Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Good News from Jaipur: 'God is not a patriarch."

Global Peace Initiative of Women invited 450 global citizens to gather for a summit in Jaipur, India from March 6-10, 2008. They carefully selected leaders from more than 50 countries representing business, education, politics and civil society. More importantly, they invited spiritual leaders – both men and women - from almost all of the world’s faith traditions. For four days under the gold and white roof of a large open sided tent, we were all together in our commitment to ‘Making Way for the Feminine for the Benefit of the World Community.” I had the privilege to be in that tent and I am still integrating all that I learned and experienced in that faith-full community.

One of my new friends from Jaipur recently wrote “There is still such a powerful fragrance from the conference. Are you finding this too?” There is indeed a lingering fragrance from Jaipur and like any good perfumes, it is complex blend of scents with base notes, top notes and excellent binding agents.

The base note for this Summit was provided by our host country. India is herself a complex blend of ancient spiritual traditions and modern economic challenges, of beautiful landscapes and brutally difficult living conditions. Everywhere I traveled I saw breathtaking paradox and juxtaposition: women dressed in delicate, brilliant saris and bangles carrying baskets of wet cement on their heads as part of a road work crew; children begging in the street in front of state-of-the-art medical centers; lumbering up the steep hill to the Amber Fort on the back of an elephant while the ‘driver’ chatted on his cell phone; large Tata trucks making way for a single cow or a herd of goats on rural roads. I needed to be able to hold an internal space for the contradictions of India in order to be present for the people and the evolving human story of this land. Our host India required all of us to remain flexible, patient and alert – an interesting combination of qualities as the foundation for our gathering.

The complex middle range of the summit’s fragrance is made up of the many diverse voices of the participants. There are some that stand out for me:

~Yangjin Lamu is a beautiful young woman from Tibet who sings prayers in a voice that rings with the clarity and mystery of her land. The first time I heard her sing was at an informal gathering in one of the hotel rooms several nights before the summit convened. She stood with her back against the wall and closed her eyes and began to create the most powerful sounds I have ever heard. I could literally feel my DNA vibrating into a new pattern.

~Sister Joan Chittister is a fearless truth-teller and I hung on every word as she invited us all to step into responsibility: “Half the world is invisible and mute and the other half doesn’t even notice ….The greatest burden is to have no burden to bear at all…. No seed ever sees the flower… If you are wondering is your life work is over and you are still alive – it is not!” In fact, every nun I met in Jaipur embodied clarity and honesty, whether they came from Australia, India or North America.

~Dr. Tho Ha Vinh who is the head of global training for the International Red Cross described how the human story to date has been about men shedding blood and women shedding tears to wash that blood away. “The women are constantly redeeming our violence.”

~From a panel of African women: “Women are capable of doing very foolish things in the name of love.”

~From a discussion of material and spiritual development in India: “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for one man’s greed.”

~From a circle on spiritual economics: “A natural leader simply walks through any door that opens.”

~From a circle on visionary leadership: “Leadership is an alignment of strengths that makes weakness irrelevant.”

~Truth and wisdom was brought by a team of youth leaders from all parts of the world. These young people have been mentored and nurtured by GPIW over the past several years and stand ready to lead in a new way. One of them had the courage to observe that this conference on the feminine was actually organized in a masculine way, with very little open space and few opportunities to be in dialogue. He pointed out that the real feminine energy at the event unfolded during the breaks, when people were drawn together organically for spontaneous connection.

And indeed the top note of our lovely fragrance was definitely provided by love. People were falling in love with each other all over the place -- at breakfast, lunch and dinner, during tea breaks and during inspired conversations on the sofas in the lobby. It was food for my soul to be able to hug a laughing, relaxing Joyce Oneko and to share stories with my roommate Janet Pinto like teenage girls at a pajama party. I am excited about the new relationships I developed and hints of new creative collaborations on the horizon. It was a miracle to spend so much time in a frequency of love.

Binding all of this together was a God called by many different names, an incredible master weaver who brought us all together in this one place and who held us in a loving embrace so that we could relax into one another and into a vision of another kind of world. There was a feminine and fluid aspect to the God who brought about the real miracles of the summit in mysterious and unexpected ways; there was a soft and warm divine lap into which we could all snuggle. We had a lived experience of the words of one of the summit speakers: “God is not a patriarch.”

I am brought back to one of Joan Chittister's questions from the first day: "Everyone is speaking truth -- then what?" The real impact of the summit will be brought into form by each of who attended and will manifest in a nesting holographic pattern of deeply personal transformation, individual action, organizational collaborations and global connections. I am responsible for bringing my own threads into that complex pattern.

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