LiYana Silver is the author of Feminine Genius: The Provocative Path to Waking Up and Turning On the Wisdom of Being a Woman (Sounds True, 2017) – a book with the potential to revolutionize how women feel about their bodies, sexuality, intuition, and power.
As a coach, teacher and speaker (and ex-dancer), LiYana supports women to wake up their body wisdom, and more specifically, a wisdom located in their pelvic bowl – what she calls a woman’s ‘Oracle’.
Her (eyebrow-raising) work has been featured in the likes of Forbes, the Huffington Post and Jezebel.
LiYana is a torch-holder for a world-to-be in which feminine leadership flourishes, and the epidemic of self-hatred amongst women has long become absurd.
Catriona Mitchell: LiYana, would you offer a brief definition of what you term as Feminine Genius – the core concept of your book – and, by contrast, what you term as Masculine Genius?
LiYana Silver: I call Feminine Genius a mix of the sensual, intuitive, emotional, connective, cyclical parts in all of us. Obviously these are in every human being, not just in women. By contrast, Masculine Genius is our thinking, logical, linear, productive, competitive, goal-oriented or problem-solving ability.
You could say Masculine Genius is more of the mind, and Feminine Genius is more in the body.
To use a metaphor, if you’re looking at a lamp, Feminine Genius is the electric energy that illuminates. It illuminates the body and being of a woman (or a man). It’s a very palpable, very felt energy that animates us.
I would say that the world we live in today is constructed in a way that is anti-feeling, in many ways. We’re too busy and stressed out to know how we really feel, much of the time. Would you agree?
Yes, I think it’s anti-feeling, I think it’s anti-sensuality, it’s anti-cyclical, it’s anti-intuitive, all of it. Yes.
How do you think we got ourselves into this mess?
I feel that we all fear the feminine. I think I probably still do. We fear change, we fear life, we fear pain… we fear the part of us that is instinctual and truthful. That is very much at the heart of it.
This the human condition, rather than about men and women: “If I feel this physical or emotional pain I will die, Iso what can I do to avoid this? Or squash it?”
You’re taking a radical stand, by teaching women to trust their feelings, their sexuality, their inner knowing, rather than looking outwards [to the patriarchy] for rules on how to lead their lives. To me this is a total subversion of power.
You know, it seems really natural to me. I had a very unusual background, and it never occurred to me that it was so darn revolutionary. Maybe it’s just that it feels more natural than dangerous to me.
‘It is as though you – like most women – walk around in a straitjacket and a muzzle, and you’ve been wearing them so long, and they feel so normal, that you no longer even notice that you are bound, gagged, and hobbled.’
– from Feminine Genius
Did you grow up with a strong sense of personal agency?
I did. My parents were wonderful people who went back to the land in the 1960s; they moved to New Mexico, left a lot of convention, and purposefully said “we want a different existence.” There was a lot of value placed on agency and open-mindedness. We grew a lot of our own food, so there was a real sense of what is natural, even in terms of our instincts.
In view of this, I’m fascinated to hear you say that you also still fear the feminine. I wonder why that is.
Well, when I grew up I didn’t feel normal, but I just wanted to be normal. I had this desire to have four white walls and to eat white bread. You have to really hide under a bush in order to not be really affected by media and popular culture. And as you step over the threshold from girlhood into young womanhood you’re incredibly impressionable. Media is going to have its way.
Do you think that most women experience some sort of rupture in their teens, where a healthy relationship to the body is damaged by outside influences – and they don’t feel the same level of ownership over their bodies afterwards?
I would say most. I would put it up around 90%. I think it’s nearly impossible to walk out of puberty with a sense of our bodies, our sexuality, our beauty and our agency being our own.
There are so many things that form how a woman learns her value. “It doesn’t matter how I feel; it’s how I’m perceived. If he wants to be with me or have sex with me, then my value increases.”
“Not only do I have the wrong body, because I don’t look like that model, but my body is entirely currency to get love and to get value.”
It doesn’t occur to us sometimes until much later: “Wait a minute, this is my body. It matters how I feel in it. I need to have a relationship with this body. Fuck you if you want to fuck me! It doesn’t matter actually. Do I want to be with you?“
‘It becomes …understandable why we women, more often than not, have developed a confusing relationship with our bodies, erotic energy, sex organs, wants, desires, and passions. Statistics confirm that about one-third of us have been profoundly or violently wounded in these areas. It is as though one of our legs has been cut off, and we wonder why it is so hard to run to catch the bus. We have ignored, dumbed down, or excised entirely our sensual and somatic superpowers, and we need these amputated parts of ourselves back. Hello, Oracle.’
– from Feminine Genius
I was horrified to read in your book that 97% of women have at least one thought per day along the lines of “I hate my body.”
Was there a specific moment that made you decide to take a stand for women honoring their bodies, rather than warring against them?
There are many people, like Clarissa Pinkola Estes who wrote Women Who Run with the Wolves, who kept telling stories where women were powerful and wise and there was not a lot of talk about their beauty or attractiveness. It took a lot of time for that to sink in, but it got in there.
Tell me about your concept of the ‘Oracle’, as outlined in your book. How did you come to the idea that a woman’s pelvic bowl is the place where she finds her instincts and deepest truth?
I came to it very organically, and later I came to read Vagina by Naomi Wolf, which is a wonderful book. There are certainly some things in Dr Christiane Northrup’s books too. So I got to corroborate this sense with science and other people’s enquiries and experiments.
One of my friend and mentors is Regena Thomashauer who runs Mama Gena’s School for the Womanly Arts. I took one of her early courses: she came into the room and said, “Hello girls, how are your pussies?” It was a little shocking. But then I was like, “No-one actually ever asked me that question before. Thank you. Let me ask.”
Her word for the whole reproductive area is ‘Pussy.’ She assumed that there was a knowing there. And so I kind of took that and ran.
‘Your flesh-and-blood vagina pulses distinctly and measurably when you are experiencing a surge of meaning, love, euphoria, anticipation, gratitude or pride. Your lady parts have a pulse, which a scientific instrument can detect and gauge, that fluctuates when you feel deeply connected, intensely alive, and divinely motivated, Your vagina knows… the good news is you don’t need any scientific devices to measure any of this. You may have not yet noticed the knowing pulses in your vagina, or that when your pleasure increases, so does your confidence. But if you take a few moments to turn your attention to your nether region, you can feel it for yourself.’
– from Feminine Genius
Why do you believe a woman’s intuition is housed in her ‘lady-parts’?
Here’s how I see it. Intuition speaks through our senses, through our bodies and feelings. How could we detect intuition if not through the body?
Intuition gets drawn up through the earth, through my feet, through to my yoni, and then that travels up and becomes a thought in my head. There are a lot of traditions that speak about that movement, earthward into the body, as being a very feminine cycle.
You offer a series of practices in your book – suggestions for how readers can learn to communicate with and understand the language of her ‘Oracle.’
Once you learned to tune into your ‘Oracle’ instead of looking to outside sources for guidance, how profoundly did that change your life?
I’m a woman in Western culture and so I still have to practice, to not be overwhelmed by the noise of life and to tune in and find the quieter voices first. Your question is poignant because it’s changed everything.
It’s not as though I have a question come up and I immediately know what’s best for me. I still have to listen, I still have to be quiet. But I don’t feel lost, and I don’t feel at war with myself, because of this process of reclaiming my body, my intuition, my Oracle, my sexuality. So it’s everything I ever wanted, but thought I was going to get from a pair of shoes or a lover.
‘What if we grew up assuming all women have a sacred gateway to life between our thighs, that our sex energy purifies rather than dirties, that we are sacred vessels rather than sex objects, that our pleasure is our priority, and that both our “Hell, yes!” and our “Fuck, no!” will be respected?’
– from Feminine Genius
If women are learning to locate their core truth in this way, how do you see this playing out in the world? Especially in the light of #metoo, and the urgent need for men and women to stay in dialogue… Do you see this bringing us closer together, or pushing us further apart?
I’m a big fan of the #metoo movement; but to me we’re a little stuck at a stage of revenge and retribution… it’s a little bit like a mob mentality. And I get it. If I’ve been held down, oppressed, unable to speak, you better fucking bet that now I’m going to speak. I understand it, but I do believe we need to grow up from that juvenile stage into an adult stage. That doesn’t help, actually.
I don’t think it should slow down, I just want a little more nuanced conversation with it… intelligent conversation about where we are, without chopping off heads. And I do believe that as a woman feels more whole unto herself, I think that’s more possible.
Photos of LiYana Silver are by Wendy K. Yalom.