The Power of Spiritualityfor Women
By Lisa Erickson
The Last in a Three-Part Series on Meditation for Busy Women
A favorite teacher of mine once said “Spirituality is the personal side of religion.” While religion focuses on ritual and doctrine, spirituality is about our own personal experience of the divine, whether we call that divine God, Goddess, Allah, Yahweh, the Tao, enlightenment, the universe, or something else. Spirituality is about our search for divinity, and our relationship with it. To that end, contemplative practices such as prayer, chanting, devotionals, and meditation have always been the cornerstone of spiritual practice. We have to quiet our usually noisy mind before we can hear the subtle voice of spiritual truth. And although women have often been excluded from certain positions and teachings within the world’s religions, they have always managed to practice spiritually. In fact, in spite of great adversity or perhaps because of it some of the world’s most influential and powerful mystics in every world religion have been women.
Consider Margery Kempe, a medieval Christian mystic who experienced profound spiritual visions throughout her life, in addition to bearing and raising fourteen children, and documented it all in the first autobiography in English by a woman. Or Sukhasiddhi, a Buddhist woman with six children, who achieved enlightenment after just one night of instruction at the age of sixty-one. Then there is Hannah Rachel Verbemacher, also known as ’the maiden of Ludmir’, who studied the Torah and Kabbalah practices usually available only to men, and became a respected female Jewish teacher to many. And in Islam there is Rabia Basri, whose love for Allah was so great that despite being sold into slavery as a young girl, grew up to be one of the most revered and famous Sufi mystics and poets.
These are just some of the fascinating women who have pursued their own spiritual truth throughout history. And although they came from vastly different religious backgrounds, their descriptions of their spiritual experiences share remarkable similarities, as do their spiritual methods. None of them were content to simply worship they immersed themselves in prayer and meditation as a means to direct knowledge.
This is the power of contemplative practice, particularly meditation, and the special place it holds in the history of women’s spirituality. You don’t have to be a hermit in a cave or a nun in a convent to experience divinity directly. Just take a few minutes each day to clear your mind and open yourself to a larger force. Try some of the techniques outlined in the first two articles in this series. You never know where they might take you.
Lisa Erickson is a meditation teacher and writer. Visit www.TheMaatInstitute.com for class info, or MommyMystic.WordPress.com to read her blog on women’s spirituality.