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.

Ringing it In. Where Power Comes From.

“There are times when it becomes imperative to release a rage that shakes the skies.  There is a time–though rare–to let loose all the firepower one has.  It has to be in response to a serious offense; the offense has to be big and is against the soul or spirit.  All other reasonable avenues for change have to be tried first.  If these fail, then we have to choose the right time.  There’s definitely a right time for full-bore rage. … And it is right.  Right as rain.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes: Women Who Run With the Wolves

How did you get into this? Where does this ferocity come from? Did… [insert polite pause here] … something happen to you?

They are questions I’ve been asked countless times. Given my enthusiasm for teaching women how to morph their bodies into weapons, and to penetrate targets and say damn, this feels good! well, I suppose it’s reasonable.

But it’s telling too. It betrays the assumption that something bad- e.g., a sexual assault– MUST have happened to me because why else would I– an evolved female and believer in empathy and compassion– be so passionate about helping women learn to be fierce,  and embrace their aggressive capacities.

Honestly, can we imagine asking a fella the same thing? “Hey there manly man, what in tar nation would possess you to learn to protect yourself from all manner of assault or attack?” What a silly question that would be! In man’s world self defense is deemed natural. It comes with beer and nachos and having a penis.

While we, the vagina people, are still principally taught (yeah, it’s changing) to “watch out!” as a primary means of defense. As rape “prevention.”

My answer is complex. My passion and fire stems from many sources, including my (former) work as a psychotherapist specializing in trauma recovery. And yes I’ve had my share – or more- of incidents: violent groping, manhandling, assorted close encounters, attempted rapes, a vicious street attack and a terrifying “it happened to me” nightmare scenario. In 1985 I was awakened in the dead of night by the sound of creaking floorboards from the footsteps of man I did not know. He, the shadowy figure down my hallway, was approaching, heading for my bed blade in hand. That would be after first cutting the phone lines and electric power. (For the record, I foiled that attempt with quick timing and war cries. What? .. .You didn’t hear me? Fay Raye’s KING KONG scream had nothing on me. No no dear with feeeling this time.)

There were follow up calls from this mystery man saying that he knew my whereabouts and the patterns of my and my then fiance’s life. I was terrified. I know what it’s like to be scared to death. 

This was the final initiation that led me from Martial Arts to more practical down dirty methods which would become me.

Still, sometimes the question– where does this come from?- does not always compute. Because how do I trace the genesis of something so deeply embedded in the bone of my being, that the mere asking unleashes sensations that leave my loins simmering with a knowing heat. You might as well ask me, “Where does LOVE come from, or the kindness of strangers, or the female desire to want or to have?”

The truest thing I can say is that IT– this power, capacity, and female warrior spirit– has NEVER ceased to be. It has always existed, it is eternal, unconditional. It is a life-force that we plug into. A bell in the distance waiting to be rung. Often it is rung at the behest or urging of fear terror.

It also comes from the female desire to be safe, self possessed and to have power.

As far as I can remember, including a girlhood incident that first sparked the desire (I’ll share that story in a future post; hint: boy tried to set my hair on fire), I have always hungered for this feeling and the potential it engenders. It wasn’t always a conscious desire, but it was invisibly moving me toward a capacity I would later call FIERCE.

Fast forward from my girlhood assault. One night, years later, on a midnight train churning through India, when a Man In A White Shirt wouldn’t take NO for an answer << insert repeated violent groping here>> it crystallized. The membrane around this inchoate power broke. When I struck back, cracking him about the head and busting his offending hand, a power I did not know I possessed sprung loose, as if released from dormancy, from potential into being. It was an epic moment. A memory, a whiff of something lost but not forgotten rushed back into my body. Like a ghost limb re-membered. The experience was as numinous as primitive.

The match was struck. The fire ignited.

Eventually this realization would become the basis of my philosophy:

Some part of you already knows how to do this…

In the end, this isn’t just my story, my truth or wake up call– it’s YOUR story too. And that is why I tell it.

about-bottom                        YOU’LL KNOW IT WHEN YOU FEEL IT!

9296_920846741262665_2662112249301133413_n          RINGING IT IN WITH THE GIRLS OF INDIA’S RED BRIGADE LUCKNOW.