Contemplative Feminism

[photo credit @ Vieve Simon]

One of the central methods I have developed in my research and teaching is something I call contemplative feminism. Here's a primer on what I mean by the term.

What is "Contemplative Feminism?"

Contemplative feminism is a way of living and being and feeling and knowing.

It's guided by the principle that as we learn to name systems of injustice, we also need to inhabit a holistic process of learning that helps us access our own lived stories, senses, memory—including intergenerational—, and embodied experiences. We carry so much with us, with our without language, and part of the feminist learning labor is to examine what we are carrying.

But the multiple, intersecting systems of injustice we live within are traumatizing to body, psyche, spirit, and imagination; so we also need to ask what kinds of holistic learning experiences best support healing processes within those systems.

Contemplative feminism is a learning method I developed from many years of research and teaching at the edge of gender studies, ethnic studies, religious history, and counseling psychology. These practices slow us down, inviting us to align mind-body-spirit.

The methods attend to grief, even helping us understand trauma as a site not of pathology but of deep knowledge needing more care and collective listening.

Contemplative feminist learning recognizes that creativity and embodied integrations of intellectual ideas must be core to any feminist education experience that is transformative at a deep level.

In my feminist studies programs, workshops, and retreats, we use contemplative writing practices to go deeper into holistic learning of the feminist idea that "the personal is political." Contemplative writing not only catalyzes your creativity, but it is a "container" for your subconscious healing process, helping to unearth important questions and knowledge and stories that might be prompting your attention and reflection.

We will discuss how this slow, courageous inner work is intimately linked to the kind of transformations we will be able to co-create with others in the larger world.

My teaching is intellectually rigorous (I am a scholar), but my goal is to resist mind-body disconnection, and allow sensory and embodied reclamations of ways of knowing.

The epistemologies (or, ways of knowing) in most of western education often are not holistic practices, but rather are embedded in the very systems of injustice that harm and fragment us. When we split our minds from our bodies, our theory from our lived narratives, our spirits from our senses, we are not allowing our mind-body-spirit's full healing mechanisms to unfold.

In a U.S. context, we live inside intersecting traumatizing systems, including histories of white supremacy, male supremacy, capitalism, and a dominant politicized form of Christianity enmeshed with the violence of empire building. These unjust systems are material in nature (i.e. they exploit people's labor, they steal and kill and destroy). And, these systems are also epistemological in nature—meaning, they tell us what is legitimate knowledge, and what is not, who is a legitimate knower and who is not.

These systems deeply influence our very relationships with ourselves, our generational histories, and our bodies, even cutting us off from the knowledges held in our somatic experience and subconscious.

Contemplative feminist practice are an act of repair. We are invited to practice interconnection and healing of dissociation and separations, and we start with our own being as we re-integrate mind, body, spirit in our work.

To find more resources for contemplative feminism, listen to my podcast, Writing Feminist Life Together.

Want to (casually) stay in touch?

Through The Feminist Letters, we send meditations such as these and sometimes news of courses and early birds at Feminism School. (And if it's not a fit at any point, we encourage that people unsubscribe as a way to inhabit feminist practices of consent!)

Recent Posts