Complete in Incompleteness by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaA 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.

Angela_Merkel_(G8_2007)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.

work-in-progress-24027_960_720But 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.

"Disappointment"_-_1882_-_Julius_Leblanc_StewartLet’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 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.


Categories: thriving

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10 replies

  1. Yes, not expecting the world to be as we desire it to be saves us a lot of suffering and despair. For me it is a double vision. Not despairing yet still desiring a world with greater harmony and less humanly caused suffering.

    As for Angela Merkel, to me she is very female in her perfectly tailored usually while or jewel-toned suits that are not grey, black, or brown like the men’s suits and that do not hide her generous curves. Does your friend expect her to be barefoot and pregnant or dressed for a club?


  2. Oxana-My prayer for you is emotional stamina. Don’t give up. Please remember how far we have come- in my short time organizing for better conditions for women. I remember in the 1960’s want ads for jobs were divided between women and men in the newspaper-all newspapers. We had to convince women and men that women did not want to be raped. There was no women’s studies, let alone Lesbian, Gay or Gender studies. That is not to say that the reaction has not been vicious and we have a long long way to go. But don’t indulge in hopelessness and helplessness. It is your vision of what is possible due to how far we have come already that is feeling disappointed. Thanks for speaking out to your husband about dumping on you. May you never be dumped on again. Let us know what you need to keep going and keep pushing society ahead for your daughters and women who are here in 50 years. And thanks for your post and for caring so deeply about women and our freedom.


  3. Why should feminism be complete? Or victorious? Once it is “complete” it will become fixed and lifeless.


    • Thank you for commenting Majak! I have not actually thought about what it would be like when feminism wins… Interesting. Carol P Christ offers a vision of a Goddess-informed society, which can be found on this blog, which is quite positive and uplifting.


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