Sunday, August 8, 2010

Finding the Feminine

I was chatting with a dear friend recently, when she mentioned something about her personal deity, Artemis.  We follow similar paths and see the earth herself as a living, sacred, manifestation; however, I'm more of a pantheist and she's more of a polytheistWe don't squabble over the details though.  Instead we embrace what we share.

I had all but forgotten that she had a personal deity and my initial reaction was something like a five year old in a toy store, "I want a personal deity too!"

She went on to tell me about the process of discovering the goddess who would be her guide and the gratitude she holds in her heart now that she's found her.  In the days that followed, I decided to keep my heart open to the notion of discovering my own personal deity.  What mama doesn't need a little guidance from the divine feminine?  

To me, gods and goddesses are states of consciousness that we are all capable of becoming.  They are archetypes telling the story of the cosmic drama that plays out in our lives again and again.  They exist within us and beyond us as energies upon which we can call to be present in our hearts, in our minds, and in our lives.  They are sacred because there is nothing that is not sacred.  Every element of nature, every vibration, every thought is sacred.  Every beam of sun and each blade of grass is a sacred manifestation. 

In the days that followed our conversation, I kept my eyes open for signs of goddesses making themselves known to me.  I opened this month's Yoga Journal and found a mantra to the goddess of abundance and prosperity, Lakshmi.  Lakshmi is one of my favorite Vedic goddesses and I've actually been using her mantra all year.  Could she be my personal deity?  No, I don't think so... but I'm still calling on her just the same.

Then I thought of an article, Mothers of Liberation, that I'd recently found at Tricycle.  Here, Miranda Shaw explores "some of the many powers, symbols, and stories of the often overlooked and misunderstood [Buddhist] pantheon."  I discovered Vasudhara, Hariti, and Vajrayogini -- a divine yogini, compassionate, all-knowing, and supremely blissful. 

Could Vajrayogini be my personal deity?  Maybe.  She's my kind of goddess.  Still, I decided to keep my heart and mind open to the process.  I remembered Prajnaparamita, the Buddhist Sophia and compassionate mother of bodhi.  I remembered Prithvi, the Earth Goddess who rose up to witness Buddha attaining enlightenment under the bodhi tree.  Could Prithvi be my personal deity?  I love this idea because nature is the teacher I look to most. 

Later that night, I found myself on Etsy searching handmade items with the keyword, "goddess."  Amongst other pretty things, a silver necklace jumped out at me.  Taking a closer look, I realized it is an exact replica of the necklace I wear nearly every day -- a gift from my mother-in-law who described it as a Buddha.  Yet here, in an extreme close up view, I saw something that could mean only one thing -- breasts!  The necklace I've been wearing is not the Buddha... it is a buddha -- and a female buddha at that!

Over the next few days I searched though images and symbols on my bookshelves and on the internet.  The female buddha I've been wearing is the goddess Tara.  Tara is the mother of liberation, a bodhisattva, and in the Buddhist tradition, "Tara is actually much greater than a goddess -- she is a female Buddha, an enlightened one who has attained the highest wisdom, capability and compassion. . . one who can take human form and who remains in oneness with every living thing." [from:] 

As I told this story to my daughter, I remembered one of our favorite books, There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me by Alice Walker.  As it turned out, this entire time, there has been a goddess around my neck wearing me.

That's how it always is, I think.  Like in the famous poem, Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson, we may not know it, we may be unconscious of it, but the goddess is always wearing us -- is always carrying us.  We are her, every bone in our body, every hair on our head, each flower, each tree, each beat of our heart, each breath -- all expressions of something sacred... all forms born from the creative energy of Mother Earth.  

I've taken this discovery back to my zafu and each morning I feel myself dissolving back into her.  She is Tara, she is Prithvi, she is Vajrayogini.  She's Mary and Artemis and Ostara too.  She is me and she is you.  She is our daughters and she is the very earth upon which we step.   

I'm still keeping my heart open to discovering an aspect of her to be my guide.  I don't want to be too hasty; although, Tara does seem like the obvious option.  More importantly, I'm remembering that to walk on the earth is to press our feet against the life-giving goddess herself.  This is why we must live skillfully and practice peace in every step.  All life is interdependent and flowing from the same source, rising and falling, constantly becoming.  Each of us is one element of a greater whole and beneath our stories and our habitual reactions exists a quiet observer dissolving back into the luminous nature of the One.
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