Aspen Princess: The Divine Feminine isn’t what you think | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Princess: The Divine Feminine isn’t what you think

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

So the other day I attended a workshop at the Yoga on the Mountain event in Snowmass on "Self Compassion and the Divine Feminine," and the instructor was leading us in a meditation exercise.

After the meditation was over, she asked us to come up with a list of words or phrases that we might find comforting. I scribbled down a bunch of words without thinking about it much, just as I've always been taught to do in writing exercises. A stream of consciousness, if you will.

"Now I'd like for you to find a partner and begin by having your partner read your phrases back to you," she said, her hands pressed together against her chest. "Then you read your partner's phrases back to them. Finally, read your phrases out loud."

I looked down at my list and cringed. Yikes. I hadn't realized this was a sharing exercise.

I raised my hand. "My words don't really work for that," I said.

I had chosen this workshop because I wanted something different. God knows that after all the hours I've put in sweating it out on my mat, confronting my own image in the mirror and wishing I had worn a different outfit because my too-small pants and not-big-enough-top was doing nothing for my self-compassion.

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Even though the phrase "Divine Feminine" made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, I figured I could probably use a little more self-compassion. I'd lost it somewhere around age 12 and haven't really had any luck finding it since. Stuff like motherhood, aging and the comforts of married life should probably help the cause. But instead, I find myself caught between self-loathing and self-acceptance. It always feels like a fine line between accepting myself for who I am and letting myself go. In a way, self-loathing drives me to be better, to stay reasonably fit and to spend enough money on stuff like waxing, facials and Botox to save face — and save my face.

You would think it's enough that I have a loving, supportive husband who is always telling me I look like various supermodels from the '80s. I'll fall asleep with my hair wet and wake up with it all disheveled and he'll go, "You look just like Heather Locklear."

Lucky for me, my husband loves me for who I am and is genuinely perplexed by my insecurities, especially because he doesn't seem to have any of his own. He's the most confident guy I know. I'll compliment him and he won't say thank you or act bashful. He'll just nod and say, "I know."

At any rate, as you guys know, I've been struggling a lot with my postpartum self-image. On the one hand, I want to give myself permission to slow down and spend this precious time with my baby, and on the other hand I feel a nagging sense of guilt and shame over not working out more, not eating better, and not looking or feeling as good as I'd like. Not that I ever felt good, but that's beside the point.

When I heard about the Yoga on the Mountain event and perused the various offerings, this workshop seemed to appear as if just for me.

Don't get me wrong: I love yoga and wonder how or why I would ever have blown off the chance to do a yoga class before I had a kid. To think there was a time when I did two classes in a day and hiked up Ajax or went for a 6-mile run in between. These days, I'm lucky if I can get twice a week.

But this time, yoga wasn't what I needed, even though the event offered two gorgeous venues for practice with sweeping views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

Instead, I found myself in a windowless conference room in the bowels of the Westin Hotel with a lovely woman named Julie Ross, who has a Ph.D in psychology and was far more appealing than another waif-like yoga teacher with long, flowing hair and an enviable six pack who somehow always managed to make me feel more inadequate than calm.

"Why do you think your words won't work?" she asked gently. She'd just had a baby six weeks ago and was still recovering, her face a little puffy and her eyes tired. Somehow it made me like her more, this realness and relatability, further evidence that the universe wanted me there. "Will you read them?"

I hesitated, biting the end of my pen. I took a deep breath. "OK, well. Like the first thing I wrote was, 'Gertie.'"

"What?" she asked, truly perplexed. She had suggested things like "May I be peaceful" and "May I be loved."

"Gertie," I said again.

"What?"

"Gertie, as in Gertrude. My pug. My dog," I replied, all eyes on me now. "She's what I think of when I think of comfort. She's my muse. I think she has magical powers."

This made Julie smile and nod. She talked about the comfort our animals can bring. "What are some of the other words?"

I rolled my eyes. "Um, bed? Secure, warm, family, cozy, Ryan, sheets, breeze …"

A few of the other women in the room began to chuckle.

Somehow, my partner adapted those phrases into some lovely mantras for my meditation: May I be warm. May I be safe. May I be with family.

The 90-minute session felt like it ended just as it was getting started, a true indication that I had thoroughly enjoyed myself. Sometimes I need a break from the mirror, to reflect instead on what's inside. I might still have a lot of work to do when it comes to self-compassion. But I have all the Divine Feminine I need, right here in my lap, snorting and snoring and oblivious to what anyone thinks of her, owning the fact that she is a perfect little bitch.

The Princess is excited for offseason. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.