This past weekend, I led a retreat for a remarkable group of women. It was a church sponsored retreat. The women were courageous in their willingness to look within, as well as their willingness to consider the beauty, power, and profound sacredness of living life in a female body. It was truly an honor to midwife such rich and courageous experiential exercises, which brought forth this deep wisdom of the feminine.
My childhood was not filled with religious teaching. My family lineage holds a wide variety of religious traditions, but the day-to-day of my life didn’t contain these traditional teachings or stories. Instead, I was invited to question what life, love, death, and even re-birth were really about. As someone who has reached a point of life where I am coming to understand the wisdom of a life deeply lived, I am grateful I was taught to wonder.
How beautiful true wonder is…childlike wonder…wonder that causes the eyes to sparkle and the heart to open and embrace.
True awakening is a destructive process…so my teacher, Adyashanti, says. And, I can vouch for that. It isn’t becoming anything. It is unbecoming, undressing, undoing. It is shedding beliefs and veils and faces – those faces we pretend our ours, even though somewhere inside we know they are just masks to hide what we believe is the ugly, ugly me that nobody would want to know or love.
As I sat in circle with these women and shared what I know about the sacred feminine and what it has to do with a woman’s spiritual journey, I was, once again, filled with awe by the beauty, tenacity, fierceness of womanhood.
The layers of veils have been heaped upon us through conditioning and socialization.We’ve internalized them. For me, they aren’t necessarily veil-like. They’re more thick and gnarly in how they hide my true and very human humanity.
Every group of women I have led over the past eleven years has been filled with beautiful women that question, deeply, their worth and value. Whether they were groups of women directly affected by 9/11, or women in business, or women who are the web of connection within their church communities, I’ve been struck by how deep the conditioning runs that tells us a number of made-up stories about who we ‘are’, how much ‘space’ we get to take up, and how ‘loud’ our voices can be.
Yesterday, on the spur of the moment as I was traveling on the bus from downtown back to my place in the outer part of San Francisco, I hopped off and entered into an hour within the gorgeous walls of Grace Cathedral. I walked the labyrinth, lit candles for friends who are in the thick of cancer and chemo, and sat in contemplation and prayer. Again, I am not well schooled in churchly ways. Yet, when I walk into this place, something deep and old and vast comes forth, something that knows all on its own the way of the sacred.
We don’t need to be taught how to be sacred. We are sacred. Perhaps the teachings could simply lead us back to knowing this within… Perhaps this is what they were meant to do all along.
As I sat, I remembered a beautiful stained glass window I had seen last time I was in the church. So before I left, I went to see it. And, again, I was struck by the juxtaposition of this image alongside the more traditional religious images of the Christian faith. Here, way up high, off in one of the transepts, is this exquisite window named, The Gift, by Narcissus Quagliatta. It is a gorgeous piece of art, and it is offering a different point of view than the traditional stained glass windows of Grace Cathedral.
While I know the point of view I see expressed here is mine, I’m going to share what I see. It’s a point of view that offers us a window into the sacredness of women and of the feminine. This window shows us the sacred creativity that is at the heart of creation, the big vast void out of which everything is birthed. And, this vast void is the very same vast void that is within each woman’s body. It is the place where life comes into being within a woman’s body. It shows us, clearly, that all women contain this. The woman is shrouded for she is all women. All women are one woman.
This IS the gift. Our bodies are not objects. Our bodies contain creation.
Take a moment to consider how your life might have been different if you had grown up with this image as part of your learning. Consider how your life might have been different, as a woman, if you knew your female body was holy and sacred.
This is the power of woman, the power of life and death and rebirth. It is the power of creation. It is the power that has, and still is, feared. It is why our species has tried so hard to dominate and control life…and women.
What matters is that we LIVE this. That we live what we are, consciously. This power is within each of us and when we become conscious of it by seeing through the veils that have kept it hidden from our own awareness, we live it. We embody it. We come to know we are it.