“There’s a wonderful Bible verse that says ‘… well done, good and faithful servant.’ That about says it for me. I want to know that the people I care about most in the world can move on without me because I have done my job in a way that’s made a positive impact on them.” — Gail Williamson, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE
No doubt about it, there’s a renaissance going on today, a grassroots spiritual revolution spearheaded by women of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds. Women are gathering en masse to share our stories, to actively explore our options, to give and receive support. It’s time to rock and roll!
When I think about the expanding nature of women’s spirituality — this external flourishing as well as the depths women are reaching inside themselves — some words of the wonderful Jean Houston come to mind that, for me, nail what’s going on …
“If for thousands of years you have been stirring the soup with one hand and holding the baby with the other, kicking off the woolly mastodon with one foot and rocking the cradle with the other, watching out for the return of the hunters with one eye and determining with the other on which cave you will paint a magical bison, you are going to develop a very complex consciousness … one that is well adapted to orchestrate the multiple variables of the modern world.”
It’s no surprise that many of the characteristic features of a woman’s spiritual practice were organic to the ancient matriarchal civilizations that set up housekeeping in the Indus River Valley 5,000 years ago. Riane Eisler called these cultures “partnership societies” because they were organized around nurturance and connection; they promoted community and mutual regard yet valued individual experience. They also fostered the development of intuition and creativity and operated in harmony with the natural world, with the cycles of the seasons and of life itself.
Once these matriarchal societies were overrun, women’s spirituality went underground. The social and spiritual mine fields women tread were humiliating, disempowering, and rendered us invisible for thousands of years: Aristotle taught that women were defective, that we were “incomplete men.” In the Middle Ages, we could embroider tapestries and liturgical vestments, but we could not attend church with our fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. We were burned, hung, shunned, and banned for our beliefs, told we were “less than” — and yet we survived. We made nurturance and connection the center of our lives; we trusted our intuition and expressed our spirituality through our creativity, our families and our communities. We honored the power of personal experience and operated in harmony with life itself. We found God in ourselves, in our families and friendships, in our activities. And we loved Her.
One of the things intrinsic to a woman’s expression of spirituality is the desire to make the world a better place — especially for our children, for the children of the world. When my daughters were little, I wanted two things for them: that they walked away from their childhood knowing God, their step dad, and I loved them, no matter what; and that they had the courage and confidence to meet whatever life would bring to their door. Lucky me, I married a great guy — a man who valued nurturance and connection as much as I did and built a career in early childhood education. Jon travels the world with a profusion of thoughtful ideas and insightful stories that help parents and teachers enrich the lives of the kids they are charged with. (www.jonathanwolff.org/peace-book.htm )
The story he tells that is most meaningful to me is of the 4 year old girl who, busy with her own play, discovers her younger brother is the center of a tumult elsewhere on the playground. The boy had fallen, kids and teachers gather round him in concern. Belle recognizes her brother’s cry and stops what she is doing. Calm, yet determined, she weaves her way through the crowd to where her little brother lay. “May I be of some service, here,” she says when she reaches him.
I like to think Belle’s words echoed along the continuum of time back to the Indus River Valley and made our ancient mothers proud.