The Mother of the World, the Goddess, the female aspect of divinity, has deeply influenced me. Let me tell two personal stories in order to illustrate this.
One is about a visit to Lourdes. The other involves me hanging upside down and a wet dog . . .
The first story happened when I was in my twenties and driving with my partner across France and Spain in a Volkswagen camper van. My partner was a left-wing feminist and had no time for Catholicism and its worship of Mary, so was not too happy when our route took us via Lourdes and I said that I wanted to visit the shrine. So she stayed and rested in the van while I went in.
Following custom I lit a candle and knelt. I did not say any prayers or even think them. I wasn’t expecting anything. Basically I was just happy to be out of the van and in an unusual and new setting.
Within a few minutes I was having an overwhelmingly positive experience of an atmosphere and a vibration I had never felt before. It was strong and oceanic. It was safe and reassuring and healing. A wave of healing grace enfolded me. In those moments, for the first time in my life, I experienced the full presence of the divine mother. Are those the right words? I am not sure.
Suddenly I understood all the Lady chapels in every Catholic church across the world and the women who light candles and pray in them. I experienced a deep soothing comfort, that of a loving mother whose light touch could never smother or intrude, but would always just be there as a reassuring and healing comfort.
My experience, of course, was not unusual. This is precisely how millions of people experience the female dimension of deity. She gives comfort and healing. As represented in the figure of Mary, she is always delicate and graceful. Her representation in the East, as the Goddess Kuan Yin or White Tara or Lakshmi, is also similarly modest.
Be careful though. Do not imagine that this grace and subtlety are signs of weakness. In Qi Gung and Tai Chi, for example, there is a clear teaching that the softer and more subtle the energy, the deeper it can penetrate into us.
This is one of the great powers of the Mother of the World, the Madonna: surrender to her and she will comfort you completely.
SURRENDERING WITH A DOG AND A CAT
My other story is very different. It involves one of my dogs, one of my cats and a health device for hanging upside down.
Every morning immediately after I wake up I take my two dogs, Daisy and Champ, mother and son, two big white standard poodles, for a walk. Whatever the weather I really like this walk across fields, along the River Brue, with Glastonbury Tor only a mile away. I have all the right gear and am even happy in the pouring rain. The dogs have rainwear too otherwise their coats can be a nightmare to dry. After the walk I then always do my morning meditation.
On this particular day there had been a light drizzle and I had not put on the dogs’ rainwear, so I dried them with a towel and went to my room to meditate. My back however felt a bit tight and I decided that before meditation I would hang upside down for fifteen minutes. I stepped into my inversion device, fastened my ankles and carefully allowed myself to tilt backwards until I was hanging upside down. This is wonderful therapy for my spine, opening it up vertebra by vertebra, taking all the weight off it and allowing it to stretch and expand. I have used it regularly since a horrible back crisis twenty years ago and it is a wonderful part of my sustained good health. In fact I have a friend who is ninety-eight and hangs upside down every morning for thirty minutes while chanting hare krishna. And he is definitely still sparkling.
As I hung upside down that morning, relaxing and beginning my meditation, I heard the door of my room being pushed open by Millie, one of my two birman cats, who years ago seduced me (I had previously just been a dog person) and who likes to sit on me while I meditate. Of course, she gets confused when I am hanging upside down, so she plodded and prowled around, bonking against my head, rubbing against me, not quite sure where my lap was and why I was inverted. Her tail kept going up my nose.
Then my door was pushed more widely open and in plodded Champ who is a huge lovely and well-meaning boy with a heart of gold and the brain of a dog. He too sometimes likes to lie against me when I’m meditating. He sniffed around me, sniffed the cat (they are friends and often sleep together) and then with great affection rested his head against mine. He was still wet from the walk and smelt. I now had two animals circling, sniffing each other and me, and rubbing against me or leaning on me.
By now I was beginning to smile.
Then Champ stepped away a few inches and gave himself a full doggy shake and I was showered with the excess water from the walk. Millie meowed in protest. I laughed. And then they both came back to me, Champ resting his head on one side of my face, Millie purring and licking the other. While I all along remained hanging upside down.
I loved it.
I loved being part of this playful world of well-meaning, friendly and happy animals. I liked the safety and joy of the affectionate rough and tumble game. I liked being a happy creature with other happy creatures.
Still hanging, I gave thanks and I found myself thinking of all the times that I, as a parent and friend, had played with children, making homes under sheets spread across chairs in the lounge. Face-painting and decorating each other; splashing, bubbles and balloons. Play is wonderful. There is something truly magical when animals play together in safety and happiness.
For me, that joy in our creaturehood is protected and nurtured by Mother Nature. Mother Nature safely holds and supports us. She creates space for her children to play and be joyful.
Mother Nature is also surely the Mother of the World, the Madonna of all life. If you have not done so already, perhaps you might like to call her more fully into your life with a prayer or a candle or a simple thought of gratitude.