What is a Goddess-based path?

A Goddess-based spiritual path has distinct characteristics. Here are the five that seem the most important to me at the moment: I call them the 5 Ds. This is a brief overview. I will discuss each one in greater detail in future posts.

Divinity

I believe in a divine spirit that permeates all existence and is the force behind all creation. Personifying this divine force as a Goddess can help us understand aspects of it, but if you don’t feel comfortable with that, you can think of it as the source of all love. Love is divine, so it follows that the Divine is love. If you have ever experienced love, you have experienced the Divine. If you believe love exists, you believe the Divine exists.

Not only is there a divine spirit, but this spirit leaves sparks of itself within everything that has life. Just like a hologram, the whole is contained within each particle. Each one of us, as an expression of the divine, is divine ourselves.

Wayne Dyer pointed out that a piece of pie is made from the same thing as the pie. We are pieces of the Divine, so we are made from the same thing as the Divine. The Divine is love, so we love.

If you say ‘I am Divine,’ you are not saying ‘I control everything in my life’. You are saying ‘I have the capacity to love.’

Descension

When we think of spirituality, we often think of the path of Ascension. Trying to fix our thoughts on lofty, heavenly subjects and pay as little attention as possible to mundane life and our bodies. Drifting off in meditation, or astral travelling. Taming and controlling the unruly mind. Rising above base emotions like anger, jealousy and resentment. Overcoming bodily urges like hunger or sexual desire.

We are used to thinking of the Divine as ‘out there’ or ‘up there’ – some place we are not. Only by purging, purifying, controlling and denying our human minds and flesh can we ever hope to approach its realms.

This is a valid path, and if it calls to you, that’s fine, nothing wrong with that. But there are other paths to the Divine that are just as worthy and valid, and the path of Descension is one that resonates with me.

Ascension gets a lot of airplay. Descension not so much, but it has always been there, and in recent decades, interest in it has blossomed. I believe in taking a balanced approach, and there is a bright side and shadow side to each path which needs to be taken into consideration. But as a template for spiritual practice, Descension naturally suits some people better. And it is often a hallmark of Goddess-based spirituality.

So, instead of flitting off ‘up there’ to commune with the divine, Descension aims to bring the Divine ‘down here’ into our bodies and into our everyday lives. Actually, it’s not even about ‘bringing’ anything down to meet us, as it is already here. The Divine is already alive and pulsing in each cell of our body. ‘Enlightenment’ then is a process of becoming conscious of this reality. The more aware of our Divinity we are, the more it expresses itself.

We begin to recognise the Divine at work in all the details of our everyday lives. Instead of relying on a holy book, we absorb our lessons from nature, our relationships and the situations that are present for us. We receive divine guidance directly from our bodies and emotions. Difficult emotions are not wished away, but accepted as messengers to teach and guide us.

In a holographic universe, Nature itself is the Goddess. We are part of nature, our bodies are part of the natural world. Therefore we are parts of the Goddess and our bodies are the body of the Goddess.

Devotion

As you become aware of your Divine essence, the more you express characteristics of the Divine. Because the Divine is love and love is the Divine, you begin to become aware of an ocean of love that needs to flow through you.

Devotion is love with legs. Love in action. It is choosing to take a few minutes to be conscious of the Divine force alive within every aspect of seemingly mundane physical reality.

You may act on your awareness by lighting a candle, taking a deep, intentional breath or whispering a prayer of gratitude. You may be very informal and spontaneous in your devotional acts, or you may construct rituals, keep an altar, or offer up the energy raised during your morning run to be used for the wellbeing of the planet.

Everything and everyone in this world is connected. Ritual recognises and nourishes these connections.

Those who understand the Divine in terms of a personified Goddess may honour a specific deity or several deities who represent different aspects of the Goddess. In the past I never thought I would ever interact with the Divine in this way, but now deity worship is huge for me.

I don’t see it as begging to the Goddess to make things go my way. Instead I simply admire the qualities of the Goddess and express my admiration. The thing is, those qualities are not outside of myself. As I align with the frequencies of a characteristic (eg courage) by chanting the mantra of a particular Goddess, I awaken it within myself. I am not begging for an outcome to be magically given to me, I am allowing the courage already within me to come more fully into my consciousness so I can go and do what is necessary in the physical world to bring about the desired outcome.

Just like when you are in love with a person, when you love the Goddess, you see her everywhere. This helps you to see clearly the rhythms and cycles that run through all of the natural world, your body and your life. Life is so much more harmonious when lived in accordance with cycles, seasons and rhythms.

The anxiety surrounding loss and change is eased when you realise that everything comes and goes in cycles and that suffering is a result of clinging to a stage when it’s really time to let go. It is the natural order of things for happy moments to pass and give way to sad moments, which in turn will become happy again.

When we understand this, we don’t panic so much when we feel the carefree warmth of summer begin to slip from our grasp. We also don’t despair in the depths of winter, because we know that there is a greater purpose for the grey conditions and that if we just roll with it, springtime cannot be far away.

Desire

We get so used to putting our desires on the back burner. We see them as distractions from more important things that need to be done. Or we may fear them as gateways to our ruin. In some religious traditions, they are something to be conquered and overcome.

After spending decades squelching down all my desires, I found myself wondering why I felt so numb and had no passion or motivation. What is motivation if not desire?

Pleasure is what we seek when we follow desire, and pleasure actually helps us to survive, in a manner similar to fear. While fear acts to steer us away from things that might harm us, pleasure often guides us toward behaviours that are good for us. A cool breeze feels so good when you’re overheating, but not when your body is already too cold. We don’t need to know about the mechanisms of heatstroke to avoid suffering from it. All we need to do is follow what feels good and we will be okay. Aaah – a cool shady spot, this feels nice. I’ll stay here a while.

I used to tie myself in knots wondering what I was meant to do with my life. What was my purpose? I now realise that I knew all along, because I knew deep down what I wanted to do. I knew where my desires wanted to lead me, but my logical mind insisted that what I wanted to do wasn’t practical and I couldn’t make a living from it. I kept trying to come up with other ways to make a living and contribute to society, but I never gained much traction because I wasn’t truly following my desires.

After I got cancer, I spent a lot of time reflecting, and identifying my desires. It became clear to me that desire is a message from the Goddess, about what to do next. Following my desires has now put me in the places I need to be. Places where not only do I receive the various forms of nourishment I need, but where I am able to best serve others.

Chasing short-term hedonistic hits of dopamine is not the kind of desire and pleasure I am referring to. I am talking about those deep-seated longings to create, or live a certain way or do certain things. Those things you think you could never do because you might fail, look foolish or attract criticism. Those things that you know would lead to your greatest fulfilment but just aren’t practical right now. We all have those desires, and in the context of Goddess-based spirituality, our desire leads us to our dharma.

Discovery

We come to the planet to experience the physical plane. We discover life through a never-ending series of experiments. We sometimes don’t like how our experiments turn out, but there is always the opportunity to learn from our apparent failures and try something else.

On the Goddess path we can discover ways to work with nature instead of against it. How to harness the power of the elements and the cycles, seasons and rhythms. Learning about how our minds and bodies work and how to best honour and care for them. Being curious and open-minded about other people’s beliefs. Looking at history and the way our ancestors lived. Discerning patterns of the past which may throw light upon possible futures. Being willing to suspend judgement and try new things, new ways of thinking, behaving and perceiving. And most importantly, allowing ourselves to be amazed every day. Any kind of spirituality begins with the experience of awe, and Goddess-based spirituality is a mindset that is perpetually open to awe in everyday life.

So that is my condensed explanation of what Goddess-based spirituality means to me right now. That’s another thing – it’s always is changing and evolving. I will probably be riffing on these themes in posts to come, and talking more specifically about how the 5Ds work into my areas of interest, which are mainly body image and food addiction, but also chronic illness, depression and anxiety, recovery from fundamentalist religion, and probably a few posts about breast cancer.

Thank you for reading, I hope you find nourishment here.

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