excerpts from the book
We asked each woman to let us photograph her hands holding something she considers "sacred, holy, an outward representation of her deepest self." And to write about her choice. Here are some portraits included in BLESSED ARE THESE HANDS.
I hold a Tibetan bell in one hand and the wooden stick by which I make the bell sing in the other. I've begun almost every workshop and many lectures with the ringing vibration-sound that the bell makes when I move the stick around the outer rim through which the sound grows louder and more intense, like a long, long note that is held and held, building to a crescendo until I stop rimming the bell, and slowly, slowly the sound diminishes to become barely heard and then only a vibration before it is over. I feel that the chattering energy of the room settles or synchronizes into the sustained note. It is an effect much like using the smoke of burning sage to purify the space. As the sound that the bell makes moves through the air, it is a vibration or tone that is felt in the heart chakra of everyone in the room and through this, we become for a time linked at the level of the heart. It is also a ritual and one that centers me and connects me with everyone in the room. Like a musical instrument that is tuned before playing, there is a similar need for me to be centered, responsive and connected to the audience so that my extemporaneous words come from that place in me that speaks to the soul as well as the mind. The sound of the bell is a call to enter sacred space and to be in it.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.
Author, Jungian analyst, activist
In the photograph I am clutching to my heart knitting needles, yarn, and a rose. The rose is for my grandfather who taught me to love the land that feeds you, and to live in step with the seasons. He made my first knitting board for me when I was a very little girl.
The needles and yarn are for my grandmother who patiently taught me to knit. With my needles I reach beyond the veil that separates us and am comforted by her love.
I hold these items sacred for they represent a quieter time, a more peaceful time, and also the continuity of old crafts being passed down. When I knit I am free: free to create, free to dream and free to remember a gentler time of childish delights and carefree living.
Hands and hooves and hearts aligned. My tattooed arms embrace the sturdy hoof of my gaited mule Tobe, representing my Sagittarian equestrian destiny, becoming the centaur, with Tobe the agent of my personal transformation. Learning to communicate with him, to correctly interpret his sensory awarenesses, is the most challenging work I am engaged in. When I prepare to ride I say a prayer of gratitude to the people and deities who have helped me to that mounting block. I focus on the positive, thanking my teachers and guides and religious metaphors, and then I put my left foot (tattooed with the Viking Helm of Awe) into the stirrup and I vault up into an ascended viewpoint. I leave the ground and meld into the collaboration with the mule that raises me into a heightened state of awareness. He and I both know he has better hearing and eyesight, he's far more experienced at being a mule than I am at being a rider. So on the trail we become one, a team, enjoying the journey and reacting to potential dangers. We collaborate to be the Centaur. And through the process I become stronger, burning through fear to achieve an alert focus, entirely in the moment.