I invite you into the world of experiential reading.
To get the most fullest experience of reading this blog article, I encourage you to have a pen and paper with you. Each person has to do this individually in the sense – even if you are a couple, you will do this separately to get the most out of it.
Let us begin with our first question – the foundation of this experiential reading.
List down all your life’s most precious or prized possessions – whatever you consider it to be. Of course, it is best to write it all down. List everything that you can possibly think of that you consider is your most valuable possession. Take sometime to do it.
You might have to pause the blog reading and write it down.
Go ahead. Once you have made the list, continue the reading.
………… Assuming you have finished making the list ……………..
Now take sometime to look at your exhaustive list. What, Who, Which – has made its way onto that list. Usually if you carefully observe, you will immediately recognize a few categories on the list:
- Material possessions: All the objects, things, items that you have earned, bought, or have been gifted or inherited. Do you see it? Mark and count it.
- Relationships: All the close relationships that you have experienced or are present in your life this moment – parents, siblings, children, relatives, friends, teachers, etc. Has it made it to your list? Mark and count it.
- Accolades: All the successes you have worked hard to accumulate in your life in terms of titles,degrees, awards, identities, name, fame, etc. This is how the people and community around you sees you, addresses you, and it is associated with your sense of respect and identity. What fits into this category on your list? Mark and count it.
- Esoteric items: Now it is also, possible that items outside of these three categories that are more esoteric or subtle in nature like love, joy, smile, knowledge, and maybe even, spiritual quests and journeys, have made it to your list. Mark and count it.
- Others: Is there anything that doesn’t fit into any of these four categories? What is it about?
NOW EXPLORE THESE QUESTIONS
Which category is heavy on your list meaning which has the most items?
What does it reflect about you and your life ?
What have you learned about yourself?
Know that there is nothing right or wrong in this activity, it is just a reflection of your life. See if you can refrain from judging yourself positively or negatively and just stay with what is present.
Now we move to the second important question of this experiential reading:
Of all these precious possessions on your list, which one do you know for sure will accompany you when your physical visa expires in this world i.e,, when the body disintegrates, dies and becomes part of this earth, and the energy signature or imprint of “who you are” moves forward to transform into another form. What accompanies you into the next journey?
It might be a question you have never asked yourself before or never Pondered upon but isn’t it a good question to know since you are spending exorbitant amounts of our time, energy, health, and money on adding more and more items on to The List. Most times in the process, we compromise our health, relationships, and overload ourselves with stress.
So take some time to “cross out” everything that is not going to accompany you.
Once you cross everything out, what remains on your list?
Take a moment to notice that.
If you have ended with an “empty list”, then great;
If you have arrived at “I don’t know what I will carry forward” awareness, even greater;
If you are remaining with esoteric items like “love”, “knowledge”, congratulate yourself.
What is interesting is that, even our body is not going to accompany us. We have to discard and drop it right here in this world. It only serves us in this lifetime. It is our vehicle to navigate this world so we can improve, develop and transform that which will accompany us into the next adventure, new form, new life.
So the question becomes – what is guaranteed accompanying me to the next realm? Even more important, who is the ‘me’ it will accompany.
Let us do a little witnessing through a simple process – all you need to do is keep reading.
As you continue to read, I invite you to slowly become aware of yourself, your Self – right this moment.
Do the reading slowly – take your time.
As you are reading, slowly can you also, become aware of your body.
your lower back,
middle and upper back,
entire length of spine,
your entire arms,
Slowly become aware of your entire body.
Now slowly, keeping that knowing, take your awareness to your breath – effortlessly.
You are breathing.
Just take a moment to observe that.
Breath is going in and out. Now take a deep slow breath in and breathe out.
Now see if you can become aware of
any thoughts, thinking, observations that are flowing through your mind right this moment.
What are you feeling – joy, sadness, anger, numbness.
Is a dialogue is happening in your head as you are doing this – a parallel conversation. Are you aware of it?
Maybe some images fom the past memories are popping in taking you on another trail away fom this reading. Bring yourself back to the awareness.
Can you observe all of this – right this moment.
If mind wanders, bring it back to here and now and to this awareness.
Now slowly, switch to the Awareness itself.
Who is observing? Can you in this moment – witness – that awareness.
Who is that – What is that – in you that is is witnessing you reading this?
Who is that – What is that – in you that can observe everything happening with you this moment?
Who is that – What is that – that has been present to the entire unfolding of your life – fom your childhood to this moment, it has witnessed every aspect of your life.
Who is that?
Are you a ware of its presence now?
Just stay with that awareness right this moment.
Observe how you feel. Observe the mind.
This awareness has always been with you.
Your earliest memory will be of this awareness.
What was before?
What will be after?
What do you know about it?
It consists of all that is here in this moment.
It is a witnesses to all of it. It’s our energy signature as I like to call it. It holds in itself the entire infinite possibility of “who you are”. Thoughts, thinking, logic, memory, feelings, identity – the sense of ‘I’, ‘me’ – may float in it but it is even beyond that because it
witnesses all of it. Are you a ware in this moment of that “awareness” in you – the observer, the witness?
That awareness is guaranteed to stay with you.
Pause. Take that in. Breathe in and out. Relax.
Isn’t it ridiculous that we spend our entire lives spending time, energy and money accumulating things which are never guaranteed to accompany us when we die, and never spending any time “knowing that”, “deepening that” – which is the energy signature of who we are.
Neither at home nor at school today, are we taught to know and develop this energy signature of who we are. We are caught up in the drama of everything outside with no awareness and value for the inside.
In fact we use drugs, narcotics, alcohol, etc to disconnect from this conscious awareness.
In a world, where stress has reached its pinnacle, suicide and depression is grappling young and adult lives, diseases are recognized as part of the normal aging process – is it not time to take a pause from this rat race of accumulation, and getting to know our Self a little more.
Today science acknowledges that everything is energy – we are energy. The mind is energy. The body is energy. And energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It has always existed meaning our energy signature has existed from time immemorial in the universe, and it will exist for time immemorial.
Energy only transforms from one form to the other. This body dies, recycles and becomes the earth and this mind or energy body moves forward. How much have you invested on knowing this energy body that you are made of?
We live on the land of India or Bharath where our ancestors have spend lifetimes knowing this energy that we are made up of. It is everywhere on this land – indigenous people in every remote corner of India have lived seeped in this wisdom. They have tread in this world from the inside out. Great seers, sages, Rishi’s, enlightened beings have walked on this land and left behind infinite resources for not just knowing this “awareness” but living established in this awareness. That is the Art Of Living – fully, freely and fearlessly living your life.
Today, on my spiritual path under the guidance of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, I meet thousands and thousands of people of all ages, races, nationalities coming to India to know and be established in this awareness. Many of these people make this trip from faraway lands by letting go of their priced material possessions and investing it in these journeys. They are focused on re-prioritizing their lives and re-creating a more
guaranteed list of what they consider precious. They feel responsible to do so for their children no the next generation.
Many times we think, re-creating this list and knowing “who we are” is going to reduce the fullness of our experience. That’s an Illusion. When you live this life established in the truth of your own being , you live an even fuller life. You life is not driven anymore in the pursuit of pleasure outside. You know that the deepest joy and bliss is within you. Established in that Joy, you are able to act and live this world fearlessly.
So today, I invite you to create a new list for yourself. And I leave you with two questions. As I have learned from my Gurudev – these two questions show up in your awareness as you transition from one energy form to another. It summarizes the very essence of our lived life:
How much knowledge have you gained?
How much love have you given?
May this awareness and these two questions support you to recreate a new list for yourself, and often ask yourself.
Knock. Knock. Who is there!
I do not remember when I became present to Patriarchy as a word but I began to understand it more deeply and fully only in 2010 when I joined the M.A in Women’s Spirituality.
The very first response of becoming present to it was ‘Intense Rage, Intense Pain and Intense Sorrow’ – I literally and figuratively felt like a Volcano with Intensely Hot Bubbling Rumbling Molten Lava inside of me in terms of emotions of anger, rage, sorrow, pain, angst and so much more – all together harrowing deep within like wanting to Burst the limits of my body and explode and cause utter devastation. In hindsight – Volcano did explode – Mama Pele Reigned supreme and everything got burst open and brought with it in passing rebirth, renewal, growth and transformation.
Overtime I have recognized Patriarchy better. I still do not understand it origin and nor do I wish to. I feel recognizing it and acknowledging it has become more important than understanding its history.
Today patriarchy is attained new, newer and newest heights – more refined, morphed, transformed – sealed and concealed under the garbs of so many additional identities.
What is Patriarchy? That is a valid question because I feel that majority of folks are completely ignorant of the term or its meaning, and wave it off like it is a scam or something! Well, that itself is a classic Patriarchal behavior!
Patriarchy as a word comes from the greek root of patēr (meaning father) and arche (meaning domination) . It literally means “the rule of the father” or “lineage or descent from the patēr or father”. Simply put the word itself prophesies the supremacy of the father to the mother and in that sense it topples the basic balance right from the beginning of a child’s birth on the planet and messing with t
Bell Hooks defines “Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.”
For greater detail of understanding, read this article about patriarchy by Bell Hooks: http://imaginenoborders.org/pdf/zines/UnderstandingPatriarchy.pdf
Now my greatest learning is that it is time to disassociate patriarchy directly from men and women, male or female and know that both of us are equally influenced by it, victims of it, perpetrators of it and we equally, experience and embody it. Even more so, I feel its time to replace the male with “the Masculine or Logic” and female with “the Feminine or Intuitive.” Therapist Terrence Real calls this psychological patriarchy:
Psychological patriarchy is the dynamic between those qualities deemed “masculine” and “feminine” in which half of our human traits are exalted while the other half is devalued. Both men and women participate in this tortured value system. Psychological patriarchy is a “dance of contempt,” a perverse form of connection that replaces true intimacy with complex, covert layers of dominance and submission, collusion and manipulation. It is the unacknowledged paradigm of relationships that has suffused Western civilization generation after generation, deforming both sexes, and destroying the passionate bond between them.
I associate Patriarchy with the Reign of the male daemon ‘Kali’ (not the Goddess Kaali) in this time cycle of Kaliyuga. Patriarchy is stipulated to have developed over the last 5000 years and that is exact match with what we call the beginning of Kaliyuga – the dominance of the masculine egoistic male energy – not just in gender but also, in energy on the planet as well!
Some notions held high by the system of Patriarchy is….
- Patriarchy is the notion that certain set of people know or have access to information and they solely reserve the right to impart that information. Mind you, patriarchy is founded in information and not knowledge. Patriarchy thrives on hierarchy, domination, separation of some and every kind.
- Today almost every system in the world be it school, college, university, religious organization, religion, non profit organization, business, corporation, politics, hospitals, food and medical industry, research and science – is subscribed to patriarchy by default.
- There is no listening in patriarchy.
- Patriarchy is held together by strict adherence to rules, regulations, behaviour, right versus wrong, shoulds & should nots.
- Patriarchy definitely debilitates the fullness of creativity, thrives on hatred, violence, wars, abuse – justifying it in the process, curbs choices and makes it available only for those it thinks will use it the way the system sees fit.
- Patriarchy will not let you acknowledge the wisdom and humanity innate in every human being, and his or her ability to grow in it and make choices from that knowing.
- Patriarchy instills the notion that head is the Master and the Heart is the slave. Do not let yourself feel anything. Feelings are rubbish. Do not be sensitive or a wuss. Be Sensible.
- Patriarchy perpetuates imbalance within and without, and thrives in that imbalance.
- Patriarchy will not let anyone recognize that all you need or seek is within you. The outside is merely a project or reflection of your inside.
- Patriarchy will dissolve You in identities of a billion kind, and will keep you busy in up-keeping it while striving for more,
- Patriarchy will always keep one side of the Scales dipping either “Good Verus Bad”, “God versus Devil”, “Man versus Woman”, “Head versus Heart”, “You versus Me”, “Us versus Them”. There is a complete lack of the coming together of the two and integration of the two.
- And now for the BIG ONE, Patriarchy is also, part of the cycle of Time, recycle of the mind. It will shift and it is in the process of shifting!
NOW COMES THE BIG QUESTION:
Is it possible to unsubscribe to patriarchy right now or create a system outside of it – not influenced by it?
My immediate answer would be “not fully”!
But it is possible to begin the process such that down the timeline we can definitely birth a generation that can be free of the patriarchal mindset. It is already happening!
HOW TO BEGIN THIS PROCESS!
I can only share my process. It will be unique for each person.
- Learn about patriarchy. That will support us to Recognize it, Acknowledge it, and Hold space for it – within and without.
- Yes. As we begin to recognize it – Hell will break loose in life for sure because we will be pained, angry, sad – all at the same time with everything we see, hear, experience! Its OK because that is the process of stepping out of the ignorance of patriarchy. Now Remember: Do not get stuck here. Many do. You need to move further.
- We need to recognize that Patriarchy is not a person or a group of people – it is not a man or a woman. It is a notion, a belief system that is gnawing at the minds of human beings everywhere. Anger itself is a weapon that patriarchy understands very well so burning yourself or the other is of not much use. Although we will keep burning ourselves , we will also, in the learn, unlearn and relearn.
- We will feel the need to Educate the other of patriarchy. Soon we will also learn that all one can do is educate. We cannot make anyone choose it. So we will also need to Learn to Educate and then, Ignore.
- Even to educate we will need different set of tools, skills, language – rooted in the infinite expansiveness and inclusiveness of the heart – to communicate with those in patriarchy. Head has to be a follower in this game – not the master.
- As we begin the journey of educating the other, it will become even more important for us to do our own inner work of all the shit that we ourselves carry – across lineages, across lifetimes. And as we seek this process of our inner work, we will be guided to the only antidote to Patriarchy.
- Reclaiming Embodied Spirituality. Firstly when I say spirituality I do not mean the essence of all religion. We might begin from here or even get here in our journey but we Do Not stop here. We have to go beyond religion because Religion itself perpetuates patriarchal notions and is man made. Seek that spirituality which is the innate wisdom that is within each one of us – not just some. Secondly, I say embodied because I feel the body has to be part of this process. Material and Spiritual, Form and Formless, Body and Spirit – there has to be an integration – otherwise we are still leaving doorways for Kali to enter. This itself is a journey of lifetimes! Many guides will show up for us when we begin to seek sincerely. Then we need to create space for….
- Pause. Slow Down. Become present to your Breath. Breathe. Meditate. Make Art. Create. Play. Sing. Dance. Be bewitched by stories. Listen and tell Stories. See stories. Recognize Life beyond your limited identity. Become present to the other life – living and dying with you on Earth and everywhere. Become present to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, the Universe! Become present to the Highest Truth! It is a process of renewal, relearning, reemerging, re-awakeing!
- Peeling peeling of layers and layers of Ignorance – conditioning, narratives, beliefs – and awakening to one’s truth! This whole process as it unveils will awaken in us many skills of being present, expressing and embodying in the world. We will slowly recognize the veil of patriarchy and see it for what it is – IGNORANCE. Then many will also, begin to see and recognize that ignorance. They will inspire many others to see and so on.
- Again and again we will need to go back to Step 8, and continue. Relearn, Re-tune, Re-sing!
Wow! Sounds so simple. It is simple and yet, complicated. It is its own journey!
Put in one word – it is a precious GIFT – gift of the journey of waking up out of Ignorance – whatever you might call it – Destination Unknown!
Begin your Journey Today!!
“So the boggart sitting in the darkness within has not yet assumed a form. He does not yet know what will frighten the person on the other side of the door. Nobody knows what a boggart looks like when he is alone, but when I let him out, he will immediately become whatever each of us most fears.“—Professor Lupin to his third year class in 1993
The Voices in our Head that only we can hear – whispers, shouts, murmurs, shrieks, screams, ridicules, warns, criticizes, slaps, reminds, remembers, blackmails, appreciates, sneers, schemes, sees, wishes, hopes, longs, desires, surrenders, falters, fails, prides, pushes, pulls, bites, punches, pinches, shames, weeps – that have lived with us, grown with us, walked with us, transformed with us, journeyed with us through our life!
Most people are unaware of these Voices and have completely merged with them, identified with them! These illusory voices take over the reigns of their lives and they bounce of its pull and push – without ever meeting with that One Knowing buried deep within these many voices.
If I were to speak Harry Potter’s language – there is the Harry Potter and his Lot, and then, there is The-Man-Who-Must-Not-be-Named (Voldermot) and all those who fear him or love him on the other side! All these voices are the Inner Critic. Most people are so caught up in the Voldermot Voices that they never come to meet the Harry Potter within!
Befriending the Inner Critic journey is finding the Harry Potter Voice within and Separating out the Voldermots! Of course, there is no ignoring the Voldermots – because the more we choose to ignore – shove it under the carpet – pretend it is not there – the BIGGER AND STRONGER IT BECOMES!
When we are able to clearly hear the Harry Potter voice or the Wise One within, we also begin to hear the accompanying voices of Dumberdore, Hagrid, Hermoine, Ron, Neville – the other truth speakers that walk with Harry!
When you first become aware of your Inner Critic, you realize it is crowded with voices of conditioning – perception – rules – shoulds/shouldnots – dos/donots – imparted by all those who have showed up in your life in close acquaintances – Parents, Grandparents, Relatives, Friends, Teachers, Movie-TV characters, etc- and left an impression on you! These impressions become the most popular voices of your Inner Critic, and steer your life’s course.
How do you take the Steering back?
How do you find your own voice among-st all these voices?
FIRST STEP: AWARENESS
Awareness – becoming aware of it – is the biggest step. Now you can arrive at this awareness in many ways : life-altering events like near-death experience or death of a dear one or separation, arrival of a guide or teacher in your life, breath-work, meditation, or simply the flow of Grace for a lack of better word meaning It is your time to do this work!
SECOND STEP: SEPARATING FROM IT
Once you are aware of it, you are able to separate yourself from each one of these voices, see the source of its origin, acknowledge it, recognize the role it has played in your life – constructive or destructive, supportive or un-supportive, again acknowledge that because that was part of its promised existence in your life and gratefully bid it farewell, for its time in your life has come to a closure!
THIRD STEP: TRANSFORMING IT
For many voices this awareness itself might be good enough.
But then there are those hard-hitting, deep rooted impressions – usually from close family – near and dear ones!
For those you need something more than just awareness! 🙂
Separating out and letting go is a happening. We cannot do it mentally. Doesn’t work!
Letting go and surrender has to happen at the level of the body as a somatic experience and for that we need to engage in it in a more gross kind of way! It is a happening – one moment it was there and the next moment it is gone!
That is where I have felt that in addition to breathing and meditation, Expressive Art and Ritual have immense power. Personally, it has given me the conscious expressive way to give my inner critic a form, write its narratives, see it, enact it, speak it, and become separate from it. In doing so, I am able to clearly recognize it as separate from me, and feel the letting go and separation a concrete somatic experience in my body. Once I know its absence in my body, I immediately become aware of its slightest nearness and can do the needful!
My own inner critic has over the years gone through so many different shapes, forms, images, voices and expressions.
I have found that as I recognize, acknowledge and come to terms with these aspects of my inner critic, my relationship with the source of that inner critic be it people, events or emotions – have shifted dramatically in my body in an empowering way! There is such a deep awareness around it.
That is why one of the core engagements that we do in the She Stands Tall Project in the beginning is the Inner Critic engagement.
I am so amazed at the way my own Inner Critic form has shifted just in the last decade. Now it is most closest to my Inner Intuitive Wild Critic & Muse. I don’t always like hearing what she has to say because her words are not rooted in the rational mind and hence, many times I cannot rationally explain the whys or whynots of her voices! All I know is that whenever I have chosen to listen to her, I have experienced the deepest fullest Me in resonance with the universe and life than when I have not.
Of course, even now the Voldermot voices do make an appearance and I have to catch myself from acting on them! This is where my commitment to Nourishing my Body-Mind-Spirit play an important role.
SOMETHING YOU CAN DO
What-Who-Where-How-Whom is your Inner Critic!
What are its various narratives, appearances?
What belief system does it want you to subscribe to?
Where in your body do you feel your inner critic?
What is its gesture, expression?
Pick one Appearance of your Inner Critic
Color it – Draw it – Sculpt it – Mold it – Write all that it says when it shows up.
If you have a Sacred Space or Altar in your home, let is stay there.
Look at it, read it, stay with its awareness through your days engagement. See if you can recognize it when it shows up. Remember your form. How do you want to respond? Has your response shifted? How has the awareness supported you? What more does it need?
When you feel it is time, you can bid farewell to the Inner Critic.
You can take it from your altar space – keep it separately or shred it or bury it or float it – whatever you feel you wish to do, do it!
Maybe then, it is time for the Next Inner Critic to be Transformed!
Make life fun-engaging-exciting-expressive!
What else is there – Really!
“Aha! What happens in the sky is related to what happens on the earth is related to what happens to me in my daily life, and I can attune to it through my body, and it can make a difference. What a miracle. How come nobody told me this before?”
– Vicki Noble, Author, Shakti Woman
In the recent decade I have learned to step into the awareness of my earth-grounded feminine intuition and importantly, to move in the world from that space of knowing. It has been a happening as I have discovered my entrainment with the moon and the earth through my blood, my rhythms, and my feminine body.
The cross intersectionality of the earth, the seasons, the moon, the week, the day, the elements and enveloped in it are the rhythms of my blood, my life cycle, my body, my health, my day, my knowing – where one ends and the other begins is sometime hard to differentiate! The lines do blur many times…
— Increasing Pace, Grow, Action —> Slowing Down, Resting, Rejuvenating —
– SPRING –> SUMMER –> FALL/AUTUMN –> WINTER – Seasons
– 1st Moon –> Full Moon –> 3rd Moon –> New Moon – 29.5 days
– MAIDEN –> MOTHER –> WILD WOMAN –> CRONE – Life Cycle
– DAWN –> NOON –> DUSK –> MIDNIGHT – 24Hr Cycle
– VIRGIN –> OVULATION –> WILD WOMAN –> BLEEDING – Blood Cycle
What is most profound is the knowing that I am carried in close quarters in the womb of the Mother – She is ever around me, in me, with me, for me, beside me, above me, below me – She is everywhere – I am her. The Gift that I have been given as a woman is to hold space for all of that and to be not just in the world but to be the world itself!
Women in the ancient times and even now, who live deeply in resonance with nature – honoring Her, beholding Her – understand these cycles! She understands the Source of All Her Power – within and without! Nature and She are not separate but She is Nature in all her aspects!
Today the state of the world is a reflection of the deep disconnectedness with the Nature, the Rhythms – within and without.
This deep disconnect is without a doubt embodied and expressed by and in women!
Her blood rhythms are in chaos; un-synchronized with self, with nature & with each other
She is more and more bought into the plastic world – consumerism – objectification!
Today what women need more than the Patriarch-ally derived School-education in the name of Empowerment & the Race to Nowhere – is the Gift of Embodied Wisdom – Wisdom of the Earth – Wisdom of Her Own body – Her Womb – Her Blood – Her Yoni!
Within that Cycle – the World is Born – Sustained – Transformed.
When She flow with this Cycle – the world flows through Her -with Her – in Her!
Where do we begin?
All it takes is Awareness – Tuning in – Following the Cycle – and there in that moment you are tuned back into the cyclic flow of nature – it is like having new eyes to see, new ears to hear, new mouth to taste, new hands to touch, new nose to smell!
Every Girl needs to be given this gift just a year before she begins to Menstruate so she can start beginning her journey towards her initiation into womanhood!
She needs to start drawing, coloring and recording the phases of the moon – draw and color the flow of seasons – play with the shadows of the day – record her dreams – know and honor her ancestors – walk in nature – travel on her own – listen to her body – eat consciously – dance, sing and walk her rhythm!
Imagine the entrainment that will follow her!!
Imagine the entrainment that will follow all the women on the planet!!
Imagine the entrainment that she will gift her children – her sons and her daughters!!
It is Magic – the deepest truest of all!
Keep a Blood-Body Cycle Journal – Start charting your cycles with the moon – Draw the phase of the moon for that day in the book – Draw your emotions/state of mind – Write your reflections – Note time of day – Listen to your body – Listen to your Heart – Let the body guide you to eat – Slow down in the Waxing Cycle – Meditate – Write down your dreams – Rest as you Moonstruate – Pick up your pace in the Waning Cycle – Engage fully with and in the world – then again slow down – Flow in and with the Rhythm.
Do this for 59 days – 2 full moon cycles!! See for yourself!
It is the greatest highest blessing to be Born a Woman!
Learn it and Live it Wisely! Become who you came here to be!
“The role of women in the development of society is of utmost importance. In fact, it is the only thing that determines whether a society is strong and harmonious, or otherwise. Women are the backbone of society.”
~His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
“If we stand tall it is because we stand on the shoulders of many ancestors”
A Yaruba Proverb
Today is Karkidda Vavi or the new moon in lunar month of cancer – a day when in Kerala the Hindu community will remember the ancestors through an elaborate ritual in the early hours of dawn, and through the day. The ritual is performed at temples or areas close to a water source. Women and men both make the offering. Every “Hindu” community in Kerala has a space in and around their home for the ancestors where a lamp is lit, offerings are made.
My first visitation with ancestors in an aware, conscious way happened almost a decade away. Prior to that it was more in the dreams which was also, quite vivid. and it helped me reach closure on many things. So here is a short story from my memory as to how I received guidance in my life from my ancestors.
In the old Marumakkathayam (matrilineal, matrilocal & matrifocal) system of Nairs of Kerala, the lineage was not just carried forward through the daughters, but the prosperity of the lineage was directly connected to the happiness, well-being, and good health of the daughters of the lineage. Within this system, the land and everything from it belonged to the daughters, and the brothers were the caretakers. This provided women and children with a lot of support and backup. Marriages as we know today did not exist. Women and men continued to stay in their respective homes following a marital relationship because they had responsibilities in their mothers house. The most important male relationship for a woman was that of her maternal uncle, brother, and sons (hers and those of her sister), and the most important female relationship for man was his mother, his sisters, and his maternal nieces. Paternity as we know today did not exist within the marumakkathayam system. All the children born to the women belonged to her matriliny. The father of the children had no obligation to care for them. The maternal uncle fulfilled the role of the male figure in the lives of the children. The ancestors were revered and remembered in the form of maternal uncles, grandmothers and often consulted through divination when the balance of the system was affected or especially when the daughters were unhappy.
In 2008, most of the daughters and granddaughters in my matriliny were going through some challenges in their life especially around relationship. So in an effort to seek solution, my maternal aunt consulted a local shaman with divination. It came out in the divination that the maternal ancestor was not being honored or remembered. That took my aunt into further investigation mode to figure out which ancestor was not being honored as we had no idea what the shaman was speaking about. I think it was one of the best things she did because life after that has dramatically shifted for all the daughters in the family.
This investigation brought to light that seven generations in the past my maternal grandmother was adopted from another taravad into the one she was presently in. Taravad refers to elaborate living spaces of the matrilineal nairs where all the maternal kin from the same female ancestor lived together. In old days it was quite natural that if a taravad or family didn’t have a daughter, they would bring home a daughter from one of their maternal relatives home and she would become the daughter of the one she was adopted into. At the same time, she was expected to stay connected with the taravad from where she was adopted so as to do her ancestral rituals. Although my grandmother knew about this situation and continued to secretly offer her prayers following marriage, she never mentioned it to any of her children. That was because of changing situations in the society as it was then.
My maternal grandmother got married at a time when Marumakkathayam (or the matrilineal system existent in Kerala) was disintegrating or collapsing under the new laws which required marriage to be legalized, husbandry established, men legally required to care for their wives and establishment of paternity through fatherhood had become mandatory. This entire situation brought such deep pain in maternal relationships who got entangled in lawsuits, property division, intense shame and disconnectedness. So it was during these times that my grandmother got married to my grandfather who was almost twenty years older. It was his second marriage. The reason my grandmother’s maternal uncle decided to go with this alliance was because my grandfather was the karnavar (maternal uncle and matriarch) of a prosperous and wealthy taravad. What he did not know was that my grandfather was matrilineal man who considered his responsibilities as a maternal uncle to be more important over those of a father or husband. In fact, I feel that having a wife and children must have been something really new to his reality with no existent role models.
In those days, daughters never left their matriliny but my grandmother had to move into my grandfather’s taravad because my grandfather had 5 children from his first marriage, and she couldn’t care for them from her matriliny because these children were part of a different matriliny. That must have been a really challenging time for Nairs and other matrilineal communities in Kerala. As a matrilineal man, my grandfather gave away all the maternal land and wealth to his sisters and brothers without taking anything for himself. So even though he was from a rich matriliny, his children did not experience any of that richness because they were raised on his retired pension. When I think back, I feel that my maternal grandfather did not know how to be a husband and father. His children never received his love and generosity like his nieces and nephews who to this day see him as god while his own children feared him and were also traumatized by him. On top of that, my grandmother’s matriliny was caught in the middle of property lawsuits causing maternal kins to disconnect from each other, and this was also a cause of discord between my grandparents. Being English-educated my grandfather was also, opposed to rituals and saw it as blind belief and superstition. So all these reasons affected my grandmothers and her children’s connection to her matriliny. However, she secretly sent offerings through her sister to the ancestral shrine without anybody in the family knowing.
So when my maternal aunt unearthed this ancestral taravad and the ancestral shamanic (Theyyam) ritual that happened in that taravad every year in the month of march, it was news for everyone in the family. Can you imagine this: the ancestral ritual was visited by maternal kin from across seven generations coming in from different parts of the world and my grandmother’s family was like the only one who were neither there nor did they know about it. In this ancestral ritual of Theyyam, one of our maternal uncles from 250 years in the past made an appearance in the body of the shaman, met all his kins from seven generations across, gave them counsel, addressed any issues and so on.
Without any of her family knowing, my grandmother used to send oil regularly for the shrine. Since her passing in 2000, that was not being done. Finally with this new revelation, the oil sending practice got restored. Following that, so many things dramatically shifted in the lives of the daughters of the matriliny bringing more happiness into their lives. My own life catapulted in a way that I would never have imagined to happen to me because it brought me to the doorstep of my own purpose. A series of events led me to choose M.A in women-centered spirituality at Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto. It was like floodgates to my ancestral realm opened up. In the first year itself, it became evident to me that I had to visit the ancestral shrine. I flew to Kerala but when the day of my visit came, I began to menstruate. I was sad because I knew that I could not go to the taravad when I was menstruating. So here I was with my mother, sister, maternal aunt and her husband right on the land of the taravad, could see it ahead of me in a distance but had to sit in the car while the others made their way into the taravad. My heart was heavy. I was bleeding profusely, had severe cramps and deep exhaustion in the body. As I sat back in the rear seat of the car, I decided to meditate for 20 minutes. All I remember is closing my eyes, and then there was a tap on the window. I opened my eyes to see my sister asking me if I wanted some tea as they were about to leave. I blurted out in surprise as to why they were leaving so fast! My sister looked at me confused and said, “What do you mean ‘leaving fast.’ We have been here for over 2 hours.” In that moment there was a deep presence, stillness and serenity that enveloped me. I realized that I had forgotten that I was menstruating – my pain had completely gone and there was this sweet relaxedness and pleasure in my entire body like I was in heaven and back. I knew in that moment that I had the most profound meeting with my ancestors and they had blessed my journey.
Another instance was when I setup my first ancestor altar on October 31st, 2011 on the occasion of ‘Day of the Dead’ as part of my Divination class. I had pictures of my paternal and maternal grandparents, and my recently acquired image of my great maternal grandfather. I knew what my immediate grandparents liked as I grew up knowing them. However, I had no clue what to offer my great maternal grandfather. I had no knowledge about him except for the fact that he was a well-known vaidya (physician of natural medicine) in his time. In fact, my cousin who was doing her Ayurveda was told to place the picture of any Ayurvedic ancestor on her altar to expand her blessings and knowing in the field, and that is how we all came into possession of this picture. My mother also, couldn’t recollect anything in her memory of her grandfather that would help me in making an offering. So as I learned from the class, I surrendered my request to my ancestor and asked him to guide me in what I can offer him on the altar. So as I was setting up the altar, there was this voice in my head which said, “Rekha, you have dates. Why dont you offer that?” I was not sure but offered it nevertheless because I know to trust my instincts. In my usual late night conversation over the phone that evening with my mother in India, I sharad casually all that I offered and when I mentioned “dates”, my mother almost exclaimed and said that her grandfather had on more than one occasion brought dates for her when he came to visit and she had completely forgotten about it. She was so amazed that I was guided to make that offering. I felt so seen, acknowledged and held.
My entire masters thesis at that point was slowly beginning to unravel and I knew it had to do with grandmothers but had no clarity on it. I woke up the next day following my first ancestral altar and offering – with the topic of my research written in my mind like I could read it clearly – “Rising Daughter, Silent Mother, Fading Grandmothers”. I knew it was another gift from another dimension, and I was filled with deep gratitude.
In 2012 I attended the Ancestral ritual with my mother, sister, maternal uncle and aunts for the first time. In fact, it was a first time for everyone and it was in that theyyam ritual that I found the first grandmother to interview for my research. She was the wife of the oldest karnavar in the family. I also, met my 250 year old maternal uncle in the body of the shaman that night. It was an experience beyond time and space! Well, More about that in another blog entry!
Remember your ancestors! Offer your deepest gratitude to them.
We have received much from them. They can guide us in becoming more aware of our deepest blocks, acquired patterns, impressions, our strengths and weaknesses so we can work on it and become free of it. As we deepen and expand, our ancestors benefit too. They receive the merits of our meditation, growth and spiritual expanded-ness!
There is so much that we do not know, and just because we donot know doesnt mean it ceases to be!
This journey is Born out of my own exploration of reclaiming my relationship with my sacred yoni, womb, and my feminine self in a way I was never taught .. held … or acknowledged. I bring the initiation and exploration to you through the Sacred Yoni Mandala Workshops. To know more: http://imojo.in/yonimandalaonline
As we are entering into the phase of increasing Darkness in the Northern Hemisphere, we are also in the phase of entering into the Dark womb – the Sacred Yoni of the Great Mother – the dark cave of deep rest like the one we were all submerged in a looooooooooooooooo ong time ago!
Cozily hanging inside the Yoni chambers of our mother’s womb – suspended in time – waiting to emerge into light – slowly through the passages of her tubes, her walls and through her Yoni Gateway reserved for “my” exit alone – we made our entry into the world – forgetting – all that passed before – until then! Life in the Sacred Yoni became a forgotten reality that never ever happened – not even a memory remnant!!
Oh! Today the most savaged, abused, broken, wounded, ravaged is the Yoni – in her body – the woman = the daughter = the mother = the earth! Do you know how a Woman feels about Her! The only way she functions is by looking away from Her. For to even acknowledge Her presence in her life is to open the flood gates of personal and collective trauma of years of oppression, pain, wound, rage – overpowering emotions!!
I was there once.
Then two years in a row participated in Vagina Monologues as a student at Institute of Transpersonal Psychology – Palo Alto, CA!
Every monologue was listened to with deep attentiveness – No, not by the ears!
She showed up in every monologue like a deep resonance from within – I knew it!
“I relate to that – Oh! My God! It is not just her story but mine too!”
“Have you seen her lately …. with a mirror?”
What! Really! Wow!
She is everywhere – valleys, mountains, trees, caves, fruits, flowers, beings, nuts – She is everywhere!
How did I not see her!
Then I never knew how to even recognize her – how did She look?
Nope. Never saw Her before!
She was in my body and yet, I just strayed & stayed away from Her!
Somewhere far away like She was never there – the wounds, the visuals, the sensations, the pain, the shame were too overpowering to engage!
Then, looking at Her, knowing Her, engaging with Her – was releasing, letting go, emerging, remembering, re-membering, restoring, reviving, resting!
Then Art happened – Creativity flooded out!
Voice began to emerge! Did you know – my lips are like Her too!
Fear somersaulted to Love!
Intuition was restored!
Then I though to ask about Her to her and other women….
“What is your relationship to the Yoni?”
Listened. Echoing Back. Deep silence of the Yoni – Her disappearance!
“Yoni, what is that!”
“Could you explain?”
“Eh! Do you mean the Vagina?”
“I don’t want to talk about that”
“What relationship? Its there. so what!”
“What is there to talk about it”
“Are you talking about sex?”
“I am not even aware of it”
“To have kids maybe and, I am not interested in having kids. So ….”
“I remember seeing pictures in my sex ed class”
“Is it masturbation you want to know?”
“That’s un-spiritual! I have overcome that relationship”
“That’s shameful! Who talks about that!”
“Seen her? Yuck! Why do I need to see her!”
“I have no time for that”
“Yeah! She pleasures me!”
Now more than ever before
Silence of the Sacred Yoni is Echoing Louder and Louder – Are you listening!
Not outside – inside of you ….. dearest Sister!
Disconnected we have lived for a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooooooooooooooo……………………………..oooooooooooooooooooooooooong time!
Unaware … Not knowing to hold space for Her …
Unsacred-ly neglected we have existed … not wholly … partly …
We have kept ourselves busy – many guises – disguises – empowerment … identity … accomplishments … independence… sex…. pleasure …
outwards… outward …. out ….. moving more and more …. pulled out….
Away from Her sacredness….
away from Her bliss…
away from Her wisdom!
The silence of the Yoni has spread…
The deep truth telling of the oldest order has left our lips….
for that flows from Her chambers – down there….
Without Her dark rhythmic mysteries I am not a woman…
I don’t even speak Her Language…
embody Her Language…
walk Her feet….
Without Her guidance
I am some other – Masculine embodied
She is right there… down there….
Sacred gateway… waiting to open… to worship.. to know… to embody!
She is the Protection … Protectress… Protected!
Her doors are calling you in.
Her doors are calling you in.
Rekha Govindan Kurup is a social artivist, spiritual feminist and co-director and founder of She Stands Tall Project LLP. She has a M.A in Women’s Spirituality from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California (one of the only two schools in the world that offers a academic pedagogy in women’s spirituality and both are located in Northern California).