I was a creative, lively, outspoken child. I wrote plays, sang, danced, and expressed my emotions freely.
Fourth grade came and something died in me. I remember approaching my brick school with barred windows feeling like school was a form of jail. In order to fit in socially and get good grades, I learned that the world was not a safe place for my creative and imaginative spirit.
My loving parents were concerned, and decided to bring me into get testing. I was given an IQ test, which showed that my IQ had dropped significantly. The IQ is “supposed” to stay the same throughout life. So what was causing me to be less present, less willing, less uninhibited, and by the measure of IQ, less “intelligent” than when I was a young girl?
I internalized the idea that there was something fundamentally wrong with my brain, and ultimately with me, and if I could change myself, I would be back to my confident outgoing young self. Later, in high school I would often describe the feeling that I was “loosing myself,” especially in relationships. Since I thought there was something wrong with me, and that I needed to change myself to please others, it makes sense that I felt I had “lost myself”.
As I grew into my adult years, I realized that this phenomenon of “loosing oneself” was actually wide-spread amongst females. Many adult women were still trying to figure out how not to “loose themselves” in relationships or work, and how to grow their confidence and self-love to replace the internalized voices that something was fundamentally wrong with them.
Well, it turns out that there wasn’t actually anything wrong with me (or any other girl)!! There were some key nutrients that I was being starved of that it took me years to discover. When I graduated college, I met a teacher who changed my life forever. He showed us that nature was truly alive and could be conversed with. Over the next years the natural world went from being a pretty green wall to a close friend. The more that nature became a home the more I felt at home inside of myself!
Through becoming involved with a local wilderness school, I became a student of Eight Shields Cultural mentoring, a lineage that traces back to one of the last Apache scouts before colonization. This model teaches cultural components common in indigenous cultures around the world that support children to grow into life-giving, competent and skillful members of their tribe. Since nature is an ancient template for how to create a balanced eco-system, when we took ourselves out of this system, we lost the template!
One of my first mentors taught me that in the wound is the gift. So, for the past decade my work has centered on re-creating this template and these nutrients for girls. Gaia Girls Passages was born two years ago and offers nature-based after-school groups and summer camps that honor the important transitions that are happening from girlhood into young womanhood. The most common feedback we get from girls is that Gaia Girls is a place where they can be themselves. To me, this means that putting these nutrients back are an antidote to the females “loosing themselves” syndrome.
Although we may not have received all of these essential nutrients as children, we can now provide them for our daughters and the next generations. At this critical time on mother earth, it is each generation’s task to learn from the successes and shortcomings of the previous generations, and upgrade our culture for the next generations. In deep gratitude and respect to my own parents, and all parents who are doing their very best to raise children inside of a larger culture that has sailed off course in many ways. May the re-connection we provide for our children send waves of healing backwards and forwards through time.
Come hear more about these nutrients and a nature based map for healthy female development at my upcoming talk on April 28th at the Yurt Temple in Berkeley. RSVP here for more info.