Provide and Protect
I am sprawled over my desk and I am busy writing in my story book. It is a warm day, late spring, and my hands are sticky. I grab my pencil and try not to press down too hard on the paper. Miss Keyes is always telling me to sit up straight, to hold my hand lightly above the paper, then to twist and shake my wrist before writing. This does not suit me. I prefer being close to the paper so that, like Alice, I can disappear down the rabbit hole, into my exercise book, and become the story. The notebook has my name on it and the year. Nicola Johnson, 1965. I am six-years-old and everyone calls me Nicky.
I am sprawled over my desk and I am busy writing. I have pulled my right leg up on the chair and I am sitting on it which gives me that extra height to fully embrace my writing practice. I am wearing a pretty summer frock with a wide skirt that flows out when I twirl. The dress has ribbons, a flower print of pale blue and a white collar. I have a white cardigan on and I must try to keep it clean when I write. My hair is a mess and I don’t care. My Alice band is keeping it out of my eyes. That is all that matters. My white socks are not that white anymore and they don’t stay up. They crumple around my ankles and I can’t be bothered to pull them up. Also, I know I will probable get told off for sitting on my well-worn sandals with scuffed edges. Who cares? I am busy. I am writing a story. This is serious stuff.
There is a gentle loving buzz in the classroom as we concentrate on our work. I can hear the blackbird singing and the sparrows chirping in the ivy climbing up the church tower nearby. Miss Keyes is helping someone with her spelling. We can go up to her desk if we want help. I won’t be doing so today. I don’t need her. It is a warm spring day and the window is open letting in a gentle breeze. I can hear the hum of the lawnmower in the distance and the smell of cut grass floats into the industrious classroom of aspiring writers. The gardener is mowing our playground lawn and soon we will be let out for playtime. We will pick up the grass and look for the daisies that have managed to dodge the blades. I lift up my eyes to check on the movements outside. We are not supposed to look out of the window, but sprawled on my desk, if I put my chin on my right arm, I can look over the classroom towards the window without drawing attention.
Miss Keyes tells Christopher that he can get up and ring the bell. I am eager to run outside but must stay seated on my chair. I wriggle myself back into a sitting position, close my exercise book and fidget while Christopher solemnly strides to the chain and starts to dangle the bell. “Quietly and no rushing, children, please!”, admonishes Miss Keyes. I can barely contain my excitement and I focus on not breaking out in a wild race by holding my breath. We manage to pour out of the main door in a seemingly disciplined way and then, I am running like a wild horse, Black Beauty, screaming with delight. The boys run over to the part of the meadow where they play football. I stay with my girlfriends. We swirl and twist, showing off our summer frocks, dancing in the luscious beauty of a glorious late spring day. I am the story I am writing.
Suddenly I feel the urge to claim the old oak tree which reigns at the bottom of the playground, a wise centenarian who looks over us, generously providing us with protection. I tell my friends to pick up some cut grass. We are going to gather around the oak tree and we are going to ‘play home’. I purposefully lead the girls to the tree and we lay the cut grass in one of the nooks of the wide trunk. I have selected the best place and I am delighted that I have managed to secure the much-coveted fireplace. The trunk of the old tree is thick and comforting. I can feel the roughness of the bark under my tender fingers. We are gathered on the mound formed by the slightly elevated trunk. From here, I can oversee the grounds. This is important. The girls are gathered around me. I am talking to them as we go through the motions of settling in. This is our shelter. We have made the fire. We are safe. I know not to let the boys come near and I am prepared to fight them back should they attempt to assault our sanctuary. I turn around and tell my friends, “I will not let the boys come close.”
What has prompted this six-year-old girl to affirm this so assertively? She knows that she must provide and protect her own. She has led her sisters to safety and she is prepared to become ferocious should the boys decide to come too close. She knows this to be true and she does not need any explanations as to why. She simply knows.
Retrieving the blessing
I have a beautifully framed picture of this century-old oak tree close to my desk. His presence close to me means a lot. I took the picture on a trip down memory lane, in 1994, when I retraced the trajectory of my life in England, from the house in Sanderstead where I was born, to the house in Pirbright where my brothers were born, to our last home in Mortimer where I went to school, St John’s infant school. I had not been alone on the pilgrimage back home. My first husband had managed to attach himself to me. He had jeopardized the initial plans where he was to take his children on holiday without me and, as a result, had imposed himself on what should have been a very special and intimate journey back into my past. His presence spoiled the trip in more than one way.
I have often revisited the scene of the spring afternoon when I am happily writing a story enjoying life to the full and exploding with joy as I dash out into the playground. The minute details of the sequence, where I gather the girls, guide them to the oak tree, settle us down and then solemnly announce that I will not let the boys near us, is etched in my memory. I have replayed the scene in my mind, repeatedly, as if never to forget that moment and, yet, not really understanding its deeper meaning, nor needing to know more, either. I feel tenderness for the six-year-old girl and I relish is her simple joy of being and enjoying every morsel of life presenting itself to her, from the writing exercise, to showing off her pretty summer frock, to playing with the other girls. Life is simple. Life is fun. And yet …
Inadvertently, I discovered another layer awaiting me beneath the story of the happy girl playing around the oak tree. John has often expressed that he would like to visit the places where I lived and grew up in England in the same way that he has shown me the places in Denmark where he grew up. A few days ago, after an intense conversation relating to our next steps in life and my return to England, John said that, if I would have him, he would like to see the oak tree in Mortimer. My immediate response was to acquiesce, probably because I am feeling guilty about my decision to go back home and the pain of separation that this implies. Then, in the aftermath of my response, I heard a quiet and firm NO echoing all the way back from 1965. The boys are not allowed near us. It was time to listen, more attentively and lovingly, to this message that has been murmuring through time.
I spent some inner time with the young girl, grateful that the sequence had been so minutely memorialised. Always to be remembered, never to be forgotten. There is purpose in this. I asked her why we need to protect ourselves from the boys and why she had insisted on providing her sisters with shelter and protection. Does she have more information to share with me? No particular events nor figures have emerged from the past. There is only a pungent energetic tang which informs her/me that we need to be watchful of men. I can taste its specific flavour. I can sample the energetic signature, which lies beyond all singular events. Because there is an absence of story in my dialogue with my younger self, no narrative is casting a shadow, and the energies and forms beneath my memorialised sequence are rendered all the more tangible and palpable.
I know that the need to protect myself/ourselves from men is a truth to be acknowledged and honoured. Furthermore, it is representative of many lifetimes where women have suffered under the hands of men, for many reasons, my life-trajectory being but a dot in a long succession of episodes of domestic violence where domination and subjugation have played out between spouses. In the absence of story, the experience feels all the more archetypal in its qualities as if, in that moment, somewhere in spring 1965, I am blessed with a piece of timeless wisdom, or wholly packaged knowledge, that has been gifted to me so that I may unpack it over the course of my lifetime.
Beyond the timeless reverberation of this inheritance, I do get a sense of more recent events in my close family system and wonder about a grandfather who, for others, was perceived as a ‘difficult man’. I am aware of several cases of domestic violence, including in my first marriage, that have burst through the thick layer of silence to be rapidly buried deep down in the family cemetery of forgotten and ungrieved dramas, the unmentionable and unspeakable shrouded in shame. These appearances seem to be elusive and prepared to dissipate if approached in a too direct way. John asking to join me on my next trip to the oak tree has unlocked what has been dormant for fifty-five years, including a crucial piece of information I gathered on my first trip to Mortimer as I dragged a disgruntled husband who could not let go of me, nor allow me to explore myself alone. Indeed, it seems that the presence of an intimate partner might hinder the expansion into the wholeness of myself and the uncovering of a truth that is barely admissible. That is one perspective, surely there is more to know and to explore within the layers revealing themselves where different forms and energies of domination and subjugation are exploring themselves and playing out.
Exploring the Gender Trap
In a previous piece, I have begun to explore the ‘provide and protect’ stance that is so deeply engrained into our cultures. It was while watching a documentary series on intuitive intelligence that I was alerted, in a new way, of the gender trap we have tied ourselves up in, using gender filters to affirm and validate differences between men and women. Suffice to think of the abundant literature and the copious discourses on the alienable differences between women and men to feel the depth of the gap grooved into our cultures and the amount of material pertaining to validate this and to build, often unsuccessfully, bridges over the gaps we create and continue to widen. There are many tramlines running both in our understanding of ourselves as woman or as men, and in our gender-divided cultures and societies which reflect and maintain gender distinction. What if we were to step off those familiar tramlines? What if we were to rocket out of the grooves? What if we dared explore uncharted territories where gender is not a characteristic, nor a feature of the framing of reality? What might that look like?
In my first explorations of the ‘provide and protect’ agenda, I was invited to claim this as part of my essential nature. This is not a role, nor an approach to life that is to be casted only and exclusively on men. In my wake-up call, I then realised that to provide and to protect is an inherent part of my humanhood, the wholeness of myself both as woman and as man, if I choose to express it in those terms. As I waded through the energetic trash strewn in Varanasi, India, I started to dismantle the patterning and imprinted structures, within me, all held in the cultural and societal settings I have been born into. This enabled me to become highly curious about the way the tramlines are formed within me and inform the way I show up in life. There are certain aspects of myself which consent to run along these tramlines in the belief that this is how I will be able to fit into the larger context and function, in a seemingly appropriate way, which will ensure that I am provided for and protected from any threats, real or imaginary.
The posture of ‘provide and protect’, in its languaging itself, is heavily charged. I feel the extent to which this has been projected onto men and how I have externalised my responsibilities by handing this over to men, to the point that I am prepared to disown my inherent capacities to provide for and to protect the sacredness of life. A sobering realisation, indeed. The words echo harshly in me, over aeons of lifetimes, conveying mountains of frustration, disappointment and despondency as well as outbursts of anger and rage when the promise is not fulfilled. In my experience, ‘provide and protect’ is doomed to be unfulfilled, another belief cemented in my imprinted inheritance. Nonetheless, the more I am able to welcome and embrace the energies behind the words, the more I can feel the ever-purer energetic signature. Then, I acknowledge that it is, indeed, part of my inherent and essential nature. This is the gift that I received in the playground of St John’s infant school, Mortimer, when I led my sisters to the sanctuary of the oak tree.
The words to provide and to protect disserve the essence of what is being invoked here. I can now, more acutely, feel the weightiness of the imprinting and the incumbrance of the gender trap. It helps me to apprehend the energies behind the words in terms of archetypal movements, or what can also be named the social mentalities with which we seek out different forms of relationships. For instance, from the perspective of the compassionate mind, in our relationships, we will explore care-eliciting or care seeking strategies to alleviate aloneness and separateness; we will indulge in care-giving and altruism to obtain protection and emotional support; we will explore cooperation and sharing to ensure belonging; we will also delve into competition and power games to affirm differences and hierarchies; and we will also explore sexuality, all in the name of provide and protect.
Our essential nature comprises innate caring capacities, which are our inherent nature, never to be denied, always to be honoured. Through cultural imprinting, these essential capacities have been channelled, when not coerced, into programmes or agendas such as ‘provide and protect’ and clothed with words that distort their original energetic signature. Sherri Mitchel offers us a beautiful illustration of such a distortion as she unpacks numerous ideas of what it means to be a warrior. In the indigenous wisdom of which she is a representative, the warrior is someone who cares for all others and is prepared to sacrifice himself or herself for the good of others. This is far from the energies of warfare and soldiering we usually associate with warriorship.
These fresh explorations into what lies beneath the programmes of ‘provide and protect’ have blasted open many of my beliefs, bringing more awareness to the gender filters I harbour, some of which seem to cling firmly, signposting my attachment to and my affinity with some lower-vibrational forms and energies. Here, with conscious intent and loving attention, I begin to loosen and slacken my attachment to the source of their affinity with me. For instance, I have been challenged in a narrative I clothe myself in, where I doubt my capacities to provide for myself and believe, resolutely, that I need to protect myself from the greediness and neediness of men only to eager to grab what is mine as a retribution for breaking my marriage vows and betraying the rule of domination and subjugation as played out between spouses.
In the same way, in a recent dialogue with an esteemed colleague, we discovered ourselves stating that it is difficult for women to become spiritual leaders. “Where are the women?”, we exclaimed, before lamenting on the fragmentation and the tortuous paths we believe ourselves to be striving along, due to millennia of spiritual oppression exercised upon women. I am not saying that this is not true. I am more interested in the limiting belief that we take on and the mentalisations which would trip us up when we attempt to explain the human conditioning, further validating the gender trap, for instance, by saying that it is easier for women than for men to expand into the wholeness of themselves due to cultural imprinting. We concluded that for us to become fully human the larger invitation is to shed our inheritance and all the imprinted structures that get in the way. Furthermore, that path will be customised to fit our individual purposes in lifetime and we will be shown where we are called to undertake our deeper clearing work. Life will be generous is this respect, providing us with ample opportunities to do the work whilst embracing us lovingly in our journey back home, to source. Life itself provides and protects and we will discover the myriad ways in which this core principle unfolds and present itself to us.
Invoking Energetic Clearing
Let’s return to the six-year-old little girl leading her friends to a place of shelter and discovering the truth of her essential nature. As I look back on this event, I receive it as an initiatory experience of import in my life. Something is bequeathed to me, a blessing which is to accompany me for the whole of my life-trajectory in this incarnation, and possibly yonder and elsewhere. Fifty-five years later, receiving the fullness of the experience, shimmering beyond time and space and reverberating through me, I welcome the deeper summons to life. Here, I am returned to origin, in source. I am on-purpose and in-frequency, my cosmic coordinates firmly validated and refreshened. I get more than a glimpse at the ways I am a living and fully conscious expression and emanation of the inherent qualities of ‘provide and protect’ of which I am an embodied realisation. The spaciousness opening within me is imbued with stillness and subtle inner listening to the movements of life arising beneath the noisy layers of distraction which, otherwise, whisk me away from the wholeness of myself. The blessing is niched in the stillness and, as I retrieve this precious piece of wisdom nestled in my life-trajectory, I can draw on the qualities bestowed on me that day, always available, always nourishing me, always renewing me.
At the same time, there is no shortage of worldly circumstances to distract me and, potentially, to drag me away down the familiar tramlines and into the realms of overdramatization where I would find myself bemoaning my fate and garbing myself with the cloak of victimhood. From the safety of the oak tree, my back firmly leaning against it, my sisters around me, I feel into the maelstrom within, brewing and stewing. What is there here to witness? There is unbridled sexual energy swooshing around as flamethrowers ignite the space, fireballs blasting through the compacted layers of frozenness, compulsive outbursts raucously erupting into the stillness, deafening conflagrations that pierce my sensitivities. The combustion chamber is roaring and belching, heralding the energetic thrust that fuels dimensional shifts.
Somewhere, in another dimensional reality, there are swamplands of confusion and indecisiveness where, with others, I roam around aimlessly in life mistaking my lack of direction for spontaneity, numbness and dissociation padding me from the fullness of the blast of life. In my inner adventuring, I hear, again, the words, “You are here to care for and to protect” whispered softly and gently into my awareness. I am here to bear witness and to stand for the sacredness of life, all life. Then the words ‘desacralisation of life through ignorance’ are offered to me, repeatedly, until I acknowledge that I am also here to bear witness to where and when there is desacralisation of life through ignorance or, in other words, acts of unconscious patterning where domination and subjugation are being played out.
The dimensional shift is palpable as I allow these pieces to fall into place and settle within. The world becomes a different place to walk in and what, previously, would have been ridden with anxiety and concerns, dissipates unleashing new possibilities and options for me to step into. Enjoying these new feelings of freedom, I dance my way down my workroom and go past the frame in which I have gathered pictures of my family, in particular my grandparents in their youth. My attention goes, unexpectedly, to the portrait of the grandfather who has appeared in my initial unpacking of the initiatory event by the oak tree. His expression reminds me of the bewildered and absent countenance I often see in John. The resemblance is stunning and almost uncanny. I stop to take a closer look at the photos and discover, for the first time, many similarities between my grandfather and John, in the way they hold themselves. Could they be representatives of energetic structures becoming available to me, in my intimate relationships, as part of my purpose in this lifetime and the clearing work I am invoking for myself?
I know, of course, that intimate relationships are the crucible for energetic clearing and that we will be presented, in our lifetime, with the perfect circumstances to do whatever we are here for. What catches my attention, in the flash moment in front of the ancestor’s altar, is a deeper understanding of what it is I have been exploring in intimate relationships. In all my previous relationships, I have been exploring compulsive and addictive behaviours with an emphasis on sexual addictions and their impact on the relationships between spouses. It would seem that I am complete with this aspect of humanhood, or at least I will no longer be exploring this thread in my current life. This enables me to reconsider my decision to explore celibacy and to cease to judge myself harshly about this. Celibacy is no longer a refuge from challenging sexual impulses, it is an exploration in itself which serves a greater purpose. Furthermore, it is not a permanent state and when I am ready to explore another aspect of humanhood in sexuality, I will be presented with another option.
The component of compulsive sexual behaviours and disowned sexual energies is not active, in the same way, in the intimate relationship with John. Therefore, other aspects of humanhood become available and, already, I am sensing new energetic streams beckoning me to explore and inquire into them. It would seem that, as a consequence of my clearing work, my loving attention is to be redirected towards what could best be encapsulated as passive-aggressive stances in life. I am to acutely feel the impact within intimate relationships and the consequences of disowned acts of perpetration and victimhood that float around seeking to cling to whoever is prepared to host them. So far, passive-aggressive attitudes feel, to me, more violent than the explosive outbursts of anger I was contending with in my first marriage.
It is not surprising that the Grandfather who was a ‘difficult person’ is coming into my awareness, ready to offer me the gifts he holds, no longer invisible and hidden within the family system. I do not know why he was a ‘difficult man’. His sister and my grandmother were childhood friends, having met at school, and they stayed very close to each other all their lives. A couple of years after my grandmother had died, I went to visit this great-aunt and I asked her what had been the secret of their friendship. She then told me that she knew that my grandfather was a very difficult person and that she needed to stay close to her sister-in-law to protect her. No details were given, nor needed. Something latent in my family system can now be heard. I can welcome and embrace this grandfather, and through him, I can welcome and embrace all of life, greeting all passive-aggressive patterns presenting themselves to me, so that they may be loved and returned to the fullness of life. In the relationship with John, I will most likely access and unlock some of this material and, in so doing, reaffirm myself as someone who stands for the sacredness of life, as someone who provides and protects in service to the greater purpose, as someone who is willing to take on the clearing work that is hers to do.
 Paul Gilbert. The Compassionate Mind. A New Approach to Life’s Challenges. 2009.
 Sherri Mitchel. The Cultivation of Warriors In, Sacred Instructions. Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change. 2018