Ondy Willson

The role of mindfulness in gender issues

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift”.
From the adapted writings of Albert Einstein.

This quotation highlights the problem with the technological, scientific bias in modern society. Einstein reminds us that we are in danger of over-looking the qualities and power of the intuitive mind.

With neuroscience we are now able to understand better the role of the left and right brains. It is not that we have forgotten the intuitive mind but that it is not nurtured, and that is because it is mistrusted.

When we practise mindfulness and meditation we arouse the right brain, which encourages and promotes qualities like intuition, that inner voice that reflects our personal truths. When we do not hear that voice we are in danger of being led by others.

The linear thinking of the rational mind promotes strong ego-centred thoughts. Traditional Mindfulness practice starts to challenge this way of thinking. This leads to ultimate wisdom. The destruction of all ego-centred ignorance.

The holistic thinking of the intuitive mind experiences life in the moment and connected to everything else. In traditional Mindfulness practice it is the generation of compassion that will enhance this type of thinking leading to ultimate compassion.

We need both, but we are out of balance. In modern, western society our education focuses on enhancing the rational, left-brained aspect of ourselves. The logical aspects of education are regarded as more important – Maths, Science, Technology. The more intuitive subjects like Art, Drama and Creative Thinking are not given enough emphasis to create a balanced and more harmonious world.

Although in traditional Buddhist practice the rational, left side is recognised as female (the sun is the symbol) and the intuitive, right side as male (the moon), it is paradoxical. Practise developing wisdom and you will destroy ignorance. Practise developing compassion and your wisdom will support this compassion to realise its ultimate form of development. To complete ourselves (our feminine and masculine aspects) we need both.

Enough of the theory. What this means is that modern mindfulness practice is the way to regain balance in society. It will help counteract strong ego-centred approaches to living. It will help increase our kindness, empathy and compassion.

Wellseeing uses mindfulness based mind training. Mindfulness is the basis and mindfulness practice supports the development of compassion.

Historically, in the past the voice of intuition was respected, and it has always been associated with the feminine. Our western preference for patriarchal, hierarchical dominance has led to societies that are now floundering. The rational approach may be clever, but it is not always wise. We can only restore balance by focusing our attention on educating the intuitive mind.

Meditation strengthens right brained activity and the intuitive mind. Most women lean towards intuition more naturally and more strongly, and yet because this is a society that values the left brain approach – associated with the more rational, logistical approach, it is not respected. The lack of respect comes from a deep place in society. Society is entrenched in patriarchal, hierarchical attitudes. It is not because women are female that we are subjugated, but because it is that voice, that the rational, ego-centred mind is scared of. Emotions show weakness, feelings are just superstitious nonsense, compassion is for women.

It’s not about the role of female v male in society structures, but about intuition v rational, and because the female often comes from a feeling, intuitive place, relying on gut feelings due to “knowing” things because of the right- brained approach then there is an imbalance in society because that voice is not being listened to. It’s not necessarily that the male is rejecting female qualities but it’s more to do with the dominance of the rational approach, the way we have been educated. Our misogynistic society means that men hold power because they reject the way women think. There’s a fear of that inner wisdom – a lack of trust and respect for the intuitive approach, that connects us all, not divides us.

If a woman shows emotion in a position of power then they are held to be weak, unable to cope, and therefore unreliable as leaders. The fact that they are able to show emotion means that they are strong because the stronger we get, the gentler and more compassionate we become. We do not need women becoming like men in order to lead. We need men to become more like women, and lead with their hearts.

I am reminded of that Star Trek character Deanna Troi, who was half human and half betazoid (so Wikipedia tells me – I am not a fanzoid). She was able to sense emotions in others and advise Captain Kirk how to handle others.  She was Ship’s counsellor because of this. She should have been captain and Kirk should have been her adviser. We’re living things the wrong way round and that is why there is such hatred and aggression.

Practise mindfulness and destroy your ignorance. If you are a man, you will find an inner power that is in desperate need of nurturing. It will make you feel like a modern man – in touch with his feelings, but still powerful.

If you are a woman, the practice of mindfulness will emphasise what you have already known, but no-one was listening to. We don’t need to be the best man that we can be, but be who we are – and respect it. Promoting wisdom (through mindfulness) will enable you to manage natural feelings in a constructive and productive way, not suppress them because they are not respected.