Book Review: Sekhmet Rising: The Restlessness of Women's Genius

Sekhmet Rising: The Restlessness of Women's Genius (2006) Created and edited by Louise LeBrun, "with 17 Amazing Women" as contributing co-writers including Karina Evangelista, Dorothy Spence, Eva Marsh, Harjit Shokar, Susan Griffin, Koreen Kimakowich, Anita Allen, Theresa McKeown, Carole Maclnnis, Dominique Dennery, Gwen McCauley, Jackie Zirpdji, Patricia Donihee, Celine Levasseur Burlock, Susan Bremner, and Lorna LeBrun.

Published by The WEL-Systems Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Reviewed by Heather Lee Kilty and Barbara Dewar

Louise LeBrun, author and founder of The WEL-Systems Institute invited seventeen women participants and facilitators of the WEL-Systems growth experience to contribute narratives about their personal journeys and transformations to become more authentically themselves. "Each has had to come face-to-face with herself; not just who she wanted to be but who she has already become" (p.2). The introduction aptly warns the reader: "Be well warned: these women are highly contagious!"(p. 4). Each courageous and challenging story invites the reader to awaken to their own potential testimonies and to actively choose their own meaningful life opportunities.

Sekhmet Rising is the book title and symbolizes the powerful Egyptian Goddess or "metaphor for feminine wholeness" (p. 106) who represents both the orderly protector/destroyer and the healer/creator who has relational qualities for bonding communally. LeBrun suggests the energy that is Sekhmet lives in each of us and is the Fire, or force of restlessness that cannot be silenced indefinitely, and that "Its unrelenting surges through the body can either awaken us or silence us forever" (p. 1). Sekhmet is "the Stillpoint- that place from which to bear witness and observe, from which to mindfully choose to engage rather than react or be drawn in to that which will not serve us" (p. 4).

LeBrun suggests that "women have become the keeper of the keys to the dungeons of our own imprisonment" (p. 11). Many of the contributing writers share their past stories and struggles with eating disorders, obsessive compulsion, drugs, depression, and various body and relational problems that Theresa McKeown refers to as "side-tracked on the sub-plots" (p. 119), and Koreen Kimakowich calls distractions "that I would invite into my life as a way of being" (p. 89). Noreen Mejias, however, suggests these experiences are valuable, "... my confusion was and is a gateway or portal into my own continuous growth and evolution (p. 187). They all suggest embracing your own past story and mobilizing the inner rage and Fire for positive change. Eva Marsh in her struggles with life and Multiple Sclerosis says, "My Fire has always yearned to burst into a huge flame" (p. 45), and Susan Griffin says "I know now that Fire never left me - it only stayed hidden away until I was ready to reclaim it" (p. 73). While each story in the book is unique, Eva Marsh has been "intrigued by the concept of a universal source of energy"
(p. 54). The editor strongly states "Get off your knees! Stand up for what we all instinctively, know to be true of who we already are - powerful, versatile, creative innovators" (p.14).

Each author chronicles their journey to a point of awakening and the profound realization that their inner restlessness or personal genius needed to be protected, understood and expressed. When each found this place of still knowing and body intuition, it offered them the guidance to take healthy and creative action to improve their lives and to get in touch with their inner selves. Each woman's narrative includes a description of the unique tools they used for connecting with Sekhmet, where a still point was ultimately reached that provided the needed clarity of understanding. Lorna LeBrun, at the age of 81, suggests "It is never too late to redesign your life (p. 255), and this holds out hope for most readers.

This book offers an interesting read and a telescope into real women's lives, lessons and feelings. It also provides personal inspiration to awaken the reader's inner restlessness and to honor their own genius. As you read, you cannot escape identifying with many of the common challenges and being moved by their courageous examples, struggles, insights and actions that ultimately led to creative and fulfilling lives for each of them. Jackie Zirpdji beseeches the reader, "it is with great excitement that I share with you my story as an invitation to discover and trust your own magnificence (p. 195). Patricia Donihee likewise reaches out: "My belief is that what is needed is for women to have awakened to their magic within to share the story of their journey and become a beacon to guide other women to never give up on the self " (p.212)!

Practical individual and collective methods for tuning into the body to receive its messages are offered to all readers as the unifying thread to otherwise separate and engaging stories of personal challenges and journeys to consciousness. Each used the common focus of the WEL-Systems program to examine their beliefs, values and attitudes as the potent drivers of women's responses to life. Koreen Kimakowich, describes this knowledge with the quote, "As my Light radiated all that was my now and beyond, what came into focus was a plethora of beliefs, values and attitudes (BVAs) that had been thrust upon me and have become the driver of my responses to life" (p. 93). With this insight, simple breathing in a quiet place, setting aside distractions, listening to body messages, and valuing their revered information provided pathways for the next creative action steps to become clearer. Anita Allen says "what it requires is unwavering faith in your inner compass, YOUR inner truth (p. 115).

While individual chapters make up a majority of the book, the editor brings it together in many ways. She suggests that "What is the tapestry within which each of these is a thread of a different color or texture and yet nonetheless, all part of the same design"(p. 10)? She also calls upon collective action "We reach into our families and communities and organizations, and we become the invitation for change within our collectives of choice. And with the unstoppable, combined forces of Intention and Attention, we come together to build new and larger collectives that are required to change the world" (p. 15). In some ways each of the individual writers all came to a collective consciousness regarding their connection to others, their belongingness and wider beliefs.

The last section of the book includes quotes from all of the contributors, heralded by the opening provocative statement "If I'd known then what I know now ..." (p.271). It makes for a fine conclusion.

The book provides a good individual read to help in self-exploration and transformation. It also makes for an excellent collective read by a group or a class that would provoke rich dialogue and critical and personal reflections. Ultimately, the reader is left with the notion that is stated in its preface: "The lives of these women matter - and so does yours" (p. 7).

Heather Lee Kilty (Ph.D. in Health Services, Ph.D. candidate in Therapeutic Counseling, M.Ed. from Harvard University) has offered a counseling practice for over 25 years and has taught Therapeutic and Professional Communications and Diversity and Health in the Nursing Department, as well as Classical and Contemporary Discourses in Women's Studies and Canadian Women in a Global Context at Brock University.

Barbara Dewar (Ph.D. candidate in Therapeutic Counseling) has offered an individual and group psychotherapy practice for over 23 years. She is familiar with the use of the intersubjective in therapy with clients, and in the supervision of psychotherapists. She is co-founder, with Jo-Anne Corbeil, of Espritedu Training of Psychotherapy Associates and Counseling Referral Service.