Embroidery in the Time of Covid by Esther Nelson

In her recent essay on this “Feminism and Religion” site, Ivy Helman wrote:  “Over the past few months, I’ve been struggling to write posts.  This month is no different.  I am currently sitting with four different half-drafts on three semi-related topics, none of which I seem to be able to complete…I write.  I erase.  I rewrite.  I copy bits of one into another to save for some other time.  I’m left with one sentence….”

I think all writers have this experience—writing, erasing, and then rewriting over and over again.  Writing during the current pandemic seems more difficult than ever.  Perhaps it’s because our dealings with the outside world have been drastically curtailed.  Writers need a variety of social interactions and experiences to sort out, reflect upon, and then create into a work of art that appeals and connects with an audience.  At least I find this to be so. Continue reading “Embroidery in the Time of Covid by Esther Nelson”

Higher Self and Ego by Vanessa Soriano

I have this morning ritual that goes like this: press snooze 8 times, finally turn off the alarm, oversleep, get up, drink lemon water + celery juice, and then I’m supposed to meditate.  What I really want to do is go directly to the coffee pot, drink the entire thing, and eat a bagel.  When it is meditation time, even after years and years of doing it, I still resist the practice.  My ego convinces me that I have better things to do than to sit on my arse and go within for 20 loooong minutes.  My higher self, on the other hand, gently (yet firmly) reminds me that if I want a slice of peace, an understanding of my feelings (the good, bad, and ugly), and a connection to Loving Guidance, then I better sit my bum down and carve only 20 minutes out of my day to get that medicine.

The yogis have a Sanskrit term called atman which means the inner self/soul.  The atman is inextricably linked to Brahman which is essentially the Divine.  Brahman is all pervasive and transcends notions of masculine/feminine deities because Its’ true nature is infinite, eternal, bliss.  In the Western world, Brahman is usually identified as “Universe” or “Divine” or “Love.”  I assert that most of us need to dissect this huge concept of the Divine into deities/figures that are relatable and accessible which can range from Jesus to Kali to bodhisattvas.  Depending on your spiritual/religious flavor, in meditation, you open the doorway into the Divine of your understanding.  Your higher self (atman) takes the leads into the omniscient, ever-loving presence of Spirit (Brahman).  Along the way, you encounter everything from your deepest fears to your deepest joys. Continue reading “Higher Self and Ego by Vanessa Soriano”

Women, like Goddesses, Come in All Colors, Shapes, and Sizes…by Vanessa Soriano

I wish I could have gotten this phrase tattooed on my arm when I started the serpentine journey into womanhood.  Like most of us, growing up, all I ever saw in media were thin female bodies with impossible proportions.  As one article put it:

Although body size and weight perception differ across race and ethnicity, women in western society are subject to images of women as not only thin, but also athletic and toned, with small waists, large buttocks, and large breasts, a body type that is largely unattainable.  Because of this ideal, all girls and women typically have weight concerns that ultimately shape body image, satisfaction, and appreciation. Continue reading “Women, like Goddesses, Come in All Colors, Shapes, and Sizes…by Vanessa Soriano”

The Mud and the Lotus: What India Is Teaching Me by Vanessa Soriano

About 5 years ago, I began a consistent yoga practice.  Right around the same time, I started a PhD program in Women’s Spirituality at the California Institute of Integral Studies where I eventually wrote my dissertation on Women’s Spiritual Leadership.  Throughout my studies, I realized that the path of the Divine Feminine is an intricate journey that accentuates the mind, body, soul connection.  The yogic path does the same.  In late 2018, I enrolled in an intensive 5-week 300-hour yoga teacher training in India where I continued my spiritual explorations.  Hindu culture reveres the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine and yoga is viewed as a pathway into God/dess through the body.  Here’s the first part of the story…

I’m in India and it’s 5:30 a.m. and an hour of pranayama awaits me.  The yogis define prana as the life force that animates the entire body and yama relates to discipline.  The practice of pranayama consists of breathing techniques that aim to control the breath in order to connect to the life force that resides within.  Accessing this life force can invoke feelings of bliss and a connection to the Divine.

Class starts, I’m officially starving, and I haven’t had enough coffee. Continue reading “The Mud and the Lotus: What India Is Teaching Me by Vanessa Soriano”

Inner Garbage (Fear) vs. Inner Goddess (Love) by Vanessa Soriano

I’m sitting on my meditation pillow for the thousandth time searching for clarity.  Initially, going within feels like traversing a jungle; swinging from one thought branch to another.  I’m itching for some peace and I’m almost certain this isn’t the way to it.  But, I’ve been here before and I won’t quit breathing through the discomfort.  I know I will greet the inner goddess soon enough.  Getting past the noise is part of accessing her wisdom.  The noise teaches me discernment (if I allow it to).

Eventually, the monkey mind gathers up all the branches and turns them into a prodigious figure that blocks the sun inside.  Hello darkness my old friend.  Inner garbage (fear) makes her entrance.  I’m still breathing.  Eyes closed.  Determined through slow, rhythmic breaths, to move past her.  I know I cannot run from her.  She’s faster and outwits me every time.  Continue reading “Inner Garbage (Fear) vs. Inner Goddess (Love) by Vanessa Soriano”

Walking Away from the Ivory Wall by Vanessa Soriano

Reading the brilliant post Another Brick in the Ivory Wall by Natalie Weaver brought back some old feelings about being an ex-academic who finally let go of the search.  While the wound reopened a bit, I can honestly say that I’ve come to a calm peace about walking away from my goal of becoming a professor.  This was a messy, emotional process, but through the muck, a lotus emerged within me nurtured by equanimity, humility, peaceful detachment, trust, and surrender.  Here’s my story.

When I completed my Ph.D. in Women’s Spirituality in 2015, I was on a MISSION to become a professor and finally become credible in the eyes of the world (or, maybe just my father).  From the Bachelors to the Ph.D., I had 15 years of schooling under my belt.  Throughout the entire journey, I was told that I would probably never secure a position as a professor in Religious Studies or Women’s Studies for a myriad of reasons (e.g., those topics aren’t relevant anymore, there isn’t any money in academia to fund those fields, they only hire from within, etc.).  Of course, the scared parts of me believed them, but nevertheless, I persisted, because truth be told, I was called to study religion, spirituality, gender, god/dess, female-centric philosophies, and diverse ethnic worldviews (everything my degree exposed me to).  It wasn’t necessarily a choice to study; I felt called to from a soul level. Continue reading “Walking Away from the Ivory Wall by Vanessa Soriano”

The Practices of Forgiveness and Yoga by Vanessa Soriano

Forgiveness and yoga require consistent practice.  As we engage in each, healing unfolds in the body, mind, and soul.  Forgiveness and yoga exist in a symbiotic relationship: forgiveness allows us to release emotional blockages that affect the body/mind, and yoga delivers us to more empowered and peaceful states within the body/mind that encourage the release.  Yoga and forgiveness illuminate the body-mind connection.

All world religions and spiritual traditions emphasize the practice of forgiveness.  Sages, prophets, rishis, shamans, medicine women—figures who have helped shape religion and spirituality—understood that resentment and anger depress the body and mind, which hinders our connection to the soul and Divine.

Being angry diminishes the quality of life and can incite violence against our self and others.  Forgiveness helps us function at fuller capacity from a healthy internal state.

Just as forgiveness promotes healing in the body/mind, yoga accomplishes the same effect.  Scientific studies from Harvard show that yoga increases body awareness, relieves stress, improves mood and behavior, and calms and centers the nervous system.  Since yoga decreases the stress response in the body, it creates space in the psyche to journey into the practice of forgiveness.

Continue reading “The Practices of Forgiveness and Yoga by Vanessa Soriano”

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