Where and how do we connect with wisdom?
I know one man who is a sufi and goes on retreats in the Alps for a week.
I know some men who make a monthly commitment to running a sweat-lodge.
I have met a swami who travels the world sharing his meditations and wisdom.
I know another man who is a monk and lives in a monastery.
Then there’s the Dalai Lama, the pope, the head of the Church of England…
Martin Luther King
All men whose work I have taken inspiration from.
In September I wrote about mothers and spiritual practice and how torn I felt. I’ve had some new thoughts since.
You see, when I wrote that blog I was yearning to be able to go the Alps, to do week long retreats whilst also acknowledging that there was a spiritual practice in raising children. However, I was still railing against a world which makes it hard for women to follow a spiritual path or calling.
Now I’m thinking of things differently.
The path of the warrior
I think there is a difference between the way most men find their connection to something larger than themselves and the way most women do.
The path of the shaman, the monk, the swami, the guru has often been solitary. The path of the spiritual warrior such as that which Castanada or Milman write about (see below) is one of trial and harsh tests; drugs, altered states of consciousness, physical deprivations and isolation. The warrior has to make the journey alone, to find them self and their truth and although they might have a guide who is usually man. Women, if they are mentioned at all, can be seen as a distraction from the path. The path is linear and uni-directional, starting here and ending in enlightenment, mastership, leadership.
In September I was feeling shut out from this..and felt angry..if this was the way to spiritual awakening and wisdom then it seemed inaccessible to me. I can’t go off into the forest to take Ayuhuasca; I have a job to hold down and kids to look after. I don’t want to commit to one weekend a month at the sweat-lodge; I have footy matches to chauffeur to. Actually, I don’t even want to commit to one particular path as I’m happy to find wisdom wherever it shows up.
And so I didn’t know how to tune into my connection with my inner wisdom or how to connect to something larger than me.
But I was looking in the wrong places. I was trying to do things like a man. Which wouldn’t be the first time. In the last 6 months I’ve got more in touch with how women connect with wisdom and this is what I have found:
How women connect to wisdom
- We garden and connect to nature – we learn from plants, from the seasons, from watching things die off and then come to life again when they are ready.
- We dance – we connect with our bodies, we sweat, we writhe, we let go and in letting go we let go of our ego and find connections with the music, the other dancers and a different energy
- We sing
- We think while we’re driving and work things out
- We laugh
- We cry
- We read
- we write
- We listen to podcasts
- We listen to our bodies – we learn to plot our cycles and honour our changing moods.
- We trust out intuition – that gut feeling, the non-rational, the bit we can’t explain but pay attention to anyway.
- We stroke animals
- We watch and listen to our children
- We try to understand ourselves and our partners through reflection and contemplation.
- We do things together – we know that there is richness in community, in connecting and in sharing.
- We talk to other women – we are each other’s wise people. We talk about feelings, about relationships, about kids, about work and with each other we find out wisdom. We do not expect to have gurus or leaders, in fact we probably wouldn’t want to bother then with our little thoughts and worries; but we do turn to each other and strip ourselves bare. We hold the light for each other when we are in the dark. We can bear each other.’s pain and rejoice in each other’s delight without envy. We can listen. We can hear. We can reflect back and know when to keep our mouths shut.
So if these are some of the ways in which we connect to wisdom, what is the magic we create with that wisdom? We’re too busy to meditate until we are enlightened, we are too embroiled in life to trip out for a weekend and we certainly are not about the tour the world teaching our spiritual truths because frankly we’d rather be at home with the family..so how do women show up in the world spiritually?
What is the wisdom we bring?
The magic women create
- Women keep the peace – we might not be on the UN peacekeeping force but daily in oh so many ways we sooth over troubled waters, we empathise, we defuse, we deflect, we accept, we understand and we create harmony where there was tension
- We heal – a bit of Savlon here, a hug there, a shoulder to cry on, a text to let you know I’m thinking of you, words or advice, the stories we share so that you can learn from our mistakes..we heal each other and the others.
- We birth – of course! The biggest miracle of all, we create life and then bring it into fruition or we help other women do so
- We are the hub of family life- we bring people together, we know what each of them likes to eat, who their friends are, their politics, their paper and we make sure we do our very best to see and support every person in a way which allows them to come to life
- We create a home – a safe place where people can relax, rejuvenate, retreat and reflect. A place where we can gather and feel held. A place we go back to time and again.
- We are the planners, the organisers, the present buyers – we make things happen. We take ideas and bring them to life, we bring desires into being
- We are the community builders – we get to know our neighbours, take care of each other’s kids, we are on the PTA, we chat over the fence. We connect people.
- We bring love – we practice forgiveness, understanding and we find ways to love sulky teenagers, trantruming 2 year olds, dithering parents, stressed partners and slowly, one step at a time, we learn to love ourselves.
- We bring sensuality – we know the full body tingles, the art of seduction, the practice of flirting and the waves of orgasm.
- We are the jugglers – the people who can arrange a children’s party whilst working full time, organising child care, dropping the car off at the garage, grabbing some shopping in our lunch hours and stripping the beds when we get home. We are often the reason houses are cleaned, food is cooked, children are cleaned and dogs walked. We can do more than is humanly possible and normally without breaking into a sweat.
- We are shape-shifters – one minute the fierce tiger mother protecting her children, the next the cute kitten allowing herself to be coddled, the she-wolf seeking time alone, the monkey grooming and carrying her young, the sleek panther dressed to kill on a night out, the mother hen fussing…chameleon like we become what life calls us to be.
- We are story tellers – whether it is reading to our children or sharing our own stories we create new world and possibilities and connections through our imaginings and memories
- We are the alchemists- we turn base metals to gold in mixing bowls, in baking tins, in family gatherings, we use life and combine what we know with what is needed so the outcome is better and tastier and juicer than the individual components alone.
- We can tell the future – we see our toddler just before he tips over the back of the sofa, we guess that our teenager is going to be in a bad mood after an exam day. We can see the consequences of choices; both ours and others and think twice before jumping.
- We can see inside people – we know before our friends tell us that they are sad, we know that our partners are not ‘fine’ in spite of what they might say. We can walk into an office and tell when something is wrong immediately; no words needed.
- We create ceremony – the birthday party, the wedding plans, the funeral arrangements, the graduation ball.
- We bend time – we get to sports day somehow even though we work, we find time to cook dinner and help with homework, we will find time to help a friend.
- We connect with the ancestors – keeping photos, letters, remembering birthdays, death days. We know some of our family history, we are curious about our lineage
- We are the crafts people – sewing trousers, painting walls, putting up shelves, making cards, arranging flowers
- We are the emotion speakers – the one’s who can name the shame, live with vulnerability, celebrate lust and laugh with wonder. We teach our children and our partners the language of feelings
- We are the psychologists and the biographers – making sense of lives, understanding how the past is influencing the present and we are as we are.
And on..and on…
And when I write it like that, and think about it like that I see magic, I see vast wisdom, I see creation, I see inspiration, connection. I see a world of witches who have not yet seen their own magic because we are trying to do things the way men do or we are not appreciating the power we use minute by minute, moment by moment.
We need to open our eyes and claim our own wisdom. We need to see beyond the dishes and the dogs to the magic that we cast in our lives, the lives of those we love and beyond into the world.