Excerpt from the Introduction of REVEAL: A Sacred Manual For Getting
Spiritually Naked. (Hay House Inc., 2013)
There’s a famous BBC interview in which the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung is asked if he believes in God. “Difficult to answer,” he tells the interviewer. And then after the most perfect pregnant pause he says, “I know. I don’t need to believe. I know.” This is what I wanted. I wanted to know God, intimately. I wanted a personal experience of the Divine. I wanted to meet what is most sacred, not just one day a week or on holidays or on special occasions like weddings and deaths. I wanted the Divine to infuse every part of my life, every day, every breath.
Just as medicine—and later, psychology—were grounded in the male body and the male experience, the liturgy and spiritual practices of most of the world’s religions were codified and created by men. I marched out of my Unitarian church at age ten after reading the Bible for the first time and realizing that women’s voices weren’t a part of the story. I have wondered since then what a spirituality would look like if it were created with women’s experience and perspective in mind.
I wanted to be spiritual in a way that allowed me to be as at home in my soul as I am in my skin. Separating my sexuality from my spirituality didn’t work for me, because it wasn’t true to my experience. For me, it was only by winning back my body—by daring to really be present to all I was feeling in my body—that I finally began to connect to what is eternal in me. The body then wasn’t an obstacle but, in a way, the goal.
I have spent the majority of my life gathering stories of the Divine Feminine. Each time before getting masters degrees in theology and divinity, I went on a pilgrimage to sacred sites of the Divine Feminine through- out Europe. The first was with a group and the second was on my own. So it went group pilgrimage, Master of Theological Studies, solo pilgrimage, Master of Divinity.
Through the stories of the Divine Feminine in Christianity’s Mary Magdalene, Catholicism’s Black Madonna, Hinduism’s Kali Ma, and Buddhism’s Green Tara, for example, I began to see that I wasn’t as much of a spiritual misfit as I had thought. There was a red thread that became visible to me. It ran through many of the world religions, especially through their mystics, relaying that the way to find the Divine is to go within. And, that our potential to be transformed by going inward is exactly the same whether we are a man or a woman. The real barometer of our spiritual potential is not our sex, but the commitment of our desire to want to encounter the Divine.
In divinity school and seminary I came across early Christian writings that are not well known in the main- stream, such as The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Pistis Sophia. These are texts in which the Divine isn’t out there, above or beyond us, but rather within us. And the central figures of these texts are women.
These were the voices that as a little girl I sensed were missing from the Bible. But what I really wanted to find was a text that helped me go within. I loved the metaphors of what happens by turning inward: the mystical union, the sacred marriage, the alchemical uniting of opposites. That all sounded so intriguing, so alluring, but I had no idea what any of it really meant or how to get there.
What I lacked most and longed to find was a sacred guide to the inner terrain. I needed help in navigating that unknown inner world, a person who could light my way through the darkness. I loved listening to sermons, homilies, and dharma talks, and attending satsangs, pujas, and midnight masses. I loved learning about saints, mystics, gurus, shamans, and holy people from around the world and in all traditions. But what I really craved was a sort of priestess to the churches and synagogues that travel within us wherever we go. I needed someone who could point me toward the holy temple that we can’t see with our eyes but can only sense with our souls.
This, I found, is who I am.
To me being spiritual is less about learning something new and more about remembering what I have always known. Being spiritual is a process of stripping down to what is authentic for me, for my life. Getting spiritually naked is about having the courage to be radically open about the truth of who we are with no exceptions and no apologies, to reveal ourselves without judgment or shame.