The Buddha’s Wife – Blog

The nature of spiritual circles

“When you step into a spiritual circle, you access a sacred space and receive gifts from the natural world, all that lives, breathes, loves, sings—the unending harmony of being.” (p. 151, The Buddha’s Wife)

In The Buddha’s Wife, for Princess Yasodhara and her community of women, the circle is a space created amongst the pine trees and forest, rocks, animals, and open air. It is a circle at one with the energy of the natural elements and the energy generated by its participants—a spiritual energy that is awakened and sustained within the circle, and then radiates outward into their everyday lives and relationships.

The history of people gathering in a circle is perhaps as long as 35,000 years old, when people, whether a tribe or family, would sit around a fire together. These circles were a time for storytelling, celebration, and ritual—a place of belonging. The Hindu and Tibetan mandala is Sanskrit for circle, which are sacred paintings that illustrate the cosmic human life story. Native Americans have medicine circles led by a healer or shaman that gather the natural and spiritual energies that heal. There have been quilting circles of women from the days of the American Revolution to circles of protest during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Today in the 21st century, there are contemporary circles that foster healing, wellness, and community, such as AA and the 12-step program, facing-cancer groups, and grief circles in hospitals and hospice centers. Parents, single mothers or fathers create their own circles of friendship and help, so that a community’s combined strength can serve as another caregiver to the child.

Circles have an unending energy that can transform and unite; the circle can be a conduit of the extra-ordinary when spirit of communion and compassion are at the heart of it. The spiritual circle is symbolic of our natural life cycle and the harmony of our interconnectedness.

Here are three qualities of a healing circle from The Buddha’s Wife that you can practice with your own circle, family, or group:

  • Each person in the circle can be seen by all others—on the same equal level
  • The circle can always enlarge and be more inclusive
  • Each person contributes to the circle and helps magnify the strength of the whole

What is a relational activist?

“A relational activist understands that only together can we fully live and tap into the power and wisdom of the sangha [community] of all beings.” (p. 260, The Buddha’s Wife)

Princess Yasodhara and the women of her circle or sangha became in our book pioneering examples of historical relational activists. And, our book shares the continuation of this relational legacy through contemporary profiles of many activists who strive to widen the circle of our oneness and humanity today.

What then is a relational activist?

A relational activist is one who vows to walk the Path of Right Relationship, a path of relational-building and nurturing—one who practices creating peace, social justice, and community healing through the fabric of our relationships and interactions. It is a stance that values showing up, respecting, and celebrating our diversity in order to live and thrive together. Here are attributes of a relational activist from our book:

  • Visionary and realistic
  • Faithful to the vision (peace, social justice, community building)
  • Evolutionary (open to change and growth)
  • Committed to the Path of Right Relationship
  • Practicing daily the Path of Right Relationship

And here are three practices you can integrate into your everyday life as you walk the path and become a relational activist for your family, friends, and community:

  • Deep listening and right speech
  • Practicing forgiveness
  • Devoted to caring for self and others in your relationships

Be a light unto yourself

“Sometimes you need the light of others to see the way. Sometimes you need to be a light for others. And always, the light will shine more brightly when two or more are gathered in spirit.” (p. xxxiv, The Buddha’s Wife)

These imagined words from Princess Yasodhara, the Buddha’s wife, are a response to what are said to be historically the Buddha’s last words: “Be a light unto yourself, seek your own salvation with diligence.”

Through the recreation and retelling of Yasodhara’s story and life, we hope to have her be a source of illumination and enlightenment for others.  From her story, we can discover a relational path that offers a possibility of healing and going beyond division, what we call the Path of Right Relation.  It is a path that celebrates and honors all people, faiths, and voices.  It is a call to acknowledge the significance of our relationships, and the need for us all to co-arise as a global community of relational activists if we are to flourish.

When we face the darkness of suffering, grief, and despair, we have all experienced in some way the light that comes from leaning onto another’s shoulder or the kind words of help.  It is in these moments that we experience the grace of others, whether they are family, friend, or stranger.  How can we be mindful of our own light?  How can we be a light for others?  Mindfulness of our everyday interactions and relationships is one place to start; kindness is one place to begin.

Here is a simple meditation in your practice of relational mindfulness: In any moment of interaction, we can gently pause and take a breath. Whatever the feelings in the moment, we a can notice the simple presence of the other and find a place of gratitude.