Prayer: A woman’s perspective
I don’t claim to ever have communed with “God,” as stated in my previous blog “Prayer: Communion with yourself,” but I got to know myself pretty well, especially as a woman.
As any woman can tell you, hormonal cycles are part of life and affect much of our thinking (please take note; I’m not arguing biological reductivism here, this is my personal opinion only). Some women are aware of their cycles in more concrete ways than men are and we are also aware of the changes in our thoughts and feelings during such times. We become attuned to such changes and work around them, with them, or against them. I found that my feelings of freedom from patriarchal thought and my feelings of genuine power came during these natural cycles, particularly during menstruation (I can see the men fleeing from the room already!). I slowly began to realize why men are so afraid of menstruating women (or even discussing it), why the scriptures have a lot to say about this natural phenomenon, and why patriarchal religions throughout the centuries have always forced the menstruating woman “outside the camp” during her cycle. They fear our power of life and death symbolized by the shedding of blood. For example, take these scriptures:
LEV 15:26 When the godly woman is flowing, the bed and seats she uses, transfers her uncleanness to men and their clothes.
LEV 15:20 Everything that she lies upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing that she sits upon shall be unclean.
LEV 15:27 Any man touching her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.
LEV 15:22,23 Any man touching any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.
You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness as long as she is in her customary impurity. (Leviticus 18:19)
If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people. (Leviticus 20:18)
Note the word “sickness.” :-) Why is a woman cut off? Why is she unclean? The Koran similarly marginalizes women during this special time:
[2:222] They ask you about menstruation: say, “It is harmful; you shall avoid sexual intercourse with the women during menstruation; do not approach them until they are rid of it. Once they are rid of it, you may have intercourse with them in the manner designed by GOD. GOD loves the repenters, and He loves those who are clean.”
Why is it “harmful?” Ahhh. I understand it now. Women are unclean because of their own blood! But why? Once again God’s childbearing curse against Eve comes back to haunt us. Even though this teaching of woman as unclean is toned down in church’s nowadays, the implication is always there; women cannot be trusted because they are soooooo hormonal (as if men don’t also have hormones and go through cycles) and because our blood makes all people unclean. In other words our blood saves no one! In fact, it kills! This fear of women’s blood is also the reason why Christianity is so focused on the blood of Christ, as a kind of replacement power that men can control. Since they can’t control life and death in childbirth as we can, they appropriate ways to control it themselves, i.e. the life and death of Christ and the shedding of men’s blood. There are many examples of men’s denigration of women over something men simply did not understand or feared but going into that now would require a dissertation. The point is, women’s ways of knowing (and men’s too) are inseparable from our BEING.
This is why the church is afraid of humans “being” and are all about mind control. The church tries to control the body through church ritual and tries to control the mind through infallible scriptures and prayer. This cycle in women’s lives is what gives us power, not prayer. Since we were not allowed to pray in public spaces or do so without men’s explicit permission or without headcoverings, we have formed our own connections with the divine. It’s about being completely in tune with the processes of nature.
It’s about bypassing the harmful dualism of religion and embracing the monism that biology implies. During my morning times, I began to see a pattern in my thought processes and realized that all those times I had tried to fit men’s thinking from the bible (and men’s thoughts about the bible) into my own thoughts and it just didn’t feel right. Of course Christians tell us that our faith is NOT about feelings! But by saying this, they deny and denigrate the only source of knowledge that we can rely upon: our brains (thought) and our emotions (feeling). Prayer, then, is merely a form of meditation, a relaxing of the brain, a bringing forth not a drawing in….
What religions want you to do is meditate with the mantras and ideas that they give you, because doing this will cement those thoughts into your mind and make them that much harder to be rid of them later. It’s a form of mind control. This is why Christians fear Yoga as meditation because Yoga not only clears your mind by not telling you what to meditate upon, but it also helps you get in touch with your body. Clearing your mind helps you reconnect most with what is inside of YOU. Getting in touch with your body allows you to become one being with those thoughts. When Christians clear their mind, they are asked to fill their minds with bible verses or thoughts about Christ or about God. But in true meditation you allow your deepest thoughts to surface so that you may face your fears, your darkness (the abyss), and your life with perfect clarity and maybe come to terms with who you really are rather than use prayer as a tool to become something you aren’t.
I think we have, for too long, heaped layer upon layer of abuse, shame, masks, roles, and religious dogma on our minds and on our hearts and not allowed who we truly are to surface. We have used prayer as a tool to tell whatever divinity their might be what to do or to validate our own thought processes. Yet, to be true to ourselves we have to cut through all that and find that inner core of being, that true goodness that was there before we were so cruelly contaminated by patriarchal systems of religion. Finally, we need to resist the dualism that bifurcates us and causes us to doubt ourselves and our own innate ways of “knowing,” whether we want to call that prayer or not.
-Mystery of Iniquity