Women as Spiritual Teachers - how does Kira see this question?
I received an email recently asking questions that I am frequently asked, so I thought to share my response here for a wider outreach to others who may ponder these same questions.
One reason why I am asking for joining you retreat is based on my research and interest on spiritual practice for women or lead by women. I always found myself asking where are the feminine spiritual teachers and masters and if there might be some different practices regarding a more feminine path to awaken. I don’t know how you are guiding the retreat and would like to know a bit more about it. I really feel a deep connection to Tibet and the Himalayans even if Iv never been there yet. Do you know some Buddhist feminine teachers / masters over there who are worth to stay in your perspective? Do you know a region where it might be possible to stay in a cave for a while, and where other master, teachers have practiced.
Your questions are interesting, and some I am asked frequently. Indeed, yes, there are not many female spiritual teachers – I think, for several reasons. I do feel and experience that a more female approach to spirituality is different from the masculine approach, and it has been an important aspect of my own journey to integrate my own natural woman energy. I would also add that how I share of myself in retreats and individual sessions has been influenced profoundly by my acceptance and inclusion of the feminine. In my personal experience, that does mean there is little "drive" to go out and teach. I have heard this also from other women teachers – in fact we frequently don't think of ourselves as teachers, which is, I think, a significant difference. ;-)
My personal way of facilitating is to give space, and to allow that each person deeply does know truth, is born with this truth, and simply needs reminding that they have this wisdom within. I also consider that each person is unique and not every "way" of meditating or personal enquiry will be suitable for each person. So I frequently give options and suggestions that people can try out for themselves. The guidances I offer within my retreats are more about supporting each person to find truth for themself, rarely about giving personal feedback. I do share what has worked for me or supported me in remembering my own awareness. I share, too, what may have been points or issues that I have evolved with on my journey, as that may inspire or support others. I also include real life – our humanity – as I do not see spirituality as something separate, rather an important inclusion into everyday life. I make sure there is a lot of space for self-reflection in my retreats, space in which to explore for yourself what maybe arising. There is also space for sharing and communicating with others in the group, as I find that we can remind each other in a variety of ways. Often a group is drawn together for reasons that are not obvious at first, yet can reveal a wider understanding as time passes. I also naturally include karma yoga, the aspect of spirituality that is about giving back to others and to the planet in service, a practice of opening and learning compassion and deeper truth.
The retreat in Nepal will benefit from having my friend Rafael bringing in gentle Yoga to support our bodies while we are spending longer periods of sitting meditation. There will also be a variety of books on deeper spiritual themes, books that I have collected in Nepal, to read in your own time during the retreat. The basic intention is to have a time together with like-minded others, in which to find your own deeper connection to truth, and to your own humanity. The group in Nepal is intentionally kept smaller to allow a depth of intimacy to evolve.
Regarding your other questions – Tibet is quite different from Nepal. Although Tibetian Buddhism is in Nepal, there is also a wider, rich spirituality in the country, and traditions which predate Buddhism. Tibet itself has undergone – and is still undergoing – significant changes under Chinese occupation, although I feel the country itself is magical and holds space for whatever arises. That is another and deeper discussion. ;-)
Yes, there are caves … although I would not recommend that you seek them out on this first travel to Nepal. I say this for a variety of reasons, the basic ones being that the caves are remote, generally guarded secrets, and very, very primitive. Plus, your first travel to Nepal will, I am sure, touch many points that can help you with your practice without spending time in a cave. ;-)
Regarding teachers – they do not really exist in the same way as it is considered in the Western contemporary spiritual scene, so it not easy to recommend. If you were to decide to make a choice to spend an indefinite number of years in the Himalayas, that might be a different story. Classically, in Buddhism it is considered that women cannot truly achieve an awake state. This view is, I think, a consequence of the centuries of women being considered not equal to men. There are some remarkable women Buddhists who do not hold this view, however, and who bring about their teaching differently. (I have included them in the list below).
There are a few monasteries that you can visit or stay at, in Nepal, and I include them in the list below. These places have guest houses for foreign guests. (Please note, it would not be appropriate for a Westerner to simply join internally into a monastery for a few days or weeks. This is for a wide variety of reasons which it would be respectful to consider, especially women.)
I have now spent 20 years in visiting and spending longer periods of time in Nepal – each time I travel more deeply, and evolve into new aspects of understanding and experiencing truth. One does not need a specific teacher, but one does need a deep intention to be honest with oneself and to embrace one's own humanity and that of all humankind. In this way, Nepal is simply abundant with teachers in every possible way. This is the deeper truth of spirituality in Nepal that I have personally discovered and been enriched by. Every encounter is a gift. Every drink of water a blessing. Every breath a reminder of life.
I hope my words here give you some perspectives and encouragement!
With heartfelt greetings, Kira
Monasteries & Nunneries in Nepal that are open for visitors to stay:
For your interest here is a list of various women 'teachers' that I have either met with or in some form had experiences with and consider them of value in how and what they contribute with their work: