" I never predicted how the influence of violence in society would affect them and smother their critical thinking about violence."
When you raise your children you have hopes and dreams for them; that they will be kind, successful and happy. But what I never counted on was the influence of violence in our society on the way my three young women interact with each other and the world. There are times in our household where it feels like World War III has broken out. Vitriol surges out of them.
In 2005 I wrote a winning letter to The Weekend Australian in response to an article entitled “The Triumph of the Airhead”; at the time my biggest concern was making sure that my three little girls grew up to know they were more than their beautiful faces and bodies. I wanted them to think critically and challenge the societal norms about beauty. I think I have been successful in that, but I never predicted how the influence of violence in society would affect them and smother their critical thinking about violence.
I’m not talking about physical violence (statistics show violence is decreasing form of assault.), but the violence with which humans now speak to each other, not only on social media, but in the community. Road rage has escalated; Australia now ranks ninth for road rage worldwide. The winning song by Kendrick Lamar of the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2016 included lyric references to women as “bitches” and tomurder: “If I kill a nigga, it won’t be the alcohol, ayy” and people lap it up without any question.
Finally, the disdainful way that humans talk about each other in politics, media and entertainment, including social media has hit new lows, with the norm being the vilification of people on mediums such as Facebook and Twitter for their opinions and appearance.
American author Arthur Brooks suggests we are speaking to each other with contempt. I would go further: we have lost our regard for our fellow humans and society is teaching our children that violence through words is acceptable. We are told the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is untrue. But words do hurt. Contempt hurts. Disdain hurts. And it’s time we talked about it.
http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4906.0~2016~Media%20Release~ABS%20survey%20shows%20decline%20in%20rates%20of%20violence%20(Media%20Release)~3 accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://practicalmotoring.com.au/car-news/australia-ranks-9th-global-road-rage-league/ accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://genius.com/11593217 accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://www.facebook.com/harvardkennedyschool/videos/10154251688431403/ accessed 18 Feb. 18
"The role of women is changing from the traditional maiden, mother, crone to a time where any woman can be whatever it is she wants to be. A Goddess doesn’t have to be a young woman, or a mother, and she can age as gracefully (or disgracefully) as she wishes. It’s about women having choice; it’s about women feeling beautiful, powerful, confident and sensual in their own skins."
The internet has been awash with blogs, Instagram images and articles about being a Goddess, yet, unless you have experienced it, many women do not know what a Goddess is, or indeed, how to be one. And what on Earth does it mean to be Empowered? In the interests of full disclosure, this article will be my truth about what being an Empowered Goddess means to me.
For many years, I was plagued with self-esteem issues and it wasn’t until I did an online course with Leyolah Antara at Kundalini Dance that I felt the pulsing of energy that is the feminine energy of the Goddess that I fully understood the sensation of being an Empowered Goddess. I guess for me, I had to experience it to understand its power.
I could start by writing about how women were revered in many ancient cultures (and some modern ones), however, I think that it will detract from the issue. Such powerful women as the goddesses of early Pagan (Diana, Hretha), Hindu (Kali), Sumerian (Ishtar, Ereshkigal), Egyptian (Isis), Norse (Freyr, Bil), Irish (Dana, Brigid) and Greek (Aphrodite, Artemis) societies, not to mention those from China, Africa and the Americas as well as Indigenous ones and those in the Biblical stories, such as the divine Mary Magdalene.
I could talk about the other terms like embodied woman and Shakti that are used interchangeably about the Goddess in the early 21st Century but for the ease of the article, let’s just stick with the Goddess. Historically, women were revered as they carried children and the burden of both life and death through the process of childbirth. Thankfully, maternal deaths are decreasing and less women are dying in this important stage of life, and more interestingly, many women are choosing not to have babies. The role of women is changing from the traditional maiden, mother, crone to a time where any woman can be whatever it is she wants to be. A Goddess doesn’t have to be a young woman, or a mother, and she can age as gracefully (or disgracefully) as she wishes. It’s about women having choice; it’s about women feeling beautiful, powerful, confident and sensual in their own skins.
Women have only had the right to vote for about 100 years and the Goddess has risen historically in periods when misogyny was at its worst, such as when the Inquisition tortured and killed thousands of men and women who stood up to the church. Women who rode “cowboy” were considered witches (I kid you not!) (Stay tuned for my first novel, Matilda, based on this crazy misogynist culture in 2018). The Goddess brings us back to balance when the masculine energies become too dominant and unfortunately, we need the Goddess energy now more than ever.
Women are tired of being told what we can and can’t do by men and the institutions that run the world. We are all powerful, we know it and men know it and when they see us in our full power, they know who really wields power; and it’s not men or women, it’s a balance between the two.
The word “empower” means to “to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means.” By its definition alone, being empowered means that we give permission to ourselves to feel the power of ourselves. By extension, an empowered person also aids and empowers other people, particularly women, ethnic minorities and those who are in some way disenfranchised by society. Putting others down, does not empower the self, and it certainly does not empower others.
An Empowered Goddess is not the antithesis of men, she lifts up the men in her life as much as she lifts the women and herself. It doesn’t have to be duality; that is dominance by men OR women, it’s about balance. The more the Empowered Goddess taps into her inner self, the more that she can empower others to be the very essence of who they are, raising us all up in a collective empowerment.
To me a Goddess is a woman who has embraced and accepted all of who she is, that is, her darkness and her light. We all have the capabilities to be a great healer or leader or indeed someone who is capable of murder, given the right scenario. A Goddess sees and acknowledges those parts of herself that reflect both the primitive parts of humanity and the full goodness of it.
A Goddess is a woman who has done a lot of self-reflection and owns all of those parts of herself that at times she doesn’t like and at times she loves. When she looks into a mirror a Goddess will sometimes see a frightened little girl, or a vulnerable woman, other times she will see a wild woman ready for anything and other times a sensual, sweet seductress.
A Goddess is a woman who is assured in her sexuality; she has no guilt or anxiety around masturbation or sex and honours each and every lover with every ounce of her being. She can see her lovers’ vulnerabilities and knows just when to support him/her and lift them up. She is able to walk away if it’s not bringing her satisfaction, yet she is happy in the moment, knowing that she is exactly where she is meant to be.
She is not afraid of men, in-fact, she knows just the right ways to disarm or seduce a man should it please her. This is not something that she shows off, but if she wants someone or something, she will get it, she knows of her power to manifest her desires in a way which is loving but not manipulative. An Empowered Goddess feels into her body and she knows it, inside and out. It’s a feeling of being connected to something greater than all of us; a flow of femininity if you like that completely honours and respects the masculine and feminine balance of life.
May you find and honour your inner Goddess and those around you.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2017
Note: In 2015, I created tools to help people become self-empowered; Chakra Cards. Unlike traditional tarot and other divination tools, these tap into our intuitive self and allow people to clear all that no longer serves for them and help them to become an empowered Goddess or God with the power of looking within. Chakra Cards Empower yourself; look within.
"The ONLY purpose is being alive, is to be alive. There is nothing more. We do not need to seek specialness, we are no better or worse than others. Spiritual teachers are only people who have found a channel of truth that works for them at that moment in time. They are not the panacea for the answers. The answers that we seek are within us. Within our ordinary moments of life. Of seeing life for what it is."
Maybe I’m just ordinary. I’m not destined for any great achievement. I’m not going to change the world just by being in it and I’m not going to be remembered long after I’m gone.
Maybe I’m just another of the seven billion souls inhabiting this planet just doing their very best to be who they are, without any expectations of being more than what I am.
Maybe I’m just a mother. Maybe I’m just a teacher. And maybe I’m just poor and destined to struggle my way through life; I’m not the only one. Maybe I’m just ordinary. Maybe I’m just like everyone else.
When I was younger I had low self-esteem, at 58kg, I thought that I was fat and so hid myself from everyone. I wore baggy clothes. I hid from the world. I strived for invisibility. Then, I discovered Louise L. Hay who taught me that there was so much more to me, to everyone, her words and affirmations lifted me up, built my confidence, made me believe that I could do anything, that I could be anyone, have success if I just changed my thinking.
But what if she was wrong? What if the whole “new age” movement is really just another way to make money, to sell products, to sell ideas, to make people feel like shit and so that they need something to pick themselves up? What if it’s all just bullshit? These expectations that we place on ourselves are nothing more than setting ourselves up to feel like we are missing something.
Expectations create a false reality. They are like a “glamour” that we use to feel good about ourselves when in reality, we feel like shit, but we feel like we have to appear like we are having an easy time. Because if we admit that we feel like crap, there must be something wrong with us, but there's not. We are who we are.
Throughout my life, I have struggled financially to feed myself, my family and I have thought that my teaching career was just a stepping stone to something more magnificent. But what if this is it? What if this is my lot in life to just exist from week to week while I raise my girls in a job that brings me happiness and satisfaction as much as it brings me frustration and annoyance?
Maybe I’m not destined for anything more than to be here, now, living this existence.
I’ve had some amazing moments in my life where I’ve believed all these amazing spiritual things, but what if they too are bullshit? Just like yoga has become to me. What if instead of bringing me joy, the spirituality movement has turned into a search for deeper meaning, for purpose and for seeking something which simply doesn’t exist? What if nirvana is just a load of spiritual B.S. designed to make us think that we are on this “journey” to enlightenment, yet in our seeking we forget that in-fact we are just ordinary beings living life; for the only purpose of living life?
I am so sick of spiritual teachers (myself included in previous posts) telling people to “find their purpose”. There is no such thing! It’s another hook that drags us in, making us feel like we are somehow inadequate and special for having not found that thing we have supposedly been birthed for?
What BULLSHIT! The ONLY purpose is being alive, is to be alive. There is nothing more. We do not need to seek specialness, we are no better or worse than others. Spiritual teachers are only people who have found a channel of truth that works for them at that moment in time. They are not the panacea for the answers. The answers that we seek are within us. Within our ordinary moments of life. Of seeing life for what it is.
Maybe I’m just ordinary. Maybe all I’m meant to be is a teacher. Maybe all I’m meant to be is a mother. Maybe I’m just ordinary and will never be anything more than a struggling single mum.
Well, that’s okay. Because all I need to know is that right here, right now, I can feel my breath in my lungs, I can hear the birds settling in for the night, I know that my children are all safe and well and I know that I live in a country that is free from war. And if that is ordinary; being grateful for the here and now, well, I’d choose ordinary over “special” in this moment and every moment to come.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2017
"There are some outstanding teachers out there. They are hard-working and are making an impact every time your child walks into their school. They do their jobs without complaining about the workload or the abuse that some young people give us daily. And we show them compassion and give them boundaries and ultimately, we see a part of them that parents rarely get to see; how they interact with their peers."
After 20 years in and out of the education system, I have come to some conclusions. I have taught in four Australian states, in Catholic, Islamic, State and small private schools and across many learning areas and from Kindergarten to Year 12, but what I have learned is that the most important things we should be teaching young people, we are not, and we don't celebrate it when we do.
The Curriculum is a full and expansive list of what the Government-of-the-day collates as the things that they want all young people to know by the end of their schooling; English, maths, science, history and social sciences, arts, health and physical education, information technology and foreign languages. It is hoped that during their schooling, young people will have the minimal required exposure to all of these things. I, for one, love curriculum. I like its comprehensive nature of all the learning areas and it really does create a level playing field whether you are in a private or public school (but that’s altogether another debate). I like the fact that there is flexibility for individual schools and/or teachers to add their own spin on it. I like it for its order.
And yet, within the curriculum, there are cross-curricular priorities: Sustainability, Australia, Asia and the Pacific and Indigenous Australia – all integral parts to creating a wonderful future as well as the General Capabilities that teachers need to integrate into their planning across all learning areas: literacy, numeracy, ICT, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding. Teachers need to integrate all of these formalised ideas into the curriculum in our daily interactions with your young people and for most of us, we do our very, very best. Phew! Still think teachers get paid too much??
Yet, underlying all of this is the most important job of a teacher. It’s not delivering curriculum, it’s not making sure they pass all of their subjects, it’s actually two things:
1. Building honest and open adult-child relationships. That means, we build relationships with young people. How do we do that? By sharing who we are and being ourselves but also valuing and asking about the lives of the young people in our care. There are some spectacular young people in schools and in 20 years of teaching there have only been three students who I could not find any redeeming qualities in. And all three of those needed professional psychological assistance and/or diagnosis for sociopathy or psychopathy as a result of severe trauma. So many young people do not have responsible adults in their lives and they come from homes where abuse, drug use and violent conflict resolution reigns. These young people, in particular, need honest and open adults in their lives who genuinely care for them and have access to services that they need to heal and grow into honest and open adults.
Our young people need and want adults in their lives who will role model and live by their own values – not parade a false set of “Australian values” as laid out by the government. Australia is a diverse country and just as our students come from a variety of cultural, religious, socio-economic or just plain strange families, as do teachers. Students want to know what makes us tick, they want us to be ourselves (within the confines of professional behaviour), they want us to ask them about their lives, their story and their worries and their happiness. They want to know about how other people live their lives, especially teenagers who are experimenting with their identities. And yet, many teachers are so bogged down with the heavy curriculum (above), marking, meetings and other things to be able to spend time doing this, or indeed, don’t know how to do this. Our system has become so curriculum driven, thereby forgetting exactly why education exists, and that is to pass on our knowledge to the next generation and hope that their ideas sprout roots and become even greater than what has come before. The goal of a teacher should be to develop such a positive working relationship that the student is self-inspired to do well, which brings me to point number two.
2. Secondly, we need to teach young people self-responsibility. This means being prepared for classes, finding and asking for help if required for uniform, food, shelter, schoolwork, a shoulder to cry on. Self-responsibility means listening and learning and taking charge of their own education, by being attentive and doing the very best that they can. We need to teach them to be able to resolve conflict with others without violence, to not distract others who wish to learn and to learn the socially-acceptable behaviours – yet at the same time allowing them to be exactly who they are. It’s a delicate balance. I see so many people in our communities that take no responsibility for their actions – of violence, of crime, of poor relationships, of the struggles of life. A mature adult is one who has taken responsibility for their lives and their decision-making process that lead to the scenario.
Teaching self-responsibility starts when children are very young when we teach them to brush their teeth, comb their hair, use the toilet on their own and pack up their mess when they make it. At home, it manifests in helping with housework and cooking, finishing schoolwork and in school, this manifests in the ways above and so much more, particularly the responsible use of electronic devices (again, another topic altogether). Teaching self-responsibility doesn’t end in independence from the mother (or primary carer) it continues well into adulthood and we have a responsibility to teach young people strategies to help them to do this.
There are some outstanding teachers out there. They are hard-working and are making an impact every time your child walks into their school. They do their jobs without complaining about the workload or the abuse that some young people give us daily. And we show them compassion and give them boundaries and ultimately, we see a part of them that parents rarely get to see; how they interact with their peers.
Teachers teach so much more than curriculum. I feel honoured to be the teacher that students have come-out to, have disclosed abuse in their families and to themselves, and have sat with them while they cried through their frustrations and heartbreak. There have been many times that I’ve wanted to leave the profession, but something always brings me back to it, and it’s these big (and small) interactions with children and young people. Think back on your experiences of your favourite teacher; you will not always remember what they taught you, but you will remember who they were and how they made you feel. And this, is exactly what an excellent teacher should teach.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2017