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March 19, 2013

Comparing the Modern Yogini with Tibetan Female Mystics.

Photo by Alice Popkorn

Introducing the “lone female ranger.”

Are you a spiritually minded woman who finds she is walking the path alone?

And by that I don’t mean the universal law that ultimately we are all alone. I mean that perhaps you live alone, go food shopping alone and have to put up your own shelves or pay someone to do it kind of alone.

Yet as lonely as that may sound, in this moment, would you have it any other way?

Or are you a man who knows a woman like this and is feeling a bit baffled as to how a great catch like her is still single? This is a phenomenon I am going to nickname the ‘lone female ranger’ and explore it with the help of one of my favorite authors to see if this is a modern happening or has occurred in the past, albeit under the historical patriarchal radar.

I came across a wonderful book called ‘Women Of Wisdom,’ by Tsultrim Allione. The author of this book was the first Westerner to be ordained a Buddhist nun. This was auspiciously granted by the 16th Karmapa himself, who can be likened to the Dalai Lama in terms of the Tibetan Buddhist pecking order.

She did, however, eventually leave monastic life to get married and have a family. The beauty of that is we now have a woman who is still committed to her path of spiritual growth and self-discovery with hands-on experience of the daily challenges a family life brings to living out those deep yearnings.

It was this journey that inspired her to write this book for all the women in the West facing similar difficulties and triumphs. It contains stories of Tibetan female mystics who all achieved enlightenment and became great leaders despite cultural prejudices and other problems that male practitioners simply didn’t and don’t have to contend with. This book makes a fascinating read for any women out there struggling with guttural instincts that go against societal expectancies.

The author draws many similarities between our lives today and these ancient mystics. For example, the majority of these women were single. Those who were forced to get married either died at the hands of their husbands who didn’t like their wives changing as they grew into themselves or they found a way to get out of the marriage.

The next trend was they found it difficult to practice freely and to their full abilities within the constraints of a patriarchal monastic environment…so they tended to be nomadic practitioners traveling over great distances using their feminine intuition to guide them. Opting to leave their families and friends behind, they would spend decades of their lives in isolated retreats in mountainous caves.

If we swing those trends back around to the ‘lone female ranger’ we can perhaps spot some similarities, according to Tsultrim. She mentions modern women who have just come out of a crisis in their lives that choose to live alone as though entering into a similar type of retreat.

Incidentally, when I was at a teaching by the Dalai Lama last year, one of the first things he mentioned was for effective spiritual growth we must leave the distractions of our family behind by moving elsewhere. Tsultrim also made an interesting case when she likened modern women seeking the guidance of a psychotherapist to help them ease their troubles with the teachers of these Tibetan women helping them reach a state of full illumination through mastering the mind. To be clear these women were not nuns—in fact most of them had consorts who they practiced with to deepen their spirituality through sacred sexual union.

So has the time of the lone female ranger naturally evolved once again for some women to free up a bit of space for the ripening of their feminine selves? And this time it is out in the open for all to see?

My intention for sharing these findings is to bring solace to the solo ladies and insight to the gentlemen out there during these times of great global change. Where a balancing of the matriarchal with the patriarchal seems to be afoot and my guttural feelings are it is indeed for the sake of all sentient beings.

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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