February 2016

"Understanding Gender" (excerpt) The Seekers — E. Lesser

I often turn to Jungian psychology to better understand issues of gender. Jung separated personalities not so much into male and female, but into unique blends of masculine and feminine qualities, which he believed were found in all human psyches in varying degrees of potency. The masculine principle, or archetype, as Jung called it, celebrates rational thinking, heroic power, goal-oriented achievement, and independence. It is transcendent, visionary, mindful. The feminine principle loves to feel; it compels us to nurture; it links sexuality with relationship; and it reveres life and death as natural cycles of nature. It is embodied, intuitive, heartful.

The feminine is that part of the self that is vulnerable, receptive, open; the part that values connection and communication. It likes to put all the cards on the table and doesn't want to hold back or keep secrets. It is the part that is comfortable right here on earth with all of its pain and messiness, the part that does not want to run away from life or try to change nature's rules. This is the feminine archetype. The masculine archetype sees beyond this life, looks outside of itself, identifies with the eternal, and wants to move ever forward. It plans and negotiates, is reasonable and rational. It is on a mission to achieve, invent, build, make a mark. It is the part of the self that is determined, loyal, judicious, and steady.

A great pair, the feminine and the masculine. A person who cultivates his or her masculine and feminine qualities is able to balance power with love, inventiveness with sustainability brilliance with wisdom. Of course, most of us are not naturally balanced within ourselves. We usually have more of one archetype than the other, and it usually is true that women are much more heavily endowed with the feminine principle and men with the masculine principle. The point of working to balance our masculine and feminine energies is not to move toward androgyny. It is to become aware of the inner forces at play within each one of us and within the culture. Even as we strive for inner and outer balance, we still can depend on each other to fill in the missing pieces. In fact, the more we value both archetypes, the less pulled each one of us will feel to be "perfect," and the less likely we will be to misunderstand the basic nature of our counterparts. We will be able to stand in for each other as we all grow toward wholeness.

Most of recorded human history is the story of one archetype—the masculine—not merely dominating, but also discounting the values of the other—the feminine. It's particularly ironic to note the suppression of the feminine in religious history, given that the basis for most religions is God's all-embracing inclusion and love of all creation. As the poet Jane Hirshfield says about God's egalitarian spirit, "The numinous does not discriminate . . . infinitude and oneness do not exclude anyone." But indeed, the feminine voice has been excluded in most religious traditions to the point where spiritual myths, images, and structures are primarily masculine. Even more harmful than their mere exclusion, feminine values have also been deemed inferior, even dangerous, in patriarchal cultures. Backed up by our earliest religious myths, from Adam and Eve to Prometheus and Pandora, the message has been insidiously clear: feminine values are manipulative and untrustworthy, bound by the suffering of the earth, controlled by the dark side of the moon, and more related to the animals than to the angels.

It is the masculine principle within humans that is attracted to transcendent spirituality—always moving forward, intent on self-improvement, compelled by the light of truth beyond the horizon. The feminine principle is more at home with the way things already are. Feminine energy moves in a circle, longing to know all by embracing all. In valuing one archetype and rejecting the other, as opposed to enjoying the fruits of the marriage of both, we have denied many people, not just women, their natural way of finding God.

Religions have perpetrated the myth of masculine superiority as much as any social system has; in fact, I think that until we rewrite our spiritual mythology, societal structures will continue to empower men and mistrust women. The first step of the women's movement has been the demanding of equal status for women within the patriarchy. This has been a critically important step. But it has also masked other, equally important steps: the celebration of feminine values in the world; the granting of respect, money, and power to the kind of work that nurtures families, teaches the young, connects communities, and cares for the earth; and the acceptance that while men's and women's wisdom may be different, each is real, precious, and necessary.

It's not enough to say that spirituality transcends gender, even if it ultimately does. Spirituality is the human search for eternal wisdom. It is not the wisdom itself To humanize spirituality, we must look not only outside of ourselves to the limitless universe, but also inside of our own person-hood—the sum total of our gender, our conditioning, our genes, and our unique challenges and gifts. Obviously, then, different people will respond better to different spiritual concepts and techniques. Some people will use their minds most effectively. Others will find it easier to search for God using the physical body or the emotions. Some people, when they think of the ultimate truth, use language and images of light and glory. Others relate to the stark aloofness of the ascetic's search. Still others discover truth right here on earth, inspired by the interconnection of all life and through service to others.

Both genders are capable of tapping into the masculine and feminine wisdom streams. But first we must question the patriarchal obsession with power and control in the culture, and widen the definition of reality to include the feminine principle. To some extent, this has been the role of feminism in our times. When feminism and spirituality combine forces, the feminine face of God will illuminate the path for all of us.

From - The Seekers Guide

To understand femininity men must see the essential Yin nature for what it is: the magnificence of feelings, the yearning to nurture others, and sexuality as an “all-encompassing intimacy." Sexual penetration to a woman is far more than vaginal—it's experiencing an intellectual, emotional and spiritual oneness with her partner. Men for too long have clung to the notion that these qualities are exclusively female and therefore a sign of human weakness. In a women’s eye, a man opening his heart to the gifts and wonders of Yin is the quintessential man!

—Bei Kuan-tu


"Patterns" by Donna Woodka

Nature Patters
---“Nature Patterns” by Pamela Gallegos


“The pattern, and it alone, brings into being and causes to pass away and confers purpose, that is to say, value and meaning, on all there is. To understand is to perceive patterns. To make intelligible is to reveal the basic pattern.”
— Isaiah Berlin, British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, (1909-1997), The proper study of mankind: an anthology of essays, Chatto & Windus, 1997, p. 129.

“When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it — they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experience. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem.
The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
— Steve Jobs, Wired, February 1996

Pattern and Creativity
Are the two poles of action.
It is wise to plan each day. By setting goals for oneself and organizing activities to be accomplished, one can be sure that each day will be full and never wasted.
Followers of Tao use patterns when planning. They observe the ways of nature, perceive the invisible lines of destiny. They imagine a pattern for their entire lives, and in this way, they ensure overall success. Each day, they match interim patterns against their master goals, and so navigate life with sureness and grace. It is precisely this ability to discern and manipulate patterns unknown to the ordinary person that makes the follower of Tao so formidable.
When unpredictable things happen, those who follow Tao are also skilled at improvisation. If circumstances deny them, they change immediately. To avoid confusion, they still discern the patterns of the situation and create new ones, much like a chess player at the board. The spontaneous creation of new patterns is their ultimate art.”
– Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Time to create some new patterns in my life. Coming back to this space is one of them. So what do you do when you want to create new patterns in your life?
Changing Places Blog


“Mad Dash!” by William Martin

Chapter 9
(The Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell)
Commentary by William Martin

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.


“Mad Dash!”

A new drive-through food establishment has opened in Chico. It’s called… wait for it… Mad Dash! The sign out front proudly proclaims, “Two slices of pizza and a drink in 90 seconds!” I’m thinking of opening a competing place called Instant Gratification! People will pull up to a pump, insert their credit card, stick a hose in their mouth and pump a liter of high fructose corn syrup directly into their gut. No muss, no fuss, no nutrients to get in the way and keep us from getting about the business of… whatever it is that is so urgent.

As Lao-tzu says in Chapter 9, we hurry to fill our bowls, sharpen our knives, and chase about our world with a frenzied mind and a clenched heart. I feel it every time I drive my automobile on city streets and freeways. I see it in my rear view mirror in which I can count the bugs on the grill of the behemoth behind me. I experience it as I sigh with impatience at the confused and dawdling driver in front of me. I have nowhere to get, yet I often hurry to get there. If there is more traffic than I expected I find this somehow wrong; it shouldn’t be this way. (Or, often, “I should have chosen a different time or route. The wrongness is my fault!&rdquoWinking

Taoist thought does not value urgency because it sees all events as having their own natural flow, occurring at the proper time and place without effort or strain. Urgency is a product of the conditioned human mind, superimposed on top of the movement of the Tao. This urgent conditioning is not wrong, and in a broad sense it is also part of the overall context of the Tao. But Lao-tzu is clear that, while all things belong to the Tao, not all things are helpful and congruent with human happiness and contentment. Not all things help the human mind find the balance of the Tao. Urgency is one of these things.

I can’t change it by holding up a “SLOW” sign like a highway worker. The only thing I can change is the way I respond to that urgency when it arises from my conditioned mind. I wish I could say that, “It’s really no problem. I’m actually above all this hurry and stress. I can go out and about and remain serene and placid because I am so very very spiritual. I let it roll off my back while I meditate and breathe deeply.” Not likely.

Perhaps one could discover a coexistence with the sound, fury, and mad dashes of our world, but I’m not so sure. Lao-tzu eventually had to get on his ox and leave the country rather than live where the preponderance of societal energy was so contrary to his perception of the flow of the Tao. I don’t have an ox on which to ride and don’t know where I’d go if I did. (Can Nancy and the cat fit on an ox anyway?)

So I’ll stay. I’ll pay attention to the way my mind creates urgency, impatience, and judgment. I’ll ask myself over and over, “What’s the hurry anyway?” I’ll turn my attention to the slow cooking and eating of natural and tasty food. I’ll continue to develop the habits of walking, biking, and public transportation whenever I can instead of pushing and being pushed through traffic.  I’ll wander the Farmer’s Market and the cooperative farm to which we belong instead of the aisles of Mega-Market Inc. where the music, lighting, and signage is devoted to hurrying me into impulsive and unnecessary purchases. I’ll slow down as best I can.

While nurturing my sense of outrage and writing the above essay, I have been sitting at a coffee shop absent-mindedly scarfing down a lemon-poppyseed scone. The crumbs remain on the plate as the only reminder of the process. I vaguely remember tasting it…I think.
Oh my! Do you know where I can get a deal on a nice two-person, one cat, ox?