A Woman's PathI am a man who loves women. I confess. And as such, I like to see women thriving and radiant.
God created me this way – my first memories are of women surfers stepping off surfboards onto the sand, joyous and exuberant, right in front of me as I played on the beach at San Onofre. My mom was a surfer and my dad was a surfer, designing and building boards in the back yard.
Meditation can be fantastic for women – an inner communion that lines up all the inner voices, instincts and feelings. I love the combination of humor, ease, and inner knowing that results from a good match of woman + her meditation. Most of the women I have been with since 1968 are meditators.
And here's the thing – there are slight, subtle, but important differences between men and women. Women's feelings often change every few seconds, for example. This is no problem in itself, many women know how to read these fluctuations and learn from them – this is how, in fact, intuition works. But hardly any men understand this, and oddly enough, male meditation teachers are especially clueless about women. The male meditation traditions teach the opposite of what women need, and encourage them to try to suppress their inner waves of emotion. Calmness is set up as an ideal. When women succeed in cutting themselves off from their waves, their intuition, and their feelings, they seem to be more harmed by this than men are.
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.
This is why, in 1999, I said to my wife Camille, "We have to write a book about meditation for women. Too many women we know are doing the wrong meditation for their body type, their emotional type, their mental type. It's damaging and pathetic that in a field famous for 'enlightenment,' such a lack of discrimination is prevalent." And so we wrote Meditation Secrets for Women (amazon link) together. The book was published by Harper San Francisco in 2001.
Photo of Camille by Rene Armenta
Camille is a dancer and teaches Moving Theater, a brilliant combination of improv and Jungian Dream work that actors and non-actors take here in Los Angeles. Camille had never written a book before, but one day I just asked her, "What do women need to know?" and then took dictation for a couple of hours as she set forth the outline of the book. We worked on it for a year, weaving the material into a workbook that any woman can use as a reference to guide her in exploring meditations, exercises, questions to journal with,
Women's chakras develop differently than men's. Their sensory pathways are different, and their instincts speak to them differently. This should be celebrated. It's wonderful. 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.
My first meditation teacher was an old lady, Beulah Smith, and half of my teachers, the past 37 years have been women. More than half of my students have been women, because in general in the United States, most meditation groups are 70% women. I have been blessed by their sensibility, which is quite different than men. Even though everyone is individual, and individual differences are greater than group similarity, still, there is something about the feminine.
My teacher, Beulah, was a US Navy widow, her husband had been an officer. She lived on Coronado, a little island in San Diego harbor, near the huge Navy base. When he died, she set herself free to go off to India and study with Maharishi. She sat in a cave with Tat Wala Baba and dozens of cobras. She was following her own adventure. There was no one - no force on earth - that could get her to betray herself. We have all met this type of indestructible old lady. You can't say anything to a little old lady like that to make her turn against her own spirit. You could say, "I am God Incarnate, and I am telling you blah blah blah," and Beulah would just look at you with a twinkle in her eye and say, "Aren't you special," then turn and go her own way. Ten thousand monks could stand up and say "You are a woman, you don't belong here," and she would just say, "You boys don't get out of the house much, do you?"
But people who are younger – probably those under 60 - you can get them to betray themselves. It's easy. Just play on that built-in sense of inadequacy everyone has. Tell them in order to meditate, you have to learn detachment, compassion, and blanking the mind. You have to grovel, I mean bow down, before your superiors. These may sound fine, but in practice can be similar to injecting yourself with psychiatric drugs that create mild dissociation. Meditation, the way it is taught in the West, is often a profound betrayal of the feminine. The language and presentation is so refined that the hatred of the feminine is not apparent, but it is there in the anti-sensuality and the anti-instinctiveness.
Right now – 2008 – the world is still in a weird transitional time, in which the teachings of meditation are very confused. For thousands of years meditation has been exclusively the territory of men, who for whatever reason, have gone off to live with other men, and avoid women as much as possible. And not only because they were gay. Maybe they just did not want to get married, and in the old days, you either married at age 8 or 13, or you joined the army or you became a monk.
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. This is why in Instinctive Meditation, we always encourage people to customize their technique to suit their individual nature, and we give you tools to do so. In the United States for the last 40 years, 70% of all meditators are women, and yet no one had set forth the adaptations and modifications females need to make to their approach to meditation a healthy one.
visit camillemaurine.com for more enlightening female practices.
If you are a woman, read Meditation Secrets for Women