“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” – The Elders Oralbi, Arizona Hopi Nation
That to me describes the U.S. premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography of “Cinderella” last Saturday at the War Memorial Opera House, inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s darkly version of the fairy tale. The project was co-produced by the San Francisco Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet, and the first Cinderella by the SF Ballet company after more than three decades.* It was also my first Cinderella ever since I’ve been going to the ballet.
After experiencing the spectacular Cinderella ballet last weekend, I was inspired to re-examine the universal human qualities embodied in the story. But lest the men among my readers think that this is all about women, take note. According to Wikipedia, the early versions of the Cinderella story were not all about a young female being harassed by two jealous older siblings. In the Arabian Nights, some of the tales that dealt with the theme were about male characters. ** So while, the Cinderella archetype is about women, I will also talk about personal transformational traits in this blog post, which should be relevant to all regardless of gender.
The New Feminine Ideal
Most of us are familiar with Cinderella’s story, no matter what culture we come from. We’ve heard it from bedtime stories in our childhood, or watched the Disney musicals that abound on TV or DVD. The Cinderella story has existed in various versions in olden times, even before it was translated to ballet. Cinderella may have a different name in many countries, but the feminine ideal of the “Maiden,” which the Cinderella archetype embodies, resonates with us across cultures.
The theme of the story is all too familiar – the beautiful girl who is abused by her stepmother and stepsisters and is forced to live in the soot (cinder) but shows kindness in spite of such cruelty; how she wins the heart of the kingdom’s ruler by conforming to the expectations of society’s ideal for an ideal woman and wife: obedient, kind, beautiful, works with no complaint. These traits are juxtaposed with the stepmother’s and stepsisters’ qualities, aspects that are frowned upon by society: pride, greed and vanity. The story is woven around these opposites — for example, the stepfamily had to be cruel in order for Cinderella (and the audience) to understand the importance of her kindness; the stepmother sends Cinderella to task at the kitchen, unknowingly molding her into the “ideal woman” that society wants and thus preventing her own daughters to experience the same and fall short of society’s expectations by being proud, greedy, and vain. At the end of the story, Cinderella steps into her rightful “shoe,” and transforms from ideal maiden to perfect wife. The “waiting” is over.
To most of us in the western world comes this question – is this framework still relevant? Excluding those who come from religious and cultural traditions that still adhere to the conventional roles of women and men, most women in the western world have come a long way from being the subservient, self-sacrificing type. In this light, the Cinderella model may no longer be relevant when it comes to developing a young woman’s mind (not excluding the adult) in today’s world. Most man in the western world won’t recognize, maybe not even expect, this type to be common. Nonetheless, we still seek an ideal picture of today’s woman, with the desirable traits of kindness, grace, generosity and humility still in the mix.
Nowadays, it is common to talk about the feminine and masculine parts of ourselves, the yin and the yang, the active and passive sides in us. If you come from that persuasion, it’s a matter of embracing those two sides and using them to our advantage.
How does one bring balance to all these in a world that’s changed and still changing?
Cinderella’s Many Faces – Across Genders and Roles
No matter what one’s gender is, the demands of day-to-day living in today’s world are the same. In today’s world, men and women have exchanged roles; they have even swapped clothes. The woman could be the main “breadwinner” of the family, the man the “homemaker and house-band. The lesbian partner could be the “man” of house; the gay partner could be the “wife with the traditional female role” in the partnership. The single person earns a living; he/she does her own domestic chores (including mothering and fathering of children) without a partner, thus embodying the two roles. And in all these permutations, the hats could be exchanged at certain times, creating even more blur in the roles. Which is not necessarily bad, as long as the parties are aware of the exchange and their boundaries as individuals. This is where we do the balancing act, where we need to be aware about what we do and what our needs are, in order to be flexible and always open to the way our lives and relationships are evolving.
In order for our lives to evolve consciously, we need to be present with ourselves, in our relationship – which means being aware of what’s in front of us, at this very moment, enjoying what’s in the present, and living in the present moment. Yesterday has become now, so what we do today will be yesterday’s action and tomorrow’s dream.
Giving Ourselves Permission to Shift Our Perspective
For those who are still in the traditional model of the maiden archetype, or the traditional male-female model of relationships, only you can decide whether change is in the offing for yourselves. Change could be a dreaded word; some folks don’t even like to hear it. But change is a phenomenon that has long been in the air, heralded by what’s happening in the world that we don’t have control of, and with fast speed, continues to transform events and people before our eyes every minute. Consider these manifestations of change – in the way the weather that has been acting differently (hot weather has become hotter than we’ve experienced before and cold weather has become colder than ever), in the way we travel, in the way we exchange and handle information (via the internet, cell phone, video talk), even in the way we speak and communicate with each other (via texting, twitter, facebook). Technology is transforming our lives in such a speed that even your child, one moment a baby, seems to have been transformed into an adult in what seems likes a fleeting moment. Many of us have grown older and notice that we are no longer as strong and as young as we used to be. In the light of these external developments, I invite you to ask yourselves some crucial questions.
More often than not, the questions that we ask are more important than the answers to the questions. Some of these questions can serve as a starting point for a small shift in perspective.
- Where do I feel most uncertain nowadays?
- What forms in my life need to change?
- Where do I need to be open to looking at things from a different point of view?
- In what areas of my life do I keep my peace to avoid confrontation or change?
- In what area of my life do I need to speak my truth?
- Where am I operating on outdated or past information?
- Where do I need to be more responsible, and where do I need to draw the line?
- Where am I ready to go to the next level?
The Waiting is Over
We’ve seen how the main protagonist (usually the female character) of the fairy tales that we’ve been fed when we were young goes through the process of waiting for that someone outside of herself to make changes in her life. Princess Aurora, the sleeping beauty, waits for her Prince Charming to wake her up. The damsel in distress from the Arthurian legends waits to be rescued by her knight in shining armor. Cinderella waits for the king to take her from being a slave in the kitchen to a queen.
Regardless of gender, who are we waiting for to make our dreams come true? Who are we waiting for to make us successful? Are we waiting for Dad or Mom to give us permission to be our own person? Who are we waiting for to give approval to what we want to do?
The Hopi Elders speak: we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. A truth spoken loudly.
Another spin to this comes from Mahatma Gandhi: Be the change you want to see in the world.
The fact is this – we are already creating our life and we are good at it. Every thought that we think creates our reality. When we are fearful, our fears create the very things that we are fearful about. When we are determined to follow a course of action and think the thoughts of success and visualize what we most want to accomplish, our dreams come true. We are the authors of our life, no matter how much we deny it. When you become aware of how you are creating your life, you can make other choices from that point that can transform your life, in small as well as big shifts.
Creating Our Own Reality
There are many technologies out there that teach us about consciously creating our own reality by understanding how our thoughts and feelings create the results in our life and how to change those thoughts. The Law of Attraction course is one of them. NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) and the Star’s Edge Avatar course are also good bets. One of my favorites is the process taught by Psychic Horizons, the meditation seminary of the Church of Natural Grace *** where I trained in energy work. In their meditation guide and workbook, the school says:
“Sometimes we like what we are creating and sometimes we don’t. The key to taking charge of our lives is to understand how we create. What beliefs and patterns are you creating through? Whose energy are you creating through? Once you begin to find answers, you can change your beliefs, pictures and patterns. This leads you to create from who you are in the present rather who you used to be. You can create from your own energy.” (from Create What You Want: Meditation and Workbook. Check it out at http://www.psychichorizons.com/toolbox/Meditation_Guide.pdf)
Namaste. If you like what you read, I’d like to hear from you. Let’s continue the conversation.
To watch a preview of the ballet, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=x51X2Hl4di4#!
* For a review of the SF Ballet’s Cinderella performance (2013 season), go to: http://www.sfgate.com/performance/article/SF-Ballet-review-Cinderella-charming-4490182.php
** For more on the versions on the story of Cinderella go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella
*** For a chance to try a one-minute meditation and more on creating your life, go to: http://www.psychichorizons.com