I have a dream . . .
I’m sitting in my living room, looking out across the large screened-in deck to a beautiful blue and green pond. Roughly half is blue the other green. I am sitting languidly in a regal wicker chair and there are a few men around me, one looks at me appreciatively and I feel prized. We then go up to my therapy office and sit in a circle. There are men and women now and I am in the center of the circle and between my outstretched legs I hold a beaded mandala about three or four inches in diameter. It is various shades of brown beads and quite beautiful. The bottom is lined with soft deer skin. I put the mandala on the floor between my legs, near my genitals and exclaim to the group how grateful I am for my life.
I am 52 and in two weeks I’m off to California to study Dakini practices with a beloved teacher I’ve known for several years. I have learned much from her but I’ve never done in depth work with the Dakinis. Life has been particularly hard the last two years and I need some medicine that will help me stabilize. I’ve always been plagued with demons about self worth and in the past few years I’ve had a chronic sense that I’m supposed to be living a larger life than I do, these voices have been raging inside me and wearing me out.
I arrive at my teacher’s little cottage among the giant redwoods and we begin. I tell her that I am looking for self worth – still. After 20 years as a therapist, being in therapy, feminism, a loving and mirroring partner and friends, and various practices – which have all helped – I still need an antidote to the poison of crippling self doubt. I tell her of the demons of envy that can overtake me with tremendous force, squeezing my heart to near breaking with grief for what I have not accomplished, for what I have lost, for the creative urge that seems frozen. I can see only small glimpses of who I am, what I have to offer, what I have accomplished, what is of value in me. Who I think I am. In this, I’m not different from many women I meet. When I ask women why they don’t live more authentically, why they don’t step into their unique selves, their fear is that they’ll be met with some variation of “Who do you think you are?” to their face or behind their backs. They fear that their families, community, or friends will think them too full of pride. I’ve come to understand that the question is really a hidden poisonous statement “So, you think you might be somebody?”
I’ve thought a lot about pride–not the more diluted versions of “self esteem” or “confidence,” but unabashed pride. We’ve learned to call prideful women any number of ugly names. And most women recoil from pride like vampires from the light. Why, I ask, do these internal and external voices protest so much? Why, 30 years after the second wave of feminism, is pride in women negative, arrogance worse, and sovereignty unheard of?
In Wise Woman therapy, symptoms are the path to deeper knowledge. So in trying to find medicine that will dilute poisonous voices and beliefs, it is my practice to look first within the toxin for it’s antidote. So I listened closely to the internalized voices and found their most outstanding characteristic, besides boring repetition, was their timing and vehemence. They are the Culture Border Patrol in a woman’s psychology – if she steps out they push her back into her place. But like a murder of crows flushing an owl,
predatory voices can lead us to the jewel of pride. By tracking the predatory voice, it’s habits and timing, we can know we’re on the right path in the work of cultivating pride. But why is there a Border Patrol in the first place?
I tell my teacher I am tired of the envy, it ambushes me and my efforts to manage the grief over my loss of Self exhaust me. I can feel deep within the poisonous envy it’s antidote–the seeds of my own unfolding that I can’t quite sponsor in myself.
I begin to tell her about the dream in which I feel good and grateful and powerful. We play in the field of the dream within the framework of the Dakinis. She says blue and green are the colors of Yeshe Sogyal whose name means lake. Yeshe Sogyal is the founding Mother of Tibetan Buddhism, a Dakini. She suggests that perhaps I have had a dream about Her and an experience of Divine Pride and that this is the medicine for what is causing me to leak my power through self-deprecation and envy.
Divine Pride? Like my snake Oya when she is looking for food, everything in me arches up, keenly focused, sensing. I am awake, right then and there. This phrase is like seed syllables that contain vast teachings and awaken recognition. I know this is medicine, I feel it course through my spirit and I don’t have the slightest intellectual understanding of what she means. But I do know these words revive my essential, unsullied self. My spine straightens and I feel radiant. Only much later do I realize that within the idea of Divine
Pride lie some of the answers to why pride in women is so hated.
When I think about what naturally follows from, “And who do you think you are?” What comes is “God?” “And WHO do you THINK you ARE? GOD?”
“Ahhh,” I realized, “here is the medicine”. I realize, of course, that pride is Divine, is of the Divinity. And this is what all the fuss is about. Women should never have the hubris to think we are from the Deity, that we are Divine in our essential nature. Perhaps it was the Church Fathers, corrupted by power, who slowly infected any sense of Divine Pride with original sin. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins and while men also suffer from
inhibitions against knowing Divine Pride, they at least have a male god with whom to identify.
Having been raised Methodist, a religion where the feminine is almost totally expunged, I was hardly exposed to the Divine Feminine except for occasional mentions of Mary, Mother of God, a pale version of the more ancient and sovereign Cailleach—whom I had been working with during the previous year—and the Sky Walking
In the redwoods we begin the daily practices. I tell her that over the past few years I’ve had several meaningful dreams, more sacred somehow, larger, more encompassing, more like teachings than reflections of my personal psyche. I share several with her and she casts new light on them. Some of these dreams are callings to the Divine, populated with Dakini figures, an Ancient White Haired Buddah-woman and a wrathful Dakini Snake who instructs me through fear. I am astounded and humbled by the messages of the dreams and then the struggle between my Western linear cognitive self and this felt sense of radiant pride begins in my mind. The Border Patrol becomes quite strong for a few hours but rather than being distressing, this tells me that I’m on the right path. Two
nights before I am ready to leave, I have another healing dream.
I am in the shower, reciting a prayer which is a calling to the Deity who is me and not me. I say to a friend that this invoking is in the present tense and I’m thrilled because that means She is alive. I feel a shimmering erotic pulse move through my body and I begin to stroke my belly round and round feeling a deep erotic love toward myself and my body. I begin moving up and down the shower wall, pressing my body into it and then I experience a whole body orgasm emanating from my center.
We had begun that day talking about the five Dakini families and the poisons of envy and inadequacy. We decided I needed an archetype to guide my mandala work with the Dakinis. Given my deep attraction for the Dark Mother (or Hag) and Simhamukha, the black lion headed wrathful Dakini, (who is an emanation of Yeshe Sogyal) and my blue-green pond dream I mentioned above, we are guided to Yeshe Sogyal as an emanation who can help me transmute my poisons into medicine. Yeshe is blue-green. Blue represents Vajra Dakini who changes anger into mirror-like wisdom, and green is Karma Dakini who transmutes envy into all-accomplishing wisdom.
For two days we work with the mandala practice, make a collage of the mandala and a feather and bone fetish which I leave in a secret place on the mountain where she lives. It is time for me to leave. I am changed irrevocably by the permission I now have for the cultivation of Divine Pride. During the next several months, I come to see that the deeper intent of Feminist Spirituality is to develop Divine Pride by identifying with the Divine Feminine. While Feminist Spirituality is a practice of honoring the earth’s cycles and identifying with those cycles in women’s lives and thus identifying with the cosmos and
Goddess, we often don’t take it in deeply enough to transmute our poisons of self-hate and insignificance into a sense of deep and radiant sovereignty. Unfortunately, our identification with the Divine can become a role we playact and which has to be continually reinforced from the outside.
The practice of Divine Pride, on the other hand, is an ancient acknowledgment of the fierce Divine radiance of “the Original lustrous radiant sunrise of our being.” (As Mary Daly wrote.) Organized religion tries to put out this flame as a sacrilegious expression of hubris, particularly in women. And while
Tibetan Buddhism is guilty of rampant sexism, some of its practices give us a way to work with the demons that obstruct our clear vision of ourselves as women. Tibetan Buddhism is also one of the few living practices that revere Goddess in the form of the Dakini. Historically, Buddhist women were great models and teachers for the development of Divine Pride. As Miranda Shaw writes in Passionate Enlightenment,
“Identification with Divine female role models gave women an unassailable basis for self-confidence, namely, the Divine Pride that comes from awakening one’s innate divinity. The presence of Divine female exemplars who openly rejoice in their femaleness, free from shame and fear, seems to have empowered women to speak the truth fearlessly, to be physically and mentally adventurous, and to be argumentative and aggressive when it suited them. In the Tantric biographies, women freely and without apology reprimand men who need to be recalled to a direct vision of reality, by challenging his prejudices, shattering a cherished illusion, or puncturing an inflated self-image. Women’s sense of freedom from male authority in this movement was reinforced by the fact that women were not dependent upon male approval for religious advancement either in theory or in practice. There was no male clerical body to bar their way and no promise of metaphysical gain by submission to male authority.” (page 69)
Much to my delight, in reading Shaw, I recognized elements of Cailleach, the Scottish Hag Creatrix in the form of an old woman with a blue-black face, one eye in the center of her forehead for clear, unified vision and a tufted tooth, expressing her wild nature. It is said she created Scotland by striding over the sea from Norway, strewing boulders from her apron. I have always loved the Hag from any tradition because Hag means Holy Woman, Old Holy Woman. In the past year, I took every New Moon day as a day of silence to be with Cailleach in research, meditation, art, walking, and prayer. I had found Cailleach when searching for the Creatrix in my Scottish lineage, another aspect of my attempt to cultivate pride. She demonstrates the art of sovereign egolessness and a Western model for Divine Pride. She is likened to the Hindu Kali, of “I create to destroy,” and I found aspects of her in the blue-black Wrathful Dakinis that I studied with my teacher.
Cailleach guards the sacred well. Three potential future kings approach the well thirsty for a drink of its cool waters. She demands a kiss from each of them. The first two are repulsed by her, outraged at her demand, and go away without the blessing of the Cailleach. The third recognizes her Divinity and kisses her, whereupon she turns into a beautiful young Maiden. If we peer deeply into this story, beyond the patriarchal overlay, we can see that she is “challenging the future king’s prejudices, shattering a favored illusion or puncturing an inflated self image.” (Shaw) The Cailleach tests the future king’s ability to transcend any affliction or fear or arrogance that would cause him to miss or reject the Divine presence in the old woman at the well and those people he will someday serve. Scotland and Tibet are far from each other, yet we see the principle
Divine Pride reflected in both Cailleach and the Tantric biographies of women who identify with Divine female role models.
I have come to understand that an inflated ego and a depreciated ego are simply distortions of ego, two sides of same coin that reflect a deep attachment to chronic, inaccurate patterns of perception. But Divine Pride is deeper than ego. It is an experience of radiant inner Divinity and is used in the service of the Divine. The future King must honor the Goddess’ cycles and thus the land. This is similar to a Buddhist teaching that we must accept things as they are in themselves. This doesn’t mean we must accept oppression and hate but that we must accept the unavoidable pain of a life lived. We must see hatred and oppression clearly before we can act in a compassionate manner. The King must serve all the people, must have the ability to recognize the Divinity in all. At the end of this story, Cailleach gives the King a riddle. “Would you rather I be a Hag by night and a Maiden by day or a Maiden by night and a Hag by day?” The future king thinks upon this and responds, “you decide, it is your life,” recognizing the unassailable Sovereignty of the Divine.
When women identify with the innate Divinity within us, we experience our radiance, our sovereignty, and a call to serve that is not born of servitude or oppression. We understand that each of us is born in and of the Divine, whatever emanation we worship, and therefore the greater authority is that which is within us. We hew to this voice, this radiance, in service to all humanity. This requires great scrutiny and integrity on our part, but not so much that it paralyzes us. We must audaciously risk answering the question, “And who do you think you are?” with, “I am Divinity.”
And to this the Witches and Dakinis say “So mote it be” and “A La La Ho.”
Copyright © 2003 by Nora L. Jamieson