By Leslie Hershberger
Have you heard of the parable of the boiled frog? It's the one that tells of a frog placed in boiling water who immediately tries to scramble out. Yet when placed in room temperature water, the frog stays put. If you gradually raise the temperature, the frog still doesn't move. As the temperature increases, the frog becomes groggier and groggier. Finally, it can't climb out of the pot and boils to death.
Western culture sits in the boiling water, and the temperature is being turned up while we're blissfully unaware. These times call for us to wake up now.
I'm an advocate and teacher for many avenues of awakening including acts of compassion that open our hearts and eyes to a world beyond our own insularity, a meditation practice that allows us to observe the ways our minds create much of our own suffering and the integration of the sacred feminine into our spiritual lives.
The 2004 election taught us, amongst other things, that our worldview is shaped deeply by our spiritual lives -- whether we're conventionally religious or not. But whose spirituality is being represented? Much of Western religion and culture is deeply rooted in masculine values of individualism, competition, achievement and reward by merit. These values have a place in personal and spiritual growth and development.
Yet as we witness the current socio-political climate, we become more aware of the desperate need to integrate feminine values in order to balance the scales.
Ancient traditions insist that the health of a human individual and the health of a culture are determined by how well these two are balanced and fully integrated. A skew in any direction harms.
The wild success of The DaVinci Code (however theologically suspect it might be), The Red Tent and The Secret Life of Bees demonstrate a collective, unconscious desire for the culture to fully integrate the sacred feminine traits of connectedness, feeling, cooperation, openness and dialogue. We're called to take these values beyond the home and into the boardroom, the hallowed halls of government chambers and the predominantly patriarchal religious structures that still define and inform our spiritual lives.
I spoke to a prominent author and theologian about my frustration with the blatantly masculine bent that still influences Western religion and thus Western politics and culture. I asked if he had any sense when it might change. He replied, "When the women decide they've had enough. They are the ones whose insights are being ignored." Whether we care to admit it or not, spirituality dialogues with the culture, and the spirituality that has the ears of those in power is primarily rooted in masculine values.
We have witnessed, in its extreme, the cost of a fundamentalist religion and culture that forcibly silences women and the wisdom of the sacred feminine "in the name of God." Some warn that Islamic theocracies should be a red flag. They insist we should disregard spiritual and religious values in the name of separation of church and state. This would be a grave error. Historically, successful peace and social justice movements are rooted in religious communities that are motivated by something deep within the human soul.
Rather, we're called to balance the scales and fully integrate the totality of our human experience, which includes masculine and feminine values. Religion is an area that, strangely enough, is consistently male-dominated right down to accepted images of God. No longer can we afford to dismiss the significance of this glaring omission.
The temperature of the cultural potboiler is rising. It's time to awaken and discover the inherent wisdom and strength of the sacred feminine before we grow groggy with sleep. The feminine voice of the divine sounds a compelling call for the gifts of masculine and feminine values to reshape the world -- together.
LESLIE HERSHBERGER is a personal coach, writer and teacher who facilitates workshops, seminars and retreats. She teaches mindfulness meditation for pain relief and stress reduction to individuals and groups.