A New Year, a New Decade, a New Perspective
This month we begin not only a new year, but also a new decade. A decade that—if it continues with the same momentum of the last decade—will most likely prove to be historically pivotal for the advancement of women to roles of full equality of leadership, opportunity and power.
However, it may be time to do some fine-tuning before the trends of the past decade push us along to a place that is not exactly where we intended to end up! As we stand on the threshold of this new decade, let’s make sure that the trajectory we are on is actually the path that we, as women, want to take.
We need to consider the fact that women’s longevity took an unprecedented downturn during the past decade. This is extremely alarming since the last time life expectancy declined for a significant number of American women wasdue to Spanish influenza, in 1918. A recent Forbes article stated: “Women’s health in the US is declining in 4key ways, and researchers can’t explain why.”
Really? It seems obvious that women today function under a pervasive epidemic of stress. For women, stress is this century’s Spanish influenza.
Analysis of the consequences of the surge in the number of women in the workforce shows that while there have been upsides that none of us ever want to give up, there have also been significant downsides that are seriously affecting our physical and mental wellbeing. They include a rise in anxiety and depression, an increase in addictive behavior, and an increase in heart disease and obesity, all contributing to the general decline in life expectancy. These are shocking statistics. But what is even more shocking is that these same statistics for men are either improving or not declining at the same rate as they are for women.
What has compelled us to make the kinds of choices that have set us up for the stressful lives that are undermining our health and happiness? We need to take a hard look at the direction that is being promoted for women in our culture today. National Geographic just dedicated its entire November issue to showing how women are now doing everything that men have done, and that higher percentages of women in all professional positions appears to be the goal that we as women are pursuing. But there may be a better way to define the future that we would like to see for our daughters and for their daughters.
It may be that we have been defining our success according to perspectives and values that do not fully reflect our own—the point being that this world has been built on the foundation of men’s perspectives that happen to be very different from women’s perspectives. When women enter the corporate, political, academic, etc., domains, in most cases they are walking into a male-defined workplace culture. Our natural tendency is to “fit in” by emulating the attitudes and behavioral norms of that culture. The more we align with our workplace culture the more men can understand and appreciate our ideas and solutions and therefore our contributions—but, at the same time, we become more and more disconnected from our own feminine perspective.
And here may be the explanation for why we have been suffering a significant decline in health since we entered the workforce in droves. In attempting to reflect the intellectual/emotional/psychological nature of men – as observed in the ways that men respond to various situations and challenges – rather than acknowledging our own unique nature with its own proclivities, perspectives, and processes, we have created a disconnect that clearly hasn’t resulted in the kind of life that so many working women had hoped for.
The good news is that once a problem is recognized, it can usually be fixed. And, in this case, “fixing it” doesn’t mean giving up the hard-won opportunities that we have attained in the past decade. It simply means getting to know exactly what our feminine perspective is and accepting the validity of that perspective so that we no longer hesitate to express it. It may be that the feminine perspective has been buried for so long that the process of excavating it will take a while. For this reason, we need to start in on this process sooner rather than later.
To this end, I have found that the most profound influences connecting me to my authenticity and foundational sense of who I am, have been 1) life experience and 2) the regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique.
TM has allowed me to reach beyond those ideas and concepts that constantly bombard us from outside. Underneath all the perspectives and opinions that my thinking mind has adopted there exists a more expanded and more basic level of my existence. It is from this universal aspect of my Self—in connection with the subtlest feelings and intuition that are the natural expression of my female physiology—that my authentic voice emerges.
Connecting to this deepest place within oneself is transformative. It provides an inner sense of self-sufficiency from which we can give generously of ourselves. It cultivates mental strength, courage and clarity in regard to our sense of what is right. This, in turn, ensures that our natural tendency to give does not leave us compromised. It provides both an underlying calm and an increased vitality—the basis for productive, dynamic activity and an abundance of creativity. We become more efficient and thereby accomplish more while still leaving time for the kind of personal relationships that are essential for us.
Without a doubt, TM has strengthened my connection to those deepest emotions through which the more subtle voice of the heart can be heard—providing insight into what is truly important. It has become evident to me that functioning from this place of authenticity is necessary for attaining the kind of emotional and physical health and abiding happiness that we all seek.
As women, collectively, we have indeed made great strides. We have basically proven that we can do what men can do and therefore deserve equal respect and equal opportunities. However, this is just the first step. We now have to ask ourselves: Do we really want to do what men do? And, if yes, do we want to do it in the same way, with the same approach that men would take?
Now is the time to reclaim our natural feminine voice and discover what we really want to accomplish in life, and how we will go about accomplishing it. No doubt this will look different to different women—and it may be different from the current narrative that is encouraging us all to head for the boardroom.
In order for women to collectively move the trends of time so that future trends will be more advantageous for our holistic growth and fulfillment, we have to dig deeper into ourselves than we have ever done before at any time in history.
Let’s make sure that, in the name of equality, we don’t lose our uniqueness. Let’s ensure that the prevailing lack of recognition of a separate and unique feminine process does not end up defining our future. With alertness, and with a commitment to our personal inward journey, we can make this new year and new decade a truly pivotal time for the full realization and integration of the feminine perspective—an accomplishment that will serve not only women, but all of humanity.
About the Author
International Trustee, Transcendental Meditation for Women