her toe and she would laugh. When she is turned off, you cannot do anything right no matter how hard you try. What most people in the masculine do to the turned-off feminine is apply greater force. Often this comes in the form of anger. They forget to play altogether. Winning her over becomes a life or death proposition. The best way to be with a woman who is turned off is simply to play. Men are so afraid to play these days, beaten down by legislation and blame. So in the face of resistance, they flee. Instead, think of resistance as the most ancient form of seduction. Remember it is key that she can communicate her feelings, needs and boundaries at the same time. Otherwise, play occurs as violation.
But when she has agreed to play, resistance becomes more like teasing. It’s her way of saying, “Come on, big boy. Show me what you’ve got.” She wants to see you hawk your wares. She wants to see your resilience and humor. She doesn’t want to see you like a stone Buddha and she doesn’t want you to pack your toys and go home. But she also doesn’t want to process and argue. She wants to play, to tussle, so demonstrate her thoroughbred nature. To let loose the reins and trust you.
Men are positively shocked at some of the suggestions I give them for how to work with their women. I think it’s because at a fundamental level, my suggestions assume a woman’s full capability. Women aren’t initially thrilled that I have blown their cover—that I have revealed they aren’t broken or in need of saving after all, that what they’re dying for is play—but the freedom they get is so refreshing that at some point (sometimes only years later) they forgive me. The key to play is to hold the other as a full, complete, and perfect being. She can handle it—whatever it is. She can handle you. Trust me, there are women who cross the sea, not speaking the language of the country they heading toward, ten children in tow, and no money. She can handle a little jostling from you. Your kid-glove protection feels like superiority.
Here, man-woman relationship can take a big turn. It can feel like you and your partner are holding the masculine and feminine respectively; like the masculine and feminine are channeling through you toward one another. Suddenly you can shift from “How do I get what I want from this other person?” to “How do I become a conduit for this other energy to move through, so that it can find its partner inside my partner?” There is incentive to drop the gripes that come from not getting what we want. Not because we are “willing” to drop them but because in doing so, the curtain of our personality is drawn back. The two forces of masculine and feminine can connect, and in the connection all of those gripes fall away. We get a lot more than we bargained for. We get a glimpse into an ancient play that is happening through us. You know how at any point there are over a million cell phone signals going through your body? It’s as if, suddenly, you are able to tune into the conversations. You are privy to what’s always been there, but had remained elusive.
When this kind of connection is made, we understand ourselves in a whole new light. When fully illuminated, what had been a tendency to control and complain becomes a regal nobility. It becomes not control but the capacity to discern. Our character defects “grow up” with voltage this strong running through them. We get to see who we are growing into.
There is also a deep, almost unbearable feeling of familiarity, as if some part inside is whispering to the other Oh, there you are! You can see how you and your partner have been forgetting each other. And now you have returned to compare notes. Motivations get revealed.
Such meeting of the masculine and feminine can have the opposite result as well. It is a polarizing experience. Either you feel closer to your partner, or her utter foreignness gets illuminated. It can feel like, “Who are you, how do you operate and what are you doing in my bed?” This is not a problem. If our partner is looking at us with this level of bewilderment, we can simply move more slowly as they make the atmospheric adjustments. We can stop and receive. The voices in their head may be stirred up, fogging their view.
The question being asked at this fork in the road is whether we’re willing to make the shift from the surface relating (which I call “man-woman” or gender-based relating) to a deeper kind of relating between masculine and feminine. Relating to whatever wants to move through us. We throw out the classic theater approach and jump into the ring of improv. There is no conditioning, no script. What is asked may be in direct opposition to what you thought you wanted, but it feels right. This stage of relationship is light on its feet, trusting, dynamic. It is a place where masculine and feminine can come together, each holding its pole with precisely the right amount of tension. Here, the reward is the experience of “right resonance”: just the right move at just the right moment. In the sweet spot between, true, deep, and satisfying man-woman relating can finally take place.