In this episode, I explore the ways in which patriarchal and colonial thought systems affect the parts of ourselves we get to experience and express, and how we can begin to think of ways to be more complete, free human beings.
I touch on how our dominant thought systems shape the reality we experience, how qualities associated with the “feminine” are often looked down on in Western systems of thought, how how misogyny can cause us to disown important parts of ourselves, and how the process of accepting and integrating all of our qualities and characteristics can help us find more creative freedom and inspiration.
I also offer some simple suggestions for finding your way toward habits that help you court your muse and access your intuitive, creative, and receptive qualities.
And finally, I offer an example of a creative practice I’ve used in songwriting (and other endeavors) and share a song that was written with that practice.
Links to things mentioned in show:
Cheat the Blues by Carla Gover
welcome to the what dreamers do podcast. i’m your host carla govan, and appalachian musician flatfoot dancer, mama creative and dreamer from kentucky. i’m on a mission to inspire others to realize their dreams and live their most creative lives. grab your mason jar full of sweet tea or something a little stronger, and pull up a chair, because it’s time to get your dream off.
that’s what dreamers do.
hey, there dreamers, i’m back again with you this week. and this week, we’re going to talk about two subjects that you don’t necessarily always talk about at the same time, which are the patriarchy and creativity. and so i think this is an interesting conversation. it’s something i think about a lot. and i hope i’m not just way out in left field here, i hope it’s something that you will find fruitful to think about as well. so if you’ll give me a grain of salt, i’ll explain to you my thought process. so first, i want to start by taking you on a journey of how i have come to think about the creative process and my own evolution of this line of thinking. and like everything else, it starts with the fact that i grew up in appalachia, which is a place that has a lot of kind of patriarchal elements, there’s a very strong idea, or at least when i was growing up of the man being the head of the household, wearing the pants. but in reality, there are so many strong women in appalachia who are pillars of the families and communities. so i had that dichotomy to witness, as well as belonging to a religion, a fundamentalist religion that had pretty segregated gender roles, about what women could wear, and couldn’t wear, how we’re supposed to wear our hair, how we’re supposed to wear makeup, which is not at all. and you know, this is something i obviously watch my mother grapple with, in her own ways as well. but because creativity and spirituality are very linked, it was something that i started thinking about at an early age as well as gender roles. so just bear with me, i will get to the part where this relates to the creative practice and how that might be affected by patriarchal ways of thinking that have shaped western thought, for millennia at this point. so one book that i read recently, that made a big impression on me, it was just beautiful. and it’s very popular. so i know, it’s made an impression on many other people, too, is called braiding sweetgrass by robin wall, kimmerer. and she is a member of the potawatomi tribe, who is also a biologist. and she does this glorious, beautiful moving job of describing the natural world, both from the perspective of a scientist, but also from the perspective of an indigenous person who was raised with a very different thought system than the thought systems that have shaped academia, which are judeo christian, greco roman, you know, philosophies, ideas about science and ideas about what’s good and proper, and what’s flaky and not to be taken seriously. so one of the things that really struck me about the book, and it’s something that i knew already, but she really hit the point home to me, was just how much the ways we are taught to think, shape, the reality that we experience. and i know that kind of goes without saying, but in particular, she would often a point in the book contrast, the way her indigenous ancestors conceptualized an idea or a philosophy and the way, western thought conceptualizes the same idea. so we’re kind of at a moment in history with our society where we’re questioning a lot of beliefs, systems, ideas, about justice inequality, and freedom and discrimination, and systemic problems that our society faces. and i think that’s a good thing. and i personally believe, at least for myself, that engaging in that process of inquiry and reflection with compassion, and trying to remove judgment is helpful. so i’m coming from a place of compassion, and a place of wanting to be the most well rounded and balanced person and then i can be. and one thing that i’ve noticed in my inquiries as i look at the systems of thought that we learn in the ivory tower, in our institutions and to certain extent just in our society, that those qualities that are often associated with the masculine
are exalted to the point where it’s out of balance. for me, thinking of the internal qualities that we all possess, whether we’re male, female, gender fluid, non binary, lgbtq, is a good framework for reshaping my thought processes and becoming a more balanced person. and i do want to acknowledge that gender is a construct that changes across society. and so i’m using the terms masculine and feminine, in quotation marks kind of like yin and yang, in quotation marks, knowing that these are qualities that we all possess to varying degrees, no matter what our biological gender, or what our orientation or what we identify as. so i would like to just examine these qualities in their common understanding. and i took inspiration for this list from another really awesome book called you are a goddess by sophie bashford. i’ve really enjoyed that book. she has a lovely british accent. so i recommend listening to the audiobook version of it because she reads it herself. when we think of qualities that are associated with females, or the feminine or just that more yin aspect of a human being, those would be things like unconditional love, connection to nature, nurture, compassion, flow, intuition, emotional intelligence, sensitivity, receptivity, non rational state of awareness, flowing cyclical and spiraling processes, allowing and accepting stillness, subtlety. those are just some of the things that we would characteristically associate with those aspects of our being. and masculine energy is more associated with the active principle with doing things with getting stuff done. logic, reason, rationality, strategy, planning, future oriented goals, solution based thinking, problem solving, decision making, pursuing a linear course, thinking and intellect, controlling and pursuing competition and ambition, singularity of purpose and direction. and so you know, in order to really fully function in the world, we all have to draw on both of those sets of qualities. but i’d like to quote one line from the eur a goddess book here. and sophie bashford says, if one set of qualities and approaches to life dominate earthly consciousness for any length of time, then it will seem that any other approaches are less viable, less truthful, and less necessary. the other qualities could even become seen as weaker, less meaningful, and even an important. so i think, what it feels like to me, and i don’t want to speak for anybody else. but i believe that as a society, we have internalized these beliefs of the feminine and the feminine aspects of ourselves. and by extension, often women being less than, and it affects us in so many ways, and it affects our creativity, i promise, i will get to the part where we’re talking about creativity. when i was a little girl, i had two big brothers, you know, my mom and dad. and i really looked up to my big brothers, and i wanted to imitate them and do all the things they did. and one of the things that they did, because they were teenage boys is they were super into weightlifting for a while, and they would take off their shirts, and then they would like do their bicep curls. so they can see their muscles better. i guess they’ll probably not like that i told the story. but
then i decided it was cool to go around without my shirt. and i was like four at this time four and five years old. and my parents and let me get away with it for a while and i’ll you know, run down the hall or to the neighbor’s house sometimes. and i will be shirtless. and you know, sometimes i would try to do a couple couple curls to so i could make my muscles strong, but my brothers and then at some point, they told me oh, you have to wear a shirt. why? because you’re a girl. why? because girls have to wear shirts and boys don’t. and that’s a relatively innocuous example of it, but somehow i learned that boys had more freedom and then at some point, i learned that to be female was thought to be emotional, irrational, hysterical, potentially. so i wanted to be a boy for a while, i kind of just felt like it was just cooler to be a boy. and i wanted to have that autonomy of thought. but i also, i wanted people to take me seriously, i wanted my brothers and my dad to take me seriously. so i decided that i was going to try to behave like a male, especially as i started to enter my teenage years, and i had hormones kicking in, i wanted to prove to the world and i was not one of those hysterical females that i was different that i was logical that i was rational. but that came in a little bit of a cost, because i closed off whole intuitive parts of myself whole emotional parts of myself that i had to go back later and kind of excavate and reconnect with. and i didn’t even know at the time it was because i was receiving messages, that being female was just not as good. it just wasn’t as cool. and i know i’m not alone in this. i know, that kind of story plays out in a variety of ways, all around the world. and not everybody perhaps grew up with a story like that. and if you didn’t, i’m really happy for you. but it is definitely something that i’ve had to kind of do some healing with. so we live in this culture in this world that has honored strength over vulnerability, its honored action and getting things done over taking our time and reflecting and asking our intuition. it’s honored boldness, over gentleness. further proof of the fact that masculinity and masculine roles are a little more acceptable is the evidence, at least in the united states, where if you’re a woman or a young woman, and you’re kind of a tomboy, and you kind of like to dress in a boyish way, that’s pretty acceptable. i mean, yes, you might get t some, but for the most part, people just say, oh, yeah, she’s a real tomboy. but should a young man decide to express verbally or physically or in his clothes, his more feminine qualities, many times that will result in insults being called a sissy, or something even worse. and i believe that’s because, you know, we just tend to value the masculine expression more. and i would say that even some feminists seem to harbor this bias, as if all women should choose to be doctors and wear pants, just because our foremothers fought so hard for their right to do those things. and of course, i think the discrimination and hatred that so many of our trans and non binary and lgbtq friends face is further proof of our societal obsession with enforcing rigid gender roles, which is also i think, a part of patriarchy, and internalized misogyny. so the big question is, why is this important to our creativity and our creative processes well, to be balanced humans, and to fulfill our potential, we have to embody all of these aspects of ourselves, which in many cases, involves embracing and honoring the feminine aspects of ourself that we have pushed down or not paid enough attention to or not cultivated. because the act of writing a song or making a painting or creating a poem all require that we access that receptive part of ourself, that creative, dreamy state, it’s not like
going hunting, where you go out and you’re, well, okay, maybe that’s not a good metaphor, because sometimes, when you’re writing a song or creating piece of art, it does feel like you have to wrestle it to the ground. so maybe you do have to use all the energies that you have. but there is definitely a listening part a still part, a intuitive part. that’s crucial. so whether you’re an artist or a creative or a dreamer, or somebody who’s just trying to be your best self, or make the world a better place, it’s really necessary to embrace and embody all of those beautiful human qualities. and it’s obvious that on a societal level, we need to embrace and honor those as well. robin wall kimmerer, who wrote rating sweet grass that i mentioned earlier, also told a story about a tribe in the pacific northwest, for whom the ultimate shame was considered letting a widow or an elder or an orphan child, go hungry or go without. that was something that caused deep cultural shame and they did not allow it to happen because it would have reflected poorly on their own wealth and their own generosity, if they had allowed those kinds of conditions. to persist in the midst of all of their abundance. and all you have to do is look at the policies that are created and coming out of washington to see how far apart our current value system is from embracing some of those more indigenous honoring of the sacred feminine philosophical systems, because one of the primary ideas of all those systems is that we need to take care of each other. we need to take care of everyone. we need to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves. so what does this mean, carla, just tell me how can i embrace and honor my full self? how can i undo the damage done to my psyche, by a patriarchal and colonialist thought? well, for me, part of it has to do with giving myself a little bit of time every morning, to just be nobody to just disassociate from my ego, i heard somewhere a long time ago that to be somebody, you have to be nobody. and i think that can apply to meditation that can apply to creating art. before the things come to you that are great expressions of your soul and personality, you have to get still first. so for me, having a daily creative practice has partially been about finding a way into creating those habits for myself, that weren’t these heroic, get it done. super action oriented ways of doing things. i’ve talked about this in previous podcasts. and maybe it’s just because i have a somewhat rebellious personality type. but if i am too rigid in the way i think about doing something, then it’s not as enjoyable to me, i resent it, i resent myself for putting some sort of obligation on myself. and i’m not doing a very good job of gently inviting my muse to come and sit with me for a while and chat and have some tea. so for me, that’s an approach that works better, i don’t know, maybe probably there’s somebody out there who just, you know, whips himself into shape and gets up and uses extra firm discipline with himself. but that’s, that’s not my style. and i think perhaps this more gentle approach is in harmony with those very yin or feminine principles that i’ve been talking about where you’re inviting in the muse, and you’re allowing the inspiration to take place and you’re offering space for those ideas to percolate and come to fruition. now, i guess artists, and creatives are not necessarily known for being super disciplined in whipping themselves into shape other than maybe we have this archetypal idea of the very disciplined ballet dancer who’s, you know, doing their tattoos, and they go days every day at the bar, or the discipline rider that sits down every morning at nine and stays in the chair all day.
which is great. i mean, you actually, you have to do that i am not knocking that. that reminds me of a story about my very favorite science fiction author douglas adams who wrote all the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy books. and i remember reading about when i think it was the fourth or fifth hitchhikers book that was due. and the publishing company had given him this huge advance. and he had spent it all it it was like two years later. and they keep scheduling and then postponing big release parties and release events. and finally, they got to the point where they were like, okay, look, we’ve got to get this book. and i think the only way we can do it is if we hire somebody. so they hired this guy, and they rented a motel room. and they had douglas adams go to the motel. and the guy they hired, his instructions were to not let douglas adams out of the hotel room until he handed them a book. and so that’s the story he wasn’t allowed to leave, they just had to periodically bring him tea and biscuits and whiskey. so he sat there with his typewriter until the book was finished and delivered. and while most of us don’t have somebody that we can hire to make sure we don’t leave our houses and bring us whiskey and tea and biscuits. i believe that we can all cultivate a little more time into our daily routine to invite the museum sit with her for a while. so here i offer a very simple suggestion as a way that you might incorporate a daily prayer decision, please think of this as five minutes. because i think the reason that some of us don’t get started with meditating or having any kind of daily practice for anything is that we just think, oh, god, it’s 30 minutes, or oh, god, it’s an hour, i can’t do that. well just think of this as five minutes that you’re going to spend and say, even if you just do it five days a week, give yourself two days off, or four days a week and three days off, it’s your life, you get to do it how you want to, i’m just giving you some suggestions, because i want your gift in the world. and i want to hear your voice. and i want to see the awesome things that you create, and the awesome businesses you start and the awesome social justice work that you do. i want that to be in the world. so my suggestion is that you get up, you light a candle. and in your own way, state your intention to receive creative inspiration. this might look different depending on whether you’re trying to write a song or get an idea for your work, or receive some sort of intuitive guidance about a situation in your life. then spend a few moments breathing, and listening. and anytime you have a thought about oh, i need to feed the dog or oh, i need to go pick up something at the store. just send it on its way and remember that you’re there to listen to your genius to your muse to your inspiration. and then at the end, have a notebook or a computer with you either write down or throughout the day, so that you can write down anything that comes through. it’s a very simple practice. but it’s basically what i do and have always done and it has helped me do a lot of creating. one way to tweak it if you’re more of a night person, especially is that you can do something right before bed, right before you fall asleep, and then work on it immediately when you wake up. so i’ve written several songs this way, like i’ll have an idea. i’ll play it through when i go to bed. just i’ll sing a verse and a chorus, maybe that’s all i have, or i’ll write down a few words in my journal. and then when i wake up, sometimes i’ve heard the whole song and my dream, and all i’ve got to do is write it down. or sometimes i can grab a notebook and almost just like i’m dictating it, i think we can harness our minds and our creativity by accessing them on the edge of sleep because that is a very receptive, intuitive and creative state that we all visit every single night.
it works better if you do it regularly, if you do that, you know a couple times a month with the bedtime thing, because then it’s like your brain and your soul and your spirit, whatever you want to call it. it sits up and takes notice. and it’s like oh, she thinks this is important. i guess let’s give her some more ideas then because that’s when she’s listening. and i have written a number of songs and recorded a number of songs on my album that were written in that way that were written out of my dreams. so i’m going to leave you with just a little bit of one of my favorite songs that i wrote, coming out of a dream. it is called cheetah blues. and i recorded it on my album wings that i made with zoe speaks in 2018. and it’s kind of funny, because in my dream, the grateful dead was performing the song on a riverbank. and i actually hadn’t written any of the song. it wasn’t one of those times when i said oh, i’m going to i’m going to try to write a song tonight but i had been reading this inspiring book called the power of now by eckhart. i want to say tali, i’ve never known how to say his last name, but he’s a famous spiritual writer. and so i’ve been reading the power of now and i went to bed and i woke up and i was like, wait a minute, that’s not a grateful dead song and i wrote it down and it’s turned into this lovely song that i really feel proud to have escorted into the world from the ethers. so here it is. it’s called cheat the blues it’s got some beautiful guitar playing on it by mr. jesse wills.
come on jesse will go down by the river in the morning
cool. stay to levy drop of line. kids in cooler with the ac no knee grand wall take note we’re gonna show you how to cheat the time that you enjoy wasted isn’t really waste travels that we think we have really on the troubles and cancel you throw away list with all those big clear your schedule teach you have to chi chi take your shoes, and we’ll get back to in this holy place your hands, go and wash the sea off your face
so to recap, for this week, i want you to take a few minutes each morning to breathe and focus and tune into intuition. the world needs your gifts and your voice and your heart. so, in our own small ways, let’s work together. let’s smash the patriarchy and every other system that oppresses and tries to make us fit in rigid boxes, or roles. let’s access our creativity and our intuition. because after all, that’s what dreamers do. thank you so much for joining me this week. if you want to make sure you never miss an episode. please hit subscribe wherever you’re listening now. or visit my website to get on my email email@example.com. when you sign up, you’ll instantly receive my milton mama digital care package, a bundle of music and videos to help you wring every drop of the heart of life. you’ll even find a dance lesson as well as my granny’s cornbread recipe with new goodies being added all the time. i’ll see you next thursday on the wet dreamers do podcast
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Carla is currently based in Lexington, KY, ancestral lands of the Adena, Hopewell, S’atsoyaha (Yuchi), Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), and Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ (Osage) nations.
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