The Loving Gaze: Support from the Divine Feminine

Snow blanketed the air beyond the porch, erasing the driveway and road. Wind howled, the temperature neared zero, and it was almost dark, but Vic wasn’t home. Was he in a ditch somewhere? If he left work at the usual time and drove our Subaru up the steep hills, he should have been home half an hour ago. It was before cell phones, so I couldn’t call or text.

My belly knotted with fear. My breath was shallow and tight. I paced around our little house on the hilltop near Hamilton, NY, five miles from Vic’s teaching job.

It was December dark at 4 pm, getting close to our usual meditation time. Should I call the police or the town garage? We only had one car, so I couldn’t go looking even if I could find the road.

Frantic, I put a cushion in front of a large photo of Anandamayi Ma and lit a candle. I crossed my legs in meditation position and observed my shallow breath.

“Please protect him, Mother. Protect him, Mother.”

Inhale “Protect him.” Exhale “Mother.”

I gazed into her liquid brown eyes, those compassionate pools able to hold the suffering of the world. Even though I’d never met her and was looking at a photo, her eyes met mine and I felt seen and held. I felt her tender acceptance of my fear.

I learned about Anandamayi Ma after her death in 1982. She was a Bengali Saint, described by Swami Sivananda as “the most perfect flower the Indian soil has produced.” I only knew Divine Love poured from her eyes. A Hindu would call her gaze darshan or the blessing of divine emanation from the teacher. Her gaze gave me the support I needed. I trusted those saintly eyes, gentle and wise enough to hold any sorrow or fear–and to hold me.

She was my Divine Feminine, my Goddess Sophia, my Wise Crone. When I was scared or worried, I counted on her.

“Divine Mother, help us. Divine Mother, help me.”

I sat before her image, looked into her eyes, and repeated my prayer, and as my breathing slowed, hope grew.

Half an hour later, Vic’s headlights pierced through the snow from the top of the driveway. When he got inside, he held me in his arms, his cold face pressing against my tear-dampened cheek. “I had to go the long way and wait for snowplows to clear our hill,” he said. “I knew you’d be scared. I’m sorry.”

Digging tunnels with our 2 sons in another snowstorm in Hamilton

Now, 30 years later, that photo of Anandamayi Ma is the central image on my bedroom altar. I pause, look into her eyes, light a candle, and thank my Divine Archetypal Mother.

***

Do you have an image that reassures you in hard times–or a sacred object or prayer? What helps you when you’re terrified? This prayer helps me in many situations. I change the prayer according to needs, but my usual is “Thank you, Mother” while following my breath.

For another article mentioning Anandamayi Ma and how I keep her close by carrying her photo in my wallet, see A Love Note from Beyond. For an article about my relationship with another wise women (devoted to Sophia and the Divine Feminine), see Let the Warm Love Flow: Messages from Marion Woodman.

17 Comments
  1. Beautiful and inspiring words: thank you. Yes, i do have an image that reassures me: the photo of you and Vic from the cover of your book. Forever grateful…

    • Oh, Patti! You amaze and humble me. I love that photo and two others Vic took that day even though he was already sick. He actually took many more photos but kept only three. He set up a tripod outside, came to find me, and smiled as I made excuses. “But my hair is a mess, and this old shirt has stains!” He convinced me and I’m grateful for those photos every day because his eyes are full of love and the grief that comes when we face how limited our time together might be.

  2. Great storytelling, you have such a wonderful way with words Elaine! Divine Love always stops me in my tracks, time slips away and the moment, like my heart, can only expand and contract with love. I didn’t know of Anandamayi Ma yet Her eyes are known to me, how strange! Maybe it’s because they offer such beautiful, compassionate pools of Universal Love.

    And on the subject of love, I love the digging snow tunnels photo of your sons (with spade to one side) and the one of your altarpiece too. Can I ask a little about the feather, which bird does it come from and how (if that’s not too personal a story to share) the feather came to join the other sacred objects on your altar?

    In difficult times I turn to the poets. I can’t imagine ever not doing so as they’ve been with me always. Art wise, I find the painting by Leonardo da Vinci of “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist” in particular deeply comforting. In fact I only have to think about it and my eyes well up!

    Hope you’re keeping safe and warm! Love and light, Deborah.

    • We’ll start with the da Vinci painting you love. That was Marion Woodman’s favorite drawing and she visited it whenever she went to London. I have a copy of it in my upstairs hallway or sometimes I move it to my bedroom. So much feminine support and beauty. I want to sit on St. Anne’s lap.

      Vic dug those tunnels for our sons and they had a wonderful time. This photo showed how much snow we could get in the house where we lived when Vic taught. That place was in the hills south of Lake Ontario, and it’s called lake-effect snow as north winds from Canada blow over the warmer lake and drop the snow in the hills. I get less snow in this place we always felt was home. (Although we’ve had lots of snow this winter and now ice.) The feathers were found on this land–a turkey feather, a crow, and a red-tailed hawk. I have many feathers because I pick them up on the trails in the summer or sometimes from the areas around the bird feeders and bring them home. A few friends give me beautiful feathers they find. I also turn to poetry, but sometimes I need silence and my own sparse prayer as I did on that night when Vic didn’t come home while the weather raged. We read lots of poetry to Vic as he was dying, but in the final hours, I needed silence.

      I’ll have my second covid vaccine next week which will make the world feel a bit safer. Not entirely safe, but safer. I look forward to this. There is a quieter energy in my country at the moment and I pray it stays that way. I have deep snow here, but you might be getting spring flowers there. I hope so. Wishing you good health and strong hope.

      • Oh, that we both have a print of the same painting makes me smile! During my disappearance down the rabbit hole I thought of myself curled up down there on Her lap too.

        Thank you for telling me more about each of the feathers. Silence, yes, I need lots at the moment, especially now I’m working with many clients by telephone.

        Good to hear that you’re getting your second vaccination soon. Thank goodness for the quieter energy! Much needed. A few spring flowers are beginning to push through.

  3. My daughter’s best friend came to her calling hours at Bangs Funeral Home days after my daughter died. She brought along a life-sized photo of Marika and sent me home with it after the gathering. I hung it on the wall in the heart of my house and have been talking to it ever since.

    • Those perfect gifts. Robin, you might notice that Vic’s image is on my altar in his guise as “The Green Man.” That was always my favorite part of him. I don’t have a life-size photo of Vic, but he shows up life-sized and full of life in my dreams and I’m grateful. I’m glad you have that photo of Marika and that you keep the conversation going. I think this is the healthiest way to navigate grief. Sending you love with hope for a big ice melt for both of us.

  4. Your story of the feeling of terror at your husband’s delay is SO familiar to me. For thirty years my husband would travel all over the country with his art & music performances in public schools, often 2-3 shows a day. If he had lunch traveling between schools, he would often become sleepy. Once he nodded off, heading for a ditch. In a nanosecond, he looked up and gasped as he watch a huge figure lift his van up and set it back on the highway. His guardian angel, for sure. I may have shared this story before, but it fits your post so well, I’ll risk repeating it.

    Like Cliff, your Green Man is empathetic: “I had to go the long way and wait for snowplows to clear our hill,” he said. “I knew you’d be scared. I’m sorry.” Hugs and kisses followed, I’m sure.

    I found the feminine face of God in the Longenecker women in my life: my Grandma Fannie, and two Ruths, my aunt and mother. These days I rely on prayer and in the comfort of scripture: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

    Thank you, Elaine, for this poignant story with pictures! :=)

    • What a powerful spiritual experience for Cliff–and he’s still here. Wow! I didn’t know that story. I always feel Cliff’s empathetic nature–and I also wept big tears when Vic made his way through the snow that night which Vic always found acceptable. I knew he hadn’t done anything intentional and he knew I was crying out of love and didn’t go on a guilt trip. It helped to pray and pray. I think many other photos or remembrances would have worked. Wherever the heart goes. I had strong experiences in person with the Dalai Lama, but equally strong experiences in the crypt of St. Francis in Assisi. St. Francis always gives me hope for our better nature.

      I remember you speaking of the Longenecker women and their deep spirituality and generosity to those in need. I’m glad you live with the power of scripture behind you. You might not agree with me, but I feel we’re all speaking to the same Divine Presence in our own ways–and the Divine manifests in many ways according to the needs of the seeker. (Truly no need to agree with my perspective, and I’m sure you already know that I find Divine Manifestation in many places.

  5. A heart-touching memory. Thank you, Elaine, for sharing it with us. I can understand very well how you’d felt in these moments because Al and I had the same concern if either of us had an unusual delay. Of course, it was Al who mostly worried because I was out of the house more often. Although we had not such a divine feminine by our side, we had prayed to our own divinity. It is true that human is a small and helpless creature in this world and always needs an uncanny Might to calm the soul, at least. Al and I had quitted religion since we were teenies but, we had kept our divinity, our own God. I would be happy if we had this pure and shining face of such a great woman with us. She looks so soothing.

    • I don’t think you’re blocked, Aladin, but I was slow to respond. I look for the sacred wherever I find it–sometimes in a spiritual gaze no matter what the religion of the person gazing, maybe in a butterfly or a beautiful poem or sacred text. I was brought up with little religious training, but went looking for it as a kid. I began as a Protestant (Presbyterian), tried Catholicism, but found something that felt right when the American Brahman Bookstore opened in Ithaca NY in 1967. The shelves were filled with many traditions–Hindu, Greek, Egyptian, Buddhist, Western philosophy, Christian, Jungian, Astrology, and more. The teacher had studied them all–and so began my path to a more universal spiritual perspective. Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and many more have that sacred gaze. Maybe your mom, too. (Let me know if you have more trouble with my site.) Be well, be safe, be soothed.

  6. So beautifully heartfelt Elaine, thank you.I do have a few icons in my study that I look at from time to time, not necessarily when I’m anxious. I don’t have an altar. All sorts of lovely things that have meaning are placed just so on shelves which I’m looking at with new eyes as I’m writing to you. Some lovely crystals, beautiful antique glass ware, a few handmade African glazed pottery items. Some feathers collected by me on walks in among my pens. Some photographs of my sons. A Buddha. Many more – some paintings from various places I’ve travelled to eg some Aztec art. Some treasured gifts … all of them sacred in their way and the gaze I give them is loving.
    I’ve seen photographs of Anandamayi Ma before and her look is truly one of love.
    But always, looking out from my large windows onto the sea and mountains brings me peace and joy. When I’m stressed about a person or situation I breath a white light onto it.

    • Susan, it sounds like your whole house is an altar. I have limitations due to dogs, but my windowsills get crowded. I also practice surrounding the suffering with white light, but I love to sink into Anandamayi Ma’s eyes. Be well and stay safe.

  7. Oh my dear, I didn’t expect you to answer quickly, I just haven’t seen my comment and I thought that it didn’t work yet, I see that you had much more opportunities than us. We had to find our way in divinity by own means. Thank you my dearest teacher ❤

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