A Love Supreme: How Mother India Taught Me to Fight Like a Girl.

Harmony… Or Else!

                                                         

How do you thank a mother when that mother is a country? Mother India isn’t really my country—my own roots can be traced to Russia and Eastern Europe—but I was there, a guest on her soil. In the late 1970’s when I was nineteen, I traversed her midlands, climbed her rugged hilly bosom, and descended into her bowels. I ogled her erotic sculptures (Mother India’s a canoodler!) and thrilled to her voluptuous goddess culture. I even swam in the Ganges alongside pilgrims and cattle—so I can attest: Mother India really is the land of Holy Shit.

She is also the Primordial Womb world. For thousands of years, Indians have worshipped the Great Womb, an aspect if not icon of the Mother Goddess herself: domed monuments and vulva shaped statues adorn public spaces. At nineteen, India’s formidable girl power appealed to my budding feminist ideals; a vulva here, a vulva there, and with a cabal of goddesses, as fierce in their sexuality as their ability to restore cosmic order and save the world from doom, I mean… what’s not to love?

Sure, Mother India has plenty of faults—immense poverty, sickness, child labor, festering inequities from an antiquated caste system, to name a few—but spiritually speaking she’s a wise and zaftig momma. Her divinity is all-inclusive; her wisdom is as good as it gets—girl, you are already many! You are not, as Amy Bloom once wrote, one note on a flute. More like a sonata with every conceivable permutation. It’s hard to dismiss or escape India’s mind-blowing mix: everywhere you turn, the numinous and the primal, squalor and splendor, the smells and sounds of Genesis and Rot share the tiniest of spaces, entwining like lovers in a great cosmic fuck.

So what better place for learning how to give a good blow-that’s blow as in strike—than my beloved Mother India?

I was on a densely packed train. I knew it was coming – his hands I mean. I’d been traveling through strict patriarchal cultures where even the thought that women owned their bodies and had a right to do so wasn’t a blip on the screen; taking and grabbing were privileges of men—the proof was invisibly inked on my body like telltale DNA at the scene of a crime—so I’d learn to smell intent. When a man posing as helpful Mr. Rogers wouldn’t take No for an answer – he’d helped me with my knapsack, then stuck too close and tried to help himself to me-that was it. I went off: I slammed him in the head; I bashed him about the face and neck and shook him like a rag doll. Then I did the unthinkable:

I cracked his offending hand hard as I could. I nailed that sucker. Little bones crunched and “gave” beneath the fury of my fist. I watched him deflate like a punctured balloon, stunned by the power emanating from this hippie turned Beast Girl—and frankly so was I. A home-run grin peered through my fury. It wasn’t that I enjoyed hurting him—well, maybe just a little—but that I had issued his terror, not the other way around; that my body, which I’d spent my entire girlhood hating, was an instrument of power.

The lights went on.

Call it cellular memory or the magic of Mother India but when I struck back, time and space swung its doors wide open, or so it felt, and I went swirling back through evolution deposited into the skin of much earlier predecessor: Neander Babe, I call her. She had thick gnarly legs and a tribal chic ‘do. I remember feeling that I’d slipped into that genetic pool, merging with prehistory, landing in a time that predated domestication, feminine deodorants and plastic bosoms. Before our own madness was pruned back by fear, hemmed in by a litany of don’ts.

In my loopier moments, I imagine that had it been Paris instead of India, I might have poisoned my mauler with a savage bon-bon, or sicked my poofy Bichon Frise on him, or stabbed him with a barrette-something pointy and au courant. In reality, years later on an Italian train, when a pot-bellied pig of a man stuck his hand down my shirt and grabbed my breast, I slapped him across the face, flashing him my best Sophia Loren look of indignation. It was very dramatic; people came running, there was a lot of gesturing and noise. It was, in a word, Italian.

But this was India where life is far more elemental, closer to the bone, and all things mystical are in plain sight. So the fact that my experience was on the supernatural side, that I tapped into powers more ancient than myself, or that the spirit of Kali, a “divine destructress” with avenging limbs, had gotten under my skin or played a hand in my uprising, should come as no surprise.

While writing this I learned something new. Kali, who is typically portrayed as bloodthirsty—feared and revered for her battle-girl persona—is also a symbol of women’s empowerment, described as a perfect model of female balance: powerful, active and assertive—never pointlessly destructive. And what exactly are her legacies? She returns women to “three virtues” historically denied women in most cultures: Strength (moral and physical); intellect and knowledge; and sexual sovereignty.

So maybe that’s what hit home on my maiden voyage.

Here’s my loving shout out to Mother India and her fetching femmes fatales—girls, keep the force alive.

                          Dangerous Dames: A vibrant melange of Beauty and Beast.
                                   The  Prayerful and the Primal Rolled Into One.

Hara-scope: How Your Hara Can Help Your Stress

Stress.

We know it’s bad for our health and can make us sick. We’re supposed to reduce stress, ward against it, repel it like a foreign invader. Neutralize stress with exercise, breathing techniques, drugs and “happy” thoughts. (Yeah right.)

Now let’s get gritty about stress and what it does. My writer friend Jen Sexton sums it up nicely in an article for the Cape Cod Chronicle:

Stress attacks your emotional well being, bringing about feelings of fear, distrust, anger, and depression. In turn, these feelings may bring about headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, ulcers, skin rashes and eyelid twitches, not to mention the even more serious problems of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Stress wages war on the immune system, making us less able to resist diseases of all types. Scientists have even revealed a clear connection between stress and cancer.

OK we need to kick it’s ass. 

But you want to know what’s really stressful? F-E-A-R.

More stressful? The traumatic aftermath of violence or rape. Or living with a gnawing sense of what the fuck will I do if that bad thing happens like it’s happened to (fill in the blank with names of women you know or friends of friends or that woman on your favorite TV drama or the chick on the evening news who thought her date/ husband / the new guy down the street was just fine.)

Want to know what the best stress-buster and antidote is for THIS particular anxiety which is another word for STRESS?

Come a little closer and I’ll tell you—-and No, ‘m not gonna whisper a guided mediation in your ear or tell you to go inside and visualize wildflowers or the perfect ocean breeze.

Ready?…..

Madness. And a hearty, muscular fight and flight instinct coupled with the know- how to ACTUALLY kick ass. To stick it to the Man, so to speak, when and if he or she tries to stick it to you.  

Let’s be clear: By possessing a muscular “fight and flight” instinct I’m not talking about paranoia or creating hyper-vigilanance– that would be stress-inducing –or being knee jerk reactive, but rather having a healthy felt-awareness of your strength and of the reality of potential danger –all with a spring in your step and a va-va-voom feeling of power that lives in your hips and LOWER BODY- the Hara as it’s called in Japanese. It’s a physical and spiritual power-center located roughly two to three fingers below your belly button then smack-dab into the center of your body.

To Walk with Power and Deliver Power Drop DOWN Into Your HARA!

Think of it as your new favorite body-based locale, your go to and sometimes rush to place. It’s immediately useful–far more than Serenity OM’s– when the fear of danger, its sudden ejaculate of stress strikes your system and can overwhelm. Bummer.

This is part of WHY I’m all about our glorious LOWER half: Because fear – especially sudden fear–makes us rise out of our base. Just imagine a frightful in-breath that lingers too long at the top of the inhale. Everything rises and nothing touches down in critical  moments. This is precisely what baddies count on: to freeze your breath and get that RISE out of you. To throw you off balance in every which way. From their point of view this is a great start.

Countering this stress of fear and being ready and able to act in a jiffy – be it to fight or flee or even to speak with gravity and authority- may hinge on your ability to swiftly lower your center of gravity and drop into your HARA.

Find it. Go there. What’s your Hara-scope say?

 

Run Fu! (But Maybe Not Yet…)

“There’s something about being in the general vicinity of death that brings you back to life. It snaps you right out of complacency. Suddenly, every thought counts, every action. You can’t put off until tomorrow anymore. Things became crystal clear and my mind so sharp I could have slayed the Beast with just once glance.”

—James Capuano from his forthcoming memoir on life with cancer

You’re probably wondering what this quote from James Capuano has to do with running or “flight” in self defense. It’s a plenty good question. So here’s the correlation. When the shit hits the fan and it’s the Moment Of Truth, time to fight or flight (not freeze or panic please) because nothing else will do and it’s going down NOW, what you feel and experience is like a lighting bolt — adrenaline plus highly charged emotion flooding the body and I do mean flooding. It’s a crystalline do or die moment which becomes your everything.

I’ve experienced it myself when faced with would-be and “it’s happening now!” attack and also from from living in dangerous environs (Peshawar Pakistan, for example, where I was once stoned…I mean with rocks). There’s little to compare this to– as if all else STOPS, literally falls off the map of perception, of time and space, of life as you’ve known it.  It’s a razor’s edge moment so full and encompassing that it leaves no room for anything else.

And it comes with an urgency and luminosity that Capuano eloquently describes from his death-defying battle with cancer.

Now The Lesson

In many assault scenarios, when faced with a blistering two or three seconds to make your move, you might need to FIGHT prior to taking FLIGHT.

On that note, allow me to wax rhapsodic about one of our must-have power tools to help you achieve Fight Then Flight: PALM STRIKES of PALM SMASHES which are easy-to-learn and execute, and they can drive a man backward effectively rendering him a civilian, versus a BIG SCARY ATTACKER, allowing you to seize the opportunity to charge in with more slamming bad-assery. (Caveat: It’s NOT patty cake. You need to get your whole self and weight into it. Hopefully this or similar moves will then open up lower body targets- such as le groin.)

Palm strikes are the move that my super hero friend Keri Potts delivered– and it took five or six to literally knock her raging attacker on his ass prior to making her daring escape. 

Here’s the lesson about fleeing and when it does and doesn’t makes sense. It comes to us courtesy of the  FOX & THE RABBIT– better known as predator / prey dynamics and something called PREY DRIVE.

It’s like this: The fox chases the rabbit WHEN THE RABBIT RUNS! It’s the running or in the human realm the recoiling, cringing or backpedaling – sometimes called “cower power”-  that inadvertently triggers the predator instinct to give chase.

Don’t misunderstand: Running, fleeing, taking flight and gaining distance IS the end goal, but there’s a HUGE difference between running TO safety (good) and indiscriminately running away from trouble, meaning attacker, especially if you’re not in great shape AND there’s no good place to immediately run or retreat to.

By the way, when I say RUN I mean like your ass is on fire!

Women have successfully fled assailants, running to the road or nearby dwelling to get help. But when an assault is imminent or underway, backpedaling or bolting is often futile and can trigger this “prey drive” – a predatory instinct to quickly close on and subdue intended prey.

Screw dat. Let’s reverse. Do this instead:

Rather than giving him this tactical advantage, YOU may have to get up in his GRILL and bring on whammo! Close the distance and go IN, striking hard and fast with all you’ve got to then create that better opportunity to flee. Hit the gas, as it were, and ENTER with full forward drive and mojo. (And palm strikes as lauded above.) In effect you must BECOME THE PREDATOR. THE HUNTRESS NOT THE HUNTED. 

YOU GO GIRL!!! And she did…

Here’s a REAL WORLD SUCCESS STORY of a woman who utilized the coupling of FIGHT THEN flight. The headline read: “A Lincoln woman fights off a would-be rapist, then runs two miles to the police station to report the attack.” Note the order: Before taking flight she delivered a few good blows!

Resistance works, people! So heed the lesson from our furry creature friends Fox & Rabbit and remember: By drawing upon our considerable lower body strength and fierce survival powers, women can be powerful fighters on the ground. Word.