As most of you know, I am living some big questions about meditation and feminine spirituality.
These recent contemplations naturally bring me back to my time as a meditator. There are so many things which are undeniably cool about meditation. For me, at the top of this list, meditation is an amazing revealer of our actual experience. Ten years ago, meditation revealed something HUGE to me that I can finally describe.
I have a Master’s degree in Contemplative (Buddhist) Psychotherapy from Naropa University. This three year program involved being part of a 20-ish person community that took every class together, participated in a group process (like therapy) and attended two private month long meditation retreats. The idea was that as we learned about Western psychology, Buddhist philosophy and practiced meditation, we would begin to re-examine our upbringing and become aware of our “habitual patterns.” We would then naturally act them out within the group and hope to work them out with each other. The meditation practice and retreats would take us further into ourselves and into surrender as we returned to our outbreath and learned to meet whatever arose with unconditional loving kindness. Phew, I know. Quite a dynamic and unique program. I was all about it.
Since writing “A Little MENitation,” I have reflected on how I benefited from my former meditation practice and this Master’s program. Though I graduated from Naropa with girlfriends who will always be like family to me, my most painful moment occurred in sisterhood gone wrong. I tell you the following story to illustrate how women bred in a masculine dominant paradigm compete and create walls between each other.
What I now can clearly name as female competition just looked like a series of bitchy mishaps with … let’s call her Josephine, a Naropa classmate. Every time Josephine and I tried to connect, we just kept having one awkward interaction after the next. Eventually she decided that she didn’t … (gulp) … like me and began to give me the cold shoulder.
There was definitely a part of me that didn’t care and knew whatever she had conjured up in her mind was hers. And there was another (bigger) part of me that felt very affected by a ton of passive-aggressive energy being swung at me every day at school. Somewhere in there I asked her if we could talk, and she said yes — but we never did.
At our second year meditation retreat, I was the last one to arrive. Before I met up with the group, I stopped at the meditation hall to drop off my cushion, which I plopped down at the first available spot. The next morning when the retreat began, I found myself sitting right next to her. Now, I can only imagine what a truly wise and compassionate person would do in this situation. I, however, went with my adorable ego and thought: Fuck her. I’m not moving.
And thus began one of the most arduous experiences of my Naropa stint. Every outbreath returned me to a cement wall of stuck, unexpressed, tense, restricted, pressured, misunderstood frustration. EVERY outbreath threw me up against this wall, like a panther pacing in a cage, over and over and over again.
When Josephine and I finally got teamed up for a creative project, we had to work things out. She felt terrible at this point and copped to creating a mess between us. I, armed
with a roll of toilet paper, watched my cement wall dissolve with every tear as I sobbed and told her how I felt. In all honesty, she explained that she was triggered by my identification as a pretty and sexy woman and that she had a judgment that it was much more valuable to be smart than attractive.
And there falls the axe between modern women.
Attractive or smart? Whore or Madonna? Truthful or polite? On one extreme, if we choose the smart and polite Madonna, we must pretend to be rational creatures and live life denying our emotional and sensual design. On the other extreme, if we choose the attractive and truthful whore, we are exiled from society, living a lifetime of judgment from the very system that enjoys us. It is in the navigation between these poles that the modern woman feels her riddle.
Quick history lesson: Archeological evidence suggests that approximately 5,000 years ago, the shift from hunter-gatherer societies to farming societies enabled a paradigm of male domination. Tribes would fight for the land and women of conquered tribes and were enslaved and made a commodity. This created two camps of women: the noble/married women and the slaves who were bought and sold for their ability to pleasure and reproduce. Within this domination paradigm, both groups of women lost ownership of their sexuality. This paradigm persisted for 5,000 years and has only begun to cease with the education and liberation of western women within the last century.
Five thousand years of ownership has left modern women with almost zero reverence for our inherent sexual design. Estranged from our greatest source of power, we compete, as it seems like the only other path. In my opinion, female competition is so painful because it is not our primary design, it is something we resort to.
In retrospect, I now see the wall I experienced during that meditation retreat not only my ego’s refusal to be vulnerable, but a wall that was errected 5,000 years ago. A wall that separates almost all women from a sane experience of their source and from the ease of sisterhood.
Uniting under the truth of our sensuality not only makes these tussles null and void, it unleashes the love we truly yearn for. I believe this is one of the many reasons my intuition continuously whispers to me, “Dara, the path of feminine self-actualization and compassion exists in igniting the world below our hearts, not in calming the world above.”
Dara McKinley is a Naropa grad who traded in her thriving Buddhist psychotherapy practice to become a Pleasure Revolutionary. With adoration and truth as her swords, she is a warrior for the healing power of our feminine essence and the rise of emotionally brilliant folks. Find more of her provocative and soul-stirring writing here.