I’ve had this unusual thought for sometime now. I remember the first time I had it. I was 22 years old, sitting in a yellow-walled room with bay windows overlooking the street. I lived in this classic San Francisco Victorian flat in the Inner Sunset with 6 of my college best friends.
Recently we had completed a theater production of the play, HAIR, as students at SF State University. I did my first acid trips with them, as “research” for our roles in the play. You could say we were bonded. I was as happy as I could be at that time, living with these incredible people, going to school. My mind was open and clear. Yet the pains of the past still pulled me in, and even with all the love and creativity around me, I felt the deep pangs of separation from something, something greater than myself.
I was hungry, and searching. I was reading about different philosophies and religions looking for answers about why I hurt, felt separate, and what could help me find the union with aliveness in my heart, body and mind that I longed for, and knew, thanks to the acid trips, was possible.
On this instance, I was reading a book on buddhism. and I hit a familiar wall in the philosophy. The thought came, “this is just another path designed by men, for the dismantling and awakening of a male psyche, into a male-defined ‘ultimate’ truth!” I threw the book down and looked around at the apartment with all the male icons on all the walls, philosophers, musicians, gurus, all men. I felt furious.
The question arose in me, “What does the path of awakening look like for a female psyche, and what does ultimate truth look like if it actually includes the other half of existence, the feminine?” Some may immediately argue, “but ultimate truth transcends gender”, and they may be right. But there is a relative truth that we occupy before we arrive at such truths where I have not only a female body, but a female heart and mind. It’s been shown by science that a female mind is wired quite differently than a male mind. Why then, should our path to awakening look the same?
All of these questions were coupled with the fact that I did not trust men. Not individual men, there were lovely male individuals in my life at that time and I trusted them in most things. But what I didn’t trust was the dominance of male importance in our culture, the patriarchy. Even the men I loved and mostly trusted had inherited centuries of unpacked, unconscious bias. I myself was waking up to my own ways I fell in line with the female roles the patriarchy expected of me.
So, I didn’t trust that the patriarchy had my back as a woman. Years later, one male guru, who was my teacher at the time, would say the path is the same for both sexes. But I didn’t feel that he took the time to truly consider the question and its answer deeply. And because he was the Guru, I was supposed to believe that he knew better than me. But I didn’t believe him, and I left.
I learned later that in Tibetan Buddhism, a path full of beautiful male teachers who I love very much, it is believed that to be born in a female body is to be lesser born. For thousands of years woman who sought spiritual enlightenment, and became nuns, dedicating their lives to it, did not have permission to receive the “higher” teachings as it was thought that a female body/psyche could not achieve enlightenment. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead it is stated that In the process of reincarnation, a being who is reincarnating should seek a male body to be born into, in order to be able to continue the pursuit of God, Truth, Awakening.
How can I trust a culture to tell me the truth about what would best serve my path of awakening with these kinds of beliefs at play?
Lesser born. Unable to achieve enlightenment, to truly know God. Tibetan Buddhism is not the only path riddled with these gender discrepancies. How than is a woman to have any self esteem at all? To trust what her insides are telling her, to trust herself, to trust that she is capable of anything other than what her culture expects from her. To trust when her system is telling her there is something off, or something more….
Our avenues are opening now. Things are changing. There is a fight for woman to be taken equally. That we can do anything as well as a man if we are given a chance. So we’ve added a new option to our menu of culturally acceptable choices. Now, along with the traditional roles of wife, or muse, we can pump ourselves up and prove that a woman can be just as good at being a man as a man can.
But what does a woman’s path look like unfettered by patriarchal traditions, and unchecked unconscious bias? What does a spiritual seekers path look like for a woman who doesn’t want to take a path built for a man?
Through all my years of asking these questions, I am still not complete on the answers. But I have a lot more of a feeling sense of it. There is a path for women, to connect with deep wisdom, truth, and love, the kind that indelibly bonds you with itself. The kind that you take with you when you die. And it doesn’t look like anything we’ve already seen. It looks like something else. Something very new, or maybe very very old.
But I am here, speaking to the wind in the trees, and the whispers of intuition in my own heart, to guide me to the answers, open, curious, trusting…