Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gender & Search for Spirit

I spent years - oh, at least a decade - focused intellectually and personally on a search for understanding spirituality as profoundly shaped by gender. I'm currently teaching a course initially developed in the late 1980s on Women and Religion, and the class just viewed two videos made at that time and distributed widely (through being the PBS pledge drive give-away for a couple of years, as one means), the first outlining a story of the lost peaceful and egalitarian goddess-revering cultures preceding Western patriarchal dominance, and the other tracing the history of 300 years of witch burnings. I know that these histories haven't held up to scholarly scrutiny, but as modern myths of how life could be lived differently, they still have power. One class member, shaken by the account of witch-burning, said, "Oh, now I get why women hate our bodies."

Last semester, a young woman who described herself as an intuitive, felt impelled to relay a strong perception she had about me, that I had some issues related to being a woman, which would cause abdominal illness. Today, my stomach is acting up - the reflux I've had off and on for some time. Hmmm - putting it together - might I be back in the work-sickness place, driven and self-hating?

I had planned out a blog entry on self-hatred, S.A.D. and the dark night, but now late in January, the light is growing stronger. Glancing through _Conscious Femininity_, a collection of interviews and short writing by Marion Woodman, I was reminded again of what I have known for years to be the link in my life between my workaholic driven-ness and this self-hatred - but I've recently been seduced by fears for my job with the University downsizing to think that the only solution to my distress is to work even harder. Of course, I'll sabotage myself if I do.

The answer? I need to find a middle way - meditation? Writing love letters to Mother Sophia?

Friday, January 9, 2009

I went out onto Google-images to find an image I could use in place of the blank face in the profile of this blog, and on an impulse, typed in "Divine Love." There were an amazing number of things that came up. Some commonalities: many of them were images of glowing-ness (if there is a word like that): fractals pulsing with rainbow light, glowy angels, Hindu dieties (often entwined in ecstatic union); hearts pulsing with rays of light. There were a couple of nature scenes, but one of them seemed doctored to have some of this same kind of supernatural glow coming from off the side.

So, what are MY images of divine love? Much more homely, in the archaic sense of the word, I would guess. Something that would capture the nitty-grittyness of it all. The memory of poopy diapers. The similar experience of our creaky old family dog with his undependable digestive-eliminative system. A handmade Christmas card from my niece, with a photo of herself, her dog Daisy, and her wonderful boyfriend all standing in the winter snow - but rather far away in this scene, so I have to take off my glasses and hold it close to my eyes to see their faces. But an image of the source of all that is tender and true? In some ways, trying to visualize the Source feels like a distraction from noticing the light deep within this world and the beings living and dying within it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Turn that dial to love's station

Some years back, in search of tips for truly sensing or trusting in the reality of a divine Presence, I asked Eldon Kelly what sustained his faith. I could tell that the question embarrassed this madcap rapscallion Quaker gypsy of a sometimes mystic, but he was employed at the time at a local retreat center, so I figured answering questions like this went along with the job description.

What he said surprised me, though later reading of Rumi mirrors his experience: especially on his frequent cross-country drives, Eldon tuned his radio to pop channels listening for songs of heart-sick lovers, which he heard as the voice of the Spirit yearning for him.

The challenge for me remains: how to hold this premise of Divine intentionality firmly enough in mind to be able to experience the delights of creation, the clues in daily life, even my often witty and wise dreams as love letters sent my way?