On the Healing Power of Feminine Creativity: 5 Things My Mother Taught Me Through Her Life.
The 20th-century avant garde artist Joseph Beuys reportedly once said that there are two forms of creativity on earth — the creativity of the artists, creating something outside ourselves, and the creativity of women, allowing the creation of something inside ourselves.
One year ago today, my mother, Margret Scharmer (1938–2019), crossed the threshold. I want to honor her life by sharing five personal reflections, five learning experiences that I now begin to see more clearly. I believe they represent the awakening power of feminine creativity, which is perhaps a third form of creativity on earth: a relational creativity that transforms how we relate to ourselves and to each other.
(1) Unconditional love is at the foundation of everything. The deep truth of this sentence is perhaps embodied by all mothers. It certainly was true for mine. Margret’s unconditional commitment to supporting her loved ones with everything necessary, any place and any time, was part of who she was. Only later in life did I learn that there is nothing automatic about embodying unconditional love. It’s a choice, it’s something we can choose to embody or not. Growing up in an environment of unconditional love is a gift to one’s development. It is as if your being is given soil, a place on the planet where you can take root, anchor yourself.
(2) Unconditional confidence in your future path. My mother believed unconditionally in my future path, in the future path of her loved ones. Nothing could shatter that belief. This profoundly positive believe in something that hadn’t manifested yet, something that was just an idea or a dream, was another key aspect of my mom’s generative pedagogy. It was not just a general belief in a future possibility. No, in her case it also meant being present, showing up at a few critical junctures, whenever that dream of the future happened to be at real risk. She always showed up, functioning almost like one of our “better angels,” always convinced that one day our dreams could become real. Her unconditional confidence provided an environment for my own vertical connection with a profound sense of future possibility.
(3) Closing the feedback loop with your emerging self. Perhaps the most important knowledge we can attain as human beings is a deep knowledge of ourselves. Self-knowledge is at the root of all human development. We know that. But how do we actually deepen our self-knowing? The only way we learn about ourselves is through the eyes of and the feedback from others. Everything we know about ourselves is through the mirroring by others, which is what makes the feedback we receive so critical. Feedback can go wrong in two ways: by overfocusing on the negative or by overfocusing on the merely positive. What I remember my mother doing was something that today I would refer to as “grounded golden feedback.“ I call it grounded because it is grounded in real data, in what other people said to her about me. I call it golden because it speaks to your emerging future self. I still remember my puzzlement and wonder about what she had been sharing at some of those small but special moments. It helped my younger self to be less negative and less judgmental of myself.
These three points reflect three core dimensions of how a mother — or an educator — can create generative learning conditions for human development: by providing supportive soil in which to take root (unconditional love); by providing an environment for sensing one’s highest future possibilities (unconditional confidence); and by closing the feedback loop by providing grounded golden feedback.
(4) Be the change… More important than anything we say is of course what we do. Margret was not only a lifelong student and learner. She reinvented herself professionally after passing on the co-leadership of the family farm to the next generation, by becoming a Feldenkrais student and practitioner, by studying and lecturing across Europe about regenerative farming and the women farmer’s movement. She also played the piano and attended theater and poetry workshops with my father until her very last years. Whenever I visited them the topics of conversation — and her areas of interest — ranged from family and the personal to what was happening in the various regions of the world to deep emerging questions about the social, ecological, and spiritual crisis of our time. Sometimes as people grow old, their mental horizon tends to narrow or shrink. None of that applied to either of my parents. If anything, maybe the opposite was true.
(5) Follow your calling, follow your bliss. My mother grew up on a farm in northern Germany, and even though she was the best student in her class, her parents could not send her to high school for financial reasons. The big dream of her life, going to the city and attending a university, was shattered. In dealing with this profound disappointment, she knew one thing for sure: never would she end up marrying a farmer. Then, when she was still 18, my father came along — and she did exactly that: she married a farmer.
So, was she following her bliss? Not entirely. That would have included going to the city, attending a university, etc. But was she following her calling? Yes, she was. She followed her calling even when it led her to territory outside her declared comfort zone. Personally, I know that in my life I have been given many opportunities — going to the city, attending high school and university, and then going out into the world — that she dreamed about for herself but never got. But my own ability to do those things is very much indebted to my mother’s choices and sacrifices.
Maybe the lesson here is about what we mean by following your bliss. To follow your bliss — that is, to follow your own sense of passion and purpose — has a deep truth and resonance. But a slightly different way of expressing that is “following your calling.” It means to not only follow your passion and perceived purpose, but also to follow the deeper needs of our time. That’s something that Margret embodied in every aspect of her life.
So again, maybe there are not two but three forms of creativity on earth. The first one is creativity that happens outside of ourselves. The second one is creativity that happens inside ourselves. And the third one is creativity that happens in the relational space between those places. Reflecting on my mother as a teacher, here are the golden principles that I am beginning to see through her actions:
· Be grounded downward: take root in the context of your place (unconditional love).
· Be aligned upward: align yourself vertically (unconditional confidence in the future).
· Be connected laterally: close the feedback loop with your emerging self (golden feedback).
· Embodiment: be the change that you want to see.
· Follow your calling, even if it leads you off the conventional or the preconceived path.
These principles are very personal to me, but at the same time they can be seen as systemic. They belong to a larger pattern, to a shift that is happening on our planet right now. It is a shift from an old civilization often shaped by toxic masculinity to an emerging one that is shaped by a better balance between masculine and feminine qualities. In that new civilization the power of feminine creativity and healing would be awakened & activated in all of us.
As for me, I owe these foundational healing principles to my mother. She was my teacher in many more ways than I can express. I appreciate and respect her presence with a deep bow. But the real bow that she perhaps expects is not in the form of words, but in the form of continuing the line of work that she and my father started some 60-plus years ago on our farm: planetary healing and civilizational renewal in small but practical steps. No more. No less.