Rediscovering Our Lady, unabashedly. Creating/generating a newer relationship with my deepest mother/teacher/divine feminine SELF.
“The holistic point of ancient women’s religion was that the Mother is not one’s personal maternal parent solely, but the entire community of women, (and men)* the entire living earth, and beyond this the entire surrounding and ongoing cosmic process.”
The discovering and uncovering of what has always been there, right alongside the history we’ve been taught; this is the glorious! I find there is a rhythm to the uncovering. I read, I’m surprised and excited, I get angry for information withheld, and still I find another level of footing, of being seen and I process and then throw my anger out because I don’t want it to hold me down/hold me back from this deeper and more felt sense of “you’ve been part of the evolution of humin-kind this entire time”. Acknowledgment. Recognition. It matters; has a place.
I’ve been a practicing Buddhist for a long while now, in both the Tibetan and Zen traditions. Nearly 7 years ago I participated in a ceremony known as Jukai; officially*
(feels funny to write it like that) being recognized as a Zen practitioner. I studied and wrote on the Buddhist precepts (vows and ethical commitments) and sewed a rakusu.
A bib-like garment using multiple pieces of fabric and sown by hand that’s worn during zazen (meditation/sitting practice) and represents the robe of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
(these are all simplified explanations for the sake of this writing)
It is quite an ordeal which also entails writing, by hand, on long sheets of white rice paper the patriarchal AND matriarchal lineage charts. The patriarchal lineage consists of the names of the actual bloodline of the Buddha and ancestors transmission of the bodhisattva precepts. The matriarchal chart includes the names of the first womin disciples of the Buddha starting with his surrogate mother, Mahapajapati and continuing through the followers of Dogen and the direct Soto ancestors and “all laywomin who carried the dharma forward”. These charts are then folded in a very specific way and placed in an envelope, also made from the rice paper and (again) folded in a very specific way. The charts are gathered, along with the finished rakusu and handed over to the preceptor for the day of the Jukai ceremony.
This day was so important to me on many levels. The date of the ceremony happened to be my first year anniversary of sobriety. Participating in this ritual felt like a deeper sense of commitment and grounding (as the precept states): “Peacemakers throughout all space and time cultivate a mind that sees clearly. This is the practice of not being deluded. I will embrace all experiences directly.”
Something else taking place, at a DNA/encoded level was my wish to be a nun. As a young girl (disclaimer: I thought becoming a saint was a profession but finding out that wasn’t the case) my second choice was becoming a nun. But at 14, I made the decision to disconnect from the catholic church; and the real work of connecting with what felt true for me began. As life unfolded and I moved through the vortex of spiritual paths…a hindu/vedantic lineage, perhaps a swami. A Tibetan Buddhist path, emulating Pema Chodren. Finally, in the Zen tradition, ordaining as a priest? Ultimately declaring myself a Zen priestess in my own right. And still, it was the ritual I was seeking. That something, a form/container/structure/institution that would finally “see me”, recognize me, for who I truly was.
The day arrived, with 15 of us taking the vows along with the sangha community, and family members including my partner and AA sponsor all bearing witness. Honestly quite a bit of pomp & circumstance (but I love a good ritual). We all recited the vows and precepts as one and then, individually took our place in front of the preceptor to receive our rakusu which, on the backside, included the date and our new spiritual name. I kneel, I bow, and Roshi _ hands me a separate card with the name “Myotai” written on it and its meaning, “subtle mind.” I bow again and she places the rokusu over my head and says my new name out loud. Finally, I’m handed the patriarchal lineage chart correctly folded in the handmade envelope. And I’m waiting…to be handed the matriarchal chart, but soon realize it’s not part of the ceremony. I stood and with confusion and excitement returned to my cushion. It wasn’t until after the ceremony I was able to ask one of the monks attending what had happened to, and wasn’t it supposed to be part of, the ceremony, the matriarchal chart? Where were my sisters, my womin ancestors whose shoulders I was standing on and standing next to? “Oh, he replied, all of your writings and that chart are in zip locked bags in the back of the zendo.”
Something happened inside; a shift/recognition/a questioning. Even here, with a female abbot and I’m still not being acknowledged as part of the story. It felt so wrong. While being welcomed into this community of seekers, I was simultaneously unacknowledged as an active participant of the long story. A jumbling of emotions for sure. And yet…
Soon after the ceremony, I did have the opportunity to share with one of the older monks my confusion and disappointment that for me, a big part of the ritual was missing. Surprisingly he agreed and said he would mention this to Roshi. To this day, I’ve never said anything to her, the timing was never right.** Honestly, I felt such a strong power differential, I simply couldn’t. It didn’t feel like “my place” to say something.
I continued practicing with that particular community for a long time and at the same time, continuing to feel that something was missing. Inevitably the day arrived, as it had with other lineages and practices, I chose to leave the community but continue practicing in my own way, under my own authority.
**This past weekend I participated in a zen meditation retreat (via Zoom of course). When the time came for the liturgy, I was prepared to chant the Heart Sutra. Instead the voice over the computer instructed, “This morning, we’ll be chanting the “Hymn to the Perfection of Wisdom To Our Great Matriarchs”. And it happened, chanting out loud in homes around the world and in the zendo, recitation of my sisters who have followed this path and brought it, shoulder to shoulder, with our brothers, forward throughout space and time into this present moment.
And I wept.
The following evening, I wrote Roshi a simple email, thanking her for moving through the changing times and including the acknowledgment and recitation of our sister ancestors that I’d been missing since my Jukai. It took me nearly 7 years to 1) recognize I’d been holding onto/blaming someone who was in a position of power; was it me all along allowing her to have the power? 2) Recognizing this event as another part of what I’ve been calling the year 2020 for me, “the annihilation”. A complete dismantling of teacher/student/higher than/authority over. A flattening of the hierarchy. Reconnecting with my innate agency and sovereignty. (the real virgin).
SHE is everywhere. Ears are the body and touch is the sound during bodywork, art, music, poetry. Somatically and viscerally, in and throughout the atmosphere, an open limitless field. Walking recently in the woods I heard, “You’re not walking in nature, you are nature. You are this very earth.” There is no separation. This is not an intellectual endeavor. The time is now to embody, become, and be. Be part of. Be with as one. Instead of looking outside, searching and wondering/wandering; now I understand, allowing myself to be available FOR HER. Opening to all the myriad ways in every moment and in every detail; there SHE is.
The secret which isn’t a secret at all, to show up.
1)Kuan Yin in the garden (my image)
2) Rakusu w/cat hair 😉
3) Part of my Matriarchal Lineage Chart