[One of three essays on the theme of Goddess Yoga]
The gender of the soul is a mysterious and transcendental subject. It is cloaked in the paradoxical and the inconceivable.
The gender of the body is a fleeting and transient experience, neither real nor illusion, but temporary fact. Gender, in the realm of matter, flips back and forth over lifetimes, driven by karma and desire. This back and forth blurs the lines and the content between male and female so that over time we all have much of both.
Nonetheless, from life to life we generally find ourselves in one or another. Yet regardless of gender, we (the soul), continually find ourselves in an earthen vessel that is both temple and prison. This creates the ironic goal of having to both worship the temple and break free of the prison.
To further our sense of the paradoxical nature of being, consider that while we are in these clay coverings we are considered prakriti or mother nature (the feminine aspect)and the soul is considered purusua or consciousness (the male aspect). Yet in the realm of the soul the soul is called prakriti (or feminine) and the source of consciousness is call purusua. This gives a tiny hint as to the paradoxical nature of the soul’s gender.
Goddess Yoga, is meant to ask the question, “Are there differences in spiritual practice (sadhana) for you (the soul) when you are momentarily trapped in the female form versus the male form?”
The answer is yes and no; there are some differences and some similarities. The exposition of these essays will be the exploration of the differences.
The spiritual journey is different for the spirit-soul residing in a female body versus a male body. For example the female covered soul is generally much more in touch with the concept of body or form. This includes body in its various permutations: her own body, her lover or mate’s body, and her child’s body. This attunement is part of why the path of aestheticism has always been arduous and in some ways inappropriate for the feminine garb.
While the male body has the likelihood of being slightly less attached to the body they are not necessarily better off. In fact, it is this tendency towards bodily nonchalance that necessitates the austerity and submissiveness of the male-bodied path.
So while it is important that the male shaped aspirant grovel and serve the guru menially, that is not necessarily what is best for sister-spirit-soul.
So what is best for the female shaped ones?
The simplest answer is to use all the bodily proclivities to create connection to spirit.
+ Respect and beautify the body, not as you, but as a mystical clay temple of the supreme soul living within.
+ See and treat the lover/mate as representative of the divine.
+ Raise children as ambassadors of pure consciousness.
In addition, the mind should be disciplined in the dialectics of spirit… to learn to resist polar views of black or white and instead to entertain the paradox of synthesis…
+ surrender the need for certainty in exchange for pursuit of clarity
+ stop seeking control and instead celebrate beauty in nature and spirit
+ do not be moved by illustration which is only ABOUT something, but champion art which IS something
+ do not over value knowledge, instead learn to worship mystery
+ and above all do not mistake matter for spirit
In future essays I will explore and bring together easter science and western philosophy, with the hope of expanding our understanding of hatha, pranayama, mantra, and some of the esoteric meanings of the ancient Sanskrit text. The goal of this is series is to learn about the nature of the spiritual journey for souls who are in a female body. I look forward to your feedback.
Culver City, California – A tired and poor black man shuffles by the Starbucks. A motivated-pencil-skirted young woman strides briskly into the store. A hip-hop based soundtrack plays over the scene from a Mercedes-Benz idling at the stop light. Jacaranda-tree-filtered-sunlight gently fills the outdoor patio. The question occurs to me at that precise moment. What is this place? What am I doing here?
This query seems to stir up a desire to be of help to others. As that thought rises up through the self-conscious soup of my mind, I can’t help blushing at the unoriginality of it.
It feels both presumptuous and arrogant to think I can be of help to anyone. Up to this point I had thought, if I knew more about yoga and its psychological implications than most people, I would be allowed to play the part of teacher or expert. In a quiet moment of self-honesty, however, this seems hopelessly grandiose.
As that hopped-up caterpillar sitting on his toadstool puffing on his hookah would rightfully say to me, “And whoooo are YOU?!??” After all, my life has hardly been a paragon of principle and virtue. I have lied, cheated, stolen, and participated in countless amounts of self-indulgence. However, having been there, done that, the longing to be a little more selfless and perhaps encourage others to share this journey of self-reclamation with me persists. Why invite others to come along on this journey? The words of Mark Twain come to mind, “Misery can be experienced on its own but to get the full measure of joy you have someone to share it with.”
Inviting others to share any type of journey or event, however, is fraught with peril. Not just the peril of presumption that arises from thinking one knows better than others, but even worse, the risk of over-thinking and mechanized parts of life that are meant to stay organic and spontaneous.
The good news for the reluctant explorer is that the journey suggested in these letters is predicated on Yoga (the ancient transformative one, not the sweating and bending one.) The wisdom reservoir of Yoga has a plan for defusing the tension and tendency of over mechanizing the journey of self-discovery.
Yoga’s built in fluidity compensates for time and circumstance (see my summary on the history of Vedanta.) Yoga additionally suggests an approach that begins with an expedient amount of structure and discipline but blossoms into irrepressible spontaneity (see my article the hidden history of Yoga.)
The goal of these letters (articles, blogs, electronic offerings…) is to hew to the fluid, structured, spontaneous nature of Yoga while exploring the lesser-known face of Yoga: a system of psychology, a healer of identity and the synthesis of celebration and scholarship.
The goal of the author is to offer his services as valet. Allow him to hold your coat and baggage while you enter and explore the working dimensions of the world of yoga psychology.
The goal of life is to learn how to be a modern yogi: balanced, focused, kind, connected to spirit, and happy to serve; all while grabbing a decaf mocha latte, answering your iPhone and surfing the waves of 21st century life.
See you soon.
Your servant with love,