EXPLORING FEMININE & MASCULINE ENERGIES AND GENDER CONSTRUCTS
One of the gifts of Asian philosophical and cosmological systems such as the Indian Vedantic or Chinese Daosist systems is the concept of polarity (polar opposites) of energies or and yin and yang energies. You might have heard of these concepts of opposites described as night and day, sun and moon, light and dark, calm and chaos, inhaling and exhaling, and masculine and feminine.
We tend to think and behave according to our cultural and societal norms around these binaries or polar opposites within clearly defined socially constructed boundaries and gender roles, as many artistic images going back to classical times show in our latest blog article.
Currently we are encouraged to live according to how we identify in terms of our inherent qualities of either masculine, feminine or ‘balanced’ energies rather than gender roles.
This is a complex concept so this article provides an introduction to the concept of polarity, offers an introduction to the five energetic levels of consciousness, defines qualities of the feminine and masculine as energies and why they are important for our significant interactions and intimate (including sexual) relationships.
Personal Energy and ‘going inside’
When yoga or meditation practitioners or any practitioner who uses spiritual methods of inner connection, say they are ‘focusing inside’, we mean we desire to move our focused awareness to these different layers of consciousness. There is nothing esoteric about this and it is achievable here and now via meditation, yoga, or a favourite hobby or activity you commit in doing 100% – gardening, spending time with your loved ones, a purpose or project. This is also known as ‘presence’. Irena Grgona
In Indian philosophy, energy is known as prana or our inherent life force within you. Chinese philosophy offers a similar concept of ‘chi’. In French psychology we refer to ‘elan vital’ or vital life force.
In Indian Vedantic philosophy, we refer to energy as being part of ‘the subtle body’ or the pranamaya kosha (the energetic layer of our being). This vedantic model presents five levels of consciousness which are very helpful when we wish to expand our knowledge, consciousness and meditation or yoga pracrice. They are:
1st The first Annamaya kosha, our physical layer: body made up for bones, blood, connective tissues etc,
2nd The second is Pranamaya kosha our energetic layer: this layer is not seen but felt. It is the breath (prana)
3rd The third layer is the Manomaya kosha or the mental/emotional layer: our thoughts and emotions. Many people are not consciously aware of the thoughts or emotions which might be at the root of their experience at any given time.
4th The fourth layer Vijnanamaya kosha or out intuitive wisdom layer: this is our ability to connect with and trust our intuition or wisdom and follow our impulses from a place beyond ‘cognitive’ reasoning. It is the place of ‘no thought’ in Buddhism or ‘direct knowing’.
5th The fifth layer is known as Anandamaya kosha or the bliss layer: this is experience of feeling joy, love and peace in the midst of our being. It is the place of ‘flow’ in sport or art or being at one with who we are, what we are doing and the world. It is a very tangible and real experience many can experience daily.
When yoga or meditation practitioners, or anyone using spiritual methods of inner connection say they are ‘focusing inside’, we mean we desire to move our focused awareness to these different layers of consciousness. There is nothing esoteric about this and it is achievable here and now via meditation, yoga, or a favourite hobby or activity you commit in doing 100% – gardening, spending time with your loved ones, a purpose or project. We develop skills over time to do this and we become comfortable in our own skin being ‘at home’, fully embodied.
To do this we need to be ready to feel our feelings. Meditation is not a mental/intellectual practice. It is experiential, going inside, feeling through our senses (feelings, smelling, touching, seeing, hearing) our experience. We soon discover the link between our thoughts, feelings and emotions and see how quickly the mind jumps from one thought to the next and how emotions arise, how temporary our experience is and where the resistance is. We also see clearly how we create our own experience.
Yin & Yang, Shiva & Shakti, Masculine & Feminine Energies
In most parts of the world, the culture has until recently excessively valued the ‘masculine’ to the detriment of the ‘feminine’, with the feminine seen as either too weak, too wild or child-like and in need of control.
In yogic philosophy and Hindu cosmology, the divine masculine energy of the Hindu god, Shiva, unites with the divine feminine energy of the goddess, Shakti to create the world.
Both Shiva and Shakti can be seen as archetypal energies present in both men and women, are equal and formidable universal creative forces.
The Masculine and Shiva
Masculine “God” Shiva is “Absolute Consciousness” which creates our world and the cosmos, the source of everything and all that is. Shiva unites and is known as the Lord of Yoga.
Some of the ‘Shiva’ masculine qualities include great power of Shiva’s consciousness, strength, spaciousness and steadfastness, stability, peace, protection and being totally unmoved with complete presence which is absolute presence and consciousness. A man who fully identifies with this masculine power will tend to be able to sustain pain and great suffering and continue until they reach their goal. They are compassionate and protectors.
In our Western culture, this masculine energy is that which perceives, is pure consciousness, is thinking, focusing, reasoning, uses humour, has direction and purpose.
The Feminine and Shakti
The feminine “Goddess” Shakti is awe-strikingly beautiful, flowing, ever changing and is often depicted as moving through life as if she was dancing. Shakti feminine energy is fluid, flowing, flexible, wildly sensual, raw and expressive. Shakti energy is in everything that lives (life) while Shiva energy is formless (death). These two energies can not create without the other, are equal and opposite forces.
In the West, we would describe Shakti feminine energy as being about constant change, flow, emotions, movement, transformation, renewal, the ability to give love, nurturing, receptivity, bringing radiance into life. The masculine is the ‘vessel’ and the feminine is ‘the sea’. The masculine wishes freedom/death (metaphorically) and the feminine relationship (union).
All of us have masculine Shiva aspects and feminine Shakti aspects within ourselves. When we become ‘whole’ psychologically, physically and spiritually, we feel united in expressing both and live in balance, joy and presence within our very being.
Exploring our Energetic Preference for Harmonious Relationships
What you might find interesting for your own exploration is to find out which of these energies – masculine or feminine – you are more at home with.
Each of us will tend to inherently feel more ‘at home’ within one or the other energy. An individual, who is either biologically a man or a woman, might feel either more at home energetically with the masculine energies of being focused, steady, needing a strong purpose in life, to give and protect for example or with the feminine qualities of nurturing, movement, receptivity, heart-centred relationship creating etc.
Based on these concepts of polarity and attraction of opposites, an individual who is more identified with the masculine with feel inherently more attracted to an individual, man or woman, who identifies with his opposite.
In our cultures, because more value has been placed on venerating the ‘masculine’ until recently many women who identify with the feminine for example, might be more in their masculine energies, in their heads, or not in their bodies in order to survive. The opposite is also true for men who identify more with the masculine and who have not had culturally healthy role models. Because of guilt and shame they will tend to subdue or suppress their more masculine qualities and urges, repress their steadfastness, purpose and power. They will tend to feel lost or depleted by being more in their feminine energies, trying to please their partner putting intimacy before purpose. This might manifest when they are excessively focused on sensual pleasures, are in the realm of emotions or being asked to focus too much on relationships to the expense of carrying out their purpose or vision. Men identified with the masculine energies find their mission in life outside in the world and bring this back ‘at home’ to their loved ones, their partner and community. For women identified with the feminine it is the other way round.
We have lost rituals for men and women, rites of passages where men go off with each other to find themselves and where women are held in their community during their cycles of life. We have become masculinised for productivity although this is changing.
The common ground of course is knowledge and love.
Unless we understand, appreciate and value our differences we will misunderstand each other, fail at communicating our needs and in creating harmonious relationships. Viewing ourselves and our gender identities as social and cultural constructs can be helpful on the journey of being more authentically ourselves.
About Vedanta and The Upanishads
The Upanishads are part of Vedanta “the last chapters of the Vedas”, which are the oldest scriptures of Hinduism created between 1500–1000 BCE. Some elements are shared with Buddhism and Janaism.
The Upanishads are said to reveal truth (Sruti) about Brahman (God), the Ultimate Reality and the path to salvation (Moksha). Upanishad is made up of the term upa which means ‘nearby’, ni signifying ‘at the proper place, down’ and sad which is ‘to sit’. This is roughly translated as ‘sitting near a teacher to receive the sacred teachings’.
In their core, the Upanishads reveals many universal concepts shared amongst other spiritual scriptures, including the concepts of the Brahman (ultimate reality) and Ātman (soul, self) and the idea that “know that you are the Ātman”. The Upanishads together with the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutra are known as the mukhya Upanishads and are a foundation for later schools of Hinduism.
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