This week in our women’s sangha, those who hadn’t been able to attend last week’s class shared what came up for them from reading the previous blog post. The stories from personal histories, relationships, and especially weddings and marriages, helped the sangha deepen in the sweet trust of a safe place to explore.
In the Buddhist tradition, we discourage sharing details but encourage noticing and exploring how our story makes us feel, and how we can come into a more skillful and compassionate relationship with all that’s arising. I go by that rule most of the time, but in this case, I saw real value in women exploring and sharing their past experiences of being treated like objects. Because we are multi-generational, we were weaving a tapestry of all that’s changed and all that hasn’t in the lives of women.
I started the conversation by showing a photo a friend sent me after reading the last post. It was a picture of her as a beautiful young bride. But it wasn’t your typical posed picture. Apparently, the custom in her new hometown was for the groom to push the bride to their home in a wheelbarrow! So there she was in the photo laughing uproariously at the absurdity of it all.
One student was reminded of how she was carried over the threshold, a tradition many of us are familiar with, that carries the same idea: woman as object. For those of us who weren’t carried over the threshold, there may be some lingering sense of failure in being too heavy. Unworthy to be objects of value!
Our exploration of wedding traditions was deeply enriched by the sharing of one sangha sister whose Hindu wedding was attended by 600 guests, most of whom she and her groom didn’t know. She, like many in our sangha, including myself, was 22 when she was ‘given away in marriage’. She admitted to feelings of having no say in the wedding planning, but she put her foot down when it came to the Hindu tradition of the bride’s family paying the groom’s family to take their daughter off their hands. Her mother’s answer was to just give them a quarter! And that for the bride, of course, felt even worse!
As the sangha sisters shared, it was fascinating to see the exploration of their thought veils that hadn’t been visited in a long while. All the unraveling and recognitions. All the judgments they had carried about themselves, about their parents, and so much more. In telling their stories in the safe space of a sangha of supportive meditation practitioners, they revealed so much to themselves.
So our stories matter! Not because they define us. They don’t. But because in their telling under certain conditions, like in a sangha with a specific purpose and prompts or in a therapist’s office, we’re able to see the assumptions, often erroneous that we had been living by. Yet another aspect of unveiling.
What are your heart stories? Are you relying on them without questioning them? Might it be worth taking the time to explore?