I met writer and earth-loving social entrepreneur Nicole Schwab one summer evening about a year ago in Deia, Mallorca. Nicole had just finished her first book The Heart of the Labyrinth. The book went on to be published by Womancraft Publishing and is enjoying the kind of success a first-time author usually dreams of.
Dancing on the tightrope
A couple of days ago, I got in touch with Nicole to find out how her year had been and to talk about the ‘goddess’ phenomenon. So many of my friends – female, of course – describe themselves as ‘goddesses’ and, to be honest, I find it faintly ridiculous. I couldn’t imagine describing myself as a ‘god’ (although others probably could).
One of the things I admire about Nicole is the way, as she so eloquently puts it herself, she walks ‘the tightrope of my life holding science in one hand, and spirituality in the other’. Any discussion I have with her is always enormously stimulating, provocative and great fun.
But first, The Heart of the Labyrinth, which I’m going to shorten to Labyrinth.
Stepping into wholeness
Labyrinth is nothing less than ‘a grand, soul-shifting answer to the hungry soul’s question; who am I?’ More prosaically, it’s the story of Maya who embarks on a journey of discovery to the land of her ancestors and is guided through ‘dreams, visions and lifetimes’ to the heart of the labyrinth. Maya realises she has to reclaim her ‘sacred feminine fire’ because more than her individual life is at stake. The fate of the Earth rests with her.
Nicole’s achievement is to address burning issues, offer answers and still tell a page-turning story. And because Nicole tells a compelling story, the book has the potential to reach and maybe convert a wider audience into social activists. Especially if it becomes a movie.
Its own life
Talking about Labyrinth now, Nicole says ‘It feels like the book has taken on a life of its own. People write to me, sharing stories which are sometimes quite personal. It’s touching.’
I asked Nicole what she wants next for the book. ‘I’ve always felt this book will find its own way. I just want more people to be able to read it.’
So, does Nicole feel comfortable saying she’s a writer now? Nicole laughs, ‘It’s official!’ she says. ‘I have a book. But the reaction is interesting. When someone I was talking to, a complete stranger, found out I’d written Labyrinth, her eyes went wide and she said “Oh, you’re the author of that book”. She was completely transformed. It was a strange feeling, but nice.’
What comes next?
Nicole has just finished a treatment for a potential movie of the book. Writing the screenplay will come next. After that, Nicole is pretty sure there will be another book. As she says, ‘Now I’m a writer, it’s my job’.
Social activism will continue to be a fundamental part of Nicole’s life. She’s on the board of Tree Sisters, ‘a social experiment of our time…a women's organisation growing a global network of TreeSisters to help crowd fund rapid tropical reforestation.’
This goddess business
As I said, one of the reasons I like talking to Nicole is because she brings a cool intelligence to subjects that other of my friends approach in a rather more off with the fairies way. One of these is the ‘goddess’ phenomenon.
If you don’t know what this is (and apologies to any women who think I’m misrepresenting what they stand for), it’s the notion that all women are, literally, goddesses. So, as a wonderfully scathing blog post written by a woman put it, ‘the whole world should kiss your ass because you have a Yoni’.
While this nails what I dislike about the ‘goddess’ movement – a kind of exemption because one happens to be female – I know my female friends have a point. I’m just not quite sure what it is.
‘This is why I don’t use the term goddess,’ Nicole says. ‘I prefer talking about the sacred feminine. Goddess implies something external, something to look up to. I usually talk more about the sacred or divine feminine. It’s an aspect of our being – yours and mine – not exclusive to women.’
So what is the sacred feminine? ‘I define it as the creative force – from literally giving life to creating new projects. It’s about aspects related to the body, to feelings, and not the intellect.’
Why is it so important? ‘Because we’ve given a dangerous amount of emphasis to structured, linear, competitive, action-oriented ways of being, which are masculine. Or a caricature of masculinity, because that’s not entirely who you are, is it?’
No, it’s not.
Masculinity at work
I’ve long been aware that ways of working which privilege so-called rationality over things like intuition only use part of what we’re all, men and women, capable of offering. More to the point, they’re actively damaging.
Recently, I wrote about the relationship between cortisol and stress. A friend turned me on to a YouTube clip of Simon Sinek where he talks about how toxic levels of cortisol can cause things like heart disease and diabetes and interfere with learning and memory. Tense working environments, where people can be, ahem, rationalised, are actively dangerous.
Simon also talks about anti-stress hormone oxytocin, sometimes known as the love or cuddle hormone, produced, for instance, when women lactate. Oxytocin also makes us more generous and empathetic. Following Simon, it’s completely logical to me that if we created situations at work where we cared more about each other, we’d be far more productive in a good way.
‘I agree,’ Nicole says. ‘This is a practical example of how using the sacred feminine could really benefit us. And there’s no question that we have to do something to change capitalism. Right now, it’s like a vicious cornered beast destroying our planet.’
So why don’t we change? ‘People don’t want to saw off the branch on which they’re sitting. But we can’t just make business more feminine – I recently read an article where the writer suggested companies use empathy to sell more products. That’s completely missing the point. We have to invent a new model. I don’t see any other way. And I believe that the sacred feminine, with its connection to the earth is the answer.’
It makes sense to me. Thanks Nicole.
Celebrating a year of The Heart of the Labyrinth
Nicole is celebrating the one year anniversary of Labyrinth’s launch by offering a 40% discount on the Kindle price - go to Amazon UK or Amazon US - and 20% off the paperback when purchased via her publisher’s website. The offer runs from now until midnight on Sunday 8 November.
Buy your copy now .