Women and the Fire Within

photo by me! (Big Island / Hilo, Hawaii)

photo by me! (Big Island / Hilo, Hawaii)

“Blessed be she who is both furious and magnificent." 
— Taylor Rhodes, calloused: a field journal

There is a fire in all of us that is just trying to get out and find its way. And amazing women are forged in the fire of the girls that they once were. Shaped by their passions, these girls grow up to become the women that they are meant to be. Therefore, the best gift one could offer their daughter is the encouragement to grow and make her own choices for her life, her own body and mind. When she can choose for herself, she has the best chance of becoming her most awe-inspiring and authentic self. I'm grateful to have parents who have ALWAYS supported my process of becoming completely who I am. They continue to be pillars of strength and comfort throughout each part of my life. And all along this journey, I have encountered many remarkable women who I am honored to call inspirational teachers and friends. In honor of them for National Women's Month, I am also moved to champion my entire gender pool. It is our FIRE, and our PASSION that carry us through.

My father's mother was a strong woman who raised eight children and worked incredibly hard. Anniebelle was a sweet and emotionally beautiful spirit who loved her husband and family deeply. My mother's mom was a trip. Jessie was a fashionista who had a zest for life and a charitable soul. She was a loving wife and mother of six children, who remained active and lived to be almost 106! Her third daughter, Dorothy, (child number 5), is my mom. A fairly quiet superwoman, my mother is the anchor in our family who always holds us in place and on track. I will forever be in her debt for a lot which includes her carting my sister and I back and forth to the multiple classes, lessons and activities that active kids do. As one gets older, there comes a realization that we somehow become more like our parents. And, I am proud to say that I will be honored to become even more like my mom. And, I am equally pleased to have acquired some characteristics of both grandmothers as well.

My late sister was my best friend, gifted, brilliant and the funniest woman I will ever know. I miss her, the sound of her voice as well as her laugh daily. Kind, compassionate and unapologetic for who she was, My-chelle will always be my hero and one of the strongest female  influences in my life. I will always be grateful. Then, my four gal pals whom I refer to  a lot, Caroline, Kym, Marie and Betty now surrogate sisters who keep me grounded. Each are fiery —(SUPER fiery) blessings that constantly provide inspiration and comfort. All are so smart, talented, funny and accomplished women who I am lucky to have near. This is my tribe, and there are a host more of other women teachers and mentors not mentioned here who I hope know that they have held me up and will forever hold substantial places in my existence as well as in my heart.

Just returning from a yoga and Ayurvedic retreat that I treated myself to for my birthday, I took
the opportunity to decompress and study some wellness practices while on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii. There, I was very pleased to have met some other wonderful women. This crew, all pitta, (fire and water) energy in our own way spent our time on this retreat together laughing, sharing stories, heading out  on island excursions and spending time getting to know one another. It was nice, fun, easy, relaxing and just what the doctor ordered. Some R&R, scheduled meditation, lectures on Ayurvedic philosophy, yoga classes, Ayurvedic food and some fun in the sun, (without socks, hallelujah)! Hanging with women can really be quite wonderful. They were great. Our time was great. Hawaii is GREAT!

One of our Big Island activities involved a few of us renting bikes to ride up to view a new volcano that had apparently begun erupting this January. It was easy to see the direction in which we were to ride from our start point at the base of the hill, due to the huge tower of smoke that we could see way off in the distance.  It took more than that and the promise of hot laval to freak me out. What did make me a little nervous about this little adventure was that I hadn't been on a bike since I was 14 years old! And, although the saying is that one never forgets, I didn't know that for sure and was potentially about to prove that bike riding theory one way or another, on a gravel path in front of women that I had just met. There was potential for a really ugly fall. But, as it turned out, I hadn't forgotten my bike skills and no embarrassing wipe-outs occurred!! Our 45-minute bike ride was up moderate hills that would plateau enough for you to catch your breath and your stride again in preparation towards having to muscle up the next incline. Riding in between fields and fields of petrified lava rock in itself was incredible. Imagining that all of that was once moving liquid lava was staggering. Once at the end of our ride, we chose to place our bikes together in a specific manner so that we could find them easily amongst the crazy number of bikes and piles of bikes that we encountered belonging to those already ahead at our final destination. Now 45-minutes closer, the smoke was larger, much more ominous and quite  intriguing. In order to get a closer look from there, we walked across one field of jagged and uneven lava rock towards the coastline. (Not quite sure how people do this at night with or without head lamps, but when in Hawaii...) Once there, we met with about 70 other people standing and sitting on the rock in awe just watching. What we were able to see was the missing cliffside of lava rock glowing red, with smoke and steam billowing up towards the sky. It was awesome. As the lava that we periodically saw was literally shot out of the side of that cliff, hit the water and produced more steam, based on what I've learned about Chakra and Ayurvedic systems, I began to come to my own revelation.

The earth was literally open and the fire from within was expelling into the sea. Chakra speaking, the solar plexis is the area that corresponds with fire. This is our guts and where our instincts and passions lie. That, and our hearts are what moves us. From the Ayurvedic study of doshas, which we spent much time studying during our retreat, that primary constitution of fire and the second of water refers to people who are characteristically fiery, driven go-getters who have a hard time taking it easy. This was the general constitution of our entire retreat group of women. (And—NO, we never fought once.) That fiery liquid lava cooled instantly as it hit the ocean, thus changing the state and nature of the lava. I began to think about how the nature of change in anything, like this volcano can build over time or seem to happen suddenly or quite violently and abruptly overnight. As all things are somehow connected, and there are many after effects from a single changing event. That is life. Change is constant. The lava rock that hits the water becomes frozen in a state of 'shock', let's say — jagged, sharp and seemingly ill shaped or undesirable in appearance or in behavior. Who of us hasn't been there? It is a valid experience that must be considered, for all of us as well. Broken and different from one's original state is a lot like how I felt post diagnosis and post surgery. It wasn't very pretty, (and still isn't sometimes in some ways). But, what I realized when sitting at the black sand beach in Hawaii, is that that same ugly chunk of lava rock that had been tossed around in the ocean had been sanded down by that experience to become rounded, polished and smooth. By making us sharp and jagged, then tossing us around, life is always shaping and RE-shaping us. Sometimes life experiences cause us to become jagged and rough, and at other times we life just beats us 'til we become smooth and shiny. We are always both extremes and are simply to learn how to navigate the changes, because no state is final. So don't get attached to any state of being, because it will change somehow at some unexpected point. That is the nature of things, life and growth. As that polished and rounded lava rock, gets bumped into other rocks and is tossed up or down the coastline, after more time in the ocean, that same rock may eventually get broken up into grains of sand and be deposited onto the beach to stay or, be eventually washed away to some other place. As women, we can do all of that with grace.

Again, there is a fire in all of us that is just trying to get out and find its way.  When we put our passions and our fire out there life effects them, often breaking and mutating them as lessons and experiences for us to work with. Sometimes our fire is dashed by water, but often it is the water that only begins that life changing step towards the next place where we're really meant to be. Life is about constant change. We can't ever know what it means until we've come out on the other side—so the point is to stop trying to figure it out. Stop over planning for what we can't control and live. Live to learn about who you are. Live with awareness. Live in awareness of your truth. Live to be happy. Be with people who you're happy to be around. Ultimately though, stoke your fire. Let your passions loose and make yourself the strong and happy woman that you are meant to be. Women are...all things.


Teri Gandy-Richardson