April 4, 2009

Discussion Responses: Buddhist Women On The Border

From April 2 class: Here are some thoughtful observations on our recent reading from those who were able to attend class discussion. (We had Pat Darling come in to share her experiences over the past decades of Buddhism in America, then some reading discussion.)

• Pema Chodron: appreciated her teacher because he always made her upset. Why didn’t it bother her that her teacher was having affairs? Wouldn’t that create problems within the community?
• Also struck being a Buddhist – the teacher is supposed to be a role model for all students – not to do any behavior that would harm anyone. But Pema’s teacher wasn’t a monk – also, Jan Willis described her respect for her teacher who treated her as a daughter – that is more the way it should be.
• Enjoyed reading bell hooks – didn’t know until this class that she was a Buddhist – she doesn’t capitalize her name because she doesn’t want her ego to get too big – she says ‘hi’ to everybody no matter what their class – truly loves every living creature. Also likes how she has her Ph.D. but you don’t know that when you read her.
• Pema appreciating her teacher: can understand why she would appreciate getting her upset, because it forced her to learn to control – also, when Pat left, she mentioned some of the Buddhists in Tibet, in the midst of their adversity, stayed calm (also Jan Willis mentioned this). They learned to control their anger and reactions so that little stuff didn’t move them.
• In Jan Willis’s article talking about confidence – she talked about the impact on people’s self image from having a history of 300 years of slavery – this was striking and helpful.
• bell hooks ties into that – coming into a place where you can be defined by more than your pain – that you are impacted but not defined by your pain – you are more than it. Beyond being a victim – (quote from hooks:) “the sense of unworthiness is more life threatening than the structures of domination.”
• Also struck in bell hooks – because she’s a black woman writing about healing and moving beyond your pain to her own community, it has the potential to create a paradigm shift – if someone can say, I understand what you have gone through, but we have to move beyond – it’s not someone from outside the community, but someone within who can make a difference.
• Interested in how the nuns taking vows also are given a new name (one connected to the teacher’s lineage).
• Impressed by Jan Willis – it said that Buddhism didn’t open the door to African Americans – and there were so few of them that they tended to join together – also Buddhism seems to attract people who were seeking something, who were not at peace. This seems more intentional than just finding a church for social or ritual comfort – people attracted to Buddhism want more to concentrate on themselves individually.

February 19, 2009

Responses to Marija Gimbutas video

Responses to "Signs Out of Time: the story of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas"

(For more information, there's an article by Gimbutas in Weaving the Visions, Part I.)

Amazing, fascinating woman – the period of time when she she left Lithuania and came to America was the same time Joseph Campbell was working on mythology – also fascinating that Lithuania has not forgotten the Goddess – in folklore and folk arts – and that humans were not always warlike.

Interesting how she was able to track interrelatedness of societies over a wide area – the width and breadth of her studies was impressive – the sheer number of artifacts that she found – she brought great insight into her interpretations.

She really had a wealth of knowledge and dealt with a lot of integrity – took a long time and saw patterns – also impressive that she was able to get so much training and education when that was uncommon for women at that time.

Impressed by the holistic approach of how she did her work – as a youth, interested in folk culture, and later on tied that in to interpreting the archeological symbols and what they meant – she saw the interconnectedness between her time all the way back – and that understanding came about through all these different methods.

She has an impressive resume with all her accomplishments and discoveries – the excavation sites, putting Old Europe on the map, interpreting it as a female-centered culture – inspirational work for many people today – she had a strong ambition and purpose in her work and didn’t deviate even when she was criticized.

Impressed by the depth she went to learn: reading texts in original languages to really understand it – used her previous studies in her later work – it was important for her to go back to Lithuania, back to her roots – and how the Lithuanian people honored her.

She had a strong persistence – all of the things that could have dragged her down, from family past, to schools, and war – she kept on persisting.

February 12, 2009

Responses to Full Circle

Comments on the video Full Circle

Healing touch – that they were just showing women doing that – and the closeness of women coming together to heal themselves and others – and these sorts of spiritual healing approaches are coming up now in nursing – primarily a woman’s profession (though not entirely)

Struck in a positive way by the pagan ceremonies that they were having – watching the ceremonies was different from reading about them – the ceremony with the couple being bound together by ribbons (hand-fasting) was more appealing than traditional weddings (being given away by the father and so on). These rituals seemed more positive and open than the impression gotten from the reading.

Interesting that everything is spiritual and connected – Goddess is earth – all the trees and natural things connected – balance and harmony.

The story of First Mother in the beginning – woman but also nature (moss for hair) – also connected to memories of going out in nature with the family – and notes that old people seem drawn to gardening – maybe you realize more of the beauty of nature and basic values as you age – also there's an appreciation and respect for age in the pagan religions that is now missing – another thing was that the music in the video was attractive – very natural use of voices and instruments – compared to some popular music.

Issue today where bank systems are getting rid of male CEOs and getting females instead – also some of the women were talking about how things in the past in native traditions were lost – talking to native people now, they say that all people used to have a native background with more respect for things around them than they do today (Norway, Europe)

Struck by the healing touch – thinking of how powerful the last minutes of touch were at the end of life – liked the quotes about how the earth’s survival depends on diversity, which is tolerance – liked the metaphor of the “spider mother�? spinning destinies – and how we all stand “on common ground – the planet earth�?

What stood out the most was “make yourself whole, and make the earth whole�? – disagreed with some of what Anne Cameron about not needing the Goddess as such – we can go back to our culture to find the Goddess, a sense of the history and where we came from. Interested in seeing the pagan rituals.

January 29, 2009

Responses to Burning Times

Comments following the Burning Times video:

At the beginning, it was about healing – the healing springs – in Jewish tradition, there is a mikvah where women go to be spiritually renewed.

Impressed about the woman dancer as very feminine and powerful.

Disagreed with the medieval understanding that women were more sexual than men.

Why were the witches in the video associated with fire? Fire of knowledge?

When they were talking about the threat the midwives posed – birth control – what knowledge did they have at the time?

So much of the artwork at that time showed women (the suspected witches) as naked – why was that? To demean them?

How far back in history did this destroying of witches go? Is this connected to famines, etc., where villages resorted to cannibalism?

What this has done to women – hatred of our bodies; what this has done to men – must have affected their spirituality as well

It left out some of the cultures that were especially hit – the Gypsy culture – they persisted and survived with an alternative culture

The statistic of 9 million at the high end – was amazing – and also thought how she stated that paganism was based on actions, customs, and ecology not beliefs was interesting. Also – the money part- how this was a big business.

Interesting that our history claims the scientific revolution took place in Europe and not the Islamic world, which had been farther along at that time.

What blows mind – how much Christianity takes from the pagan religions – turn their goddesses into saints, and take their holy days and make them into Christian holidays.

Surprised by midwives – showing art work of them doing their work – one picture of a woman with a knife – could she have been doing a C-section? What was lost by suppressing their knowledge?

Two things – women were barred from Universities, and couldn’t practice medicine without going to the University

How it has only been three hundred years – and people have forgotten – could it happen again?

January 23, 2009

Comments on Goddess Cultures

What struck you about the video depicting ancient Goddess-centered cultures (The Goddess Remembered)?

That the women’s time (Goddess era) was more peaceful – more fair, egalitarian, fair to the earth – why haven’t we got back there more? Also, what they were talking about in 1989 is also going on now – economics, warfare, capitalism, “domination culture".

Interesting they were talking about the ecological aspect of things – now that’s talked about a lot more – almost a trendy thing – they popularized it – so now “going green" is a slogan. They made their point enough that it’s mainstream. The serpent was a symbol of the goddess – that was interesting.

The snake goddess – seemed like it was a phallic symbol in how they were held – the male symbols seemed to be circumcised – and this was before Abraham. Why did they focus on Crete and Malta and Greece, rather than other places in the world? Also, in Western/Christian culture sex is seen as “bad".

How the images of women from very ancient times to more historic times – the images carry the same energy / power of femininity / womanhood – this same energy seems to be present in the contemporary women at the table (in the video).

In the book, womanhood seems to be tied to having children – then how would women who were childless be seen?

The whole serpent as a symbol of goddess is interesting – because when Biblical times began, it was a symbol of Satan – anything where Goddess/female was revered was rewritten and vilified – in Greece, the Amazon was an image that was seen as negative (women’s power seen as negative).

Question about the assumption of “women’s time" – in other cultures, there have been egalitarian societies closer to our own time – (some Native American cultures, as an example) – and in cultures where shamanistic spirituality exist, this power isn’t limited to either gender – historically, this understanding of women’s spiritual gifts was lost in Western culture.

All of these Goddess figures – were they related? Were these cultures in touch with each other, interconnected?

January 22, 2009

What questions do you start with?

Here are some questions that class members identified coming into the class - some may be answered by our work together, and others may not.

Feel free to add comments or additional questions.

Why did women accept second-class status? An example: why have women in African societies put up with genital mutilation in the name of religion?

How come individuals aren’t accountable, but religion is held accountable (“I had a bad priest�?) – why can’t people accept that religion is an institution made up of human beings who make mistakes?

Why would the woman or the man consider themselves as a second-class gender, complain about it, and not change?

Why do so many religions separate out women – have separate rules for women? Where did it start?

Why in some religions are female images venerated and real women not treated well?

Why do people put the blame on religion when they do something wrong? Why not think for themselves?

Has it been pressure from the outside or the inside of religions that has led to change for women?

What drives individual in a search for religion?

On that question, why do they search for religion instead of search for spirituality?

What actually makes women feel like they are second class?

Why would you start your life with something that you know won’t work, from your experience of the world?

Are there any religions that are truly gender equal? If there are more than one, are there any similarities?

January 14, 2009

Comments on Meridel LeSeuer Video

Comments on Meridel LeSeuer: My People Are My Home

Meridel – wanted to have a child – “took Carl’s seed�? – connects to the idea of women having a child was magical / Goddess movement

Thinking of the corn fields – the women tried to preserve the corn fields for the future – misery when people were driven off the land – contrasts to the farmer culture of egalitarianism, sharing

How conscious she was of not wanting to stay linear – throughout her life conscious of needing to change, not being stuck – amazing the different parts of history her mother and grandmother were witness to – the idea of corporate farming starting so early – and the way that history involved conflict and an effort to fight back

Curious – she seemed to join movements – was she a leader? – what was her role?

Poetic narration extreme and full of metaphor – tying women’s experience to the rape of the cornfield

When she was talking about war (WWI) – none of the young men of her generation came back from the war

Thought it was interesting how the land was so fertile – but the video images were harsh – and old women’s faces were prominently displayed along with rhetoric about their being powerful and beautiful.

Class questions, comments, discoveries

Use the comments on this posting to pose questions, add general comments, share discoveries that don't fit into the weekly Discussion Café. Anything goes (that can be shared in polite society). The postings below are summaries of classroom group discussions.