Did you know in the U.S. someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, and 90 percent of adult victims of rape are female? A recent survey of 550 experts on women’s issues concluded that India is the most dangerous country for women, and #10, the United States.
I remember talking to my teacher, Carlos Castaneda, about the role and position of women in the world. Castaneda, an anthropologist, writer, and the heir of a lineage of shamans from Mexico, opened my eyes to this issue when I met him in 1995. The first time he mentioned it, we were at his garden, pruning a lemon tree.
“Do you know that one in five women are being assaulted daily? Not only in Argentina where you come from, but worldwide?” he asked me.
“No, I never heard that statistics.” I mumbled nervously.
I was raised in a family where serving and educating men was emphasized. While my older brothers became engineers and doctors, my sister and I didn’t finish any studies after high school. I was a C, and D student. I focused my attention on becoming “nice’ and ‘cute’ as the roles for thinkers and doers were already taken by men.
I did want to become someone, to feel worthy and strong, to have a job, to have a voice and a say in my family and in the world. However, the baggage of judgments and unfulfilled desires always dragged me down and I couldn’t finish any of my projects that I started. From committing to a regular exercise program or diet, to taking a class, or a job, I would drop out half way.
I wondered if what I heard from my brothers and uncles about women, was true after all.
Women cannot drive well
Women cannot conduct business, are way too emotional
Women are not reliable to lead society
Women shouldn’t dress in mini skirts if they want to be safe
Educating women is a waste of money
Under the lemon tree, I shared these thoughts with him with a tinge of anger. Castaneda inspired me through his humor to not take my conditioning and past experiences so seriously. He said I could overcome and free myself from interpretations and create a new future for myself, dreaming bigger.
He taught me to:
- To question and slow down my thoughts
- To balance my emotions with a stimulant-free healthy diet
- To get physically stronger by sustaining a daily practice
- To educate myself, so I will have the energy and endurance to pursue my dreams.
“The best way to change the world out there is to start by changing yourself,” was his mode. “Use your shortcomings as routes to power” he kept telling me and gave me specific techniques for empowerment and inspiration:
To recapitulate, to remember and release all unwanted judgments and limiting interpretations and identifications about myself and put into action new ones:
- Shortcoming FROM: “I cannot study physics, it is impossible my brain doesn’t get it” TO conquering when I got an A in my physics class in college.
- FROM “I never finish or graduate from school” TO: conquering by getting TWO masters degrees with high honors
To Practice daily physical exercises to heal childhood diseases and get stronger:
- FROM “No way I will be able to sustain these practice daily” TO: “Yes! I am doing it! The exercises are simple and easy to to incorporate in my busy life.”
- FROM being a poor breather with a family history of lung and heart disease TO experiencing healthy strong lungs and heart
To have a Romance with Knowledge, to be engage in critical thinking and philosophy:
- FROM not reading the newspaper ever TO reading news and differentiating FACTS from OPINIONS
- FROM being emotionally attached to ideas TO OBSERVING and then perceiving
Twenty-three years have passed and I can say that this work has changed me completely. I have become what I wanted to be, and I feel empowered and strong.
I believe in giving women the opportunity to get educated at high levels, to be physically strong, and to assume positions of power in society and politics in order to create a more balanced world.
The survey I mentioned above concludes that “the US joint third with Syria for the risks women face in terms of sexual violence, including rape, sexual harassment, coercion into sex and a lack of access to justice in rape cases.” Thanks to the #MeToo movement we now evidence something we knew always.
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