What was my favorite line of Anne Yeoman’s lecture? In response to our topic, “What Kind of Spiritual Core Do We Need to Remain Centered in This Time of Anxiety,” she blew away the notion that anyone could remain centered.
“Forget remaining centered,” she said. “It’s about centering—finding our core, losing it, and coming back.” She likened it to learning to walk. One takes a step or two, loses balance, perhaps falls down; then gets up and takes another step. With centering, the emphasis is on the process, the continuing effort, rather than on the goal of some static state of centeredness.
That was good to hear.
And as to what kind of spiritual core we needed? The one we’ve got, right now, right here. It’s all there for us to lean on, tap into, reach for, deep inside each and every one of us, she said. We didn’t need to go create a core or improve our core. We just needed to connect with it. That was also good to hear.
Connecting to the Core
Esther Scanlan started us off by explaining her daily practice of reaching for the core. Each morning she reads something that inspires her, counts her blessings and, later in the day, to bring her back to center, meditates.
By show of hands, a number of people in the room meditated. A similar large group wrote out their thoughts or feelings into a journal to bring themselves closer to their inner wisdom. Others did yoga. Quite a few wrote down their dreams to see what they could learn from these messages from the unconscious.
For Yeomans, it’s important to take contemplative time first thing after she wakes up. She called this practice “finding myself before the world finds me.” Many in the audience shared her view that they needed to check inside to gain that initial sense of balance before girding themselves for whatever the day might bring.
Spirituality Has a Body
Yeomans believes that our spirituality, that illusive/fragile connection to the core, is not something “otherworldly” that happens out there in the ether. Nor is it something that happens only through the auspices of a specially anointed cleric or prophet. Because we are human, our spiritual connection happens through our bodies and, therefore, we need to recognize it must include our bodies.
She pioneered in the notion that our spirit is embodied by being one of the founders of The Women’s Well, a center offering courses in women’s spirituality. Because our spirit resides within our body, we can access it through those common pathways of bodily understanding—our senses.
Ever wonder why candle light induces a different mood than electric lights? For the same reason that being out in nature—our feet tramping amongst the leaves and stones, our noses growing cold and smelling the piney freshness of hemlock or the chill damp of snow—brings us to a peaceful place within. For the same reason that so many forms of meditation involve following our breath. For the same reason many people rely on music to lead them inward. Once we connect to our bodies we’ve gone a huge way toward connecting with our inner spiritual core.
As we are human, our spirit is necessarily embodied.
Hundreds of Ways to Kiss the Ground
The great news, both speakers noted, is that there’s no right way to get connected to our inner knowing. Besides those practices already mentioned, reading poetry came up. So did self-awareness, the effort to learn our own hot buttons and crazy places, our own hurts and wounds, our typical tendencies, so that we can at least know what we’re feeling or thinking when we’re feeling or thinking it. Self-awareness helps us own our own stuff, a big piece of the atlas within.
Finding like-minded folks—“kindred souls,” Yeomans called them, who give attention to the inner life in ways that are compatible with our own—helps us connect to spirit. One of the first things Yeomans had us do when she came to the podium was a short group meditation noticing our breath. And here’s something lovely: when as a group we meditate we conspire, from the Latin meaning “to breathe together.”
She mentioned the women’s spirituality movement that grounded spirituality in the miracle of the earth and in our bodies, instead of in some great figure in the sky known as “Lord,” “Master,” or even “Father.” In so many organized religions, concepts and words like these exclude or even disparage women and women’s knowing such that women have come together in various places to celebrate what has been left out, the sacred feminine.
Books Yeomans turns to frequently these days to connect with her inner core include: Missing Mary, by Charlene Spretnak; The Language of The Goddess and The Civilization of The Goddess, by Marija Gimbutas; The Great Turning, From Empire to Earth Community, by David Korten; The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan; Any Thing We Love Can Be Saved, by Alice Walker; and Coming Back to Life, Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown.
Lastly, we learned about a contemporary vision quest Yeomans and another woman in the audience had undertaken which, literally, changed their lives. She said if anyone were interested, she knew the women who could lead us on this amazing journey of several days alone in the woods, and they could be reached by contacting The Women’s Well.
She concluded her comments by reminding us of that wonderful line from the poet Rumi that teaches us there are so many ways to arrive at spiritual connection: “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”