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Cultivating compassion
" How could the same practice that had opened so many doors in my own mind also trigger a deep sense of disempowerment?"
- Myoshin Kelley

by Myoshin Kelley

Meditation transformed my life deeply in my mid-30s. Wanting to explore this path further, I traveled to Burma for an intensive meditation retreat. After I arrived, however, I was hit with the reality that women in the Buddhist monasteries were not treated as equals to men or recognized as capable of becoming fully realized beings. No matter how profound my level of realization might be, I would always be seen as less than a man.

How could the same practice that had opened so many doors in my own mind also trigger a deep sense of disempowerment? This brought up an intense period of rage. Given that I was meditating for several hours a day, with nothing to do but watch my own mind, I became quite tormented.

Until my trip to Burma, I never doubted that I could do anything that a man could do. How could I be fully myself as a woman in this tradition?

It had become clear to me that the teachings and practice, which do not discriminate against women, were too precious to me to turn my back on. I was facing cultural and historical obstacles, not hurdles within the essence of the practice itself.

Over the past 20 years I have grappled with how to value and cultivate the qualities of the feminine. In the Tibetan form of Buddhism, the feminine qualities are equated with wisdom, openness and receptivity, while the masculine qualities of our humanity are equated with skillful means and compassionate action. Together they bring forth the full potential of human beings.

People are suffering all over the world from an imbalance that favors masculine qualities to the exclusion of feminine aspects of our being. We may find that it takes strength and courage to turn from our own well-developed linear approach to reality in order to embrace the vulnerability of deep openness and connection with life, but it is a vulnerability that ultimately empowers.

Our deepest wisdom as human beings can only be fully realized when our feminine qualities are more fully developed. Feminine wisdom works from the inside out, enabling us to move beyond the ground of "thinking we know" and to delve into the clarity to discern when to take skillful, compassionate action, and when to refrain, listen, give space and allow things to emerge.


This is a journey we all need to make within ourselves to discover the ease, joy, and dynamic responsiveness that we are capable of inspiring within ourselves and the world.

Myoshin Kelley is a senior instructor at Tergar Meditation Community in Minneapolis. tergar.org

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