My friend whom I teach frame drumming teaches us shamanic journeying. There was an episode in one of my journeys, when, unable to see the way forward, I put the palm of my hand on the ground and went down a hole I was creating to the core of the earth. Since then, this scene came into my mind several times when I was talking to friends about inner truth. Also, the posture itself bears uncanny resemblance to the iconic Buddha posture of touching earth with his right hand.
According to a Buddhist legend, on the night of Enlightenment Prince Siddhartha encountered Mara, the Lord of Death, who threw various hindrances the Buddha’s way to prevent him from attaining Supreme Enlightenment. The final challenge was Mara’s claim that the Buddha had no right to be in the seat of Enlightenment. The Buddha then touched the earth with his right hand to call Her as a witness of his past spiritual achievements and his right to gain Enlightenment.
This episode is one from Buddhist mythology that most easily connects with the Goddess imagery. In some versions of the story, the Earth Goddess rises from the ground as a Naga serpent and covers the Buddha with her hood. In the Zen tradition it is also said that the gesture is an equals sign between the Buddha and the earth as his Mother, Father, container of his spiritual progress and the body of his liberation.
For me, from my journeying experience, this gesture, modified with the palm flat on the ground, also means going to the very core of earth, to the roots of the problem and to the heart of the mater. I take this lesson in two ways. The first one is that we as feminists need to dig to the roots of every way of oppression and every stereotype about women. We cannot take anything said about women for granted, even from the lips of supporters of the feminist cause, even if the statement seems on the surface favourable to women.
For instance, a Goddess advocate might say: “Women are more supportive and better at building relationships than men”. However, if we look into social history of this attitude, will it not be revealed that emotional support and relationship building are chores that patriarchal society lands on women without asking them if they want these tasks, to free men from this energy-consuming activities?
This type of dissecting each statement is in line with the Buddhist principle of dependent co-arising: nothing is separate from anything else. Everything arises dependent on conditions, which, in the case of social beliefs and opinions are: language, social conditions and culture – each with their own history.
Second of all, the body of Mother earth is our body. Going to the core of earth is going to the core of our being and encountering the truth there. Whatever is said about us, whatever we might momentarily feel, we must go to the heart of the matter and see if that is true for us. Then we can let that truth shine from within.
My female friends often find themselves in situations where they have to act happy for the sake of other people. At my frame drumming group, we encourage free expression of emotional states. If a woman is tearful, we let her know that we are absolutely fine with her crying. We will not be disturbed, our world will not shatter and we will certainly not think less of her. One of my female friends told me recently: “I will try to focus of the positive”. Contrary to what motivational speakers or self-help books might say, I expressed my humble opinion that she should instead focus on what’s true for her at that moment.
We do not owe happy appearances to the world. So far, the world has given us too little to ask for any favours, too. Perhaps if we had felt justified in expressing our sorrow, our anger, our horror at what patriarchy and capitalism is doing to the world, and if we had made these expressions of sorrow public – well, at least, the world would have known how we feel. Instead, we put on a brave face, we smile t the face of adversity and we get on with it.
Yet, if I ask myself: Am I really OK with the fact that girls are mutilated, killed for going to schools, sold into slavery? No, I am not. Should I not cry then? Perhaps publicly? What do you think of lamentation processions through the streets of our towns?
– What are you crying about, women?
– We are crying for the polar bears who are drowning in the melting ice.
– Oh! Must be important then.
Just after giving birth I watched a news item about Tibet on TV. I did not have a chance to do anything about it before I felt that a tear was running down my cheek. Now, you can call that hormonal misbalance caused by giving birth, or you could call that temporary returning to one’s natural state of being connected to everyone in the world and feeling their pain.
I am not advocating mass hysteria (as sadly, terrible things happen every second in the world). Moreover, to be able to discuss and solve these wrong we need a clear head. However, we need to know our true standing in relation to any matter we apply our minds to.
It may sound exhausting: relating to everything and everyone. However, I argue and Buddhism teaches us that resisting and pushing away everything that we do not want takes as much energy if not more, and certainly, leads to emotional dis-ease and spiritual regress. Mindfulness is about encountering everything that comes into our awareness with equanimity, without trying to hold on to it or push it away.
Touch base, touch the earth, go to your core and learn the heart of the matter.
Oxana Poberejnaia was an Officer of the University of Manchester Buddhist Society while studying for a PhD in Government, and has been involved in organising the Manchester Buddhist Convention, now in its 9th year. Oxana is now exploring the Sacred Feminine through marking seasonal festivals, working with her menstrual cycle, frame drumming and shamanic journeying, while keeping the practice of Buddhist meditation. Oxana is an artist and an author. She teaches frame drumming and meditation. Her works can be found on her blog.
Categories: Buddhism, Ecofeminism, Embodiment, Feminism, Goddess Movement, Identity Construction, Interdependence of Life, Interreligious dialogue, Mother Earth, Myth, Patriarchy, sustainability, Women's Suffering