This reflection was first published in The Circle Newsletter, Volume XXI, Issue 1, Fall 2011. You can view a full version of that edition here: Download
Dancing on a Shifting Landscape
When we first began to explore and then articulate The Circle’s theme for this academic year – Dancing on a Shifting Landscape – we had no idea how thoroughly we would be reflecting the current energy that is pervading the planet. From the physical to the metaphysical, our world is shifting in profound ways. From the global climate crisis to the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the Middle East, to the second crash of the global economy (to name a few), the world is tilting onto a new axis. For many, this is an exciting, frightening and unpredictable time. While some of the changes are undoubtedly good, many shifts are in a state of liminality or flux, and we are not sure of which way things will go.
So how do we navigate ourselves on a landscape that seems to be changing so quickly that our intellectual, spiritual and physical compass is thrown out of whack? How do we ground ourselves on one hand, while finding sufficient balance to dance while the earth moves under our feet?
For our editorial circle, we naturally felt that feminist spirituality can be a beacon or guiding light to help us navigate through the murkiness of our current time, a time that eco-philosopher Joanna Macy has termed “the Great Turning.” In our opinion, the global exclusion of women from the political, spiritual, economic and social systems that have governed our world over the last couple of millennia has been the most powerful contributor to all current global crises. Whether the issue is global warming, social inequality, corrupt economic systems or spiritualities of dominance and submission, the oppression and omission of women is integral to each one.
So how is it that feminist spirituality can address such a diversity of issues, many of which are outside of the realm of the sacred? In the words of Katherine Zappone, it is because “feminist spirituality may be simply defined as the praxis [or practice] of imagining a whole world. Such praxis depends on the lived experience of mutually supportive relations between self, others, God and nature.” Therefore, because its very nature is so broad-based, engaging both the personal and the political, the numinous and the actual, feminist spirituality has the capacity recalibrate our systems in order to mitigate the myriad shifts that are occurring simultaneously in our world. To achieve the wholeness to which Zappone refers, must begin first and foremost with the inclusion of women in all aspects of discourse and decision-making.
The very act of honouring women—our bodies, our wisdom and our actions—and resituating ourselves within the centre of these crises has the potential to be the most powerful act of rebalancing in a world that had been knocked off kilter. This power comes from the fact that feminist spirituality demands a full re-imagining and transformation of our human systems rather than a simple “add women and stir” type of solution. Therefore, women must be wary and vigilant of how we resituate ourselves within dynamics of power. There can be a manipulation of women’s empowerment within today’s society, where it is frequently portrayed as being able to do what a man can do. But why would we strive for that when we often view the actions of the few select, elite men that dominate the world and our systems as corrupt, violent, unfair and greedy? Women’s empowerment is about being able to engage our own wisdom and undertake our own determined actions and do so freely.
This is the essence of “dancing on a shifting landscape.” Our first inclination was to theme the year simply “shifting landscapes;” however, it did not invoke our belief in women’s potential to thrive through change, nor signal our power to shift, adapt and create for the betterment of all humanity. So the next time it feels like the world is moving under your feet, sway with the rhythm and begin to dance.