Her Rites

A Sacred Journey for the Mind, Body, and Soul

About the Book

A daring invitation to discover and claim your identity and purpose, and to embrace the freedom to thrive right where you are

“A wise, gentle, and compelling vision of what needs to be consecrated in a woman’s life—the deaths and the births of hope.”—Dan B. Allender, PhD, founding president of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology

Every woman wants wholeness—to be at home in her body, in her relationships, in her life. But women too often feel that they don’t belong to themselves. The path to wholeness, to a woman belonging to herself, is formidable, and women know they can’t travel it alone. 

Author, teacher, and therapist Dr. Christy Angelle Bauman has dedicated her life to guiding women on this path to meaning and profound joy. 

In Her Rites, Dr. Bauman takes you into her office and through six transformative exercises: a deep dive into the most common rites of passage in every woman’s life, when she sometimes loses hold of herself but also has a unique opportunity to reclaim herself.

Birth: claiming how and why you came into the world
Initiation: coming of age
Exile: finding yourself
Creation: bringing something new into the world
Intuition: acquiring embodied wisdom that comes later in life
Legacy: living with emotional and spiritual readiness for one’s own death 

These rites help women to find wholeness and self-knowledge. Included in Her Rites are ritual templates and exercises that Dr. Bauman employs with her clients, which will help any woman incorporate the principles of self-reclamation into her daily life.

Dr. Bauman has seen again and again that by learning to pause and to reflect on these key moments, we can come home to ourselves and receive the gift of flourishing.
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Praise for Her Rites

“Christy Angelle Bauman offers a wise, gentle, and compelling vision of what needs to be consecrated in a woman’s life—the deaths and the births of hope.”—Dan B. Allender, PhD, founding president of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology

“Bauman invites us to peer into our lives and our bodies with holy wonder. Her Rites will bring joy to your life and empower you to live with more awareness of being a woman.”—Becky Allender, co-founder of the Allender Center

Her Rites is for deeply hopeful women who have been conditioned to live in the pain of domestication. Full of honesty and heartache, it is a pilgrimage to reclaim your life.”—Jay Stringer, licensed psychotherapist and author of Unwanted

“Don’t just read Her Rites; expect to experience it, to wrestle with it, to sit and be still with all the God moments it brings. I emerged from Her Rites lighter, more confident, and better able to listen to my body. I am grateful.”—Sheila Wray Gregoire, author of The Great Sex Rescue

Her Rites left me breathless. I’ll be unpacking this book’s wild legacy of biblical womanliness in my own life for a long time.”—Sarah McDugal, co-founder of Wilderness to WILD

“A magnificent journey through the passages of a woman’s life . . . For women searching to heal, integrate with, and celebrate their deepest selves, Her Rites offers a passionate exploration of our lifelong quest for meaning and wholeness.”—Natalie Hoffman, author of Is It Me?

“This book is a stunning invitation to take your life seriously, as well as a helpful resource for doing just that.”—Scott Erickson, author of Honest Advent

Her Rites is an extraordinary must-read for any woman.”—Tracy Johnson, founder of Red Tent Living

“Required reading for every woman and mother who has questioned her sanity in a world that denies the feminine a voice . . . In Her Rites we have not only a voice but an entire song dedicated to our wholeness, value, and worth.”—Jennifer Magnano, the Barefoot Preacher
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Her Rites

Part 1

Rite of Birth

A birthright is your claim on how and why you came into this world.
The moment you were born, you began the rite to belong to yourself.

Belonging to Yourself

Belonging is the rite of passage we take over a lifetime,
but it begins at birth.
Every woman belongs first and foremost to herself,
this is her birthright.

“You aren’t from here, are you?”

I am standing buck naked in my new gym’s coed dry sauna—a sauna I entered from the women’s locker room and wrongly believed was an all-women’s sauna. I moved from Seattle about a year ago to this small town in the Appalachian Mountains. Three of the 3,386 men in this town looked up, surprised, when I entered the sauna. These men knew I had no clothes under the tiny towel barely covering my body. I froze and stood there, wondering what to do. How have I found myself accidentally naked in this town’s only public dry sauna? The first statement I said, under my breath, was “We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” I had never been in this situation. Until now, I had been a straitlaced, somewhat-liberal, law-abiding citizen. I am a Jesus follower who teaches in moderately liberal church institutions about sexual and spiritual health. My mother and grandmother are the most modest women I know, and God knows I have never seen their busts showing in a low-scooped blouse. I was always taught that a woman’s body was something to hide. That damning belief prompted me to study women’s sexuality for over a decade, and as a result, the signature message of my career has been that God can be known through a woman’s body. I stand in front of classrooms and congregations sharing statistics on what Western patriarchy has stolen from female sexual health in multitudinous ways. This kind of teaching was welcome in the Pacific Northwest. But now, standing here barely covered in front of three men in a tiny sauna in the South, I feel my expertise as a sexually healthy Christian woman waver. Often, the subject we specialize in is what has wounded us most. But to teach something is different from living it. So here I am, presented in this sauna with an opportunity to be sexually healthy. At this point, it is getting weird standing here. I spot a woman in her sports bra and shorts in the dark upper corner of the sauna. She has earbuds in and hasn’t seemed to notice me. All of the men are still looking at me standing there, frozen in place.

Do I turn around or hold my ground?

Have all my years of work on sexual health come to this decision?

Should I stay or should I go? (I mentally sing the Clash version.)

I cinch my towel tighter around my body and sit in the only place available, between two men wearing swimming trunks. The men readjust their positions awkwardly, looking at me as if I should have known it was a coed facility. Technically, there are no private body parts blatantly visible. Yet, I can feel the closeness of the men on either side of me. I sit there with my eyes closed, trying to breathe in the heat and let it warm my body.

My mind raced. What do these men think? Is there anything wrong with what I am doing right now? Am I tempting these men? Am I being inappropriate? Is the woman behind me mad that I stayed without any clothes? Thank God it wasn’t an empty sauna where I had disrobed completely, only to have men walk in on me. Will this ruin my credibility as a Christian female leader?

Brené Brown is right: the stories we tell ourselves in these moments are to be explored. I told myself what I had always been taught, that my naked body is dangerous. My sexual body empowers, exposes, and discredits me all at the same time. That is the story I told myself, even though I had spent years reclaiming what is most true about my body. I have a good body. A body that has allowed me to play sports, birth babies, bleed, and heal. I have journeyed through my rites of passage as a woman. I have worked to know my birth story, the meaning of my menstrual cycle, and the importance of my sexuality. I have fought the psychological harm of objectification, the worthlessness I have felt when my body is in the presence of men with a pornographic gaze. Yet there I was, claiming the only rite that could not be taken away from me—the right to belong. I chose to belong to myself, my body, in this gym, and in my own story, rather than allowing anyone else to take it.

I felt good coming to this conclusion sitting there in the sauna. I would allow the others to have their reactions, but I would choose to hold on to myself—my true self. I slowly opened my eyes when I heard his voice break the silence of the steaming sauna.

“You aren’t from here, are you?”

The three-hundred-pound, fully dressed man, including socks and shoes, interrupted the silent, hot space. He had walked in and stood because there was no place to sit. I looked him in the eyes, and my smile broke into a laugh. “No, I am new here.” Our conversation was kind, and we talked about everything from cold-plunging benefits on our bodies to the de-policing in Seattle. For most of the conversation, I was unaware of my nakedness; I felt present and clear. Finally, when I reached my heat capacity, I said goodbye and left the sauna. My friend was in the women’s locker room, and I told her about my experience. She laughed uncontrollably at my mistake, and I joined in with unabashed enjoyment of the hilarity of it all. I didn’t feel embarrassed; I felt proud. Proud that I didn’t run. Proud that I held on to myself. I knew this was one of the many moments I had to regain my right to belong to myself, and I would not let anyone take that away.

A few years ago, I prayed for the women at a conference I was leading, and I felt the Lord so firmly say, Women don’t need you, Christy. Lead them to themselves, their true selves. Show women their reflection so they remember who they genuinely are. I wholeheartedly believe these words. If women genuinely see who they are, all will be well. If you genuinely see who you are, you will be well.

Your body is a road map telling you a story you need to hear. The woman’s life story is written on her naked body. “Naked I came into this world, and naked I will leave,” as Job says. I will not be ashamed of my nakedness. Blessed be my body and the Creator of all things, for fearfully and wonderfully was this body made.

As you journey through the rites of passage in this book, you will find that some will feel familiar while others will feel foreign. In these chapters, I will hold up a figurative mirror for you, and I want you to exercise the courage to take in your naked reflection as a road map telling you her story.

Stare at her.

Study her.

Remember who she has been, what she survived, and how she will impact this world. If you remember nothing else throughout this journey, remember this. If you can see yourself—truly see her—and hold on to what you see, you will be okay. The grounded, flourishing woman is what the world needs. Finding that woman in yourself begins with learning the story written in your body.

Each birthmark, scar, skin pigmentation, and wrinkle has a story.

Each emotional wound, invisible scar, or Botox-filled line explains what she has endured. The way you engage your body informs how free you are.

About the Author

Christy Angelle Bauman
Christy Angelle Bauman, PhD, MDFT, LMHC, is a therapist, professor, and author specializing in Christian women’s sexual and spiritual health. She supports women while they work toward self-identity, sexual healing, and hope, and she is committed to helping women come into their authentic voices. She hosts the podcast Womaneering, in which she discusses what it means to pioneer a meaningful life. More by Christy Angelle Bauman
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