by Will Keeping, with Cynthia Brix and Molly Dwyer
Will Keepin’s book, coauthored by Cynthia Brix and Molly Dwyer describes more than the theory and principles of reconciliation of the oldest human conflict, but reports his courageous beginning on developing a safe process for working through this conflict. Fifteen years in development, it has congealed into a reliable, repeatable process with which I have been fortunate enough to have been involved. After attending a workshop called Leading with Spirit back in 1998, Will invited me to a Gender Reconciliation Workshop. I still think I was invited because he needed more men at the workshop. After attending once, I became hooked. I had been struggling with issues in my marriage, with fathering two daughters and in the larger cultural contexts, watching my daughters being limited primarily by their gender. This work seemed the best hope for me to resolve these issues in my own life. I participated in the year long, four one week workshops, that helped me gain awareness of my inner unresolved masculine/feminine conflicts, improved my relationship with my wife and revolutionized my father/daughter relationships. Professionally, I began to encourage men and women to speak to the unspoken damage and trauma in their lives that was gender based. Women unable to assert themselves in the world, men depressed due to withholding, denying and repressing their authentic emotions due to their male conditioning. It has added dimension to all my work and is difficult to separate from my comprehensive worldview.
The book is well organized and begins with a call to this work as a need for an oasis where women and men can work through a process together, protected by a commitment to some fundamental principles by all participants and well trained facilitators. The principles are outlined and the rationale is given for taking this work beyond simple conflict resolution but to a transcendence of individual inner and outer conflict to a more expansive and compassionate view of gender through a spiritual lens. Borrowing from many traditions and ways of knowing the work is informed by all the views offered by participants in the work who see more deeply into gender as a way that we are both separated and drawn together. The book speaks this eloquently:
…an oasis of truth, where the deep questions can be asked in earnest, where one can drink directly from the wellsprings of truth, free of conditioned responses and cultural thought-forms that shape and distort so much of our experience of being human. In the case of gender, such an oasis would be a forum in which women and men can gather in integrity, raise the challenging questions about gender and sexuality, discuss the undiscussables, and allow healing and reconciliation to unfold naturally. Societies everywhere need just such a forum—yet virtually nowhere does it exist. Even in spiritual communities or groups or similar contexts where we might expect such an open forum to exist, frequently there are taboos on speaking openly about gender issues and dynamics, particularly in cases where the leadership may be engaged in gender power dynamics or sexual activities that are kept hidden from view.
This book is an incisive look at the issue of gender through the experiences of the many participants who have come to the work. I wholeheartedly recommend it. www.divineduality.org .
Reviewed by Julien Devereux