life, Women, writing

We Cannot Force Change

But we CAN ALLOW it.

by Kaia Maeve Tingley

What will we choose?

Pain? Or love?

The struggle is real, sisters. The pain hurts and the slights are never-ending. The patriarchy is death by a million papercuts.

I get it.


We cannot force this change that we all want so badly to happen.

We cannot make ourselves successful.

Goodness knows we’ve been trying long enough.

How many years have I been striving and pushing and digging to know what to write? I had to learn to yield before I could feel my flow. Can you feel it flowing now?

I can. But I didn’t start this way. And I know the flow I have now will falter if I don’t get the support and nourishment I need to sustain it. I’m far from there. Just sharing the clues I find along the way.

Patience is something you earn.

Having kids helps, but there are many other ways too.

The word Islam actually means surrender, did you know that? The epitome of male domination and the subjugation of women, to our western minds, is based upon the principles of surrender. The Arabic word for mercy shares its root with the word for the womb. Who would have thunk?

At the root of all the dysfunction, perhaps once there was love. But it got twisted. We humans are pretty good at doing that. Just ask the religions.

Yes, there is clearly an imbalance between the masculine and the feminine in our culture. It’s impossible not to see it. We have been RIGHT to call it out. The light is shining upon the inequity, now… what shall we do with it? How can we give it good death and allow the scales to rebalance?

Can we find mercy?

We cannot make our menfolk change.

Nor can we debate with the women among us who stand shoulder to shoulder with the domination hierarchy. Be it Stockholm Syndrome, or the simple fact that these women benefit personally from their association with the old ways, we cannot force them to change.

We can write forever on this platform about who the president should be and why. We can call out toxic masculinity seven ways from Sunday. We can debate the ethics of the economy. We can seek solace for our pain. We can use words forever.

But all of this is in our minds. It pulls on our hearts. It never gets close to the womb.

It never gets down into the soil.

We cannot force transformation. We must work WITH the life force. We cannot master her.

Change from within.

What does that even mean?

We cannot even force OURSELVES to change, honestly. Goddess knows I have tried. We can only allow change to pass through us.

We hear the phrases, “change from within” and “be the change,” and our brain blocks the true meaning from entering our hearts.

We think, “Oh right, Gandhi,” And then we dive right back into our story.

We let our mind project narrative thoughts onto our consciousness, and then we think that is real. We never leave our heads. We drive our cars on autopilot, the dreams in our minds more real than any movie. We don’t even see the road. Not really.

No, we must allow this knowing to enter us from our roots. From deep within the earth.

This vulnerable and honest piece by Shannon Ashley gets to the heart of things. She’s got the secret sauce in her writing too. That’s why she is so successful here.

In this piece, she gives a true name to the futility of trying to force herself into something she is not. She talks about beginning to find the freedom of learning to trust herself in a way that she has not been able to trust information alone. No matter how well researched. It’s a brilliant piece.

We cannot alchemize the life or death of things while we are in human bodies.

But we can access the exhale.

We can feel the power of letting go. We can learn to stop dreading death.

We cannot force love.

We cannot force pleasure.

We cannot convince people our truth is better than theirs. Not with just our words. Words have been emptied of meaning in the current milieu. We can no longer trust words or videos, or photographs to show what was really there. We live in the era of the deep fake and photoshop and partisan media.

But it doesn’t really matter. Because that’s NOT actually where the change begins. One domino will topple the whole structure if only we push on the right one.

We can only allow for the turning of the wheel. We can only make space for transformation to proceed in its one time. We can accept our place in the universe and learn to enjoy it.

We are the portal. They are the pipe that holds us.

If we try to force it, we will block it. The life force, that is. Relax. Change. Create. Andrew Johnson

Forcing it is like faking an orgasm. It’s probably more disappointing to us than our partners, though we never admit it. It still feels good in the moment, but ultimately we know we want more.

Grant us the patience to wait until we are truly ready. And when we allow ourselves the time, then hold on to your headboards, ladies. It feels completely different.

Forcing it means ONLY using our big brains and our strong hands to make things happen.

Yes, and…

We can apply these tools to change ONLY AFTER the passageway within us is cleared to make way for the work. The masculine sides of our natures are powerful, let’s not forget. And so is the feminine side of our men. Let us remember.

Yes, the anger is real, sisters.

Yes, he did just do that again, and he didn’t even notice.

Yeah, that sucks.

Yes, we did just watch those old men bluster and lie and puff up their poor bedraggled feathers in an attempt to hold power.

I KNOW how you feel when this stuff happens. Your anger is justified and you are not wrong to feel it.

But flies are attracted to death and decay. I didn’t watch the debate, but I heard about the fly. Nature won’t lie. There’s a reason a fly landed on his head. (If you’re lost on this one, read about the vice-presidential debate.)

We hold on to our anger at our own risk. Like the proverbial coal, ready to throw at our transgressors, it is our hand that will be burned.

Stay closed and tight and righteous, and that which is crying out to be born will never crown and pass through.

This is where we choose.

Shall we become Darth Vader? Or Darth Mater if you will?

Shall we believe the elegant lies of the Jedi that tell us we must abandon our emotions and our connections to one another? Shall we forsake our mother? Shall we surrender our children? I don’t think so.

But… we can let go of our rage. We can choose to act differently.

Or can we choose to balance the emotions of the dark side with those of the light? This is the ring of fire, my loves. The choice point for all of us.

Will we allow? Will we soften? Will we find our grace once again?

Forgiveness is not approval.

And it isn’t easy to give.

But forgiveness is more for the giver than it is for the receiver, in my humble opinion. And at this point, if we do not choose to learn how to forgive, then good luck to us all getting out of the Anthropocene alive.

The choice is within you. It’s within me. It’s within us all.

How shall we choose, ladies? Will we learn to forgive and allow, or will we continue to insist on trying to make them earn love?

To make them pay us back for the pain of the patriarchy?

They are its victims too.

Like a wayward child, arms crossed, face set in an angry frown, they have shut down. Our pleas for mercy are interpreted as slights to the ego.

That boy was abused. This one was abandoned. That one was taught from birth to center themselves right in the middle of the fucking #manbox. They have pain too. They just hide it behind their anger. They hide it behind their numbness, their videogames, and their blustering locker room talk. It’s generational.

Our emotional superpowers have curdled and turned our souls toxic. Our hormones are all out of whack. We try our best, but we are so easily triggered, my sisters. It’s so hard to sleep. These wounds have been passed down by our mothers to us for ages.

It isn’t fair.

Life isn’t fair.

Life is wild and free, and we may choose to enjoy it on our own terms, if… if we let go. Let go of what blocks us from the light within.

We have asked. We have threatened. We have stomped and shouted and abandoned things. We are righteously upset at all the trauma we’ve had to undergo.


We are now the sticking point because of this. We are choosing to be the closed sphincter that doesn’t allow the shit to go back to the earth to be composted. We are choosing to be the locked pelvic bones that do not allow for the child’s head to pass through.

And Gaia is about to either cut us open to get this baby from our wombs or wrap the cord around the baby’s neck. I see your pain, ladies. I’ve been there too. I am not afraid to make you remember.

And still, I ask you…

Can we just relax? Is it possible?

Watch the joy of children playing if you want to remember what it looks like to be in the flow.


Yes, you, the one reading this piece.

The one who stuck with my spiraling words all the way to the end. The woman who feels these words in her wolf bones and her long, wild hair. The man who is willing to lay down his armor and cry long-suppressed tears.

What can we do today to release? To forgive? To choose to ground ourselves in the truth of the soil? To relax into the warmth of the sun. To enjoy the sound of the rain.

To find mercy for the uprooted trees, the flooded streets, and the shattered high rises of places like Lake Charles, Louisiana. It wasn’t mentioned much in the news, but the pain is still lingering there. I am certain. To find mercy for the crisped cinders of the west coast, the outback, and the Amazon basin. To begin the process of healing.

Can we choose not to yell when your kids piss us off in their infinite phase of not listening-ness? To choose not to get angry when our partners bristle at us when we tell him how we feel? Or show him what we wrote?

Can we relax into deep breaths?

Let your belly hang softly.

Unclench your shoulders, unclench your jaw?

Soften your passageways and undulate your spine.

Can you feel the energy that wants to flow through you?

This is the life force, remember? Does it feel familiar to you? It’s been an undercurrent our whole lives, but most times we are too up in our heads to feel it.

This is our sexual and creative birthright, oh humans in women’s bodies. I call upon you to remember the feeling. To remember the mystery, and to honor it with reverence. We do not need to understand.

It does not devalue our brains to open our hearts. It will not kill us to soften our wombs, though it may feel like it at the moment. Can we be brave and be willing? Be vulnerable and find trust?

We have the capacity for boundless flow. The patriarchy cannot stop this.

That choice is up to us.

This piece was inspired by Sean Kernan’s lovely paean about Diana Nyad. It was also inspired by the meditations of Andrew Johnson. Finally, this piece springs from the determination of the feminine to test what is possible and do what our minds tell us we cannot.

Kaia Tingley is a writer, artist, podcaster, digital strategy nerd, and sometimes hot-tempered supernova with a wild, free soul. You can find her on Instagram here or on LinkedIn here.

This post was originally published by Living Out Loud on Medium.


Who Wants A Virgin Anyway?

“A houri is a beautiful young woman with a transparent body. The marrow of her bones is visible like the interior lines of pearls and rubies. She looks like red wine in a white glass. She is of white color, and free from the routine physical disabilities of an ordinary woman such as menstruation, menopause, urinal and offal discharge, child bearing and the related pollution. A houri is a girl of tender age, having large breasts which are round and not inclined to dangle. Houris dwell in palaces of splendid surroundings.”

— Al-Tirmidhi

For some men bedding a virgin is an attractive prospect. Or so we are led to believe. Throughout Islamic mythology and Middle Eastern lore, the houris are full-breasted, dark-eyed nymphs untouched by man who will accompany the faithful in Jannah — the realm of the highest layer of heaven.

The Qur’an’s heavenly vision focuses on luxury, leisure and sensual pleasures. In Islam, the idea of an afterlife filled with an abundance of polygynous sex with virginally pure partners refers to an aspect of paradise. Since we are sexual beings, God’s provisions include everything believers need to be perfectly happy. For believing males this includes the very best sex possible.

Aside from all things made from heavenly misogynist delights, this line of thinking reflects across modern Muslamic practices today where virginity is defined as a piece of anatomy. An intact hymen is essential for a woman who wishes to be accepted into marriage. She also is expected to remain monogamous. Men, on the other hand, can engage in sex before marriage and are permitted to take up to four wives.

Besides the double standards blatantly displayed with the above-mentioned scenario, I have difficulty believing the polygynous lifestyle can be all that beneficial when it comes to forming and nurturing deep connection within a relationship. After all, isn’t the whole purpose of a relationship based upon forging intimate bonds and complete fusion with another?

What would a man do with four wives anyhow? How would he meet and satisfy each of their emotional needs? Women are naturally emotional creatures. We thrive on deep emotional connection. We need to feel understood, seen and held by our partners. I am uncertain how my husband would cope should he have to contend with even twice the woman I am, let alone four of me.

But hey, if the wives all start out tender-aged virgins, then the male in question may have a lot less to navigate in the emotional-need department. Virgins may be considered submissive and easily domesticated. I can see how that works.

The idea of “breaking in” virgin females obviously fairs high on the priority scale in some cultures.

In the Kanjarbhat ethnic group of India, newlywed brides are expected to submit themselves to a humiliating ritual — “The White Bedsheet Test.”

Yes, it is as demeaning as it sounds.

The bridegroom will take his bride along with a white bed sheet into a room while elders sit beyond the threshold awaiting the outcome — the moment for him to reappear and state whether or not the “product” was good.

If his bride doesn’t bleed, she can be subjected to beatings and communal humiliation.

Considering where I’m about to take this post, it is important to point out that I am not intending to make light of such degrading practices against women. On the contrary, the opposite is true. Gender inequality practices continue to take place around world and are in need of major adjustment. The fight for women’s rights is far from over.

I was a virgin once. Yes, it is true. Like most of us, the moment my cherry was popped are among the moments forever burned in my memory — the low lighting in the room; the taste of his mouth; the way he held me close when he eased himself inside of me … the sweet burning pain. And yes, there was blood; and then, I was no longer a virgin.

I was eager and curious to explore sex. There was no stopping us once I was introduced to my boyfriend’s super-hard counterpart. Yet, as much as we screwed like bunnies facing the end of the world, sexual experience was a quality I had to cultivate.

Intercourse is not an instant pass into womanhood (or manhood for that matter). It takes many years of sifting and sorting through life — voyaging the diverse and often challenging experiences the journey dishes up before we fully realize adulthood.

Our sense of self develops and matures as we move through life to eventually arrive at a destination where we begin to own who we are and feel comfortable with that person — our sexuality plays a strong part in that evolution.

Women in particular battle an ingrained set of ideals on what it means to be sexually active. These are posited in a variety of ways at the onset — we are taught to be submissive in the bedroom through films, music clips, and pornography. We are shown images of desirable women which causes countless hours of internal pain deliberating over our imperfections. We are subjected to being objectified, catcalled and judged by our appearance.

More often than not, the virgin female is unfamiliar with her intimate body and sexual desires. She lacks confidence in expressing that part of herself. She doesn’t know what turns her on or how to ask her partner to do that thing she likes — she’s still figuring that out along with her voice while he’s intent on burning a hole through her panties every time she is near.

Of course, boys don’t get off easy in the sexual experience sector. But they do seem to have a handle on what they want from the encounter. Their primal instincts rage for release — they just want to fuck. As long as our breasts are out for some not-so-gentle sucking and our legs are wide open, business is on. If we’re lucky, we may score a little foreplay in the form of rough finger action before the main event.

Which inevitably ends with a trace dissatisfaction for us. Bury it with a sweet smile, babe. Tell him how hard you came and how much he pleases you. That’s what we do, right? At least in the early years.

Women’s bodies are made for love. We are curvy and sensual creatures with secretive places and seductive parts. Lips. Hips. Breasts. Delicate parts designed to give and receive pleasure that blossom when touched in just the right way. Seldom do those qualities come into full appreciation during the years when boys are looking to ramp up their hump-o-meter.

Fast forward to a mature man with sexual experience who has patience and stamina, and has learned to be an unselfish lover and I’ll show you a man made of all things heaven.

The afterlife briefly described above is that of traditional Islamic beliefs and held by the vast majority of Muslims worldwide. So, what about the reward for the female believers when they reach paradise?

Apparently, the Qur’an seems to have little interest in it — women are not promised multiple virginal partners to frolic and fuck in the life thereafter. In fact, this idea would be considered offensive.

Perhaps it is just as well. I am certain women the world over would much rather have one soulful and well-seasoned man loving and appreciating her “offal discharge and related pollution” than an endless supply of inexperienced shags.

Bring on heaven.

Originally Published by Fearless She Wrote via Medium