Yesterday, cities throughout the U.S. and the world saw millions of women-led marchers rallying to defend hard-won rights. Knowing all that can be lost if we don’t stand up, we are emboldened. We arise with courage to protect what we love: to protect our bodies, our families’ and communities’ health, and the planet that nurtures and sustains us. A million courageous arisings yesterday, and the work has just begun. Call your senators TOMORROW to demand that they oppose the cabinet nominees. Call your senators to stand up for healthcare insurance for all Americans, to stand up for our nation’s commitments to lower CO2 emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. Whichever assault outrages you the most, start with that, and call on your senators to show some mettle. Get involved with a local committee or a local mid-term election. And know that you have already begun to fight. Together with ten million others, you are already arising. Check out a slideshow of marches by the New York Times.
In my dream this morning, I was with my youngest daughter and parking my car when I discovered I’d gone down the wrong street – I had mistaken the way back to my own home! So I parked and got out of my car and ten minutes later, I couldn’t find it and couldn’t even remember what it looked like! To me, my vehicle and my home are dream symbols of my life. And right now, I am feeling a little lost, a little off course. I am working very hard at my new job, and I am not taking the time I need for myself. As I give my job my everything, my personal life disappears from view. But identifying this imbalance is the first step to helping me find what I need to restore the balance. Daily meditation is key. The Divine Mother grounds me because She is right within me. I lose sight of that truth in the whirlwind of daily pressures and tasks. In meditation, I take the time to listen, to be in Her presence, which is also my unguarded presence. I create the quiet where She can enter, and I feel myself loved not for what I do but for who I am.
Lana Dalberg, author of Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine
“Birthing God. Kenosis.” These three words come to me in the middle of the night. The first two words provoke an apt title for my book. But the third stumps me. Not remembering “kenosis” from my seminary days, I fling back my covers to look it up and discover that it signifies self-emptying in ancient Greek. Back in bed, I try to sleep, but the notion of self-emptying echoes inside me, reminding me of the Buddhist concept of no-self: not a cipher or empty sack, but a receptivity to Spirit that makes incarnation possible.
Women, I realize, empty themselves all the time, making room for the spouse or the child and his or her attendant needs. I think of Mary—an unwed woman, a girl. What is her response to a divine being who tells her that she is pregnant when circumstances dictated that she could be stoned for that condition?
“Let it be to me according to your word,” Mary is said to have responded, opening her life to the risk and the potential of divine inspiration. Receptivity, desire for connection, making room for another: these attributes express women’s most fundamental ways of being in the world.
In preparing for this book, I interviewed many women, and everything they shared reinforced one simple treasure: however we name Spirit, we receive it with deep-hearted openness. Our receptivity is active, recognizing the value we bring to relationship by trusting and honoring the God within; by experiencing Spirit as soul mate; by glimpsing the Divine all around us; and by allowing God to cradle and nourish us. At the same time, our spirituality is a process, unfolding and growing with each passing day. Our spiritual stories are full of missteps and unabashed celebration. They are narratives of suffering and of hope; lessons in shedding fear and learning to love ourselves.
Ours are embodied stories that begin with emptying so that we can glimpse the Holy Other, this Light who appears in ways unplanned, unexpected, and unsettling. Our lives are the surprise that begins with the response, “Let it be.”
Excerpted from Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine. Order it now and share as a holiday gift!
Viviana’s story ends in gratitude, but begins with illnesses. She had polio as an infant, and typhoid as a young adult. “When I was nineteen years old, I was in a coma. I was at the University at Trujillo in Northern Peru and working for a political party. I was working in the slums, and I would eat anything, and I got typhoid. I didn’t know I had it. I just kept going. I felt dizzy. I felt fevers, but since I come from Cusco, from the mountains, and the university was in the hot area, I thought it was just the heat. I started to throw up, and still I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I said, ‘This is going to pass.’ Then I went on a hunger strike with other students, professors, doctors, nurses, and that’s when the typhoid got worse. But the hunger strike was very important to me. We were asking for health rights and protection for the prostitutes because in Trujillo there was a very large red-light district, and there were women coming from different parts of Peru. At the time I didn’t know much about human trafficking. But we knew the levels of exploitation, and there were a lot of sexually transmitted diseases. And because of that, we wanted to organize the women and develop a union with them.”
Viviana was on the hunger strike until one day she collapsed. “When I was unconscious, they took me to the emergency room. I was in a coma for a month. During that time, there was a moment when my mother and the doctors thought that I was going to die. That is the only time that I was fully conscious, fully aware of everything: my ability to choose, my inner power, my knowing of an existence of a different reality that is not this physical world.
“The moment I remember is suddenly I saw my mother, and the doctors and the nurse, and the boyfriend I had at the time, and a few of my other friends all gathered around me because they all thought that I was going to die. In the coma, I could see them. My mother was holding my hand, and she was pressing my hand and telling me, ‘Please, feel my hand, feel my hand.’ And I remember wanting to talk to her. I wanted to tell her, ‘I’m not dying, I’m here,’ but my body didn’t respond. They were telling my mother that they couldn’t keep the IV needles in me, that they couldn’t find more veins. They were going to look in my feet, they said, and a nurse touched my foot. For the first time in that month, I felt my foot. I felt it in a way that I cannot describe. I cannot explain that feeling of her hand on my foot. It was like it was entering my foot. It was like it was one with my foot. After that, I had this experience of choosing, and I thought, ‘What do I want? Do I want to come back?’ And I came back. I chose to be alive. And after that, I changed. It changed my life completely.”
For several years, Viviana worked with shamans in Peru and Mexico. She lived in California and studied transpersonal and integrative psychology. About two years ago, she returned to her homeland to develop a retreat center. Together with her husband, she also runs an orphanage called Niños del Sol. Viviana describes the village and surrounding mountains. “It is a place to remember your own magic, a place to educate your consciousness as you connect with the Mother Earth and all its elements.
“There you realize that the main prayer is gratitude—gratitude for everything we are given, as well as for everything we are not given.”
Excerpted from Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine
An excerpt from a time in my life when meditations were pulsatingly alive:
…Visions appeared, fragrant from another realm: oceans and forest streams with eddying pools where four-legged animals gathered to drink. During that period, as my body shifted toward change, toward menopause, my inner spirit opened itself to the larger Spirit, and I came face-to-face with God as Mother. Scenes unfurled on my inner eye in undulating landscapes, and she stepped into them.
In the visions, the Mother cared for me, providing me nourishment, clothing, walking sticks, and gemstone necklaces that spoke to me of my inestimable worth in her eyes. She midwifed my children, helping me to birth them into the world. And there were later visions of death and rebirth. I typed each one into my laptop.
“Today I saw myself emerging from the water, clothed in buckskin and with long black braids. But as I emerged, I saw pieces of myself break off like shards—shards of me falling away, splashing into the water. I was afraid, and I reached toward the sun, my Mother. The sun voice said, ‘Behold, here is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased.’ And I was a woman’s body again: curvy, voluptuous, pregnant, and, although pregnant, old. I walked with a cane. I carried age in my bones. The time came for me to bring forth the child in my womb. I gripped a pole, and my Mother Midwife soothed me, stroking my hair, patting my brow dry, feeding me water to drink, and whispering words of encouragement in my pain. My pain was the labor of birth but the pain of not knowing, too. I heaved and groaned through the pains, and I birthed an adult—an androgynous human being that was as big as me, that merged with me, swirling like the symbol of the yin and the yang. This was My birth, I realized. I searched for my Mother God, and I heard her say, ‘I am here: in the rain, in the sun, and in the earth. I will always be there for you.'”
From Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine
Mark Nepo writes in The Book of Awakening:
It is amazing to consider how as infants we are one with everything. In time, of course, we learn how to distinguish between ourselves and others, between the world we carry inside and the world we move through. But ironically, the sages of all paths are those who, after lifetimes of experience, try to return to this primary state of Oneness.
When I think of the moments I have felt most alive, they all have the quality of joining all-of-what-I-keep-inside with everything-outside-me in a way that makes me forget myself. They all feel timeless and open-ended. Tenderly, the deepest moments of making love allow us to join in that Oneness beyond ourselves, as do certain moments of being immersed in great music or great open spaces. I have also felt this after long periods of swimming or running, or after long periods of being healthfully alone. I feel it when discovering what it is I need to write. Joy, it seems, is the feeling of that Oneness.
Not surprisingly, it is the risk to love—the risk to give our full attention—that lets what-is-eternal-within merge with what-is-eternal-without. In those moments of Oneness, we, as drops of spirit, join the larger river of spirit.
From The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo
A redwood tree shades the slender daughter shooting up from her side: an apt metaphor, I think, or at least one that calms my heart. In a few weeks, my youngest child will leave home for college. I both hate and welcome this change. Every few days, a sudden nostalgia pulls at me when I am least prepared. The faint tunes of a familiar merry-go-round make my eyes tear up. My throat tightens when I pass the pumpkin patch lot, now empty. The playground nearby is newly remodeled, but I still hear the thrill in my young one’s voice calling out, “Look at me, mom! I’m flying!”
Leaning against the redwood’s scruffy bark, I blink away tears. The tall, quiet tree and the younger redwood growing from her side enlighten me. I cannot cling to the past, to the small warm fingers that reached for mine or the upturned face that beheld me as all-capable. The redwood trees, mother and daughter, anchor me for my task at hand: to applaud the young woman who I have nurtured from her tiniest beginning within me. I weep and I praise her both, for now I know. Entwined at the roots, we each reach for sky and light. We become, each in keeping with her dream. But the rootedness remains. For that I can be glad.
Lana Dalberg 6/24/2014.
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