Goddess (Sort of) Lessons : Kuan Yin


Sometimes life just hurts. And the temptation is to close off, armor, numb, protect. We are encouraged by our modern society to do this in all kinds of ways:

don’t text the person back right away.

brag about how many fucks you don’t give.

filter away your imperfections and pretend that everything is okay.

And then there’s life’s inevitable heartbreaks, many of which are out of our direct control. there are still black kids dying for no reason except a world that says their lives are without meaning. there are the never actualized desires of our friends and family.

how do we stay open when there is so much pain in our own hearts and in the world?

I’ve never been someone who was good at not feeling. I was the crybaby of homeroom 18 who hated being picked last for kickball and couldn’t hold back my tears if someone made fun of me.

when i got into a fight in fifth grade (i accidentally hit a boy in the head with a red bouncy ball during a game  of keep-away and he called me a bitch), i was crying hot tears as I swung for his head.

I quickly learned that no one likes a crybaby. especially a dark-skinned black one. girls who looked like me are supposed to be neck-craning, eye-rolling, lips smacking tigresses who reduce people to dust with venomous tongue lashings.

black girls like me are not supposed to cry, to be hurt, to feel anything but rage.

One of the best things that has occurred on this journey to be whole is that I am releasing these old stories and locating my own path.

even if it means being kind of alone.

I used to never cry at movies, training myself to steel away tears when the violins hit by balling my hands into fists.

a couple of weeks ago i cried when I saw Moana. (that grandma part, man…)

I’ve cried on public benches, during graduate classes, in my office. I close the door and I let it all come out.

i  am a contemporary Mary Magdalene.

I allow myself to feel and look at my tears with an air of compassion.

I have been thinking of Kuan Yin as I embark deeper on this path of integrating my full emotional landscape.

As someone very invested in studying the Divine Feminine in any way I can find Her, I am always on the lookout for a good goddess story. I cannot (and will not) “invoke” various goddesses like I am picking from a grab bag, but I can remain open to their stories for inspiration.

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Patricia Monaghan, author of The Goddess Path, describes Kuan-Yin this way,

“She [Kuan-Yin] is not a goddess, for there are no such figures in Buddhism–although some may call her a folk goddess. Nor is she a buddah, one who has attained perfect enlightenment. Rather Kuan-Yin is a bodhisattva, someone who stands at the threshold of enlightenment; she is called a celestial bodhisattva, the highest rank of these semi-divine beings, for she stands as close as it is possible to heaven itself…she remains perpetually a bodhisvatta, rather than progressing into utter illumination, because she made a vow not to attain enlightenment while a single person on earth suffered.”

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