The Feminine Way

An Introduction by Lucinda Vardey  

Every woman and every man carries within their nature both masculine and feminine attributes.  Each person is a blend of these two principles or energies as defined in the ancient Chinese religion of Taoism as “Yin” (feminine) and “Yang” (masculine).   A complement of yin and yang makes up the whole. This complement if not in balance in personal lives, or within society, culture or religion, contributes to ill health, and a feeling of isolation, unhappiness and separateness, of something being “wrong.”  Writer and Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister, defines this common malady as caused by living only with  “half a consciousness and half a face.”  In most modern societies we are only  aware of – and we only live with - the masculine philosophies, ideals and ways of life, the yang half.  Feminine consciousness and the feminine face are veiled from common view.  Like an Afghan woman in a full-body burka, she waits for the time when it is safe to reveal herself in her totality.  

The “feminine” as a term is not a description of “feminism” or a subject for women only.  It is a metaphor for unity for all.  It is not an element or energy that separates us but unites us.  We certainly cannot dispute that masculine expression is, by its very nature, outward, active and assertive in our traditions.
We also cannot dispute that the feminine nature of receptivity, intuition, embodiment, sharing and caring, is mostly unseen, inward, and therefore not readily recognized, taught or embraced as a worthy complement to the masculine way of competition and reward by merit.  The feminine way of action is through giving, receiving and circulating.

However, we are at a turning point in our world as we face a severe famine for the feminine.  We have, as a culture, diminished the Earth and the wisdom of creation, and taken for granted that we can live in a masculine society that favours mind over matter.  Yet, now we all are aware there is no choice than to listen to what the Earth is telling us. The Earth is our witness, our guide, our beloved, our true home.  Cities and business and economics are only means of living and are not our true home, so we have epidemics of depression and emotional and spiritual illnesses brought on by our forgetting to live close to nature and the natural seasons and their wise ways of complement.  Therein lie the secrets of the masculine and feminine marriage, the complement of two, in unity with matter, life and consciousness which is the natural, healthy way to live.   This marriage in self and society only occurs when we are made aware of the Feminine Way and how this way complements the masculine. Because of the specific challenges in our own lives we come to the Feminine only through reflection at what is missing, or what we long for, what we need to change.

The following questions are for consideration in personal reflection, as small groups or families, businesses, as well as religious and spiritual communities.  They can be useful for people undergoing individual renewal or relationship renewal with spouses, partners and friends.   

How is it that Eastern religions (the oldest in the world) teach complementary masculine and feminine spiritual energies and we in the West, don’t?

  • Why is the Earth sick and her natural order threatened?
  • Why is it that breast cancer is becoming so widespread?
  • Why in our religious language, do we appeal to God as male and father?
  • Why in our religious sentiments, do we underestimate or dismiss the sacredness of the Earth, voices of the biblical feminine, mysticism?
  • Why is violence and death chosen to be newsworthy?
  • Why are stories of heroism, hope and goodness missing from
    the mainstream media?
  • What contributes to a climate of despair and degradation?
  • Why is generosity a rare virtue?
  • Who or what takes our precious time and are we happy with the relationship?
  • Are we content within our environment?
  • What is missing in our lives?
  • What would we prefer went away?
  • What are the needs of a human being?
  • Do we know our body’s preferences?
  • Are we aware of the moon cycles?
  • How does the natural world infiltrate our lives?
  • Do we fear the dark and why?
  • Can we rest without being restless?
  • Can we do nothing and be content?
  • Can we receive from others?
  • Is silence comfortable?
  • Do we know what we desire?
  • Are we afraid of being alone?
  • What makes us comfortable with another?
  • What do we need?
  • How can we give to ourselves what we need?
  • Are we satisfied in our own skin?
  • Are we aware of the power of our intuition?
  • Is our life balanced between reflection and action?
  • Do we think, or plan, in circles or straight lines?
  • Do we question that which has no rational proof?
  • Do we communicate from our heart or head or both?
  • Are we aware of the effect of the environment on our personal souls?
  • Do we have a vision for our world?
  • Do our night dreams guide the growth and state of our consciousness?
  • Are we uncomfortable with the idea or experiences of motherhood?
  • Are we familiar with a concept of Divine femininity, of God as mother?
  • Do we know of a feminine way that is strong and directed?
  • Are we aware that the masculine experiences have founded and continueto steer culture, society, economics and religion?
  • How are we affected by such a revelation?
  • What would an alternative way of the feminine look like?
  • How would a way of masculine change and feminine fulfillment come about?
  • How seriously can we take a call for change in ourselves and our environment?
  • Is this an urgent issue?
  • Is society and culture in its present state a hopeful foundation for thefuture?
  • Is respect, non-violence, sharing, loving and peace viable alternatives?
  • How could everyone know that they are abundantly blessed?
  • How can we share a way of unity and live as One?
  • Is it worth a try?
  • Would we prefer to be told what to do?
  • Are we going in the right direction?
  • How can we, ourselves, be the change we’d like to see in the world?
  • Are we ready to make that change?
  • Who, or what, do we need to help us?

“Where there is a need, there is also an obligation.”  Simone Weil, French philosopher, teacher, activist & writer.

THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW ROAD

Stepping onto the new road that leads to the unity we crave is created by first practicing living in Yin.  Living in Yin means experimenting with the counter complement to Living in Yang which is usually more familiar to us. This experiment enables us to experience the hidden sides of ourselves which are necessary to come to life and expression in order to remain healthy and happy.  It allows us to discover where we need to learn and grow and how to engage in the process of this growth. 
The following chart outlines the dual attributes and can serve as a map to help prepare us.

YIN/FEMININE

YANG/MASCULINE

Earth

Heaven

Below

Above

Inner

Outer

Matter

Spirit

Body

Mind

Moon

Sun

Night

Day

Cool

Hot

Downward

Upward

Empty

Full

Receptive

Giving

Being

Doing

Darkness

Light

Receding

Advancing

Contemplative

Active

Intuitive

Rational

Creative  Constructive
Left hand & side of body/right brain Right hand & side of body/left brain

                                                         

We go within at the beginning of the new road,” wrote the British mystic and teacher, Evelyn Underhill.  Going within is tantamount to prepare for any change and any action: to contemplate, to reflect, to listen. As in pruning a garden, old and unwanted growth needs to be cut away to allow the sun to shine on us, the rain to water us and the space to be made for new growth to blossom."

“On the day you cease to change you cease to live.”
Anthony de Mello (spiritual writer).

Life never stands still or remains the same.  Life is always about continual change.  If we hang on to the status quo of our lives, however difficult it may be to do so, we will be forced to change without our co-operation.  That is the way of life and it is the way of the Feminine breaking through to establish Herself and to balance the scales between our yin and yang.  If we have been heavily weighed by too much Yang – activities, giving out, trying to “figure it out” in our minds, pushing ourselves into searching for rational answers for our predicaments, then adopting time out to listen in silence, to be receptive, to rest and trust that all will unfold naturally, is the only prescription for the truth to be revealed.   If you have lived a life with more yin qualities, then you will have to look at the yang that is missing in complement and take some steps to embrace some outward and community activities.  The most common challenge, however, in both men and women is to find familiarity with the feminine attributes in themselves and bring them to life.

AWAKENING THE FEMININE SPIRIT

Part of our collective thirst for unity and oneness, is shared by Divinity.  God calls us – sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly – to awaken within us the capacities for deeper spiritual relationship.  This intimacy, which all our souls ache for, is a natural relationship, a special calling within our humanity, and is specifically feminine in its quality.  As a mother, God looks out for us, protects us, nourishes us, guides us to our maturity.   However, this mothering aspect of the Divine  is little expressed within our organized religions or our cultural expressions and understanding.   Motherhood is rarely considered valuable  or necessary within the masculine environment of competition and reward.  However, the motherhood of all of us is necessary for life to continue.
With only fatherhood and masculine ideals, the spirit of God becomes lawgiver, ruler, authoritative, dogmatic and distant. 

The Great Mother as a symbol of God has been mostly confined to pagan rituals and calendars.  She has been more alive and celebrated in the East and yet She, as unifier, is not one to be marginalized by geography or culture.  The Great Mother has many divine attributes.  She is the creator of all creatures.  She is the source of all life, “the lure that moved the Self-brooding Absolute to the act of creation” (Joseph Campbell).  She is the evening star and consort of the moon.  She is wisdom, Sophia, Shekinah, Hokmah.  She is Earth’s Mother.  She is our Mother.  She keeps trying to birth herself within us and among us and we are inclined to forget her, dismiss her – even abort her – before her incarnation.   

Our pioneering teacher of the feminine, Jungian writer Marion Woodman said,
…the inner landscape is a new ethos we are in the midst of shaping.  In the early nineteenth century, romanticism constructed an inner landscape that idealized nature.  Nature was the nourishing mother.  Darwin put an end to that. 

Now we are beginning to realize the consequences of ignoring both sides of the mother archetype.  We have no time to be sentimental in our thinking or actions.  There’s a mutation being demanded in the evolution of consciousness.  I think that mater – the Latin word for mother, the body – wants to become conscious, wants to release light from the density of matter. This is what the French Impressionists were painting.  It is where quantum physics and dream imagery meet.  This, to me, is the new level of conscious femininity that’s never been in the world before: the conscious recognition of energy, wisdom, Sophia, in matter.”  (From Conscious Femininity)

The following prayer said daily is a way to aid the Feminine Divine’s  becoming among us:

Divine Feminine Spirit,
Who dwells in our stillness
Reveal yourself within
So we can bring forth your loving grace.
We celebrate your patience,
We honour your life-giving force
And we hear your call for change.
With your vital power move us to love in action.
With your divine flame ignite us to work for a kinder, gentler world of peace.
May your wisdom guide us to know you.
And give us the courage to live your truth.         
                                   

Writer and spiritual teacher Patricia Joudry shared the following prayer in The Flowering of the Soul.  It is an example of how an everyday act of eating can be turned into a prayer to the Feminine.

Divine Mother, who has created all manifestations out of Yourself at the inspiration of the Father, awaken me to Your presence at my table.  There I take Your body into my own.  You are the food; it is made of Your divine substance as I am myself.  In my mouth two Divinities meet, the Realized God and the unrealized God.  Help me to be conscious of this sacrament and not neglect You with racing thoughts or empty speech or by reading, working, worrying while I partake of Your grace.  In our union I offer the enjoyment of the food to You and receive it back with increase.  Preserve me from crowded restaurants where still You hide deep within the noise and make Yourself known in the silence of the listening soul.  If in crowds I must fight to reach You, let me remember that You are reaching for me too and for all who press around, unrealized Gods like myself, hungering for completion.

We are in a crucial time, a time full of warnings, signs and prophecies.  These warnings come through the Feminine, subtle yet strong, intuitive and true.  We know that things cannot stay the same – we know that we cannot consume at the rate we are consuming – we know that we cannot pollute as we have polluted.  Our commitment to the Feminine Way is our only hope.  We must collectively – men and women – learn how to Be and not always to be Doing.  We must know that our answer is to stop, to contemplate and change our ways for the better.  Writer on the Feminine, Janet Parker Vaughan gives us some guidance:

The Great Mother is dying and in her dying as Nature she is struggling for life.  To help her in her struggle, I believe that we must reclaim our inner child.  We must see ourselves as intrinsically part of Nature with humility and awe. To help her in her struggle we must let go of a deeply ingrained myth: that of Adam and Eve, a myth that perpetuates the idea that Eve, the mother of all living, is the root of all evil.  This myth in various negative interpretations in the Judaic, Christian and Islamic traditions, has led over the centuries to the denigration of women, the repression and devaluing of the feminine in both men and women, and ultimately to the destruction of the planet.  For if we do not transmute our share of Eve’s pain, if we do not love her and know who she is in her violation, she will go berserk.

I believe that it’s time to tell a new story.  An important chapter in that story has to do with restoring within our world cultures and within the self, the balance between a recovered feminine and a new masculine.  On such a new balance the health of our planet depends.  Call it re-balancing the masculine and feminine – or what you will – whether it be left brain coming into harmony with right brain; whether it be a radical re-ordering and honouring and use of humanity’s diverse gifts; whether it be ecological and technological actions and decisions that flow from the womb of humanity’s deepest intuitive powers.  Whatever labels or names we use may not matter.  What matters is that we as human beings find ourselves again in communion with the world soul.  Then we will know what to do.  We will know what our own part is in transmuting Mother Nature’s grief through actions that link us to all other human beings, creatures and planetary eco-systems.

In my journey I have thought, I have seen, I have wondered, I have feared, I have imagined, I have heard, I have understood, but it is through my “I feel” that I find my own place in helping the world to move toward ecological sanity. 

I believe if each of us finds our place in the golden net of lights, if we transmute the fear and the pain that prevents us from seeing and being those lights – whether we be writer, teacher, theologian, healer, factory owner, lawyer, environmental activist, consumer, organic gardener, prophet, farmer, letter-writer, scientist, image-maker, story-teller – if we can but find our place, Mother Nature will not die, the World will not end.  We will live a new story of responsibility and justice and love.  We will help the Great Mother in her tremendous strength to save Herself.  We will restore the Sacred Balance.

Janet Parker Vaughan  (From “Living Nature”)

Truth comes full circle
 As departing light
From infinite space
Returns to the heart
Still what it was,
Embracing all.

Kathleen Raine      
(From “A Deserted Shore.”)

For further study on The Feminine Way – read The Tao Te Ching  (Lao Tzu) and the works of writer Marion Woodman.


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