The Caring Economy Course was the final of three webinars I have taken with the Riane Eisler Network over the past year or so. Having first read Riane’s The Chalice and the Blade in February of 2015, I immediately recognized her genius in synthesizing and articulating a holistic feminist vision, and her contribution as a theorist, activist, and spokeswoman for one of the most important movements of the 20th and 21st centuries, the reawakening of the feminine energy on our planet. After reading The Chalice and the Blade I flew to California to hear her address a woman’s conference and met her personally to share with her my idea of applying her insights to the Indian tradition. She encouraged me and invited to me sign up for her Cultural Transformation Course. Having now read nearly all of her books and taken all three of her webinars, two with a scholarship for which I am very grateful, I thought I would share some of my observations.
As soon as I read Riane’s first book I started recommending it to other women. After taking The Cultural Transformation webinar I presented her work to a woman’s group of about 25 women in my hometown. Nearly all of these women were white, older retired women, most were well travelled, educated, and had worked as teachers or nurses, and knew well the “Caring Economy,” both its rewards and challenges. Later I made a similar presentation to a group of working women in a spiritual group in PA. In each case I showed the first video in the series of the Cultural Transformation course and all responded very favorably. In each case I recommended that the women explore Riane's website and programs for themselves.
Given the urgency of issues we fact today, we need to branch out in spreading Riane’s message. I feel that it is important to reach younger women as well, from ethnically and economically diverse backgrounds. I consider this a challenge for Riane’s supporters. How can we reach these audiences if we are not members of these particular groups? I find it is difficult even to reach women of my own ethnic background who belong to a different socioeconomic background, no matter what issue I am trying to promote!
I was fortunate, while teaching for a Semester in the Himalayas Program last fall (2016) to use Riane’s book The Real Wealth of Nations for a course I taught on “Human Security” and to apply her framework to global movements for gender equality and economic justice. During that same period I was fortunate to have an opportunity to speak to a group of about 25 young women in India who were attending a teacher’s training course at Kumaon community college in the Eastern Himalayan city of Raniket. As an anthropologist literally “married” to Indian culture, I have spent most of my life “between East and West,” involved in social and environmental issues on both sides of the world. Gender issues have been a special concern of mine and as a scholar of comparative religion, as both a scholar and an artist (practicing and performing Indian Classical Dance: see my book, A Yoga of Indian Classical Dance, http://www.innertraditions.com/a-yoga-of-indian-classical-dance.html) I have studied and participated in Goddess religion since my first trip to India in 1972. It has been a blessing of my life to work cross culturally in India and I very often have less problem communicating with a group of Indian women than I do with trying to reach some of my own family relatives whose political and religious views are very different than my own! My presentation to the young students in Ranikhet went over very well and I felt that Riane’s basic vision of gender equality and the value to be placed on women’s and others’ “caring” work could and should be “packaged” for the countless NGO’s that are led by and for women in India. But how? For this we need resources.
Finally, to fulfill the assignment for the Caring Economy course, I made every attempt to reach a local, ethnically diverse group working for social change. “Tools for Social Change” was for me the perfect target audience for Riane’s Caring Economy slide presentation. But the hoops I would have had to jump through required more of a commitment than I could make at this time in my life given the many other causes to which I am committed. When it became apparent that this was not happening, I decided to reach out to the women with whom I am again working on a project this summer in Central NY called Prayer for the Finger Lakes: 108 Sun Salutes on the Solstice. Co-sponsored by my own project www.suryanamaskarforworldpeace.org and www.yogafortheearth.com, our event on June 19th will comprise a ritual of community, spiritual and environmental support with proceeds going to www.wearesenecalake.com, a group fighting the industrialization of the beautiful Finger Lakes region in which we live.
At a Sunday brunch meeting, I made a presentation on Riane’s Dominator-Partnership spectrum by showing four women Riane’s first Cultural Transformation video, followed by a discussion of where we locate ourselves on the spectrum. The positive reaction to this video reminded me of something I had mentioned to members of the Riane Eisler network before, that it would be an excellent tool to have in hand a very good DOCUMENTARY on Riane and her basic framework. If we had such a video it could serve many purposes, educational, fundraising, recruiting.
For example, I wish I had a documentary on Riane to submit to the Seneca Falls National Women’s Hall of Fame. Riane should be nominated for induction into this organization while we still have her on this planet! For now, I will continue to use the excellent first video from the course to introduce others to Riane as it works very well. In our meeting we followed the video with the handout which allows participants to locate themselves in their various relationships on the partnership spectrum. Our only regret is that we ran out of time for further discussion.
Due to my association with the Riane Eisler Network I now have a much deeper appreciation for the depth of Riane’s vision. It has been a great learning experience made rich by all the amazing persons I have met in each of the webinars, including the program organizers and facilitators to whom congratulations are in order for a job well done. From the beginning I felt that most of the ideas articulated by Riane were not totally new to me, although she has opened my eyes in quite a few of the details and has been an amazing example of how to communicate profound ideas in simple that truly communicates. Having had this close association with her network I now feel much more a part of her project and empowered to share her ideas with more confidence. I am sure in the future I will continue to incorporate her ideas in my projects and to expand her sphere of influence to the best of my ability.