Christina Feldman’s new book describes modern women’s journeys of awakening. Using parable and story, myth and case study, the author describes turning points in the lives of women: how, for example, the grief of a young mother over her handicapped infant is transformed into a deep appreciation for that baby’s presence in her life; or how a pygmy shaman, responsible for keeping her tribe safe from encroaching civilization, faces the bulldozers and begins replanting the forest in their wake. Through these glimpses of contemporary lives, the author shows us how each woman has within her at any moment the capability and the strength to take the next step.
Within each woman, says Feldman, is a warrior woman, an internal guide. The warrior woman is awake, loving and compassionate, strong and vigilant, all at the same time. The warrior woman accepts no limitations or hindrances to her ability to awaken. She makes no excuses for herself or for those who would say that women are not the rightful heirs to true and deep spiritual lives. The warrior woman’s birthright is to be free and awake, to realize her inner strength, to trust her intuition, and to bring to her own life and to the lives of those she meets along the way an appreciation for the sacred in each moment.
The warrior woman excels at the feminine arts of weaving and healing, metaphors for the tasks most needed today by ourselves and our planet. Weaving has been a traditional practice for women in many eras and cultures. Through her inner strength and insight, the warrior woman brings together the warp and woof of love and greed, compassion and hatred, calmness and aggression, steadfastness and fear, transforming those separate strands into a tapestry of beauty and wholeness. One of the author’s primary themes is that Western culture constantly tells women that they must improve themselves by conforming in their appearance, ideas and aspirations to socially-accepted norms. The warrior woman’s uniqueness, however, dwells in all her attributes, and she refuses to allow a separation of herself into the “acceptable” and the “not acceptable.” She recognizes how seeking a perfection which does not exist can be an endlessly spiraling trap. Rather than overcoming, denying or improving her shadow side, the warrior woman weaves all these parts of herself together into the complex fabric of her own life.
Healing, the other traditional feminine art, is founded in the histories of countless generations of women living in harmony with the natural world. In historical times, however, both women and nature became subject to the various controlling institutions of church and state, and the ancient healing arts were forgotten. Over time these institutions have defined the appropriate ways for women to express their spirituality, sexuality and humanness, and many women have internalized these restrictions. The woman warrior, though, refuses definition. She claims her sense of her wholeness, her knowledge of her body and her deep understanding of the interrelatedness of all things. The ancient arts are revived when women heal themselves, their relationships, their society and their planet, and begin weaving together the disparate light and dark strands.
Near the end of the book, Feldman weaves together two archetypes of women’s strength: the mystic and the feminist. According to Feldman, the renunciate—who disdains the pain and pleasure of this world for the treasure of a life lived apart—and the feminist—who loudly challenges the institutions and mores of our culture—have much in common. Both yearn for freedom; both draw on great inner strength and intuition; both hold a vision of femininity that embraces the seeker and the leader, the visionary and the champion. When these two selves reclaim one another, the division between the spiritual and the temporal world is healed.
The roots of The Quest of the Warrior Woman are grounded in the more than twenty years that the author has studied and taught vipassana meditation. In this book, as in her teaching, Feldman is inspiring, tough, generous, a practitioner of what she preaches. It is at first surprising that nowhere in this book is there a discussion about meditation as a part of the journey; this is surprising because Feldman as teacher has a singular commitment to meditation as a path towards awakening. Yet, perhaps because this book lacks precepts or instructions for meditation, it will have a wide appeal to women of all ages and situations.