Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Jelaluddin Rumi, mystic Sufi poet, 13th century
Recently, I was invited to give a lecture in Rome for WIN (Women’s International Networking) at an international conference about women’s leadership. WIN’s founder Kristin Engvig and her team have developed an innovative and holistic approach to women’s leadership. About 700 women from all over world gathered here to get inspired and encouraged to restore the feminine balance in their companies and in their private lives.
I was there to inspire and to dance with 700 businesswomen. To hang with such a big crowd for four days is quite a thing. I always get nervous before I speak and dance for academics and corporate people. Classical (i.e. conventional, conservative) institutions often view my work as ‘original’ (i.e. alien, provocative). Some organizers announce me as their ‘mystery guest’ – to not scare off the ladies!
So I got nervous… Although I have been giving this kind of lecture for years, it always feels like my maiden trip. This time, to make things worse, I got sick during the conference. All my old insecurities surfaced and I panicked “Who do I think I am, daughter of a suppressed Arab Muslim culture in North-Africa? What am I thinking, presuming to lecture hundreds of western women about emancipation and femininity? Am I really going to challenge these accomplished women to align their wombs with their brains? How can that make any sense to them?!”
These brilliant CEO’s, vice presidents, managers, project leaders, counselors and consultants have been trained to think, to rationalize and to analyze. And look at me: nothing to offer but my dance and some ancient wisdom. “Who am I to teach these girls about enhancing feminine leadership in business? To show them how they can tune in to the subtle vibrations in their wombs? How can I inspire them to listen to their vagina’s?!”
I felt terrified, feverish and sick. I had been vomiting all night; I hardly slept and imagined all kinds of disaster scenarios. “If I do my usual stuff – Goddess Dance and CocoCabasa – nobody will take me seriously. If I try to make these women dance, shake, undulate and show them how to be playful and sensual with their bodies, they will laugh at me. I will look ridiculous. I’m about to ruin my professional reputation!” In short: I had to find another theme for my plenary. And I had to do it fast.
I spent a whole day sick in bed writing and re-writing a ‘professional’ speech based on ‘serious’ information from my academic background in gender studies. I added professional ‘case studies’ from my work as a consultant and a coach in the corporate world. But the more ‘serious and professional’ my speech became, the more desperate I got. In the end, I just closed my eyes and slept.
On the morning of my speech I woke up and did my prayers. I asked all my goddesses for guidance. I opened my Persian Quran, the ‘Methnawi‘ of Jelaluddin Rumi, one of the greatest mystics of Islam 13th century. The book fell open at these lines: “Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” Ah, Rumi never fails me. Forget safety. That was my theme, and that’s what I transmit to women: to dare! To dare be feminine at work! To get out of your ‘masculine’ comfort zone! So practice what you preach, Kaouthar! And walk your talk…
In less than an hour I wrote a new lecture and created a set of goddess dance movements, chose my music and made a new plenary concept. I delivered the documents to the technical team and went back to bed.
As I went on stage, that afternoon, I was still feverish and shaking. In front of me I saw a mass of hundreds of women in the dark, and I was standing there alone in the spotlights. I don’t really remember what I did or what I said… I was in a kind of trance, floating, transported on the wings of the goddesses. I only remember the laughter, so much laughter; hundreds of women (and some men) laughing. And I remember the overwhelming sensation of bathing in the energy of 700 wild, sensual, playful wombs. It was powerful beyond measure, vibrant energy beyond words. Pure grace, pure magic.
For one second I thought: “Imagine these 700 wild wombs entering any institution, any organization; nothing would resist the change!”
Nobody could resist such feminine leadership, not even IS. That conviction filled me with immense joy and hope: feminine leadership is not a mirage. It is real.
My plenary was one of the highlights of the four-day conference. The nicest feedback came from a Canadian manager who had been delegated by her company to review the conference: “This was a great conference about feminine leadership, but I don’t know how to write in my rapport that the nicest discovery was my leadership from the vagina! My boss would think that I had gone nuts in Rome!”
So ladies (and gentlemen): destroy your reputation, be notorious…
PS. Don’t forget to leave your comments below! I’d love reading your opinion!