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.

Looking For Power In All the Wrong Places: To Find Your Fierce Look To Your Heart

   about-bottomRecently I was reviewing some quoted material and found this. It speaks to what I call The BIG SHIFT.

 “Real personal safety calls for nothing less than the re-awakening of instincts that allow for early recognition of danger, the skills and strategies to diffuse and escape violence, and the ability to mobilize deep-seated primal powers to fight off attack. 

It commands a monumental shift in women’s self perceptions, the channeling of intense emotions, unlocking a power and authority women often don’t know they posses. It taps into what Soalt calls, Fierce Love and a knowing in one’s heart: What is worth fighting for? What is non-negotiable? Where do I draw that line? ” 

Self Defense From The Inside Out.

I want to be kick ass! women blurt out with gusto. Great!, I say. But understand this: Self defense is an inside-out job. Before branding ourselves toughees we need to confront our feelings of vulnerability – otherwise known as ‘the female fear’ – which quietly lurks in the background of women’s lives.

Imagine for a moment that you are under attack. That your words and best efforts at peaceful persuasions have failed, that escape is not an immediate option, that terror has seized your heart with such a mighty force that you can barely stand, think, breathe…

Now hit the pause button.

Here’s the critical question: “If under attack, where will YOU go inside yourself to mobilize the focus and presence of mind to effectively act; to unfreeze your fear, activate power and call up courage with the whole of your heart? (Not to mention contending with the effects of an adrenaline-spiked cocktail pumping through your veins which can just as easily hijack your thinking-brain as gift you with super power.)

How will you collect yourself and command your emotions to rally in formation, your subatomic self forging an iron will? And do this in a heartbeat because seconds count.

If you secretly imagined that you’d crumble or get stuck in the freeze —  and if so, I assure you: you are in VERY good company!- ditch that image, and prepare to re-imagine…What if you knew that in a pinch, you could become a dangerous dame and effectively be your own best protector and self defender? 

The Good News Answer: You can and need to be. There IS such a place, a go-to zone and a way to rapidly mobilize skill and power. The path to arousing female power is akin to arousing female desire. It taps into a complex network of feelings, a circuitry not only rooted in biology and the brain but also intimate places spanning our loins and limbs, heart and soul. It’s a primal ‘heat’  that lives far below the topsoil of our everyday ‘nice lady’ selves, our cover-girl veneer. Yet for many, the capacity to BE the aroused warrior has atrophied or become dormant, buried beneath fear or conditioning of one kind or another, subsumed by the artificial constructs of femininity and by socialization which favors women’s nurturing, do-no-harming nature. So it needs to be unearthed, reinstalled, and turned back ON. Then kept on like a pilot light’s flame which can be adjusted as needed. Because in the Moment of Truth all systems must be GO! 

What’s Been Amiss: Looking for Power in all the Wrong Places


The biggest problem and “miss” (especially for women) in the larger martial and self defense world is that power has traditionally been influenced if not defined by men and the male mindset. That’s a mouthful I know.
What I mean is this: the male self defense paradigm has largely focused on an external constellation of power: the strong muscular body, the high-powered martial moves, the pumped and steely mindset as the primary ways and means of sourcing and delivering power, and succeeding in self defense and by extension in the ‘battle’ of life. 

While strength, moves and mindset are vitally important, they aren’t the whole story of power, nor necessarily the most critical components for women who typically lack the luxury of greater size and strength and often the mental or social conditioning to ‘return fire’ if they need to go physical. 

The Female Way

For most women, sourcing power and warrior spirit is INTERNAL and connected to feelings. It is as much about working “in” as working out.

It entails calling up will-power and courage from our deepest emotional reserves, descending into the basement of our being to access strength and grit. It means pulling power from terror and fury itself and bringing this fire into our fight.

In other words, for women, the directive to physically self defend doesn’t just originate in our bodies and brains or from knowing strategies in our heads or even from the fight/ flight effects of adrenaline.


It often arises in a completely different organ: The Heart. It arrives via the emotional and feeling body. And from a place that is both spiritual in nature AND rooted in survival instincts which must be leveraged in our defense.

Once a woman discerns where she draws that line, deciding what is not negotiable, uncompromising, and worth fighting for, this retrieval of power can happen in a heartbeat.

The Power of LOVE  

Women often discover their greatest strengths and abilities through feelings of love. Where there is love, there is ferocity which naturally arises to then protect what a woman loves or holds sacred. Be it safeguarding her boundaries, her body, her own life or the lives and sovereign dignity of her loved ones.


When I talk about “ferocity” I don’t mean a hate-filled emotional recklessness but rather a powerful surge of forceful, directed, maddening energy – whether it’s driven by fear, fury, love or survival. It’s a willful uninhibited force. It is the fevered taste, the already whetted appetite of a hungry lioness; it’s what allows us to punch, tear or claw our way out of darkness or an overwhelming life crisis.

Ferocity is that BIG bolus of juice, of toughness that enables us to swim upstream and fight uphill aided by defiance, a certain gnash in the teeth, and a singular focus to see our way through to the other side.

In context of self defense its purpose is to preserve life and dignity — not to ‘teach him a lesson or make ’em pay.’ It is not rooted in revenge.

The thing about ferocity is that it not only boosts physical strength, but dissolves inhibitions, hosing out obstacles and rallying the will. So it’s a superpower akin to what has traditionally been termed “killer instinct’ — a phrase that still chafes against women’s empathetic nature and sense of connected-ness, including my own. (Yes, even I, plucky brave-hearted leader, have a hard time spitting out the term “killer instinct” and I much prefer “ferocity” and “dangerousness.”)

In the end, perhaps ferocity isn’t just an attitude but a destination. A go-to place and primordial state of being that is au naturalle and organic like the ferocity of childbirth. For women, this ‘state’ needs to become second nature, a second soul-home.

Get Your Mojo Pumping and Back Online 

Although many can teach tactics and tools, Soalt believes that only a female can bring other women into this ‘primal zone’ within themselves. The courage and skills to safeguard boundaries and summon one’s might in the face of fear is best — and most directly–transmitted and realized through a female role model….”

Below are my essential four components and means to realizing this potential, to clearing the path, reinstalling your power, deflating your fear, working with your emotions, and arriving at that sweet spot, where the outermost layers of fear burn off to reveal something far more fearsome. It’s Womanly. It’s Primal. Read on……”

Survival like romance must capture our hearts.



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.