Note: This post is a throwback, originally published in June 2019, and it still feels true. Feels relevant to the LDS community right now. Feels relevant to the ongoing struggle for the sovereignty of women. But most of all it feels relevant to my role as mother at this point in my life, as co-creator and a witness to the life of my little one (as he become increasingly bigger!). Happy Mother’s Day to the divine feminine in each of us.
I’ve been trying to understand, FOR ME, what is the most useful way to think about God. In the Mormon theology I was raised with, God is male and usually referred to as Heavenly Father. Mormonism has the beautiful, and added, benefit of a female counterpart to the male God, termed Heavenly Mother. The idea is that we are all part of a massive human family with Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and all of humanity as our siblings. There’s a lot that I like about this model. It’s reflective of the family structure most of us have experienced so it’s familiar (it can also be fraught for the same reason).
Little is said of Heavenly Mother in Mormon doctrine and culture. This has usually been explained to me to be because she is so sacred that Heavenly Father protects her from the profanity of human conversation. From a feminist perspective, this explanation is infuriating and degrading. From the perspective one who views herself as a child with heavenly parents, it’s confusing. Kids need their mom. Why would you withhold that?
Maybe strangely, this issue has been of little bother to me for most of my life. My religious persona has been quite accepting of these sorts of problems and explanations, pushing them under the umbrella of, I’ll understand that better someday. Sometimes that umbrella is useful because some of these topics can only be explored with time and life experience. They live like little ghosts in the back of my psyche until an experience brings them to the foreground.
This past week, I was talking to my parents about a problem, I’ve been trying to figure out for months. I presented them with my current thinking about it and my dad said, “That seems really sensible.” To which I replied, “I’m not going for sensible! That’s not how I’m making decisions anymore. I want it to FEEL right.” And he, so humbly and happily said, “Oh! Well that’s your mother’s domain.” He’s so great! I can’t remember what my mom said to this, but I remember the energy of it, and it was something about self trust. And I’m going to come back to this in a minute.
I want to write a little about what I’ve observed in the nature of the feminine. And to use Elizabeth Gilbert’s term, I don’t want to get “gender-freaky” about this. I’m talking about the iconic feminine.
The feminine creates. This is the energy in the universe that calls to us to experiment and imagine. To me, the feminine creative energy feels like lying on my back looking at the clouds and seeing figures of airplanes and unicorns. It’s not overtly practical or directional. It might even feel superfluous, but, like air, its necessity is recognized mostly by its absence.
The feminine is the ether. I like to think about this from the perspective of a child in the womb. We are swimming in the feminine. She is all around. Think about the idea of mother earth. She is the rock, the water, the sky and everything in between all of it. Maybe this is why we feel close to the divine as we connect with the natural world. It’s like pressing a fetal hand into the wall of the womb, becoming slightly aware of the being that is carrying us. The problem is not locating the feminine, it’s becoming conscious that she is all around me.
The feminine nurtures. The feminine says, I will go on doing all of this, holding all of this, whether you notice or not, because I am doing it for my own purpose. This is the subtle strength of feminine care. All of this carrying and holding and love is not contingent upon outcomes and results, it is intrinsic.
I’m sure there is more that could be written about this, but maybe that’s enough to nudge your mind in the direction I’m intending. I’ve been thinking about these things in the context of Heavenly Mother. And I’ve realized that most of the spiritual practices I’ve adopted this past year are things that put me in the way of this divine, feminine energy.
Nature. I’ve noticed that one of the most universal ways of connecting with God or finding peace or hearing the inner voice is to be in nature. While some are getting dressed up for church, many are heading into the mountains or the sea. Church is sort of a masculine, direct pathway to God. It’s like following a map to the divine father. These are my office hours, so to speak. But nature is always open—curious and diverse and meandering. I believe this is where the divine mother lives.
My body. I feel super cool about my body these days, because I feel like it is this beautiful echo of my divine mother’s voice. I’ve come to experience this in several ways—child birth, exercise, meditation, sleep—but the yoga mat has been an excellent teacher. There are truths embedded in my flesh that are revealed only when I am paying very close attention and yoga has given me a way to notice them. Each time I get on the mat, I have to strip away all the expectations of myself for performance. My intention is usually to listen or to let go—surrender, release, acceptance. My mind becomes the servant of my body and my spirit becomes the quiet observer. Teach me, I say to my self—to the part of me that already knows—the divine feminine.
Honesty. Some of my most powerful connections with the divine, come during intimate conversations. Isn’t this how it’s always been with women? While men are hunting beasts and conquering legions, women are in the back room making dinner or folding clothes and talking about the heart of life. The feminine divine is in these quite conversations, in the quiet honesty. She is in the utterance of fear and uncertainty and the humble declaration of faith. The feminine divine can hold all of this—the ugly and the beautiful, the weak and the strong. It’s all safe with her.
Art. Honesty is the birthplace of art. The feminine divine cheers us on as we attempt to excavate those sacred jewels within and bring them into the world. She is in the music and the poetry. We do ourselves a disservice by relegating this category of expression to entertainment, because it is so much more than that. Heavenly Mother is constantly asking us to dance with her, to sing, to write, to draw, because that is the way we can come to know ourselves in the way SHE sees us. In the same way I encourage my son’s fledgling attempts at creativity, she is doting over my bad poetry, messy relationships and off-key singing with the hope that I will not let the world close my mouth.
Linger and rest. The iconic feminine meanders. My therapist taught me this months ago and it’s something that frequently comes to mind. The feminine is like the path along the cliff line that has amazing views but takes a little longer. I’m someone who naturally values efficiency, so it has taken a conscious effort to allow myself to walk the scenic path. The feminine suggests, maybe it’s okay to just sit here for a while and enjoy the beauty of this place or moment. Maybe it’s okay to linger. Maybe it’s okay to take a nap if you’re tired. There may be miles to go, but there is time and it’s okay to be kind to yourself.
Now that I better understand the feminine divine, I see that, because of her nature, she doesn’t fit easily into organized religion. She is too big and complicated for that. There are no instructions for breathing! How would you teach someone to inhale? Yet, I notice very quickly when I am becoming oxygen-deprived.
So back to my story about the conversation with my mom and dad. I don’t feel bad that I can’t remember my mother’s exact words because the words were not as important as the feeling. And this is true to the feminine divine. She doesn’t write instruction booklets. She is unstructured and unshaped. And because of that she can fit into the spaces where other things can’t.
Heavenly Mother is the essence of self care. A while back, I realized that the only thing that REALLY qualified as self-care—that really worked—was the activities that cleared the crap off of my soul. The things that helped me to hear my inner voice. This is Heavenly Mother. So maybe you can pray to her. Maybe you can visualize a heavenly being with kind eyes and a loving embrace. If that’s helpful, then do it!
My advice on this topic is really DO ANYTHING. Reach out into the ether and you will find her because she is everywhere and all it takes to access her is a quiet mind and an open heart. The practices that will be most helpful are the ones that create those two things. And when you find her, tell me about it because I live for this stuff now! Namaste.