The Kinder Side

“I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.”

~Georgia O’Keefe

April, 2012

The Atlas Mountains stretch through northern Africa and extend about 1,600 miles through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The main population of people living in the Atlas Mountain range are known as Berbers. They are the indigenous ethnic group of North Africa.

I have come to Morocco on family vacation with my husband and three children. No matter where I am in the world, it is my goal and deep desire to learn something of myself through the eyes of people who live far from the main cities. Those who are removed from the busy bustle of tourists and souvenir shops.

I want to find the authentic places. I believe by doing this, there is opportunity to discover a deeper authenticity of self. 

My family drove about one-hour north of Marrakech, and with the assistance of two wonderful guides, we walked another 45-minutes (children on mule and donkey) to a traditional Berber home, which has been standing for some 400 years. On the way, we passed olive orchards, fields of flowers and mint. The contrast of color was breathtaking: red earth touching green grass, white clouds caressing blue sky.

Approaching the entryway to the Berber house, I climbed a steep staircase of stone. The door was wide open. I said to myself, “There are no closed doors here, only open hearts.” I could feel it, this experience was going to change me. My pulse raced with anticipation.

I entered the home and walked through the first floor which is used to house the working animals. Heading up to the second floor, I was met by the woman of the home. She bowed her head and pointed to the kitchen. Water was boiling on a hot plate in preparation for tea. I was directed outside of the kitchen and into the main family area where tea leaves, fresh mint, and sugar were presented in ornate bowls.

The man of the home welcomed us by placing his right hand over his heart. I did the same, sat down, and began to watch our host make the tea. Pouring of tea, in Berber society, is an honor designated only for men. Our host watched closely as I tasted this sweet liquid. He was pleased, and relieved, when a look of delight came over my face!

I sat with this humble family, breathing in the fresh Moroccan air peppered with some 14 different spices being used to cook a meal of organic vegetables, including carrots, potatoes, and peas. Everything around me was so perfectly simple. We did not speak the same language, yet we continued to cover our hearts and bow our heads in thanks for all that we had, at that moment in time ~ together.

My seven-year old son, Ian, was full from our feast and rested his head on my lap. Just then, the two children of the house came skipping into the kitchen. They ate with their mother and, at one point, I felt her staring at me as I ran my fingers through Ian’s hair. We looked at each other and smiled. Mother-to-Mother and Woman-to-Woman, we had found our own way of communicating. Two women from different parts of the world, speaking different languages, following different faiths, and living very different lives. Yet, we were connected through a mutual respect of womanhood.

I felt so content and I closed my eyes to listen to the gentle chirping of birds, as they flew in and out of the house. It was then, when a quote from legendary American artist, Georgia O’Keefe, came echoing into my mind:

“I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.”

I opened my eyes, looked out over an amazing landscape, pulled paper and pen from within my purse, and wrote a promise to myself:

Exploring the glorious depths of who we are as women, collectively and individually, is exploration that I dedicate myself to for the rest of my days.

It was the epiphany I was meant to have, and the reason I had found my way to this Berber home. I also recognized that this desire of self-exploration burns within me for a profound reason: there is much more to me ~ as woman ~ to discover. I am devoted to looking beyond the facade of what the world defines as being “womanly.”

My knowledge of who I am does not stop at my titles of wife, mother, daughter, writer, etc. Neither does it stop at some exterior quality like the length of my hair, the size of my bust, or the measurement of my waist. No, being “womanly” is really not about (and never has been about) the physical, or the sexual. Women are multi-faceted beings ~ we are not objects! We are far smarter and far greater than to fall for this societal trap ~ anymore.

Believe me, I’ve been there! I have valued, or devalued, myself due to what the world saw as acceptable, worthy, or beautiful, at some certain point in time over the course of my life. That is such an exhausting rat race! When a woman moves through the maze and sees the light at the other end where loving herself, as herself, is quite simply enough ~ then, she begins to find that authentic part of her being that has been waiting to come out.

This is the moment when you finally exhale and transform into a true global sister ~ living a meaning of “woman” that transcends language, nationality, race, religion, or occupation.

I find that the more I travel the world, the richer I become. I am not speaking of monetary wealth, I am speaking of spiritual wealth. The riches that are manifested when one steps outside of a comfort zone and opens the heart to new experiences ~ new explorations. As women, we should realize the importance of exploring a more soulful side of ourselves, and of each other.

We have, at some point or another, all been seduced to reaching for some unattainable ideal that does not exist (not even on magazine covers). For the sake of future generations (and for the sake of our own) we must silence the noise. It is essential that we begin taking time to apply cosmetics for the soul. This is when we find ourselves crossing over to the kinder side of beauty and what it means to be “woman.”

My afternoon in a Berber home taught me a timeless lesson ~ the deeper I explore the inner workings of me, the more I discover an authenticity that directs me in my life’s purpose. And, the more I open myself to sharing personal moments with other women, the more I grow in my desire to live authentically.

Perhaps, as women, we might take respectful time to break bread with another female who shares a different view of the world. Might we listen to her viewpoint? Might we put ourselves in her shoes? Might we see her ~ really see her ~ for the beauty she possesses inside?  The wisdom and experience that been passed down to her from previous generations? I saw this beauty radiating from the Berber mother, sitting quietly in her dark kitchen, who blessed me by giving me the gift of time with her family. This soulful beauty cannot be airbrushed away ~ nor would we ever want it to be.

Let’s get real! Let’s live authentically with ourselves and with each other. Let’s share who we really are as women. Let’s sip from a sweeter nectar, point our compass to the kinder side, and direct ourselves toward an authentic path of beauty, well-being, and womanhood.

Affirmation:

Today, I open my heart and explore all that I am. I travel off the beaten path to discover more of my purpose in life. I understand that only I can do this self-exploration. I am willing to make the journey. Today, I step over to the kinder side and celebrate a healthier meaning of womanhood. 

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