That radically feminist quote by the Dalai Lama is starting to make sense.
“The world will be saved by the western woman,” his Holiness said at the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit. When I first heard about these controversial words five years ago, I was steeped in the vastness, percolating awe and stillness in a months-long post awakening bliss honeymoon.
His proclamation did not inspire me nor intrigue me. Nothing back then moved the un-moveable stillness to any sort of emotional up or down, let alone getting caught up in what sounded like a feminist slogan.
But now, five years after my overnight awakening and at least four years into navigating the real life and online non-duality circuit, I’ve concluded the Dali Lama just might have been hinting at the limitations of a masculine approach to God.
Online forums and Facebook groups dedicated to endless debate about enlightenment, non-duality, advaita-vedanta, emptiness and more, are largely populated by men. And it’s men who are the most active participants in what often amounts to breast beating to prove who has the right answer or the most enlightened understanding.
But don’t take my word for it. Go hang out at a few of these groups, where enlightenment is discussed with clinical precision and posturing punditry. The debates can be entertaining, sure. But after a while, they fail to nourish.
Why? Because talking about your view of enlightenment compared to someone else’s is a lot different than sharing your experience of True Nature. The former is like a boxing ring. The latter is like a group hug.
If the Dalai Lama was pointing at anything, it might have been his own discernment that women (or the feminine approach) might offer some extra ju-ju and balance to the global consciousness raising scene. Because it seems to me a whole lot of awakened and awakening men are stuck in their heads. (Or put another way, the masculine orientation to analyze has runrampant at the expense of engaging at the level of the mystery).
First, it’s probably a good idea to define “stuck in the head.” My observation is there are two kinds of heady-awakenings (and yes, both men and woman are prone to them).
The first is where someone has understood the concept of “no self” and then gone on to live their life as if this cognitive grasp equals true realization. This idea-based version of awakening is most common among online, male-dominated chat groups about enlightenment. (Yes, there are women there too…I’m just saying, it’s mostly guys).
The second is the more rare case of folks who have been catapulted into the emptiness and get stuck there. Some call it Zen Sickness. It looks like apathy and indifference to any real engagement in reality. These sorts of men do show up in chat rooms online, but mostly to correct everyone by pointing out that “Nothing matters, nothing is real, there is no-one here, and so stop debating already.”
Adyashanti says this about the second type: “Enlightenment does not mean one should disappear into the realm of transcendence. To be fixated in the absolute is simply the polar opposite of being fixated in the relative…. To awaken to the absolute view is profound and transformative, but to awaken from all fixed points of view is the birth of true nonduality. If emptiness cannot dance, it is not true emptiness. If moonlight does not flood the empty night sky and reflect in every drop of water, on every blade of grass, then you are only looking at your own empty dream. I say, “Wake up!” Then your heart will be flooded with a Love that you cannot contain.”
Of course, to genderize these two conditions of Enlightenment Ideation and Transcendent Stuckness is folly. What I am saying, in essence, is that non-duality books, blogs, chatrooms, forums and the like, are dominated by men. Just look at the annual Science and Non Duality Conference speakers roster—66 out of the 97 presenters in last years conference were men, and the year before there were only 25 women compared to 60 male speakers.
And the type of men who dominate these non-duality teaching circles are inclined toward a heady intellectual, philosophical and transcendent angle to awakening discourse.
Of course, there are many exceptions to that rule. Here are just two examples of heart-and-immanence-oriented male teachers in the awakening-non-duality club.
Former Trappist monk Francis Bennett, whose focus is on the accessibility of grace as a path to awakening, and the clear admission we are both human and divine. Or in his words, “You are a person with a transpersonal dimension. Both are true.”
Ed Muzika, who talks openly about his transition from years in a detached transcendent state to one of intense emotional heart opening. After a three year depression, triggered by the death of his teacher Robert Adams, Ed relates that “instead of talking straight Advaita, I started talking about Bhakta, and the need for love to complete the journey back into humanity, the marketplace. I talked about enlightenment like reaching first and second base as in baseball, and the journey back as going home, filled with the drama of being human, facing your own vulnerability and brokenness, and this was essential for completion of the path.”
To be clear, I am not necessarily endorsing their teachings, I am simply suggesting that these men have had awakenings that go beyond the head and lounging in the transcendent/absolute. These are men who have clearly entered the terrain of the spiritual heart and are willing to speak about it.
After dancing with the dry non-dual dudes for a few years, and taking on a male teacher for a year, it dawned on me I was dancing with partners who did not nourish the fierce heart dwelling goddess in me.
In fact, my leave-taking of my teacher happened by sheer irony on the July 22nd Feast of St. Magdalen, and during the turmoil of that time, I was flooded with divine feminine synchronicity and remembrance. Leaving an outer teacher was a homecoming to the “teacher of my own heart.” (For some of that back story, you can read here.)
Since then, I’ve been strongly drawn to the company of awakened and awakening women. Because it seems to me that women, more so then men, have access to the wisdom of the knowing heart.
One of my favorite awakened women teachers, Vicki Woodyard (author of Bigger than The Sky, and A Guru in the Guest Room) recently openly declared that she is “really tired of the masculine approach to enlightenment and awakening. The masculine approach is sterile…men wake up and say, ‘I don’t have any problems.’ That’s just not true.”
It’s not enough to have the super-chill experience of your absolute nature. That transcendent truth must marry the immanent. You can’t truly be holy without embracing the profane. One pole without the other is simply duality.
The head and heart are both essential divinity portals for the emergence of the shift from ego to essence, or what Echart Tolle calls A New Earth. Adyashanti says it eloquently, “A quiet mind married to integrity of heart is the birth of wisdom.”
I’ll finish off with two short videos by Vicki. In the first she speaks of the feminine, feelings and heart-based way as opposed to the dry masculine non-dual spirituality. In the second she speaks of the One Heart. Enjoy! They are slightly addictive bite-size bits of heart-wisdom.
PS: Amazing Goddess Images by artist Heather Mclean
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