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Breathe Wisdom
What Does Your Power Look Like?

with Jacqueline Kramer

I have been thinking about the call of many visionaries, including the Dali Lama, for women to take a leadership role in healing this Earth. In order for this to happen women first need to become empowered. I thought I was going to Thailand to receive an award for my work teaching Buddhism to mothers but it turns out I was enrolled in a tutorial on feminine empowerment.

At the awards ceremony I had the opportunity to be surrounded by empowered women from all over the world. Women like the Venerable Bhiksuni Dr. Myung Korean from Korea, who is in charge of the Bhiksuni order in Korea and head of a university which moulds and shapes young Buddhist women. She was like a mountain. Her power was solid, quiet and rock hard. I can't imagine her doing anything she didn't choose to do or blaming anyone for her challenges. Then there was the Taiwanese Master Bhiksuni Sik Wei Chun. She was like water. Her power was fluid, soft and flowing. She looked like Kuan Yin. She was in charge of many Bhiksuni in a country which honours the feminine face of Buddhism. Taiwan has more female clergy than male clergy, yet in Asian fashion, the men still hold the power. She advocated for working with the men in power, bringing them along in a gentle, kind way. Although her way was quieter and more traditional than the way of the Korean Bhiksuni she was just as powerful and equally as effective. There's no doubt about it, she gets the job done. Then there was the take no prisoners fiery style of the meditation teacher from Germany. She hailed from a Tibetan lineage where power and results are respected. She advocated for just doing it, not asking permission, just taking the power. She said the men would respect us and get on board once we showed results.  

Returning to the United States my tutorial in feminine power continued. I went to see Tsultrim Allione, the meditation teacher who brought the Chod practice of Machig Lapdron to the West. Machig Lapdron was a Tibetan woman teacher who gained the respect of those around her by her profound spiritual accomplishments. Tsultrim Allione's power is like the wind. Her presence is a light breeze but when she guides a meditation the power of the wind moves through your consciousness changing and rearranging everything. Wind is invisible and quiet, you know it is there by the rustling of the trees as it moves through.

When I shared these thoughts regarding different styles of feminine power with one of my meditation teachers he asked me, "What does your power look like?" The question took me by surprise. Like most women I had been trained to be unempowered. Through many years of meditation and spiritual practice I have learned to take responsibility for my life. Taking full responsibility for my choices has empowered me to make different choices when need be, which is much more powerful than waiting for people or circumstances to change. I was ready to meet my unique expression of power. My power was not like earth, air, fire or water. What was left? Out of my unconscious came an answer. "My power is like a cat. I wait, listen with my whole body and then when the time is right I pounce." The more I thought about this answer the more true it felt.

We are at a time in human history when it is imperative that women awake into their full feminine power. For centuries feminine power has been squelched, stepped upon, ridiculed and forced into hiding. We succumbed, partly for safety and partly for comfort, to rules made by spiritually immature men and women. Our power went underground. We learned to express ourselves passive aggressively, seductively and manipulatively. We learned to blame rather than take responsibility and expect others to read our minds rather than speak up. An unempowered woman is full of anger. That poison has entered the bloodstream of cultures throughout the world as the unempowered mother nurses the future generation on that deadly milk.

I can understand why many women would rather avoid becoming empowered. Moving from disempowerment to empowerment can be quite uncomfortable, even painful. When laying blame for our unhappiness on circumstances and people; our husband, our parents, society, the government, we hide behind a veil of niceness. We get to feel that we are nice and bad things just seem to happen to us. We learn to be nice at the expense of being kind, creating a pleasant veneer. When we become empowered that veneer is ripped away and we face ours fears and addictions without excuses. When we strip ourselves of blaming everyone - even ourselves for our circumstances - we walk naked back into the garden of Eden. Bare naked, we unwrap the gifts of our own unique form of feminine power.

What does your power look like? This is a question well worth sitting in, walking around in, sleeping and dreaming in. The best thing we can do for our world and family is to become intimate with our own power. It is from here that the changes necessary to rebalance the feminine and masculine can unfold. From a place of empowerment, women all over the world can develop the ability to protect their families and this planet. Mothers are fierce protectors of children and family. All children are our children and all sentient beings are our family. We need to apply our empowered maternal fierceness to the protection of the Earth and all its precious beings. I invite you to explore your unique expression of power, heal what needs to be healed, take full responsibility for your life as it is now, find your power and take your place alongside the pantheon of the Goddesses.

Jacqueline Kramer is the director of the Hearth Foundation. She has been studying and practicing Theravadin Buddhism for 30 years, is a Religious Science Practitioner and student of the world's wisdom traditions. Her root teacher was Annagarika Dhamma Dinna who taught in the Sri Lankan tradition. She also studied with Ven. Ananda Maitreya, Achan Sobin Namto, Ven. Punnaji Mahathera and Ayya Khema.

Her work with mothering and homemaking came out of an insight she had one afternoon while out in her back yard. As she looked into the eyes of the neighbour's cow she had an experience of unity and love for the planet and the desire to help protect the planet for her newborn daughter and all other beings. She realized this was her life's purpose. Jacqueline writes a weekly newsletter, books on mothering as a spiritual practice, and has created online lay Buddhist practice classes which she offers, as is the Buddhist tradition, at no cost. She is a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister and friend.

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