Unit VII. Feminine Sexuality

  1. Biological Cycles
  2. Maternity
  3. Sexual Intercourse
  4. Abortion
  5. The Pro-Choice Debate
  6. Sexual Abuse and Rape
  7. Giving Birth
  8. Creativity and Sexuality
  9. Feminine Individuation
Materials needed: Chart paper, journal, (red fabric, scissors, thread, bell, Jizo figure or picture for abortion mourning), drawing materials.

Books needed:

Addiction to Perfection

Practices and Exercises:

Abortion mourning
Goddess imagery

Men and women are not as different as you might think, even in their physiology. According to biological research (DeLora & Warren, 1977, 136-7) the basic human being is female, contrary to what the Bible would have us believe. Until about 7 weeks of prenatal life, the embryo is undifferentiated in term of its sex. With an XX chromosome pattern, the fetus produces no androgen (male hormone) and develops into a female. The appropriate rudimentary ducts form female reproductive organs. On the other hand, at this time, the Y chromosome of an XY pair causes development of male gonads which release an androgen that produces male genitalia and reproductive organs. So it takes an extra hormone to override the tendency toward femaleness. Left alone, the embryo will become female.

In addition to this, we find that both male and female adults have rhythmic monthly cycles that are capable of influencing feelings, moods and work performances. And both sets of these hormonal cycles, for that is what they are, have similar peaks and valleys although the female ones are more pronounced. Both sets are traceable to the influence of estrogen in both females and males.

Biological Cycles

Female Hormone Cycles
Figure II-6 shows the female cycles. There are four primary hormones: estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Follicles produce the egg or ovum. And the hormones interact with each other. Some inhibit others and some facilitate others. Beginning at day one of the cycle, the menstrual phase which is the beginning of the menstrual flow, both estrogen and progesterone are low. FSH is released by the pituitary gland to stimulate the ovaries to ripen follicles. These follicles then release estrogen which renews the growth of the uterine lining in preparation for pregnancy.

The proliferative phase runs from day 6 to 13 during which time the endometrium (lining of the uterus) is reconstructed, the follicle cells multiply and release more estrogen. Production of FSH peaks. The transition phase from day 10-13 brings on a peak of estrogen which causes the pituitary gland in the brain to decrease production of FSH and begin releasing LH until it dominates the system. One of the follicles then has a growth spurt and 3-4 days later its ovum matures. The others normally regress and die unless there are going to be twins. The endometrium ripens.

On day 14, ovulation, a spurt of LH and a drop in estrogen cause the follicle to rupture and the ovum is released. It will survive 24-36 hours only unless it is fertilized. The secretory phase now begins in preparation for pregnancy. The follicle that released the ovum, which is now called the corpus luteum, begins to produce progesterone that will prepare the endometrium to support pregnancy. If the woman becomes pregnant, the corpus luteum lives for 12 weeks producing progesterone. If no pregnancy occurs, it disintegrates. Then, days 26-28 have the lowest levels of estrogen and progesterone which cause the endometrium to slough off and give the signal for release of FSH to begin the cycle again. Variations in this cycle may occur in the preovulatory phase such that the cycle may normally run anywhere from 21 to 35 days. Menstrual flow usually continues for 2-7 days.

The male cycle is less dramatic but is just as dependable. Exley & Corker (1966) found an 8-10 day cycle of estrogen and other steroids in a group of men ages 24-50 years. The researchers say that cycles in both males and females are under the control of LH and LSH. This would give us three peaks in each chart with there being less variation in the male pattern. This is easy to see in Figure II-6 if you consider the day 6 position as a smaller peak.

You may be interested to know that a study of male bus drivers in Japan substantiated these cycles so dramatically that the company gave a few days off each month to the male drivers during their peak stress days in order to avoid accidents.

There is one other interesting sex similarity that is also related to hormones. Both the sex drive and the level of aggression (Persky, et al, 1971) in both men and women are directly related to the amount of testosterone in the system. Both men and women have testosterone. Men just produce more, as women produce more estrogen than men do. This is a fascinating statistic that could explain a great deal of curious human behavior including territoriality, jealousy and possessiveness in adults of mating age. Note also the aggressiveness that tends to follow sexual frustration in both sexes. It is as if the sex drive is easily transmuted into aggression when it is thwarted or the completion of mating is threatened.

Exercise: Cycles

Make a chart on which you can track your own cycle for a month. Include the phases of the moon as well as the mood swings you may have. You might also chart the pattern of your sexual desire. If you are not the moody type, just notice when you may feel irritable vs happy or energized vs tired, etc. If you do not get any clear patterns, carry the experiment into another month. You will get the best results if you make some notes every day or several times a day. At the very least, before bedtime jot down some observations about what kind of day it was and an estimate of how stressful it seemed to be. If you are female, note the dates of your period and whether or not you experienced premenstrual tension and/or cramps.

At the end of the month, see if there are any patterns and whether or not there was any evidence of triadic peaks.

If you are interested in studying your biorhythms in more depth, there is a book by Gay Gaer Luce called Biological Rhythms in Human and Animal Physiology. You can track your physical, intellectual and sensitivity curves to find your critical days. Some sources of more information on this topic on the Internet are:

  1. Biorhythms (http://www.ellisweb.com/gazette/editoria/biorhyth/biorhyth.html)
  2. Bio-rhythms - Cycles of Life (http://www.decoweb.com/decbiodc.htm) which has a good description of biorhythms.
  3. Biorhythms (a different organization than # 1) (http://intern.telalink.net/%7Etempledf/bio/biorhythm.html) will do a chart for you and also chart relationships.
  4. Biorhythms 6.02c (http://www.ndirect.co.uk/%7Eandrew.regan/bio/bio.htm) has a program just for Macs.
Other homepages are:
  1. Life Cycles (http://www.compassnet.com/%7Estiffler/)
  2. Harmon's Astrology - Biorhythms Interpretations (http://www.harmart.com/astrology/bio/index.html)
  3. Bio-Web (http://gulf.uvic.ca/%7Egkacy/bioinfo.html).


While the first chakra can be thought of as dealing with the drive for self-preservation in some sense, the second chakra relates, in part, to species-preservation. This is one of the reasons it is associated with sex, and maternity in particular. There is no way we can avoid the fact that our bodies are exquisitely programmed to produce offspring. Therefore the sex drive is probably the most intense drive there is after that of self-preservation. Maslow (1968, chs 3-4) put forth the hypothesis many years ago now that there is a hierarchy of drives and motivations. The most dominant, such as safety or survival, take precedence and the lesser ones just do not manifest until the dominant ones are satisfied. It is pretty obvious that sex has survival value for the species, so we might expect it to be pretty powerful.

It is too bad that we have no organized means of educating people in our culture about how to select a compatible mate, nor how to raise children for optimal development. In fact, there is some evidence that we generally do not care much about children in our society. Millions of children in the United States grow up without love and proper attention to their most basic needs. Nor is this phenomenon limited to the lower classes or the ranks of poverty. Neglect knows no such barriers, nor does child abuse. And we are surprised that we have a problem with drug abuse and crime.

Up until fairly recently the brunt of responsibililty for the raising of children fell on the mother due to the conventional division of labor. Now that women are going to work or returning to work soon after giving birth, the rearing of children is increasingly uncertain and inconsistent due to variations in value systems and child-rearing practices among the numerous care-givers who take the mother's place. This is not meant to lay blame on anyone, but to point out a rather obvious fact about the importance of consistent nurturance and support during the formative years. The capacity of a woman to give birth does not guarantee any level of expertise in child-rearing nor any security for the emerging identity of the child. Those basic requirements for promoting normal development depend upon education these days, not instinct. Whereas an indigenous tribe somewhere in Africa most likely has built into its mores provisions for child care by everyone in the community, modern societies are experiencing an escalating breakdown in family systems and the de-valuing of children by the larger community. How many of us truly feel that we were adequately nurtured in our childhood years? If we had been, psychotherapists would be out of business, committed relationships (especially marriage) would be thriving and trust of others would be the norm. Anyone can observe that these things are not happening.


Everyone needs nurturance, loving attention to their needs and well-being. In spite of the fact that therapists and teachers tell us that we must learn how to parent ourselves, who is not attracted to someone who lets us know that they think we are great just like we are? Who does not enjoy a meal cooked for one by a loving person who has chosen one's favorite foods? Who does not need a warm embrace when something has gone wrong or the encouragement to take risks and try something new? Nurturance is tender loving care. We all need it to survive and to optimize everything we do. Babies who do not get it fail to thrive and may even die. This is not just a need for attention, though attention is one of the offshoots of nurturance. It is essential to the health of all mammals as psychological research has abundantly shown us (cf Prescott, 1975). An insatiable need for attention even to the point of wanting negative attention is a signal that nurturance is not being given.

Nurturance takes time. In our frenetic society where we are constantly harrassed by alarm clocks, schedules, pressures to achieve or produce, and evaluations, there is less and less time to care for others, let alone oneself. It is obvious that our values need some serious attention.

In the "good ole days" when parental duties were assigned on the basis of gender, recognition was given to the fact that a pregnant woman and women with small children are especially vulnerable and need protection and security in order to nurture and nurse their offspring, at least for the first two years of a child's life. So men were given the tasks of bringing home the bacon and protecting the homefront. Their superior strength and size fitted them very well for these tasks. Women, then, because they were confined to the home by the necessity to nurse their babies took on the household chores which could be done while the children were young and required constant supervision. In ideal social situations, there would be a group of women doing this together.

Before you protest about women's rights, let me say that I am not advocating a return to the "good ole days," nor is this about women's rights unless it is the right to be protected during child-bearing and child-rearing. The essential factors are consistency and dependability. We have to go forward, not backward. And it is not necessarily men, per se, who should do the protecting. A small community could do it or a group of women who were willing to embrace it as a major commitment.

Exercise: Mothering

Make a list of all the characteristics you associate with mother. You might want to separate the positive and negative ones into tow lists. Then put your paper down and get comfortable. Relax and allow your memory to bring up scenes from your childhood that included your mother or major caretaker - the person who mothered you. Treat this like a guided imagery and allow the images to do whatever they wish. Visualize one scene in which your mother is correcting your behavior, one in which she is nurturing you, one in which she is feeding you and one in which she is playing with you. Then let whatever wants to surface. When you are finished, write down all you can remember in your journal. Put it aside for a few days. When you come back to it, reread it and mark any themes that may stand out or any sections that are painful or unpleasant. Also those that are happy.

Write a paper on your conception of mothering based on your own experience with your mother. If you are also a mother yourself, you may add a section on how the issue looks to you from that perspective. In that case, think about how you have repeated your own mother's patterns with your children, if you have, and how you have chosen to avoid them. If you are a father, compare your mother's and wife's parenting styles. Now look at your lists again and consider how much of what you have written down comes from your own experience and how much is social stereotyping. What would you like to change, if anything?


Contraception is used in order to take responsibility for procreation. With the world's population completely out of control and our very survival as a species in grave doubt due to environmental destruction, we human beings can no longer afford to give birth indiscriminately. Nor can we, as a society, afford to not insist that all children who are born have the right to the love, nurturance and support that will allow them to grow up into mentally healthy and stable adults. We already know how to control birth and what child-rearing practices produce healthy children. What is preventing their application can only be greed and the ego's need for power and self-enhancement. Education is the most likely key to remediation.

On an individual level, at least, all of you who are intelligent enough to be reading these words, are also bright enough to take responsibility for the results of your sexual activities. And, where the entire lifetime of your child is at stake, there is no excuse for carelessness. If just every intelligent adult who conceived was willing to take responsibility for twenty years of nurturing and training the child, we could raise a corps of compassionate, effective leaders in a single generation.

Sexual Intercourse

Another thing that needs to be addressed here is the function of sexual intercourse. We are well beyond thinking of sex as intended solely for procreation. It must be clear to anyone who has had a truly commited love relationship that sexual intercourse enhances psychological and physical health. In the context of loving intimacy sex brings joy, even rapture on occasion. It enhances an individual's every activity with a sense of well-being. It replaces anger and frustration with the high energy of creativity. A person who is in love glows! There are probably hormones in the secretions produced during intercourse that nourish people. If there is not already research on this topic, it would certainly be easy to do.

Taking this a step further, there are levels beyond the orgasms of sexual intercourse. The concept of maithuna in Yoga refers to what might be called a spiritual orgasm, a shimmering, light-enhanced state of rapture that may be achieved at higher levels of the spiritual journey. Ones partner, in this case, is not another human being, but the Divine One Itself, the Dream Lover if you like.

Incidently, Tantra Yoga in both Hinduism and Buddhism refers to the spiritualization of energy and is not intended for the enhancement of sexual pleasure. In fact, where tantric practices do involve male/female copulation, the emphasis is on not achieving orgasm but on sublimating the energy toward higher states of consciousness. These practices should be attempted only with the help of a knowledgeable teacher since the energies are very powerful and there is much that could go awry. Popular advertising for workshops or materials using the term tantra or tantra yoga should be considered suspect because it is highly unlikely that a self-appointed teacher has the necessary training and expertise to supervise the practices. An authentic teacher would neither give such a workshop nor advertise. Tantra Yoga should only be taught within a much larger context of humility, renunciation and commitment to the spiritual path. It is obvious, then, that a weekend workship could not possibly provide adequate time for the necessary preparation. Years of self-purification are usually prerequisite. So one does not do Tantra Yoga to enhance sexual intercourse although the reverse may be true. In the right context of a loving and safe relationship, sexual intercourse can bring a person to new heights of intimacy, bondedness and ecstasy.


Since three of the prerequisites for responsible child-bearing and child-rearing are love, security and trust, it goes without saying that abortion should be chosen by both parents in a context of concern for the best welfare of all concerned including the child. Prevention of the need for such a decision is the first line of defense. However, if a decision is finally made to abort, it is important to deal with the emotional overtones of what is essentially a bereavement.

It is important to recognize that the soul of the child which is immortal is necessarily involved in the outcome. And, since life in a body is simply one stage in the soul's journey, there may well have been a contract made between the souls of the parents and the child before any were even born. If this is indeed the case, there is a three-way relationship already in place. Therefore, the child should be consulted during the decision-making process. This can be accomplished through meditation, twilight imaging or dream analysis.

Then both parents need to engage the rituals of mourning in order to release the bonds that have already been formed. The responsibility of each should be acknowledged, forgiveness given and guilt released. Mourning is required in order to let go of the child and any attachments that may have been incurred.

Exercise: Abortion Mourning

"A Ceremony for Aborted and Miscarried Children" by Melody Ermachild Chavis can be found in the Turning Wheel, Journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Summer, 1990, 28-30. Following is a synopsis of the ritual offered in that publication for the benefit of anyone who must release a child whether it is due to a spontaneous miscarriage or a decision to abort:

A doctor in the group being reported in the article says she counsels women who are considering abortion to ".. go home and meditate and to ask the permission of the baby to send it away again. She has noticed, in the years since she started doing this, a high rate of spontaneous abortion among the women who asked permission of their children." (p. 29)

The Ritual. Jizo is a Japanese Buddhist deity who protects travelers, including those who are making the transition into and out of life. As such, he cares for the souls of miscarried and aborted babies. His icon is that of a simple monk.

The woman serving as a Buddhist priestess in this article has put together an altar with statues of Jizo. You could make one, draw one or substitute something representative. If you make one, Jizo has a round baby face and always holds a ball.

Gather red fabric, scissors, needles and thread. In Japan, women sew red aprons or bibs for Jizo and dress the Jizo figures with them. Each apron commemorates the death of one child and it may have a pocket where a piece of paper with the baby's name is placed. In the article, a group of women who have lost babies gather in a sewing circle and talk about the children for whom they are stitching. They express their feelings and emotions. If you have no group, you might write these thoughts and feelings down in your journal. No one explains or gives reasons for decisions. The facts are simply told and received without judgment. They feel in their bodies what they know. The presence(s) of the lost child(ren) may join you as well as those who were not lost. Grief is allowed to emerge and be experienced.

When the apron(s) are completed, a bow is made before the altar and it is consecrated by ringing a bell. A prayer is given requesting safe passage for the souls of the child(ren). Then the apron(s) are put on the Jizo figure and incense sprinkled on an urn burning at his feet. Goodbye is then said to the child. If there is more than one person, the others witness as each one approaches the altar. Another bow and bell-ringing closes the ceremony.

You could, of course, create your own ritual. In fact, this might be the most desirable way to handle the mourning. Or a group of women might get together and create a new ritual. There is no one right way to mourn. The important thing is to acknowledge and bless the passage while releasing the soul of the child. We need to keep in mind that children are not ours but are only loaned to us for a while, so we can teach them what they need to know to live in a body on earth. Having children is a sacred trust, and they should always be treated with respect and love because, like all of us, they carry the Divine spark.

If it is needed in the process of going through the decision-making process about whether to have an abortion, Stephen Levine's book Healing into Life and Death has several beautiful meditations: "A Forgiveness Meditation" on pages 98-101, "A Grief Meditation" on pages 118-121 and "Opening-the-Heart-of-the-Womb Meditation" on pages 151-157. The latter is especially appropriate for either abortion or rape. This is a book you may want to purchase. "A Guided Meditation on Letting Go" can be found on pages 195-6 in a companion volume also by Stephen Levine called Who dies? This book also contains a "Self-forgiveness Meditation" on pages 81-83, a "Guided Meditation on Grief" on pages 92-94 and a chapter on Dying Children, pages 100-113.

The Pro-choice Debate

Chavis (1990) has this to say of choice: There was an editorial in the "Sunday Forum" of the Grand Junction, Colorado Daily Sentinel, Sunday, March 19, 1989 in which the author, Elle A. Shneour of the Los Angeles Times News Service pointed out that the pro-life issue is a non-issue because there is never a time when life stops. A woman is born with her full complement of eggs, most of which die without ever erupting or being fertilized. Nor do most sperm live. That life is a continuum was demonstrated by Louis Pasteur in the last century. Life does not begin with a fertilized egg because it was already there in the egg and the sperm before fertilization. And, before that, it was in the parents.

Notice that, aside from all of these arguments, pro-choice and pro-life are not opposed positions but one follows the other. A choice must first be available in order for one to take a pro-life stance. Taking that position means that a choice has already been made. So there is a sense in which the choice itself precedes and allows a pro-life decision. To deny women choice would mean to deny both the right to abort and the right to preserve the child's life.

Sexual Abuse and Rape

Both sexual abuse and rape involve contact that is against the will of the victim. Most of the perpetrators are men though not all. Women have been known to abuse young children and, in rare cases, to rape males. Incest is particularly difficult to understand. It goes without saying that the fact that men are generally stronger means that they are usually capable of forcing a woman to comply against her will. It may not be true that the basic motive is sexual, however.

Rape is generally considered a crime of violence, not of sex. And there is some interesting documentation of rape during the Civil war that suggests that rape of a man's slave women served to put their husbands on notice that they were essentially helpless to resist their slavery. This may be true as well in cases of wartime rapes. This is another opportunity to observe the close relationship between male sexuality and aggression.

One can only speculate about the reasons behind incest. It is clear that the main reason it is allowed to persist is that the perpetrator frightens his victim into silence, so the crime goes unknown and unpunished often for many years before it is discovered. There are those who maintain that the mother is partly to blame since she is usually aware of the attacks on her children but does nothing. One wonders if part of the motive is her unwillingness to have intercourse with the father. In cases, where the perpetrator is an outsider or "friend of the family," as often happens, the parents may or may not know about it. These offenders may be psychologically immature or deviant in that they are unable to respond to appropriate adult partners. We are learning that many of the incest victims, when they are women, grow up to have eating disorders. The body language in this connection is very revealing.

Up until very recently, rape was rarely punished because courts tended to blame the victim for being in a place where it could occur, for inviting it, for not resisting it (even when her life was threatened) or because she was known to have had other sexual experience (usually unrelated to the attack). Date rape occurs when a couple is petting and the contact gets out of hand. Fault is more difficult to prove in these cases. However, the norm has been to give the man the benefit of the doubt, perhaps because his drive is believed to be more intense and women who flirt seem to be asking for it. That neither of these rationales is true has only been discovered in the last few decades. There is no reason why men cannot take responsibility for their sexual behavior even when aroused. But until law enforcement catches up with the twentieth century there is liable to be little incentive for them to do so.

A woman who is being attacked should assess the likelihood of help if she screams and tries to defend herself. If the event occurs in a large city, it may be more effective to yell "fire" since people who live in cities are often reluctant to intervene in a crime especially if there is a weapon being used. Whistles and various deterrent preparations that may be sprayed on an attacker can be carried if a woman goes into a questionable area. There are electronic devices that will open the car door from a distance and turn on the light inside the car if a woman is traveling alone at night. On the street and in subways, women should walk briskly to their destinations and behave as if they are self-confident and know where they are going. Posture and movement that convey such messages can be a deterrent. Staying in a crowd, when that is possible, also reduces the dangers of attack. Prevention is preferable in all cases. It is a shame that women are not safe outside at night, but unfortunately it is true in many places.

A woman who has been raped should go directly to a hospital and ask for an examination. The reason for this is that if she goes home and bathes the evidence is destroyed. Analysis of DNA in sperm can often eliminate suspects and narrow down the range of possible perpetrators. The woman should also insist that a female advocate be present with her at the hospital to support her and because she may need an objective witness whenever the attack is reported to the police. It should definitely be reported immediately and charges made when the perpetrator is apprehended even though it may be embarrassing. We need to convey a clear message to rapists that such behavior is not going to be tolerated. Every woman should find out if her hometown and the place where she works has a Women's Center and what the procedure is in case of attack. Usually someone from the Center will come to the hospital to act as an advocate. This should be requested even if family members are also present since the advocate has been trained to deal with the authorities and knows how to get valuable information at the scene.

Exercise: Self-protection

Locate your nearest Women's Resource Center and visit the office. Ask for information about spousal abuse, battering, child abuse and rape. Make a list of questions before you go to get the interview started. Find out how to protect yourself and your family against attacks from deviants who may be in the community. Do not think that because you live in the country or in rural areas that you are necessarily safe or immune. Some of the highest rates of domestic violence and rape occur in rural areas. It would be a good idea to also review your home security system to protect your family from intruders. Find out if there is a prison near you and what kind of security is employed there. Get the statistics on escapees.

If you are able and interested, you might want to consider volunteering for the local Women's Center and/or to take some training in crisis intervention. Such organizations can always use help and often welcome new members on their Boards of Directors.

Giving Birth

Things have changed immensely since I gave birth some 35 years ago, so I have not experienced either natural childbirth or the effects of combining Yoga with prenatal instruction. Therefore, my comments will be brief. However, I did want to call attention to both of these options.

Natural childbirth began with Grantly Dick-Read, in the late fifties, I believe. His book, Childbirth Without Fear 1987, revolutionized our thinking about childbirth ever since modern women gave over their authority on the matter to male physicians. Joseph Chilton Pearce in Magical Child (1989, chapters 1-7) reminds us of this and brilliantly documents the effects on children, mothers and their ability to bond. As this information filters down into our society, childbirth practices are gradually changing back to a more normal procedure that often involves fathers. Fathers may now coach their wives and both may receive prenatal instruction to enable natural deliveries.

Pregnancy Yoga is more recent. It began with Geeta Iyengar in India. Geeta is the daughter of the world-renowed B.K.F. Iyengar whose followers have been responsible for the acceptance and proliferation of Hatha Yoga classes in the United States. To give you a feel for how recent the idea of pregnant women taking Yoga classes is, consider that it has not been more than ten years since I asked the head librarian at the college where I taught to order Geeta's (1983) book, Yoga: A Gem for Women which has sections on Yoga for pregnant women discreetly tucked away in several different chapters (cf. pp. 49-50, 80-81, 86, 91-2, 234-50 for examples). There are asanas that are especially recommended for pregnancy, and, for each of these asanas there are separate sections on pregnancy. The librarian raised his eyebrows and looked at me as if I had lost my mind. "You can't be serious," he said. I assured him I was, but the book was never ordered. I still think this book would be the place to start if you are pregnant and considering how best to condition your body. No doubt there are now local teachers who can also assist you. If not, you might write to the Yoga Journal and ask for a referral.

Tracy McCafferty describes her experience with Pregnancy Yoga in "Labor of Love" in the Yoga Journal, February, 1997, pp. 84-92. You can see from this how Yoga can help to prepare the body for the birth as well as to make the pregnancy more comfortable for the mother.

Creativity and Sexuality

You may not have thought of it this way, but giving birth is the ultimate creative act. For most of human history, men have been in awe of women's power to give birth. In fact, it has only been comparatively recently that humans knew anything about the male role in procreation. The creative power that was attributed to women historically is reflected in the goddesses that were worshiped in the past before patriarchy which, incidently, is only about 4000 years old, a mere instant in human history. In India, all women are supposed to be revered as incarnations of Divine Mother. At least, that is what the Hindu religion teaches.

Maternity or the nurturance of children is also a creative act that receives less fanfare and may go unrewarded except for the inherent joy of having children. It has been said that family life is the most difficult spiritual practice because we get our lessons every day. Children (to say nothing of spouses) are great teachers - of humility, selfless service, tolerance, renunciation, ego denial, patience, truth, compassion and unconditional love. All of these are attributes that we are trying to develop on the spiritual path. You would discover the same lessons being learned in any monastery or ashram. So, if you are a parent and feel that you are tied down and unable to work on yourself spiritually because you have young children, perhaps you should reconsider the opportunities you have for growth right where you are planted. Our work is always right in front of us if it can only be seen and accepted.

We have already met the deep feminine in Unit 2. There are many manifestations of the Divine Feminine in all of the eastern religious traditions. Hinduism is especially prolific in producing goddesses. The Hindu deities are not worshipped as idols but are, rather, reminders of the creative manifestations of the Divine One. In Hinduism, the masculine deities represent the unmanifest energy of creation, probably because the male role is not directly observable in human procreation. The feminine deities represent the manifest creation which is all of the universe and its incalculable numbers of forms and objects. Some of the 108 names of Divine Mother include: Durga who is a warrioress with eight arms holding weapons that are useful on the spiritual path. She is usually mounted on a tiger. Kali is the image of destruction of obstacles and she wears a necklace of skulls. Saraswati is the goddess of the arts and speech, Laksmi is the deity of abundance and Shakti is the source of creative energy, to name a few. All of these deities represent aspects of the Ultimate Reality or God, if you like. Tara is the Buddhist Divine Mother and her counterpart in China is called Kwan Yin. Tara and Kwan Yin are called bodhisattvas of compassion. A bodhisattva is one who has achieved enlightenment but who agrees to come back to earth to help others until everyone is enlightened.

The reason for so many deities is that everyone is different and has different needs. The statues and pictures of these deities are used in mantra chanting and meditation as a way of concentrating and quieting the mind. It is extremely difficult for the human mind to imagine a formless god, so the images stand in until the seeker is sufficiently mature in his/her spiritual development to do without them. Statues and pictures of Jesus on the cross or other symbols in western religions are used in exactly the same way. No one is ever supposed to think that the statue or picture of the deity is the real thing. But, of course, human nature being what it is, some people probably do. However, that is the case in Christianity and Judaism as well. The goal of eastern traditions is to come to identify oneself with the Divine One. It looks out of your face and out of mine. So the real face of God is your neighbor's.

Exercise: Goddess Imagery

Select a time when you are meditating and add this exercise to the end of it when you are relaxed and your mind is quiet.

Make a prayer for a symbol of your personal goddess. What you are looking for is something that will represent to you the feminine side of the Divine One. It may come as an image, an abstract symbol, an angel, a voice, light or whatever your Higher Self chooses to offer you. However, it needs to be in a form that you can use in your meditations and in seeking a sacred model of what it means to be female. So hope for something rather concrete. Remember that this will not be an image to worship but something to remind you of the loving nurturance and grace of the Divine One.

After you have offered your sincere prayer, sit and wait patiently until something is revealed to you. If nothing comes, try lying down and relaxing more deeply as in the twilight imaging (Appendix A) you have done before. Keep in mind that this is something that cannot be forced. If you try too hard, nothing will happen. You need to be relaxed and patient to allow the intuitive mind to surface. Symbols do not come from the intellect but from the intuition, so the chatty intellect must be subdued.

When you have received your symbol, place some representation of it on your altar and use it as a focus of reflection and meditation in your practice.

Feminine Individuation

Individuation means to come into our wholeness, to know who we are. It can be a long and arduous journey to separate psychologically from our parents and also from the social milieu in which we are embedded. As long as we are enslaved by a need for the approval of others, there is no individuation. If we are dependent upon another to meet our needs, there is no individuation. If we cannot discriminate between our personality aspects and the real Self, there is no individuation. The human being is a complex animal who develops an ego, a personality, an internal critic, a shadow, a self-concept or self-image, and who harbors a soul that is journeying to a greater Home. As long as these parts of self are not integrated and functioning smoothly in daily life, there is no individuation. They all need to be brought together and subsumed under the aegis of the Higher Self, so that our lives are consciously directed by the divine purpose for which each of us has taken birth. So, the first steps in the spiritual journey center on the discovery of who we really are and what our purpose in life is. This is individuation. We accept and take on our divine identity, then we get started on the tasks we set ourselves before we came into a body.

Exercise: Individuation

Read Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodman. This book discusses the loss of feminine empowerment during the reign of patriarchy and the effect it has had on women's lives and psychological development. As you read it, take notes to help you remember her main points. You might also want to journal the insights that come up for you while you are reading it.

As you read, take note of the different archetypes Woodman presents. Think about how these manifest in your life regardless of whether you are male or female. Notice that both the masculine and the feminine are present in both sexes and that one of these is usually repressed. How would you contact that other part of yourself? Would you want to? How would your life change if you were in full possession of both your masculine and feminine traits? Do you agree with Woodman's theories about how women are denied their identities? What was your family constellation like when you were growing up?

If you are a male, consider the implications for you of the restoration of women's individuation. How would women's wholeness benefit your life? Consider the women in your life. Are they out of touch with their animus or masculine characteristics? How do you know? Would you like that to change? Would it threaten you or enhance your beingness? We will deal with the anima in Book 3.

If you are female, consider the implications for yourself. How would it feel to be in touch with your animus? What would be different in your life? Would you welcome that? How will your life change if women are finally given equal status with men? Can you support that? Do you want to? What responsibilities would change? How would you deal with that? What is your experience with rape and ravishment? Keep in mind that rape is any kind of unwelcome invasion of your person or personality.

For everyone, it might be fruitful to try to keep in mind how the ideas Woodman puts forth could be impacting the opposite sex.

In this unit we have looked at women's biological cycles and examined some issues having to do with maternity, sexuality and what women need to do to retrieve their sense of wholeness. It is important to become more aware of the cyclic nature of reality in order to balance out the linearity of our current modes of thinking.


Dick-Read, Grantly. Childbirth without fear. New York, Harper-Collins, 1987.

Chavis, Melody Ermachild. "A Ceremony for Aborted and Miscarried Children." Turning wheel, Journal of the Buddhist peace fellowship, Summer, 1990, 28-30.

Chavis, Melody Ermachild. Altars in the street. Bell Tower, 1990.

Exley, D. & C. S. Corker. The Human Male Cycle of Urinary Oestrone and 17- oxosteroids." Journal of endocrinology, 1966, 35, 83-99

Iyengar, Geeta S. Yoga: Gem for women. New Delhi, India: Allied Publishers Private Limited, 1983. (Available from Timeless Books, Spokane, WA.)

Levine, Stephen. Healing into life and death. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1987.

Levine, Stephen. Who dies? An investigation of conscious living and conscious dying. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1982.

Luce, Gay G. Biological rhythms in human and animal physiology. New York: Dover Publications, 1971.

Maslow, Abraham H. Toward a psychology of being. New York: Van Nostrand, 1968.

McCafferty, Tracy Games. "Labor of Love." Yoga Journal, 1997, 132, 84-92.

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. Magical child. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.

Prescott, J.W. "Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence," The futurist, April, 1975, 64-75.

Speroff, L. & Ramwell, P. W. Prostaglandins in reproductive physiology. American journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 1970, 107, 1111-1130.

Woodman, Marion. Addiction to perfection: The still unravished bride. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1982.

The next Unit VIII. Identification and Soul Loss will trace the development of all of the personality aspects and roles we acquire and examine how the soul losses we have suffered occurred. We will look at the role of family and culture in shaping our lives and the roles we espouse. Then we will be ready to see what kinds of remedial actions can be taken to heal ourselves.

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