An Intra-Pandemic look at Motherhood & The Heroine’s Journey
I broke up with my baby father during last November’s New Moon in Sagittarius. Gambling on a horselike gut feeling, I ushered in a much needed era of freedom and renewal. It wasn’t out of the blue, although I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty here. I woke up on my thirty-fifth birthday from a stirring dream and a week or so later the New Moon coaxed me to shut the door on what was a very significant and powerful, albeit karmic-toxic partnership in my life. I will say one big piece was a 10-day silent meditation in which I unearthed a lot of wretched emotions about my other half. Once that was unleashed, I guess it wasn’t long before the end. Sometimes we are corded in our relationships through our traumas, and we have to cut those cords in order to reestablish cords of unconditional love.
The post-breakup feelings of euphoria and glory quickly derailed into overwhelm, sadness and loss. I bottomed out at a new stasis based in supreme heaviness around my seeming powerlessness as a single mother. The loss of our shared vision and sense of family made me feel like I was suspended in baby mama hell. I was not only starting from scratch, but I was tainted goods. In the throes of longstanding emotional limbo I revisited the book SHAKTI LEADERSHIP by Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia. It has been helping me mine beneath the surface of the trauma-loss-grieving and find my *elixir* at the end of the heroine’s journey. Traditionally we know the masculine hero’s journey as a conquest for power. We’ve been told the feminine supposedly doesn’t journey because “she is the place that people are trying to get to.” (1)
First off, let’s not get over-binary about things. Spiritually we all have both masculine and feminine energy. Throughout our life we might occupy various points of the sex/gender spectrum, corresponding to our Shiva/Shakti energy and our right/left brain polarities which I’ll get into later as I share the Inner-Sun Breath from Kundalini Yoga. But first, let’s back up to when I ran up on motherhood like a wise-fool. I had been single, queer, femme and free for so long I believed I could just bang reality into submission (like I always did). I didn’t hang with anyone doing the real work of motherhood and I had been away from my birth family long enough to have forgotten how traumatic being in a family felt growing up. I perceived the art world as sex-saturated and mother-negative, and participated balls-out in the new wave of feminist art despite it often feeling like a space ripe for the glorification of mostly white, thin, cis-gendered women’s bodies on display. I was so in “the game” of feminist performance art as co-leader of the Go! Push Pops collective some of my colleagues thought I was wearing a prosthesis in my early pregnancy photos.
Despite feminist art being all the rage and the feeling that I was at some kind of momentous career height at the time – I was literally a bike messenger up until my first trimester of pregnancy. Let’s say Feminazi meets American Gladiator. Looking back that era of feministing for the art world elite reads more like being an unpaid court jester, the queer femme party-bottom of late capitalism. Motherhood offered a delicate, albeit unsettling, unfolding. I was able to ground into a different way of being and reclaim many of my innermost shakti womb powers. The resources the heroine has available to her on her journey are surrender, receptivity, emotion, intuition, radiance, flow, sensuality, nurturing, affection, sharing, gentleness, patience, and vulnerability. (2)
This can be confusing in the world we live in, where many women tart-up toxic masculinity with lipgloss and chase the carrots of patriarchal capitalism. Can I get an R.I.P? Intra-pandemic, all signs indicate that the patriarchy is DEAD. When you can walk the empty streets of NYC and all the storefronts are CLOSED you can be sure the system is FINALLY BROKEN. It’s going to take a lot of soul-work moving forward as we recalibrate culturally and renew our global commitments to humanity: to peace, love, unity and stewardship of the Earth. It’s the only way we can move forward into a sustainable future and that’s finally been made virally clear. As for the social distancing and use of COVID to usher in Martial Medical Law and collapse the economy… let’s continue to question authority in whatever ways we can. The earth is striking back and there’s a death toll in her wake. However, as we’ve seen statistics posted on worldometers.info and deathmeters.info circulate the web, the number of mothers who have died during childbirth in 2020 is already seven times the number of fatal COVID19 cases. That’s 66,059 mothers dead during child birth v. 8,979 COVID fatalities. These numbers speak volumes to the root of our crisis. With respect to all elders, perhaps COVID moved our politicians to extreme measures because most of them fall into the high risk category themselves – overpaid, over sixty and unhealthy.
Much like we have all for too long been taking the earth and her wild, abundant resources for granted, Shakti Leadership highlights how we unconsciously dismiss everything feminine as “simply what our mothers did,” feeding the consensus that the work of nurturing/loving has no value. (3) The New York Times reported recently on how if American women were paid minimum wage for their regular domestic and care-giving labor, they would have collectively earned 1.5 trillion last year. (4) In her book The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist talks about a group she facilitated for 10 senior-level female executives at Microsoft in 1998. The average age of these women was thirty-six, the average net worth $10 million and more than half had families. The somber commonalities Twist discovered amongst the group was eye-opening. Most worked overtime 6 days each week at the office and spent Sunday at home but were online at least half of the day. Most admitted their families came second to work and they were routinely disappointed in themselves for this fact, even to the point of feeling that life was passing them by. Although these women were at the top of the money game (literally amongst the top 1% of women in the world) they all admitted “the game they were playing had robbed them of any sense of victory or fulfillment.” (5) Twist’s take on our cultural scarcity mythos around money, highlighted in her book via these hyper successful mothers of Microsoft, pinpoints the problematics of gender, money and power lodged in the societal collective unconscious. As Twist illustrates in her bestselling book, we’re letting the monetary system undermine our own higher values. Our need for bigger, better and more at all costs is killing us. We’ve become the victims of a system we ourselves created.
As a young girl, I wanted to be a rich and powerful doctor like my Dad. I sensed his authority in full and participated in denigrating my Mother for her seemingly frivolous behaviors, despite me living through and for her continuous streaming love. Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia write, “There is also some badness in what we consider good…the minute you choose one compliment over its opposite, you create its shadow…it’s only a matter of time before it shows up in your life as a limiting factor… When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate.” Eventually, as a feminist studies major in college I would knock my Father off his pedestal. I learned to despise all that I had idolized in him just as he quietly disavowed his oldest daughter for my seeming fall into abysmal whoredom and poverty (how I imagine my career as a sex-positive warlord of the feminist art underground looks to his baby boomer generation). Yes, although I grew up with two parents urging me to be a doctor, excelled at sports, music and art, got straight A’s, and put myself through college and graduate school…somewhere between realizing white male patriarchy was the root of all evil and falling head over heels in love with Black culture I ended up as a single mom aspiring to be a trapper, but mostly just trapped below poverty level. Thankfully – if there’s one thing I learned growing up privileged under white supremacy in the suburbs, it’s that money doesn’t buy happiness.
So there I was – thirty-five, hair all grown out for the first time in my life. I was an unremarkably feminine domesticated single mother without the benefit of a bread-winning ball-and-chain. Wondering why I slept on myself for so long. Having opened like a fresh flower to the sweetness of motherhood, I hit back up against its iciest twin peak – the brutal, dog-eat-dog reality outside my front door. I knew I had to conjure-the-fuck out of my inner masculine warrior if I wanted to tap a revenue stream that would give me the freedom to create my own space in this wasteland of techno-capitalism. But wait, how exactly was I supposed to work a full time job and be a full time mother? And what had motherhood done to my mind? Focus? Drive? I mean my mom traded financial power for the color and flavor of a long list of noble accolades – healer, showgirl, charity worker, gardener, mother, dental wife. I’m open to the same polyvocality, just not the way she was on the financial leash of her mate.
Sometimes in my quest to succeed I follow Instagram accounts that help women ramp up their business. It’s logical to assume we can benefit from using the internet in a more masculine, focused, yang way to establish legitimacy doing one thing and create regular income. Imagine a sun beam traveling a direct path and always hitting right on the mark. This is Shiva’s pillar of light, which Shakti circles around endlessly. Meanwhile, I’m typing emails with a toddler on my back and greeting my first yoga student with tears in my eyes because I somehow started the morning reading the passage in Twist’s book about the Guatemalan who spent her last dollars traveling all the way to Beijing to tell her horrific story at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The woman testified publicly to how soldiers entered her home and killed all her animals in front of her, then all her children, then tortured her. (6) Sisters all around me confessing stories of abuse, manipulation, sexual assault, violence.
The Earth is raped of her resources in an expression of our societal take/violate relationship to The Mother. To use my own personal anecdote, my at home natural birth midwife threw me to the wolves of the medical industrial complex when our son Kali came a month “early.” His father and I fought successfully for a natural ecstatic birth at Bellevue hospital in Manhattan above and beyond everyone’s expectations, but we didn’t have an ounce left when they suddenly confiscated his placenta to do “research.” The placenta is our Gaia cord. As our first source of nourishment in our mother’s womb, it is our first connection to prana food, Earth and her. Ancient Egyptians called the placenta our twin soul; in Cambodia it was “the globe of the origin of the soul,” linking land, Mother and child with the spiritual principles of receiving, belonging and satiety. (7)
For most of us in the West, satiety evades our current relationship to both food and money. As all the restaurants and bars shut down in the wake of the pandemic, cutting off the livelihood of the creative class that works in them, my first thought was the only thing that generates consistent money in NYC is people overeating, over-drinking and overspending. What could be worse for our immune systems and our Earth? In terms of struggling to use Instagram to market myself ala cyber feminism – I waver in my commitment. On the one hand, it’s clear to me women leaders the world over are using the internet very effectively as a tool to raise consciousness along with the net worth of women worldwide. The internet is fluid like female energy. Basic human biology is similar to the Internet in that both have no centralization of power. All neurons connect to all neurons, a more efficient way of processing information (see illustrated map below by @wildflowersex). At the same time, we now understand most algorithms of artificial intelligence are designed to steal our attention, violate our nervous system, move widgets or wage war. My workday compromising tears make me divine feminine, in my feels – engulfing, merging with our collective shadow. One reason the only career path I’ve ever been able to really latch on to is an artist is because it’s the only thing that doesn’t feel limited in its expression.
So I struggled through chilly December and bleak January without so much as a fuckboiii. I slept with a pilfered eye mask to block out the city light from a futon in the living room of what was now less our family home and more my baby father’s apartment. Things were in many ways more peaceful than ever before. As our relationship disintegrated, we reinvested our personal energy back into ourselves and let go of the codependence that was our demise. It wasn’t until months after our separation that I finally felt remotely financially ready to look for a new place. Suddenly it became painfully clear from the one-liner emails “What’s you income and credit score?” That my happy trail of artist fees and yoga 1099s (plus massive student loan debt) meant I wasn’t eligible for my own place without a Daddy that made 40x the rent signing off on my life. I was committed to finding something under the radar (and off the chain!) Meanwhile, the rebellious visionary in me wasn’t ready to give up on my dreams for a 9-5 job. I began to feel like my life had settled into some legal lethargy. And all this amidst global pandemic panic that made a trip to Trader Joe’s feel like a bread line in communist Russia. A few weeks before the shelter-in-place mandate, I received an email from the landlord of an apartment I expressed interest in. I was miraculously approved!
In my shrill leap to secure the apartment with first month’s rent and security something went seriously wrong. Honestly, it wasn’t until said “landlord” and said “broker” were yelling at me over the phone to the point of tears that I would discern the underlying signature message of the universe. No, not that the apartment was too good to be true (which it was) but that there I was AGAIN – lied to, broke, alone, undervalued, abused, demeaned, gaslit and thrown away. Many of us feel this way in a system designed to harvest our female energy for the benefit of an elite ruling class. For the heroine, facing some crisis resulting from this painful reality is our decent. We feeling beings who are most vulnerable in our trust, our openness, our flexibility, our love for love. I filed GRAND LARCENY with the NYPD and pushed back my move date until further notice.
Meanwhile, I was literally aching. In my twenty years of practicing yoga and 9 years of teaching I’ve never once suffered an injury. Ever since the morning of the scam, when apparently I pulled something doing an arm balance, I’ve been nursing a sharp muscular pain on my right side. I’ve started thinking of it as my broken wing. Sometimes an injury actually offers a healing crisis. A relief in the sense of offering a physical, tangible manifestation of an immense build up of tension that longs to surface. Injuries around the ribs are connected to feelings of being emotionally attacked with no space to feel what one feels as well as a general sense of being undervalued. Often, the wound runs much deeper than any singular incident. When it comes to body-based trauma, it can resurface years later in a healing container such as a yoga class. A seemingly innocuous outside person comes in to wrench open the original wound. They are not necessarily our enemies but our teachers in service as a vehicle making perceptible the underlying traumas. A lesion in the yang ribs denotes a feeling of being attacked by a man, and the yin side, by a woman. (8)
This last piece seemed to bitter-sweetly highlight my position as a woman and mother, dare I say the victim of patriarchal society. How to move out of victimhood and into agency? How to earn the money to get my own place without aborting mission on the beautiful maternal role I had come to occupy as one who cared for her family with three-homed cooked meals, butterfly kisses, walks by the river, love and more each day? As a pioneer of HIP HOP YOGA, I knew that I had to somehow bust out with a new rhyme for the Spring Equinox and weave new realities with my words. Always inspired by the godliness I perceived in the game of rap, I put some bars on paper and toyed with various instrumentals before coming up with the SPRING EQUINOX BANGER I call GRAND LARCENY, performed to the instrumental from Young Thug’s *HOT* It’s a reminder to myself of how abundant my life is right now.
The search for love continues yes, through the scam lords and wolves in in sheep’s clothing, through persnickety self-doubt and worries that bossing-up is somehow becoming the oppressor. The root of “ritual” is the Sanskrit ritu – referring to rhythm/seasons/menses. As women, every part of us is a vibratory, creative expression of nature’s libido spiraling. This is why our energy is circular, never linear, we are day by day buffering the evolution of human beings on Earth. Shakti Leadership explores how “Making the libido conscious is the heroine’s journey – women’s work.” As a mother, artist and yogi, I’ve walked this walk despite its lack of material reward. My yoga practice has been such a shield of light in my life – a natural outgrowth of which is sharing my practice as a teacher. Shakti’s journey begins with coming to grips with a culturally engrained, disempowering belief system – one that she didn’t even realize was controlling her. In her exuberant quest for love, a sense of belonging and a return to soul family – her call to action through crisis unfolds as her descent, initiation and ultimately death. She must integrate the shadow she was projecting onto others and release the outer world from her rage. (9)
According to yogic science, we lodge a lot of our defuse negative emotions in the right brain. We know that the right brain is our feminine side, where we are prone to the dark expanses of creativity, chaos and depression. That’s why we practice alternate nostril breathing – to balance our yin/yang energy and through this achieve self-mastery and wholeness. As we rebirth into Spring, what negative emotions are we letting go of? Are we letting the fear of corona overtake our sense of peace, personal agency, mental health, social life, our self-love?
As a sage of the Kundalini path I feel we are all responsible for our own health. Everything from STD’s to pimples to viral diseases are only an outward manifestation of our underlying emotional-spiritual barometer. The lungs hold our halo of sadness and grief. They deal with our ability to give and receive. Twist, who does environmental philanthropic work in partnership with indigenous peoples of the rainforest, writes about how the rainforest is metaphysically the “lungs of the earth” in Soul of Money. I speak to this in my GRAND LARCENY rap, unaware when I wrote it what an apt metaphor it would become amidst the pandemic. Through the storm of corona virus, we are culturally grieving the old paradigm that is crumbling – just as the Earth is purging the old and driving commerce and business as usual to a HAULT.
While the masculine charges forward with focused, positive, brilliant sun-light bright energy, the feminine knows how to die and rebirth. We’re all being asked to stop and breath. In the spirit of the season of the Aries Warrior, the Birth of Spring, and the fall of the patriarchy… I urge you to practice with me the protective, IMMUNE Boosting Inner-Sun breath, explained in the following IGTV. By practicing a purifying fire breath through the left nostril, we not only target viruses and bacteria, we unclutter the right brain of its negative emotional blocks.
As we move through a hugely terrifying cultural crisis, we also feel the energy of the divine feminine rising. We feel her within as women who know it is time that our false, surface identities wither to dust. My Mother pledged mid-pandemic to let her hair go grey at age 66 after years of dying it. My sister, a costume-designer to the stars, is happily at home with her plants feeling more rested than ever before. For me, I realized I was living on an island and my backyard held a beautiful glittering river, trees bursting open with cherry blossoms and expanses of grass. I have never felt so relaxed in the city, which despite the media-driven panic many are suffering through, suddenly feels blanketed in an air of otherworldly calm. With all the side-hustles falling away, life has finally hit its right rhythm. I found myself running alongside Kali’s bike and could feel my lungs expanding, my cells singing in the first rays of Spring’s light. As we waited in the long breadline at the grocery store, Kali discovered the gravel could be used like chalk. We covered the sidewalk with pictures of hearts and monster trucks and beatboxed with fart noises. Although Kali’s missing many of his school friends, his mother recalled a part of herself that finally remembers how to play. There’s a richness in this moment I don’t want to take for granted. I am so grateful for the precious innocence and the love of my son Kali.
In the cradle of this longed for quiet – let us uncover our innermost unacknowledged ways we collude in abuse of power, rape of the Earth, the silencing and erasing of the most vulnerable members of society. For me, this involves withdrawing my projections from all the men I have made mountains of at my own expense. I forgive them and thank them for holding my projections for so long. Men likewise are stripping down, back to their basic creative, holy, wise wizardry and warriorship. We must let the divine masculine bell ring and rise with the feminine. We must resacralize sexuality, knowing that our genitals are made to massage and heal one another in blissful union. According to ancient Eastern philosophies such as Taoism, the reflexology zones of the penis and vagina reflect one another. Through penetrative sex the penis and vagina massage, stimulate and heal our major organs such as the kidneys, heart, liver, spleen and lungs.(10)
The heroine knows this intuitively in her divine quest for love everlasting. She was never on a quest for power, she quests insatiably for a sense of belonging and reunion with her HOLY FAMILY. She does this not by living happily ever after with Prince LOVE-A-LOT, but by becoming her own Mother and her own Beloved, therein uncovering true freedom. (11) For me this looks like living less in a reactionary way and anchoring into true presence through my pursuit of balance and self-mastery. Within and amidst this massive portal I released GRAND LARCENY on the EQUINOX. It’s honestly the positive rap I’ve been trying to write forever. In the spirit of stepping up my warriorship and busting my guns as the radiant, all-loving, righteous, rich-with-health and spiritual wealth baddass Mama that I am, I give you…
Katie Cercone *High Prieztezz Or Nah* is a visionary artist, scribe, prieztezz and spiritual gangsta hailing from the blessed coast. Cercone has performed or shown work in exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, Bronx Museum, Dallas Contemporary, Momenta Art, C24 Gallery, Changjiang Museum China, Dodge Gallery and Aljira Center for Contemporary Art. She has published critical writing in ART PAPERS, White Hot, Posture, Brooklyn Rail, Hysteria, Bitch Magazine, Utne Reader and N.Paradoxa. As co-leader of the radical, queer, transnational feminist collective Go! Push Pops, Cercone spearheaded a 400-women strong takeover of the Whitney Museum in 2014 known as “The Clitney Perennial,” and was awarded the Culture Push Fellowship for Utopian Practice the same year. In 2015 she was a distinguished National Endowment for the Arts Fellow for the U.S.-Japan Exchange Program in Tokyo (JUSFC). Her work has been featured in Dazed, MILK, Interview, Japan Times, Huffington Post, ART 21, Hyperallergic, PAPER, Art Fag City, Washington Post, and Art Net TV among others. Cercone has curated shows for Momenta Art, KARST (UK), Cue Art Foundation, Local Project and NurtureArt. Cercone is adjunct faculty at the School of Visual Arts where she teaches GENDER TROUBLE in the Visual & Critical Studies Department.
Learn more at KatieCercone.com
(1) Joseph Campbell interviewed by Maureen Murdock (author of The Heroine’s Journey), recounted in Shakti Leadership: Embracing Feminine and Masculine Power in Business by Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia, Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016, p. 58
(2) Shakti Leadership: Embracing Feminine and Masculine Power in Business by Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia, Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016, p. 60
(3) Shakti Leadership ibid, p. 60
(4) New York Times, “Women’s Unpaid Labor is Worth $10,900,000,000,000” by Gus Wezerek and Kristen R. Ghodsee, March 5, 2020
(5) The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017 p. 79-83
(6) The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, p. 199-200
(7) “Healing our First Cord of Connection,” in WOMB WISDOM: Awakening the Creative and Forgotten Powers of the Feminine by Padman and Anaiya Aon Prakasha, Destiny Books, 2011
(8) “Does Your Body Lie?” Flows and Forms online, © Luís Martins Simões
(9) Shakti Leadership ibid, p. 61-63
(10) @honeydewholistics post on Instagram February 2020
(11) Shakti Leadership ibid, p. 62-63