Ramaswami taught asana and pranayama can be used by anyone from any religion to prepare for their personal meditation practice. When it came to what to do during meditation, he employed several methods: silence, using a mantra, chanting, attending to an image or focusing on the breath. About choosing the belief system behind the practice and which prayers or mantra would help us reach our intended goal, he said,
“There is plenty of choice, so many philosophies.”
Our purpose for meditating does not have necessarily have to be informed by the philosophies that originated in the Indian sub-continent – Samkya, Yoga, Vendata, Buddhism, Jainism, and Tantra. Meditation is available for those within the Abrahamic traditions.
Still when it comes to a meditation practice, my question is “what is appropriate for me?”
In yogic terms, I am a householder which means someone who is NOT an ascetic monk.
- I am not MALE.
- I have not voluntarily or INvoluntarily committed to monastic life.
- I have children and a husband.
- I am not supported by donations or by a charity.
As a 21st householder, my lifestyle is quite different from the monastic life nearly all meditation practices were developed for.
Sri T. Krishnamacharya recommended keeping Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as a guidepost to navigate the various Yogic teachings because Patanjali’s writings were the earliest about traditional Yoga. Patanjali’s treatises addressed mental health (Yoga), grammar (Pada) and medicine (Cikitsa). However, sutra II-40 says,
“The yogi who practices cleanliness develops a dislike for his own body and avoids physical contact with others.”
Most philosophies, including Buddhism, that have drawn on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, use sutras like this as the reason why meditation requires mentally leaving the body and/or torturing it while alive.
For women who bleed monthly, give birth, attend to sick and dirty children, clean the household toilets, and must be available to have physical contact with men in order to perserve the human race, this “philosophy” has been not been very supportive. Women’s bodies are viewed as filthy, vessels of evil and, because they do the dirty work, women are placed spiritually below men. Judaism, Christianity and Islam also cite women as the basis of sin and humanity’s downfall.
Where should I draw my meditation inspiration? Do I want to base my meditation practice on philosophies which suppress my female identity? Can we really expect men to have any clue about female wisdom?
One idea is that perhaps it is up to women to create meditation practices that work for them by calling on more supportive philosophies and wisdom.
Within Yoga, there is a lineage my teacher, Ramaswami, did not explore – Tantric Yoga.
In its earliest mention, The Rig Veda refers to a technology of weaving called Tantra. One of Tantra’s sanskrit meanings is “a loom, the warp”. Weaving is an ancient women’s art. The ability to spin magic, to create, to weave a Universe echoes across ancient cultures.
– Egypt’s Neith wove all existence and the world together on her loom.
– The Navajo’s Great Spider Woman was the weaver of the Universe.
– Greek Goddess Artemis spun the thread of life while the Moirai, three crones, spun destiny.
– Scandinavia’s Three Norns spun life, destiny and fate at the roots of Yggdrasill, the cosmic world tree.
– The Inca Goddess of Fertility taught women to weave.
– In Islam, the weaver’s loom symbolizes the structure and motion of the Universe.
From ancient times, the moon, spiders, the Fates, the spindle and distaff were all related to women, creating and the chain of cause and effect. In other words, women’s creative ideas were woven together into patterns that changed destinies. Perhaps a weaving philosophy is relevant for women?
The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is a yogic text prescribing 112 enlightenment techniques based on everyday life experiences, not severing our mind from the body. The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra helps inform and philosophically infuses Meditation Secrets for Women.
The 2014 Meditation Secrets for Women course begins mid-March. The participants literally circle the Earth. Space is still available if someone is interested. This will be the second year I participate in these secrets which really are only secrets to men.
Women employing these practices will find them as natural as hearing the baby cry while in a deep sleep, as joyful as singing into a hairbrush and dancing with girlfriends, and as invigorating as swimming in the Pacific Ocean before warming our bodies on the hot sand.
Meditation Secrets for Women simply provides the space for a bunch of women to set up our looms and weave our destinies while we talk about our experiences, children, food, sleep, husbands, lovers, work, ideas, creativity and other, everyday matters.