The Buddha is said to have told off members of his sangha for not breaking enough rules (*). Why? Because it meant they weren’t taking enough risks. I think many women need really to take that advice to heart.
I started the training to become a mindfulness trainer last week. It is a training in two parts. The first part is theory and practicing on each other. The second part involves training people in mindfulness and getting feedback on the process through supervision. It is clear that this second part can only work when you’re already training people.
And yet, when I announced that I am starting organizing mindfulness courses this September, when the first course is finished, a fellow student (female) looked at me like I was mad. You can’t do that! You’re not fully qualified yet! And yet, we have students (male and female) in that same class who are already giving mindfulness training.
Women tend to be relatively rule abiding. We’ve been trained to be rule abiding. We tend to take the rules very seriously. It’s known that a man will apply for a job when he has about half the listed qualifications. Women won’t apply till they have them all. And that means that men get ahead faster.
What’s more: many qualifications can only be developed in the field, by trying them out. When women just aren’t given, nor give themselves (and each other) the chance to develop those qualities, it is no wonder men rise to the top more often than women do.
What does this have to do with spiritual development? A lot. Because there too taking risks is a way to develop qualities you didn’t know you could develop. Sure, it is taking a risk (that’s what risks are for, after all), but in many cases the risks really aren’t as big as women make them in their mind.
After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen if I organize a course not as highly qualified as I hope to be in a year? Nobody could show up, or people could walk out. However, since I run those risks anyhow, at any point in my career as a mindfulness trainer, I don’t see how avoiding that risk now helps me (or my future students) in any way. Instead I’m opting to make my course cheaper than those given my more experienced mindfulness trainers.
Don’t get me wrong. This is all on the side of learning and experimenting more. It isn’t about taking unnecessary risks. Nor is it about breaking rules by slacking off. It is just that in becoming the best we can be, we don’t always have to color within the lines. Sometimes we can even make our own drawings.
*) Source unknown, possibly apocryphal.