Women and Spirituality
What is spirituality?
According to the Labor Law Talk Encyclopedia, spirituality means “concern with things of the spirit.” It may include belief in supernatural powers, as in religion, but the emphasis is on experience. What is referred to as ‘religion’ and what is referred to as ‘spirituality’ are often the same.
In recent years, ‘spirituality’ has often carried connotations of the believer’s faith being more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the faiths of established religions. Those given to speaking of ‘spirituality’ rather than ‘religion’ are apt to believe that there are many ‘spiritual paths’ and that there is no objective truth about which is the best path to follow. On the other hand, there are many adherents of orthodox religions who consider spirituality to be an aspect of their religious experience, and these are more likely to contrast spirituality with secular ‘worldliness’ than with the ritual expression of their religion. Others of a more New Age disposition hold that spirituality is not religion per se, but the active and vital connection to a force, power or sense of the deep self.
According to a questionnaire given to 20 women from different countries, aged between 30 and 60 and from different religions, such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and an atheist, the definition of spirituality is:
Every act that elevates the soul, whether it’s religious, like prayers, or moral, like forgiveness and love, or mental, like meditation. It’s about feeling the connection and ‘oneness’ with God, our souls, others and earth. It’s harmony, peace and an understanding of our soul and the universe. It’s a sense of the goodness within, and of who we are. A sense of our inner whisper, of love as an element of the human spirit and of what is beyond our physical being, which helps us to understand how we fit in the big scheme of universe.
Why is spirituality important to women?
Deep within every woman lies a Sacred Woman with tremendous potential ready to emerge. As women discover how to tap into the depths of their being and release whatever has hindered their full self-expression, they come into contact with their true essence, their pure potential. When the blocks to this potential are released, it flows abundantly and creatively like an overflowing river.
Erotokritou (2004) claims that women have a more delicate nervous system than men and need to take enough time to rest, meditate and regenerate. Stress and strain are a woman’s greatest enemy and rob her of her health and energy. By regaining a state of internal peace, harmony and balance, women can find a new perspective and enjoy life more. When they explore deeply, in a supportive environment, with other women who have similar interests, this helps them grow and expand their sense of self, which furthers their process of transformation. Through being together and listening to different perspectives, it helps them get a clearer sense of where they are going and what needs to change. Embracing the ‘path of the sacred woman’ offers them countless opportunities for expansion, empowerment and living their truth.
A ‘woman of grace’ can impact her family, her environment and the global community with her wisdom, spirit and love. From this perspective, spirituality is about bringing the Sacred into your life in a practical way that works for you. Love, purity and awareness are most important in this connection.
According to the questionnaire mentioned before, these women find spirituality important because it gives them clarity, purpose, a clear mind, motivation, balance, energy, a reason to go on, deeper joy and inspiration. It makes them feel calmer, not alone, safe within His presence, knowing that they are looked after by a loving and wise God.
A lot of them said that it gives them awareness about themselves and their surroundings, especially the family. This helps to see the big picture, embrace tough challenges, strengthens their ties with their families and helps them bring up their children better.
Being ‘spiritual’ have helped them forgive themselves and others, have access to their deepest thoughts and inner being, not fear death and appreciate and respect all religions.
What prevents women from understanding their spirituality and how to overcome these blockages?
A lot of spiritual beliefs state that we are born pure. Even if we carry something wrong in our genes or past experiences, our true Self is always there and is always ‘pure.’
But life, culture, family, school, friends and everything around us generally might cause loads of thick layers on our pure inner selves. So if we dig deep, pay attention and seek purity, we’ll reach our real Self, our white-lighting pure soul, our Mystic Centre, where there are no mistakes, doubts or need for guidance.
Women as such have already many sacred rites of passage from one stage to another: puberty, marriage, childbirth and menopause. It is up to women to be aware and conscious about these ‘keys’ and the important physical and spiritual changes they trigger in them. These passages reveal the maturity, love and empowerment within.
As the body changes through all these phases, as life changes, as they get stressed, busy and overwhelmed with what is happening inside and outside, they might reach a stage where they seek a sanctuary. The fundamental place, both physically and emotionally, is in our own body. What better way is there to find a sanctuary than to become it?—if we dig deep inside the heart and the mind and be ‘aware.’
Fundamentally, deeply, if there is a sense of Oneness with all there is, with the whole of existence and creation, if there is true stillness, simplicity, and spontaneity, if one’s mind is utterly free from the conflict created by ideas and notions, by the hypocrisy born of ideals and the turbulence created by ambition and greed, in that quiet state, there is awareness. In a mind completely emptied of egotism, pride, prejudice, fear and hatred, in a mind completely attentive to the present moment, in a mind totally free from the need to accumulate and explain, there is total silence and awareness. In this silence and awareness is the inexhaustible treasure of self-discovery and the indescribable ecstasy of Oneness. This is not an ideal to be pursued; it is the hidden splendor within our own heart and it is, for each of us, our true being, and our deepest Self. In reaching within towards this Core of our being, we simultaneously reach out to another—for the simplicity, love, laughter, peace and joy of this Core is the very Ground of Being that unites us all.
A suggested strategy to help women engage with their spirituality would be to ask themselves some deep questions, such as: Who am I? Why am I here? Who are you? Why did we all meet in this life at this very hard, cruel, yet beautiful time? What are we? What is everything? Why are these words flowing between our hearts and minds? Why are we reading them this very minute?
It is in the essence of various beliefs that the way to spirituality is as important as getting there, and the light will reveal itself little by little as women walk the path/paths, peeling, digging, watching, learning and loving. They can choose either to learn now that the path is the aim, which will be so enriching; or else they might learn about it at the final breath of this journey.
Either way, during their journey, women’s consciousness will become more and more alert, so as their morals; and there is where they truly need to be faithful to the ‘inner voice.’
How can our minds really accept and absorb all these unbelievable miracles? I don’t think the mind can accept these; but probably the heart can. Only the heart can expand and expand, until it becomes the Universe. It happens then, in one of these least expected moments, where there is nothing but silence, stars and, maybe, a gentle wind refreshing our very quiet and still souls.
Women’s spirituality and feminism
As feminism allows more women to reach positions of power in various cultures, increasing numbers have discovered that material success does not satisfy their hunger for meaning and connection. Women are becoming increasingly clear and vocal about the need to integrate an emerging set of feminine-based values into the culture. This is helping the wave of women’s spirituality to flow.
As never before, today’s conservative political environment has united women across the feminist spectrum. The result differs from earlier forms of feminism in several ways. For one, new forms of feminism espouse a new activism based not on anger, but on joy. They also tend to be focused outward, beyond the individual, to wider issues, often global in scope. In the words of author Carole Lee Flinders:
When you get Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, and Sufi women, all practicing their faith, in the same room, another religion emerges, “feminine spirituality.”
In these days, where prejudice and racism are augmenting and spreading wars all over the world, a gentle wave of spiritual awakening is flourishing. Many spiritual organizations are being established all over the world where having different religions doesn’t count. Hands are joined and hearts are seeking love and peace.
Ananda Mayi Ma (the ‘Joy-Permeated-Mother’), a divine Indian lady, was asked: “When there is only ONE, why are there so many different religions in this world”? She answered:
Because He is infinite, there are infinite varieties of conceptions of Him and of paths leading to Him. To believe in Him under any particular form is not enough. Accept Him in His numberless forms, shapes and modes of being, in everything that exists. Aim at the whole and all your actions will be whole.
All true enlightened and universal people, regardless of their religions and/or believes, reach the same results. God, Allah, Dieu, Brahman, the Secret or that Oneness will never turn down a pure, sincere soul, mind and heart. They feel what is in and what is beyond the diversity of names, sects, colors, shapes, languages, creatures, galaxies—everything. They feel or have a glimpse of the ‘Secret.’ They feel the Oneness within and with everything. They get burned by Love’s divine fire.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta said:
I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord Himself. Is it not a beautiful experience? Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things, on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.
She cared for people from all religions.
There are three ways of knowing a thing. Take for instance a flame. One can be told of the flame, one can see the flame with his own eyes, and finally one can reach out and be burned by it.
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 Avghérinos, D. (2003), http://groups.yahoo.com/group/philosophia_perennis/message/488, viewed 15 April 2005.
 http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/insp/spiritualwave.html, viewed 10 April 2005.
 http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/insp/spiritualwave.html, viewed 05 April 2005
 http://www.cosmicharmony.com/Sp/AnandMM/Mataji.htm#Religions, viewed 03 April 2005.
 A Sufi saying.