An excerpt from The Queen of My Self: Stepping
into Sovereignty in Midlife
By Donna Henes
"You need only to claim the events of your
life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you
have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce
-Florida Scott-Maxwell, American/Scot psychologist and writer
When I started introducing the Queen in workshops and articles
as a helpful archetype for midlife women, I received many
requests for detailed instructions on how to become a Queen.
“Dear Mama Donna,” women would write, “I
want to be a Queen, too. How do I access my power? How can
I feel good about myself? How do I change my life? How do
I find magic and spiritual wisdom? How do I know what to do?
How do I learn how to rule?” The reality is that I cannot
possibly know how anyone else will attain her Queendom, I
only know how I came into mine, and that is largely through
The truth, my truth, at least, is that there is no one truth.
We must each find our own way in this world. As a shaman,
I teach through example, but not through dictum. I can and
do offer information, exposure, personal experience, encouragement,
inspiration, suggestions and support to my constituents, but
I cannot — dare not — pass judgment or establish
rules and laws. It is simply not for me to say.
When my students and clients come to me for help and spiritual
guidance, I listen to their concerns and embrace their needs.
I pat them on the back, give them a good, swift kick in the
butt, or let them cry on my shoulder, as needed. I can tell
them what I did in such and such situation, how I did it,
what I learned from this or that lesson, but I cannot tell
them what they should do. How do I know what their souls need?
Only they know what they know.
I can, of course, aid them in reaching into the well of their
own deepest wisdom, and help them to hear the messages from
their best inner Selves. A woman who has attended several
of my workshops recently hugged me and told me that I had
changed her life. “Well, no, of course, I didn’t,
honey,” I assured her. “You changed your own life.”
The fact of the matter remains that I could not give her what
was not already hers.
"You take your life in your own hands, and
what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame."
-Erica Jong, American writer
Each one of us has
a story, a myth, a legend to write, to paint — and to
live. The shamanic assumption from which I operate is that
every person has her own mission in this lifetime: her own
path, her own dreams, her own symbols and sensibilities, her
own visions and designs, her own way of learning, her own
personalized hard-won lessons. That we each have our own singular
life to live. That every one of us must figure out for ourselves
the fullest, richest, most effective, ethical, and satisfying
way in which to do it; and moreover, that each and every one
of us possesses the wisdom, the power, and the responsibility
to make it so.
The story of our lives is ours to create. We can design our
own roles and ideals, compose the scripts, and author the
sagas of our own futures and that of the environment around
us. While we cannot necessarily control the circumstances
and influences that present themselves to us in the course
of living, we can choose how we will respond to them when
they do arise. Our power of choice is our sole control in
With each new paragraph, each turn of the page, each new
dawn, each moment in time, each blink of the eye, we are gifted
with another opportunity to exercise our right to choose.
Coffee or tea? Lemon or milk? Right or left? Stairs or elevator?
Vacuum? Vote? Cheat? Trust? Care? Dare? Change? What paths
we take, what decisions we make, influence how the story will
proceed and who we will be from this day forth.
As George Eliot reminds us, "The strongest principle
of growth lies in human choice." The difficult times
that we encounter in our lives might tempt us to dull our
senses and opt out of any upsetting experiences, choosing
not to let things “get to us.” We often try to
ignore the hard parts — pain, fear, guilt, grief, confusion,
anger, and disappointment — dilute their impact, drown
them out in an endless list of pleasurable addictions: soporifics,
anesthetics, mood enhancers, caffeine, food, hormones. We
can even turn ourselves off altogether.
The point is we don’t have to engage in the emotional
upheaval. Nobody is making us. We could choose to drink cabernet
and watch Public Television, play cards, play it safe, every
night for the rest of our lives if we wanted to. It is an
option. It is ultimately up to us whether we succumb to the
unexamined life or try to figure out what the hell is going
on inside us and around us, and engage in it, alter, change,
and grow with it, so that we might fulfill our greatest destiny
"If you have made mistakes, even serious
mistakes, there is always another chance for you. And supposing
you have tried and failed again and again, you may have a
fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call
‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying
-Mary Pickford, Canadian-born American Actress
At midlife, we are at a major crossroads in our lives, and
we can choose to move ahead, turn right or left, stay where
we are, or go back where we came from. The Queen chooses always
to choose, to involve Herself fully in the process of Her
life and living, and to actively direct the drama of Her myth.
She urges us take up the challenges of changing, of aging,
engaging in all that life has to offer. And She reminds us
to look upon the difficulties, disruptions, disappointments,
fears, and failures we have experienced as important life
lessons, without which we could never hope to ascend to a
throne of responsibility and rule.
She encourages us to entertain the entire palette of our
emotions, for there is where we find our strength and knowledge
and true value. Some things in life just have to be learned
the hard way and evading them is counter-productive and eventually
destructive. The only way to get through them is to go through
them. There is a wonderful old African-American Spiritual
that says, “So high, you can’t get over it. So
low, you can’t get under it. So wide you can’t
get around it. You gotta go through the door.”
"I postpone death by living, by suffering,
by risking, by giving, by losing. "
-Anais Nin, French writer
Henes, Urban Shaman, is a contemporary ceremonialist
specializing in multi-cultural ritual celebration of the cycles
of the seasons and the seasons of our lives. She is the author
of The Queen of My Self, The Moon Watcher's Companion,
Celestially Auspicious Occasions, and Dressing
Our Wounds In Warm Clothes, as well as the CD, Reverence
To Her: Mythology, The Matriarchy & Me. She is also
the editor and publisher of the highly acclaimed quarterly
journal, Always In Season: Living In Sync with the Cycles,
In 1982, she composed the first (and to this date, the only)
satellite peace message in space: "chants for peace
* chance for peace." Mama Donna, as she is affectionately
known, has offered lectures, workshops, circles, and celebrations
worldwide for 30 years. She is the director of Mama Donna’s
Tea Garden & Healing Haven, a ceremonial center, ritual
consultancy and spirit shop in Exotic Brooklyn, New York.
Come join Donna at her workshop ...
QUEEN of MY SELF
Women Stepping Into Sovereignty in Mid Life
September 12, 2004
at the Wise Woman Center, in Woodstock NY
"I am a contemporary ceremonialist.
We will sit in a ceremonial counsel circle in the company
of other would-be-queens. We will reflect upon and realize
the wealth of our experience, our resources, and our best
intentions. Buoyed by encouragement and spirited support,
we will summon up, name, and claim our strengths and forgive
ourselves our weaknesses.
We will stoke the fires of our fierce pride, and empower our
selves and each other. We will drum up the passion to fuel
our power, and chant the patient persistence to maintain it.
The day will culminate in a Crowning Ceremony wherein we will
appoint and anoint ourselves with our own authority."
TURN YOUR MID-LIFE CRISIS INTO A CROWNING
1 day: $50-$75. $25 deposit. Register
for this workshop today.
For further information about Mama Donna, a list of services
and publications, a calendar of upcoming events and a complimentary
issue of Always in Season: Living in Sync with the Cycles
MAMA DONNA'S TEA GARDEN AND HEALING HAVEN
PO Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, NY 11238-0403