Thursday, July 05, 2007

A "What is Enlightenment" Catastrophe

In the latest issue of "What is Enlightenment," Andrew Cohen and Ken talk about enlightenment for women and how they have to get past and give up their sexual (feminine) power in order to become enlightened.

Andrew's approach is a total disaster, replete with an unbelievable reductionist view and total confusion and lack of understanding in the difference between "woman" and "the Feminine," and disappointingly, Ken does not correct him, but merely places what Andrew is saying into an integral context (to his credit, he does this very well).
Andrew totally fails to recognize any understanding that there might be different approaches to enlightenment. Before you protest, he's basically saying that the only approach is the masculine, that a feminine approach doesn't work, and that women have to drop the feminine in order to become enlightened. He does not ask that men drop the masculine to do the same.
He also claims to have been working on breaking through with this approach for 12 years and that he has finally cracked the code. Could that have anything to do with the fact that he's a man? Perhaps not in every case, but in this one, my answer is a definite "yes."
Women have been successfully doing this work for over thirty years. Too bad Andrew's ego wouldn't allow him to work with some of them as a student, instead of doing a spiritual bypasss himself, having his women students do the same, not by integrating the feminine, but by transcending and excluding it. This is like "enlightened" fundamantalism.
I'm talking to a lot of conscious women who are outraged by Andrew's audacity and I share that outrage. What a shame!
See my partner Anyaa McAndrew's blog on the same subject.


Anonymous said...

Lorin Roche has a collection of articles that make very interesting reading. But here is something he offers concerning meditation and spiritual practices that really sustain and support women's development:

(quote) If you talk to women who thrive in meditation, and listen deeply and without judgment, eventually they will tell you what their real practices are, how they secretly customize the meditation practice to fit their bodies and their heart currents. That is why they thrive – they are letting their inner wisdom remake meditation into a practice that is life-affirming.

If you do not know what you are talking about, you should shut up. But unfortunately, the males from the monastic traditions lack the humility to admit, "You know, I don't know a thing about women. You should ask someone else."

We can delight in each other's different essence, for there are differences. There are also differences between types of women. These differences are obliterated by most meditation teaching, and as a result, I have to say after some observation, meditation is slightly harmful to women. This is a tragedy, for I think everyone involved is sincere.

If these differences are honored, and you allow meditation to be a celebration of your individuality, of your existence, then you will find true refuge and repose in meditation. Meditation will be a time you look forward to. You will be able to rest in your essence and be rejuvenated. You will emerge, refreshed and in touch with your deeper self. Meditation can help women, profoundly, to be true to their feminine essence and shine in the world.

You can't do someone else's meditation. It will damage the very circuits you need to experience enlightenment in life and delight in the process of living. (unquote)


(quote) (Meditation in America is taught in such a way that it tends to encourage women to be at war with their inner nature. They get a little bit of serenity at the expense of soul betrayal. A few women do thrive on meditation as it is taught – and in interviews I found out that they secretly customize their meditation to fit themselves, their personality and emotions and body chemistry. These are secrets worth learning. unquote)

The entire essay can be read here.

Many other intriguing articles are listed in the sidebar.

Go feast.

Gary Stamper said...

Thank you for this deepening of the conversation around women's practices. I wish you would have shared who you are, but I am grateful for your contribution. I've visited Roche's website and read the article you've shared, and it is excellent stuff. I recommend others' read it, as well. A lover of the Divine Feminine, I adhere to David Deida's comment about not trying to figure women out or change them, but simply love them.

Anonymous said...

Lorin Roche has a collection essays. In one entitled Two Paths

he suggests some subtle hazards when householders (those whose growth path is through human connection) use practices designed by renunciates -- and Roche notes most meditation practices were developed and taught by renunciates:

Here is what can happen if you are doing a practice that is not the right one for you:

"If you are doing the wrong kind of meditation for your individuality, you will be able to tell in several ways: it will feel like an imposition; you will have the sense that you are going against your own grain; there will be a sense of forcing; you will sense that the little bit of inner peace you are getting is at the expense of cutting yourself off from parts of yourself that you do not like; and you will find yourself becoming dependent on external authorities. What the guru says, or what some guru in the past said, will seem very important. More important than your own still small voice. There are actually a lot of signals saying, "You are on the wrong path." Learning to interpret these signals is an essential part of learning to meditate in a way that is healthy for you."

To use the language of social psychology--using a spiritual practice that is not right for you may cause a shift from internal locus of control to external locus of control. If you get cut off from your own roots, your own life source--you get disoriented and risk giving your power away to an external source of guidance not nearly as wise as your inner voice.

If you got wounded in childhood and are already estranged from your inner life, the risk of this increases.

"Do not expect meditation teachers to be like a doctor, who will try to figure out exactly what treatment, what medication, you need, if any. No, oddly enough, in spite of thousands of years of "tradition," meditation teachers are actually abysmal at knowing which technique to give to which person. So be very, very discerning before imposing any technique on yourself. Question everything. And when you have checked things out, and tested them in your own life, then go forward and enjoy meditation."

(A teacher may have achieved some sort of personal breakthrough, but may not be able to prescribe the right practice to students who have different histories and constitutions.)

"Whatever their name, these renunciates have for thousands of years kept alive the wisdom of meditation, and almost all the teachings on meditation in existence owe a debt of gratitude to them. Also, however, everything we know about meditation is lightly or strongly tainted with attitudes of renunciation that are only appropriate for those who wear robes and live in religious orders. Almost all books on meditation available today are written by people who were inspired in one way or the other by the great monastic traditions of India and other Asian countries. Almost all teachers of meditation are either monks or nuns, were trained by monks or nuns, or were trained by students of monks or nuns. So attitudes of renunciation have come to be synonymous with meditation.

When householders practice meditations designed for renunciates, they inadventently damage the psychic and energetic structures they need to make their way in the material world. Meditation works, and it works on you on a deep level. If you go into meditation with the idea that you have to detach from the world, you may get more than you bargained for - you may find yourself gradually getting dissociated, removed, alienated, and depersonalized. It is always easier to destroy than to create, and detachment means to cut off or separate. It can take years to rebuild connections that you have severed through mistakenly practicing detachment.

In a nutshell, monks and nuns evolve by living a life of detachment, disconnection, and aloofness. They may be very attached to their robes and their spiritual order, but their practice is about renouncing their desire for "worldly things." For them, spirituality is irrevocably tied up with denial.

Non-monks, on the other hand, evolve through working with the material world. Detachment is not the primary attitude to cultivate.

"Rather, the opposite of detachment is indicated: being involved, close, committed, and intimate. For some odd reason, this distinction is not being honored, and the wrong techniques are being taught on a wide scale.

This is discussed further in "Eating Disorders Masquerading as Yogic Food Theory"

Anonymous said...

I am a woman. I practice meditation. I have experienced a rather large "awakening" and lived in that state for a rather long time, long enough to say that I have a pretty good sense of what "enlightenment". Knowing without words. Clarity. Well being. An emergence of self that is at peace and knows what to do and say. Much much more, that goes beyond what might seem believable.

Rather than the disappearance of my feminine qualities, I would say that it emerged, developed, and I became much more of a sexual being. In fact, I would say love and sexuality is central to the experience, and to the energy required for it to have happened. Without it, there is a deadness inside that thwarts enlightenment.

I went to a lecture by a Sufi master several years ago. He made the point that it is men who need to learn to control their sexuality. Where woman are naturally balanced. Perhaps this is where the perception arises, that female sexuality is somehow wild and out of control like that of male sexuality. A misperception held by unknowing men.

I would suggest anyone learn how to feel and balance sexuality, love, expression, and knowing as a path toward enlightenment, if any of those feelings are blocked or out of control, that is where the work begins.

Marc Beneteau - said...

Great observations. As to whether Cohen has "cracked the code" or not, read this and judge for yourself:
All the best,