Archives: March 2009
Tue Mar 24, 2009
Voices of the Goddess: Women Clergy in East & West
Women have long been the keepers of spiritual wisdom and insight, with numerous traditions around the globe providing examples of women’s esteemed presence, practice, leadership, and mystical experience in communion with the Divine, however that may be defined. Still, in a world dominated by patriarchal faiths and institutions, women are often excluded from positions of spiritual leadership—even in traditions where goddess is honored. More specifically, the role of women is often confined to either that of supplicant in the house of god or to that of household worshiper, women being relegated in many faiths to supportive roles alone, with their powers and passions confined to the more private spheres of life.
Within contemporary Paganism and some forms of Hinduism, notably Śākta Tantra, however, a different story is clear: women are spiritual and community leaders within their traditions, commanding respect and honor for the carrying out of their sacred charge as defined within those communities and traditions. While ordination requirements, roles, and specific functions may vary, I argue in this presentation to the American Academy of Religion at yesterday's Western Regional Conference and based on preliminary findings, that women clergy from the goddess-centered pathways of Paganism and Hinduism, regardless of personal and regional variances, offer us today both inspiration and an opportunity toward post-patriarchal renderings of power and authority in our spiritual communities and houses of worship. With this, women clergy too offer new possibilities as role models in not only the immediacy of their congregations and spiritual communities, but also in all the spaces they choose to inhabit as empowered female leaders.
Do you act as a spiritual leader in your goddess-centered tradition? Tell us more! Take our on-line survey and read the full text of my Goddess Studies panel presentation here.
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Wed Mar 11, 2009
Purnima (Full Moon) Practice & Meditation
The full moon is a time of expanded awareness, the moon a sacred instigation to move more deeply into our unconscious, into our dreams, and into our inner spaces for insight and embodied wisdom. Yesterday evening, we gathered in the Sanctuary to harness some of Soma's power, opening to the moon's energy, elixir of both humans and the gods, to help us find and then begin translating that inner wisdom into conscious intention.
Our work in circle was focused on pratyahara practices, meaning those spiritual exercises that help us detach from external phenomenal awareness and enter more fully into the internal landscape of consciousness, doing so for exploration, deepening, and potential revelation. Beginning with pranayama, sometimes called breath work, we started to activate shakti, the primal life-force energy.
Prana means vital energy, and it is carried throughout the body on and with the breath. In this practice, energy is called prana-shakti to acknowledge the force that on one level is associated with our soul and on another level is connected to the larger expanse of universal power and potential. Prana was the foundation of our engagement with Soma through the immortality of our human yearning as activated by the amrita of divine inspiration.
From pranayama, an awakening into the subtle language of sound, we engaged the ancient practice of trataka, or fixed gaze, and entered the inner spaces where light and shadow, form and meaning, begin to take on new resonances. Three cycles of trataka complete, we ventured into the territory of spontaneous arisings, allowing the full moon to guide our explorations. My own work revealed new understandings of the power of the moon's blessings and gave this energy a beautiful face. Looking much like an opalescent Kwan Yin, my divinity emerged from a cloudy haze of instability, quickly taking shape and transforming into, yes, a vision; but moreover an experience.
After an hour, our focusings and meditations were complete and we enjoyed sharing in the satsang about our individual experiences. Our closing gratitudes culminated in the Pavamana Mantra:
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya
This mantra will be the focus of SHARANYA's next "Mantra of the Month," so be sure to sign up for our newsletter to listen, learn the Sanskrit in the original, work with a transliteration to help facilitate pronunciation, and get an English translation. In the meantime, we welcome your sharings on your own full moon experiences and look forward to circling with you in person or in spirit soon!
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