Updated: Sep 5
I have been trying on different terms for women lately. How can I honor this shakti energy with a name that is all her own, not connected to the masculine entity or some other connection? Nothing feels good enough. The best I can figure for females would be divine feminine, but I don't want to walk around sharing such a lengthy greeting. "Peace, Divine Feminine!"
What's a girl to do?
When girl feels too young, lady feels too formal and docile, and sister or sis-star is yet another way of assigning value through connection... Queen, maybe? But even still, in most cases the queen is subjugated, as a part of her King's dom, or jurisdiction. I'm not sure. Let me know what you think.
I've seen many creative approaches like womb-man, womxn, and though fine, they do not recognize the dignity of her divinity. There is either a yang counterpart or something holding her identity together. And so it is and will be. The masculine is important. Our connections are important. I only have a problem when the connection or label makes the feminine aspect less. There is no way She could be less, and there be equanimity, as is the way of Nature, Herself. No matter how you spin it out or what language you speak, balance will have her precious day! If you consider yourself any of these feminine aspects: what do we suppose to call ourselves? Womb should we be?
Recently during a meditation at the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) in Oakland during a BIPOC community offering, I experienced a moment of linguistic clarity, a moment of poised inquiry and an acknowledgment of how our identities create filters, which stream through all and especially exist when naming names. It was a ceremony of reconnecting with the sacred, an offering by four teachers, who guided us through a landing in our bodies, a short meditation, and into the Compassion room with its colossal and beautiful Day of the Dead altar, and into whole and small group conversations. The two hours we shared flew by. Though simple, it was a pleasurable communion, offering 40 people a place to belong in divine appointment.
We sat in a circle, some people in chairs and some on cushions. We passed the talking stick and met one another around the circle to convey our access needs and how we were showing up at that time with our pronouns, lineage, sexual identities... in terms that made sense to us. Some even shared how no terms identify them or how this was not apart of their culture to address themselves in these terms, and passed without saying more to that end, if they chose.
I'd love to share some of what I spoke into the circle there that day to create a virtual circle with you here. If you're interested, I'll tell you a little bit about me, and then pass the virtual talking stick to you, so you may share as well.
Who I Am Showing Up As: My Filters
My birth name is Courtney Lynn Dean. As a married woman I took on the last name Rohan. Yet, I have been given other names over the years by Spirit, too. Kazeba is one name that I value deeply and am reminded to honor often along with my inner child. Not only do I honor my names, I acknowledge and honor my womb. I use the pronouns she/ her/ hers. I am divine feminine with sacred masculine energy flowing. If that is too much for a snack, I am femme, which may be more manageable.
About four years ago, I discovered the term queer and befriended it. It made sense to me for me. I love whoever I love, and that's it, for me. I am attracted to my people, beings I meet that make me feel more deeply who I am with them in spirit and in truth, no matter their sex or identification.
Though I do not know the whole story behind my lineage, I do know that I am 70.6 percent Sub-Sharan African, which I have come to understand means I am connected to a few parts of the whole mothership, south of the Sahara.
I also have Indigenous and European ancestry present. My blood as well as my filter is influenced by this unique combination. And there's more.
I grew up in a Christian household. I love Christ and believe in his message of love. I know him to be my master teacher. We went to church most Sundays until my mom passed away when I was 15, though I did not really know Christ then. However, I will say that I found church again intermittently when I needed community and healing, and it has served me, so I continue to give back in ways that feel nurturing and respectful of what I now know: the church is not the only place for loving community and healing, but this connection undoubtedly helped me to feel into and seek the Spirit who resides within me. As much as church has made good in me, it has also made confusion in me that I have had to weave through. The unweaving has been necessary in order to find the Truth, which has been contorted to oppress and control.
When I got married at 21, I was a wife. Now, I am a divorcee at 44. I am a motherless mother, daughter, sister, aunt, a friend, and to some certainly depending on the time of day, I am an enemy. I am melanated, a being of love, a prayer, a meditator, a teacher, a student, a yogi, an artist, a light worker... My filter, like everyone else's is complex and full of networks, from many wombs, some from this life and some from the ones before.
And then they asked us what sacred meant to us!!
As the name of the the gathering was Reconnecting with the Sacred, the question was no surprise. What did surprise and delight me was that we'd all be sharing what we thought that to be.
There were so many responses as we went around the circle, and it was hard not to consider how right they all were. Like a gathering of gods, we brought to light the intricacies of our sacred worlds through our unique filters. I wish that I could remember all of the profundity offered. I can not. All I know is that no one was wrong the way culture and indoctrination would have us to believe. Everyone's sacred was sacred.
How could this be? What really is sacred to me, then? I thought. It took a while for me to land on my truth. It probably wasn't until I had the talking stick in my hand that I was able to identify words to properly name it, and even now, I will share more.
Last year while attempting to find a cure for a chronic form of leukemia that I was diagnosed with 14 years ago, without the use of traditional western medicine, I got sick. After months of good healthy work, an infection overcame my body, and I was taken to the ER. I was put on a breathing machine because my hemoglobin (red blood cells) were so low. I didn't have enough oxygen, so I could not catch my breath. I was given blood transfusions and told that without medicine, my body would shut down. I stayed in the hospital for a week, and even then I was still weak and stayed on a breathing machine for a month after my hospital stay.
I did not share all of this with the EBMC circle, but I share it with you here because it is a filter that informs what I consider to be sacred. Everyone's answer to this question, even yours, which I hope you will share, comes through a filter of relation, not unlike female or queen.... What we hold dear is informed by our connection to who, what, where, to how we have what we have, what we've lost, what we desire, and as well, what we don't.
The breath is sacred.
"Breathing is the only autonomic function under easy voluntary control and is a quick way to reduce your heart rate and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system." (School of Medicine)
Saraha, acclaimed as one of the great masters of Indian Buddhism in the late 8th century, said: “Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and the moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places.” This quote stems from his being raised to be a monk, but leaving the monastery, or in some stories being thrown out due to alcohol use or rebellion of some sort, to rove as a robed yogi.
As a yogi traveling aimlessly across India, Saraha learned the art of Tantra, and met his wife, who on a similar path committed to life in isolated regions such as cemetery grounds and in lonely Himalayan temples to pursue their spiritual endeavors together. The couple spent most of their time in Mahamudra meditation to eventually attain mutual Enlightenment! Saraha left behind songs that share of his realization as well as meditation texts and a lineage of custodian teachers, all defining what he considered to be sacred.
Neither vibration (nada) nor point (bindu),
neither sun nor moon-- the sovereign Mind
is in and of itself ever liberated.
Abandon not the straight route,
to meander down the crooked way.
Enlightenment is near....
Like the sovereign Mind, the sacred rivers, the waves that know the shores, the in and out of the breath reminds us of our life, its lessons, and its gifts. It reminds us of the rising of the sun, the cycles of the moon, and the places we pilgrim. The breath reminds us of our impermanence and our connection to that which is permanent. It reminds us of the route to enlightenment, to our liberation. We take it in as we come through the womb into the world, gasping, and we let it go when we leave, surrendered.
I can not think of anything more sacred now since having struggled to find my breath. I could deal with all the other ailments that met me, but I could not make my breath work for me when I could not draw it in. The NOW awareness that the breath provides is like nothing else. In each moment when we focus on our breathing, we can reconnect with ourselves, our spirits, to others, and what is happening around us.
In Yoga, the breath is a direct reflection of the wellness of our being. If I come across a student who is holding their breath because they are worried about achieving a posture, the direction is always for them to back out of the posture to regain the depth of their breath.
Furthermore, physiologically, if the mind wonders, the breath is unsteady. If we are angry, the breath is shallow. Without an awareness of the breath, there is no meditative stability or growth. Our breath is our connection to our prana, or life force. Some even say that if we breathe well, we will live well, and that we are given only so many breaths for this life juncture.
If we don't control the breath, it will control us. "Breathing is the only autonomic function under easy voluntary control and is a quick way to reduce your heart rate and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system." If we control the breath, we control the heart rate. If we control the heart rate, we control the rate and depth of our love, and the same is true for our nervous system. If we can stimulate it, we control the signals transmitted throughout the body, our emotions, and our responses. We control our lives.
Having a regular breath, pranayam, practice has many benefits. With a breath practice, it is said that we can overcome our suffering. I would agree. When we need to calm, or enliven or dispel, we can use a specific breath. Here's one pranayam practice that I share often that works to purify the nadis, or channels carrying air, water, nutrients, and blood throughout the body. Try it. Let me know in the comments if you can feel the balancing effects. And, if you would, like and subscribe to my channel to get more yoga with me.
I could go on and on about the breath now that I know what it felt like to be deficient of it, but I am interested in you and your filter. I'd like to know who you are, reading this, and what you consider to be sacred. What is more, I'd love to know how you address the sacredness that you bring to the table to share. We can label anything sacred, but until we bring it our full attention to honor it, to act upon it, it is just a name with counterpart associations that may or may not work, like female or womb-man. The sacred without works is dead, just like faith, and the oxygen all around that can do nothing for the body without red blood cells to transport it.
I pass the talking stick to you now. It jiggles with its beads and tassels. Its feathers sway at the top of the stick to clear space for your contribution to our circle. The thick carved oak limb grounds your energy in the now and reminds you of the totems of your past.
What say you? Womb are you; what filter informs the sacred in your life? And then I ask, what does sacred mean to you?