The latest issue of What is Enlightenment explores cultural, philosophical, and spiritual views of what is enlightenment for women. In a collection of excerpts from 24 women answering the question, “What is liberation to women today?” I found these inspiring words from Mirabai Devi: “women are the embodiments of the divine feminine…. the supreme force, the supreme shakti of the universe. It’s the power behind the known creation, and its qualities are strength, self-confidence, fearlessness, courage, joy, victory, self-empowerment, steadfastness. Our civilization has not taught women to be what they naturally are.” This really got me thinking: what is enlightenment for women?
Enlightenment is a state of awareness and acceptance of what is. Meditative practices enable anyone to find inner peace by training the mind to let go of attachments and realize that, on a cosmic level, everything is perfect just as it is. This acceptance of suffering and mortality frees us to realize the miraculous gift of each moment. This realization leads to a sense of bliss and profound freedom– and that is why being enlightened is such a sought-after state of being.
Compassion, fearlessness, and equanimity are signs of enlightenment. An enlightened person demonstrates these qualities whether living with a group of disciples, family, friends, lovers, or children. Someone who is awakened knows the divine within and becomes free from ego desires and personality habits. Instead of reacting to circumstances without thinking, an enlightened person makes conscious choices, harmonizing intuitive feelings with rational analysis and spiritual values. Whether helping others find enlightenment, or going into the zone alone, an enlightened being radiates awareness and love.
Both men and women can experience enlightenment if they go within, but women have a special opportunity to experience enlightenment as a gift from the Goddess. As a realized woman, I use the word, “Goddess,” as a metaphor for Gaia, the Earth, the Mother of All, the life cycles of birth and death, the divine feminine. We are stardust, born of a woman’s body, nourished by the Life that arose out of the rhythms between Earth and Universe. As a woman, I became an initiate in the most ancient of spiritual mysteries when I started to bleed, and I deepened my spiritual initiation when I became a mother.
Being a mother the natural way is a surefire ticket to dropping the ego. The hormonal transformations of pregnancy and childbirth help inspire a new mother to be fully engaged in the experience, to give up her personality, her ambitions, and her desires. Trying to be supermom, living on the fast-track while raising a child, may lead to more stress and frustration than enlightenment. Making the welfare of her child her highest priority, a mother who willingly chooses to sacrifice her individual self-interests for a higher good finds true liberation. Being a full-time mother can be a creative, sensual, and ecstatic way to lose the ego. Everyday, a nursing mother experiences blissful At-Onement connecting her to Earth rhythms, Life energies, loving Consciousness, and the synchronicities of the Universe.
In the goddess tradition, enlightenment is found within. Celebrating the female archetypes of maiden, lover, mother, matriarch, and crone honors the spiritual initiation offered by each. In Elizabeth Diebold’s overview of the 3000-yr history of women’s spiritual uprisings, she quotes paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey: “the mother-child relationship is “the social unit out of which all higher orders of society are constructed.” Now that women are living longer than an average 49 yrs at the turn of the 19th century, we have more time to explore our world as maidens, discover our sexuality in relationship, experience enlightenment firsthand as mothers, defend the web of Life as matriarchs, and unveil the wisdom of letting go as crones. Transcending the ego and awakening to compassion can take place anywhere, in our minds as well as our bodies. Women do have a clue.