Hi, it’s Erin Fowler here – Eliyah Practitioner and Facilitator in training. I have been working with Chantelle and the Eliyah Tantra School over the past 4 years and, alongside leading the Temple Dance parts of the Eliyah retreats, I am now also undertaking a private mentorship with Chantelle to become a practitioner with the school.
Every now and then I will be writing some of the content for this blog (see my last post “What is Tantra – And How Do I Start), sharing some of my own perspectives, experiences and learnings from Tantra and the Eliyah Tantra School. Chantelle and I have both had different life journeys and therefore have different things to share, as do the other Eliyah writers that feature here from time to time. Having other people write and offer input here helps support Chantelle in delivering her offerings to the school, as well as supporting all of you by offering a diverse range of experiences and voices. See more about our increasing range of free resources below!
In this blog, I explore some of my own recent self-enquiry and exploration around developing a spiritual practice that is in line with my own ethics and values whilst also acknowledging the responsibility that comes with working in this sphere. As I feel deeply into my desire to work as a spiritual practitioner and teacher, I feel a growing commitment to continuously expanding my knowledge, awareness and accountability in order to bring the highest integrity to my work.
There are a lot of important conversations currently happening around inclusivity, environmental sustainability and cultural appropriation/decolonisation. I haven’t covered them all in this blog, and there is a lot for me to still understand, but I do know that it is important to me that we let a range of voices and experiences be heard. I feel we are all being asked to step up in this space, and I believe the spiritual community has huge potential to become the change we wish to see in the world. It all starts with us.
GETTING REAL WITH YOURSELF
During my recent travels it became clear to me that despite claiming environmental sustainability as one of my greatest concerns, I had been ignoring this significantly during my travels – usually out of laziness, being in a rush, choosing the cheaper option, or a whole bunch of other largely unjustifiable reasons. When I felt deeper into this, I realised I was wanting to choose personal comfort over something that actually means a great deal to me.
Through the teachings of Tantra, I was able to identify the source of my resistance, face my shadow (see our blog on Shadow work), feel the emotion underneath it and shift it in an embodied way so that I could see what deeper teachings were there. I sat with the guilt and shame I felt about my actions and also sat with the anger that even if I do change the way I behave and live as sustainability as I can, there is so much that is out of my control for the planet. I felt my deep grief for Mother Earth.
As I step deeper into a path of service and teaching, I realise I need and want to be clear within myself as to what I stand for and to live wholeheartedly by that. After identifying this, it suddenly FELT GOOD to choose the more environmentally sustainable option. It felt good to bring this consciously into my awareness and to live in alignment with my values.
SIT IN THE DISCOMFORT
Underneath this previous example, was a realisation of the deeper discomfort I feel around my own privilege as a white, CIS-gendered, middle-class woman. In my spiritual work I exist in communities of largely the same demographic. However, often the practices and wisdom we learn, and share, is from traditions and communities that have suffered under colonial rule, racism and other forms of oppression that are less visible or included in these spaces. Furthermore, my privilege allows me to travel the world, using up significant environmental resources, and live a life of luxury in comparison to most of the world’s population.
So what to do with all of that?
Well firstly, I believe we need to FEEL it all. We aren’t usually taught how to sit in these more uncomfortable feelings without wanting to blame, tame or shame something outside of ourselves to make us feel better. But in the case of cultural appropriation, in acknowledging a dark history of colonisation and abuse around the world, and taking responsibility for the ways we uphold white supremacy, it is important to be able to sit with the pain of that and hold ourselves accountable to our own involvement, be it big or small. . The lessons of Tantra help us to do this at a personal and collective level. As a colleague recently put it, we need to be able to “sit in the shit” so to speak. I truly believe this is one of the greatest things we can do at this time in history – for the planet, for our colonial history, for gender equality and for whatever else sits uncomfortably within you and the collective.
“The times that we are now living in and the work of social justice necessitates having a relationship to and embodiment of aspects of ourselves that patriarchal white supremacy has deemed as wrong, deviant or dangerous.
The Dark Feminine and her myths from around the world as Kali Ma, Inanna & Ereshkigal, Demeter & Persphone, Isis, Sekhmet, Cerridwen, Hecate, Pele, Durga, Oya, Lilith, Baba Yaga and many more, have so much to teach us about what it means to embrace and transform the shadow – both within ourselves and in the collective consciousness.
Through her myths, The Dark Goddess teaches us the importance of transformational portals like rage, death & rebirth, grief, power, the mystery of not knowing all the answers, sexuality, no-bullshit truth-telling, strong boundaries and doing what is right rather than what is comfortable.
To the extent that we are unable to tolerate and embrace these dark aspects, we will similarly be unable to do the work of sacred activism.
If you cannot be with your own rage, then you cannot be with the rage that arises when a POC (Person of Colour) is getting frustrated with you because of your white privileged behaviour.
If you cannot be with your own grief, then you cannot be with the grief that POC feel as a result of living with the constant trauma of being oppressed and discriminated against.
If you cannot be with your own power, then you cannot make space for POC exerting their power through their voice, their boundary-setting and their no bullshit truth-telling.”
DEVELOP A PERSONAL “CODE OF ETHICS”
To integrate my process, I decided to write my own personal “Code of Ethics” to live by. This is still moving through me, and I anticipate it will change and evolve as I do. I am always open to reflection from others in the community. I hope it inspires you to contemplate your own code of ethics. Too often our integrity is dependent on external “shoulds”. The invitation is to live in the grounded certainty and clarity of your own integrity. Here are a few examples of mine:
I am committed to living an environmentally conscious lifestyle and to reducing my carbon footprint as much as possible.
I am committed to finding ways to make my work accessible, welcoming and safe for others to engage with and acknowledge that I am still learning better ways to do this.
I commit to learning more about decolonisation and owning my privilege. I commit to learning more about where the materials and practices I use come from and to make sure permission has been granted for this to be shared.
I commit to sourcing materials for my work from sustainable, ethical sources.
I commit to not using materials or practices e.g. a Blessingway (versus a Mother Blessing), that have specifically been requested are not used by those outside of the specific culture and to educate others around this.
I commit to learning about my own ancestry and the spiritual practices associated with that.
My code of ethics will certainly be different to yours, but what seems important to me is that we go through a process of self-enquiry and really tune into our heart and soul as well as our mind, for what is important to us.
Here are some possible questions you could ask yourself:
- What lights me up with love?
- What fires me up with anger?
- What causes me deep pain to witness in the world?
- What causes me deep joy to witness in the world?
Our anger and grief can be as much of a motivating force as our love. Try not to answer with the “right’ response, but feel into what is true for you, because that it where your power lies, and where you will be of most service.
Likewise, you might want to ask yourself:
- What things am I reacting to because I think I should, rather than because it is true within me?
- What causes, issues or values am I advocating or fighting for because I think it will make me look good, add to my CV, or get me more likes on Instagram?
- What things am I avoiding looking at because it is too uncomfortable or would mean I would have to give up things that I am attached to?
This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to be the best version of ourselves and treat all people with respect and kindness. However, when it comes to your personal ethics or values, are you really giving your time and energy to things that have authenticity and integrity within you? Are you practicing what you preach? Or are you living out of alignment with what you truly believe in?
COMMIT TO DOING YOUR BEST
As I write this post, I worry about getting it wrong, offending people or being seen as another “Spiritual White Girl,” but feel that sharing these fears and concerns is still important as it can open conversations and growth for us all. Which brings me to the final teaching of Tantra that I come back to often: self-acceptance and compassion. Like with many other challenges I face, I tell myself “It’s fair enough to be scared of getting it wrong.” “It’s fair enough to feel overwhelmed and frozen by all of the pain and suffering in the world.” “It’s fair enough that you sometimes do get it wrong and say or do the wrong thing.”By acknowledging my own fear and discomfort I take the first step in moving beyond it. This in turn means I am better able to get past my own limitations and limiting beliefs. I can stop following others and own my “shit” and likewise get clarity through the wisdom of my body on what I stand for. I am, in turn, better able to own my strengths and power and take action in the world with radical self-responsibility, integrity and awareness.
I look forward to sharing more of my writing with you over the coming months and am always interested in hearing how this resonates with you. I can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org anytime you feel called, and I am also available for 1:1 sessions through the Eliyah sessions booking page.
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Eliyah Tantra School is very passionate about passing on as much information as possible to and is currently expanding the free resources offered so that the work of the school is more accessible to those that may otherwise not be able to physically attend workshops, retreats or private sessions or for whom these experiences may not be feasible financially. So, keep checking your emails, stay in touch with the website and follow @eliyahtantraschool on Instagram and Facebook. We also have our Eliyah podcast, YouTube and Spotify channels which our followers are finding extremely beneficial. If there is a particular topic you would love us to share on in our blogs or videos, please email me: email@example.com