“It’s time for the women to pray together again, to remember our sacred biological and spiritual function as the life bearers, the life bringers and the creators…..to serve the thriving of all life.” Pat McCabe.
This is a guest post by Amrita Bhohi.
Recently I had the privilege of spending a day in the presence of Pat McCabe, a Dine’ (Navajo) indigenous teacher from New Mexico, trained in the Lakota spiritual tradition. This event formed part of a series of events at St Ethelburga’s Centre exploring the role of feminine principles in action at this time of global ecological crisis. Together with a group of 25 or so women from around the UK, she lead us in a workshop that was in reality a ceremony; offering her stories, teachings, prayers and longings with us and in service to as she named it, the great sacred hoop of life. In the traditional indigenous way, we sat gathered in a circle as the hours passed by, listening and receiving the wisdom of this true female elder, marked by the power of a primal authority, uninhibited vulnerability and deep humility with which she commanded the space. So much more was transmitted beyond the words that she spoke and shared with us, and a deeper understanding of the sacred feminine was one aspect of this. What her presence connected me to was an embodied sense of the feeling of a kind of sacred wholeness; of the masculine and feminine qualities, also of the Indigenous and Western worlds, and ultimately the union of the physical and spiritual aspects of life. Listening to her speak from this depth of reconciliation within herself, I experienced a glimpse of what it would feel like to inhabit a sacred wholeness in one’s heart and mind, and what it could be like to live from that place, which was true beauty, power and potential.
I realised that the feminine power that Pat embodied came from consciously inhabiting the sacred purpose of the feminine in service to life as a woman, but also that another aspect of her power was a deeper state of connection and reverence with the masculine, equally as with the feminine. Her stories conveyed the journey of reconciling with men and with the masculine, and taught us of the courage, commitment and generosity that this path to wholeness requires for women in this world today. Reflecting on how profound this quality of wholeness I had experienced in Pat had been, I recognised more clearly how wholeness truly is a sacred feminine power, and a principle that as women we can aspire to and embody as well as how much it is needed in the world and what a healing force it can be when put into practice. In a world so ripped apart by a paradigm of separation; from each-other, from the Earth and from the sacred, in a sense all of my own work in the field of Spiritual Ecology could be defined just as much as to a return to wholeness, as a remembrance of interconnectedness, which is how I usually describe it.
I was moved by the sad truth of Pat’s statement that as men and women today we live in a ‘power over’ paradigm with each-other, and how in this way none of us know the true expression of either the masculine or the feminine. I could relate to what many women expressed of this power-over experience and how insecurity, vulnerability and also anger meant that we related to men through competition and control dynamics, stemming often from a deeper fear of masculine power. In the face of the deep personal and collective wounds that all women’s feminine nature have been inflicted with in some way by the abuse of masculine power, Pat called upon the generosity of the Mother Earth, this archetypal energy that we are made in the image of as women. She invoked the fierce generosity of Mother Earth as the symbol and also example of the kind of feminine love we have access to draw upon to help us to deeply forgive and heal our relationship with men and the masculine. The day stimulated an aching longing in my heart for this reconciliation between the masculine and feminine, within ourselves and together as men and women. And a sense of wonder at how the world could be if this sacred wholeness could be truly lived.
The ultimate unity that Pat’s teachings put me in touch with was the coming together of the physical and spiritual aspects of life. In relation to understanding the role and function of the feminine, I noticed how this totally shifted something in my own relationship with the sacredness and significance of being a woman. In addressing this theme Pat asked the question, “As a female member of the human species, or five fingered ones, what function do we have in upholding this sacred hoop of life?”. She reminded us how every single part of the web of life has a specific role and function to play in the flourishing of all life, and as women we have a specific purpose. But it was when she brought together the physical function with an awareness of the deeper spiritual function, that I began to feel what the ‘sacred feminine’ truly meant and the role we are here to fulfill. In a biological and physical way Pat talked about the functions of women’s menstruation, the womb and our connection with the Earth. She spoke to the deeper spiritual purpose that these functions serve, in women’s ability to be spiritually connected to life and creation in a way that men are not. I understood that as women we need to know that our sacred responsibility and role is to simply be in this connection with life that we can experience – to nurture it, feel it and live it and speak from it. Pat described how a woman’s close connection with life gives her the responsibility to speak on behalf of it and remind the community to always put life at the centre. The beauty and power with which she shared this teaching brought a sense of honouring and valuing of my womanhood, in a way that I have never felt before. It also helped me to understand how intertwined the physical and biological make up of men and women are to their sacred spiritual function, how intimate the physical and spiritual truly are. This understanding within me came with such a sense of relief, and feeling of allowing and being, rather than striving. As Pat so wonderfully put it, ‘once you recognise as a woman how big and important the role is that we are here to fulfill….I have my hands full just being a woman, I don’t have time to be a man as well!’. This felt so profound and true and something I intend to remind myself in moments when feeling like I am not enough as a woman arise whether from others or from myself. How can I stay connected to the knowing of the immense preciousness and service to life that simply being a woman means that I am? How can this help me to give up the feeling of needing to prove myself, devalue myself by competing with men out of a sense of not being enough, of wanting to be valued? These are some questions I am holding and I am so grateful to Pat for putting me in touch with the sacred essence within the physical experience of being a woman.
Finally, I’m brought back to a deeper thread that becomes ever more clear in my work and life. The need to reconcile the physical with the sacred, spirit and matter, is the task of reviving a world that is by any accounts is on it’s way to complete destruction and dissolution. At St Ethelburga’s Centre I manage our Spiritual Ecology project, which calls for the need to move from a story of Earth as purely physical matter and resource to be used and abused, into a recognition of nature as a living, sacred and interconnected being. A world that we belong to and that gives us life. In this paradigm, humans are in a relationship that honours both the physical and the spiritual dimensions present in the Earth, a culture that brings a reverence for the sacred within all of life, and lives a recognition of our interconnectedness physically and spiritually. I’m struck by just how we’ve forgotten our sacred connection to the Earth, so too we’ve lost our connection to the sacred nature of the masculine and the feminine. For myself and from this experience with Pat, it is the reuniting of the physical and the spiritual that has subtly but significantly shifted my whole relationship to what it truly means to be a woman. And I feel that the real roots to the healing of our world lies in this deeper reconciliation and reunification process.
by Amrita Bhohi
Join us on Friday May 4 at 6.30pm for the next event in the series, The Feminine and Spiritual Authority: Christian, Buddhist and Muslim Perspectives, with Remona Aly, Sahajatara Blake and Samantha Wernham! Book tickets here!
Also, Amrita will be leading a retreat in May as part of the Spiritual Ecology programme. Spiritual Ecology: Reviving a sacred and interconnected world, will take place May 18th – 20th 2018, 42 Acres, Somerset. A two day residential workshop exploring the principles, practices and project application of Spiritual Ecology.
Amrita Bhohi leads the Spiritual Ecology Programme at St Ethelburga’s Centre which explores how practical environmental and social action can be rooted in spiritual values and based on a recognition of interconnectedness and reverence for nature. Her work focuses on facilitating training workshops and supporting practical project development, mainly working with emerging leaders in the next generation. She is passionate about working with the energy, creativity and vision of younger generations in coming together in service to a different future.
Amrita previously worked on the global Eradicating Ecocide campaign and at the think tank, The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). In 2013 she organised TEDx Whitechapel, which was named as one of the most popular and radical TEDx events in London. She holds a BSc from King’s College, and an MA in Ecological Economics from Schumacher College.