A former monk and hospice worker Rodney Smith, now the Founding teacher in Seattle Insight Meditation Society uses the phrase: “Be complete in incompleteness” quite a lot.
When applied to Feminism, to me it means a couple of things. First, I find it hard, but I have to accept the fact that I will not probably experience the fullness of triumph of Feminism in my lifetime. I am of the “I want it all and I want it now” variety, but in this case I will have to come to terms with the fact that even my closest loved ones might not be fully feminist.
Only recently a woman close to me criticised Angela Merkel for her masculine style of clothing. I honestly thought that we had stopped judging politicians based on their gender or the clothes we think appropriate to that gender.
Only yesterday my husband, after a day of moaning and complaining, which I had to swallow as he fed me it with a huge shovel, announced that the “Buck stops with him.” It doesn’t. If it did, I would have never heard a word about it. And as it was, my entire energy allowance for that day went on recycling his negativity.
So, the incompleteness of the moment is such that we are as a whole not Feminist yet. However, Rodney Smith suggests there is a possibility of still being complete within that.
Firstly, I experience this as being complete in my inner convictions and outward feminist practices, and also complete in the knowledge that there are others like me who offer me support.
But also, there is completeness if I think of Feminism’s journey through history as a process that had a beginning and will lead to a positive result. In this sense, my moment of time is as valid as any on this line.
In addition to these positive aspects of incompleteness, there are obviously negative ones. I experience current moments as incomplete because ideally I would like everyone to be feminist here and now. And my pain, anger and whatever else I might react with is also part of the moment. The Buddhist way is to acknowledge that as well.
Furthermore, I feel incomplete because perhaps I should have and could have acted in a more feminist way in response to the not-quite feminist moments in my life. For instance, I could have stated the fact that politicians should be assessed based on their actions, not the way they dress. And I should have told my husband to stop laying in too thick – and on me too (I did, the next day).
However, feeling complete in incompleteness means experiencing the moment as it is. Fundamentally, this is the only way the moment could be. A whole host of conditions have formed that moment to be as it was.
Let’s assume that all people – ourselves included – do their best at every given moment. People do what they can, given their genetics, education and energy levels. If I had more energy I would have been more feminist in those moments.
Nonetheless, the fact that I failed to meet my own highest standards causes me pain. And consequently I want to move away from the moment, not to accept it, not to experience it. Whereas being complete means allowing my own imperfections and my own pain in that very moment as well.
Often people are put off by the first Noble Truth of Buddhism, which is that life is dukkha (unsatisfactoriness, suffering). However, I find this truth encouraging. In the western culture, we might feel embarrassed and even guilty about being unhappy. Buddhism teaches us that there is no need for that. We’re all in the same boat, and from time to time every one of us feels hurt, inadequate, and disappointed with oneself. It’s OK.
So, for a feminism, to experience an incomplete feminist moment might mean:
– remembering that we are on the long road toward the victory of Feminism,
– remembering that we could have done better, but we cannot always do so, and
– remembering that it is OK to feel pain over all and any of these facts.
Oxana Poberejnaia is a content writer at http://content4you.org. She 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 10th 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. Her works can be found on her blog. http://poeticoxana.wordpress.com