“Gender is in everything, everything has its Masculine and Feminine principles, gender manifests on all planes.” ~ The Kyablion : Hermetic Philosophy.
The Divine Masculine and Feminine energies: Shiva and Shakti
According to Hindu mythology, Ardhanarishwara is an androgynous form of Lord Shiva, which is half masculine and half feminine. The right half represents the male, Shiva, and the left half represents the female, Shakti.
“The Hindus say that without Shakti, the personified feminine life force, Shiva, who encompasses the masculine ability to act, becomes a corpse. She is the life energy that animates the male principle, and the male principle in turn animates action in the world.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Este.
The Divine Feminine energy (Shakti) is like water: fluid, receptive, nourishing, creative, trusting and intuitive. The Divine Masculine energy (Shiva) is like fire: providing the structure for growth and movement.
Shiva and Shakti are forever in union and in balance. The symbolism of Ardhnarishwara depicts that we have to weave and balance the masculine and feminine energies within us to embody wholeness and reach our highest potential.
Balancing the Masculine and the Feminine within: Shiva and Shakti Union
1) Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana
According to the Yogic philosophy, we have an energetic body in addition to our physical body. The 7 chakras are the energy centres located along the spine from the base of the spine to top of the head and the life energy known as Prana, Shakti or Chi flows through them along the pathways called Nadis.
There are 72000 nadis in the energy body that spring from three basic Nadis – Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. Ida and Pingala represent the male and female principle, the duality in the existence. Sushumna runs through the middle of the spinal cord and is called the Brahma Nadi. The primary goal of Yoga is to balance the masculine and feminine aspects within and move to the central channel called Sushumna Nadi which is the doorway for self-realization.
Ida is symbolized by the moon and represents the feminine energy. It is located on the left side of the spinal cord and connected to the left nostril and right side of the brain.
Pingala represents the masculine energy, symbolized by the sun. It is located on the right side of the spinal cord and connected to the right nostril and left side of the brain. If Ida is prominent in you, your feminine energy is dominant and if Pingala is prominent in you, your masculine energy is dominant.
One of the easiest ways to balance the feminine and masculine energy within us is Alternate Nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama.
It also helps to clear the body’s energetic channels, so that the prana can travel easily.
This is how you can do Nadi Shodhana.
2) Androgynous Thinking
Do you feel that you are independent and analytical and achieve all your goals but are not in touch with your emotions and intuition, or you become too harsh, cold or critical of others and yourselves?
On the contrary do you feel that you are creative and brimming with ideas, in touch with your emotions and intuition, you nurture and love freely but lack structure and direction. Do you have trouble achieving your goals, standing your ground and making decisions?
This is because we tend to be either left-brain dominant or right-brain dominant in our thinking. If we are left-brain dominant (masculine energy, concrete and logical), we tend to be more analytical, structured and linear in our thinking but we lack creativity, empathy and intuition.
If we are right-brain dominant (feminine energy, intuitive and abstract), we tend to be more fluid and creative in our thinking but lack structure and direction. To balance the masculine and feminine energies within us, we need to be Androgynous in our thinking i.e. embrace both left brain thinking and right brain thinking.
If we are left-brain dominant, we need to learn to get in touch with our emotions and intuition so that we can nurture ourselves and others. If we are right-brain dominant, we need to learn to embrace logical thinking and structure so that we can drive our dreams and goals to fruition.
“And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers resides, one male, one female…The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating …Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine…” ~ Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
3) Embracing Our Shadow Side: Anima and Animus
According to Carl Jung’s psychoanalytic theory, “individuation” is the process through which a person gains wholeness. As part of the individuation process, a person has to integrate and embrace their internal Anima or Animus. (Every male has an unconscious feminine aspect within called anima and every female has an unconscious masculine aspect within called animus).
Integrating the Anima and Animus
We need to embrace the fact that the masculine and feminine traits are not mutually exclusive, one is not a better way than the other, rather both are the tools available to us to reach our highest potential.
There are situations that require us to embrace our feminine side and there are situations that require us to don the hat of our masculine traits and we need to learn to seamlessly flow in and out of both the roles.
The integration process begins with letting go of the “either” and “or” approach and embracing the “both”approach. We need to step out of our comfort zones of being identified with our stereotypical gender roles and take a leap and embody our wholeness.
The process can be scary and can lead to a lot of cognitive dissonance but until we embrace this process, we will lead a one-dimensional life.
Connecting to Anima:
The feminine energy is receptive, intuitive, creative and nurturing. You can connect to the inner feminine through the following activities:
1) Practice the art of empathy and compassion: Develop sensitivity towards the needs and feelings of others. Practice the art of compassionate listening.
2) Get passionate and creative: Embrace the inner Anima through indulging in creative activities like dance, music, poetry or art. Any activity that puts you in a flow state where you lose track of time will help you to get in touch with the inner Anima.
3) Embrace intuition: “There is a voice that doesn’t use words – Listen” ~ Rumi.
Our intuition talks to us through body sensations, our gut feelings, lump in our throats. Pay attention to these sensations while making any decisions instead of just relying on logic and reasoning.
4) Practice meditation and self inquiry: Feminine energy is fluid and receptive. You need to relinquish some of your desire to control everything and allow the feminine energy to work its magic in your life.
Meditation helps you to do that by putting you in a state of receptivity. Set aside some time for contemplation and self inquiry to get in touch with your emotions, internal needs and inner self.
Connecting to Animus:
The masculine energy is logical, action oriented and structured. You can connect to the inner masculine through the following activities:
1) Encourage logical thinking and structure: Incorporate logical thinking and analysis for problem solving and decision making instead of just relying on your emotions and intuition. Become organized, set timelines and action plans to achieve those goals.
2) Practice assertiveness: Create healthy boundaries and practice conscious assertiveness. Take up activities that enhance your leadership qualities.
3) Become independent and self reliant: Learn to be your own cheerleader and bring your ideas and projects to fruition through self discipline, resilience and perseverance.
When we have balanced our inner masculine and feminine energies, we no longer identify with the stereotypical limitations of gender specific roles and thinking.
We embrace ourselves in totality and we embrace others in totality. We engage in beautiful co- creative and interdependent relationships instead of codependent and manipulative relationships. We become an embodiment of the beautiful dance between Shiva and Shakti.