Faith & Feminism: ‘I yam as I yam’

This guest post from Reverend Guo Cheen, a dear friend, continues our Faith & Feminism series. See Reverend Cheen’s full bio after the jump. She would like extend an invitation to the whole Feministing community to join the diverse voices at an upcoming conference which she is co-creating called Alchemy of Our Spiritual Leadership: Women Redefining Power. Register here.

She is not a feminist.

She is a housewife who sits at home and watches soap opera and movies from late afternoon until dawn. She has flawless skin, the latest LV style and an elegant haircut that she gets from special trips to Vancouver. She drives a BMW, wears dark sunglasses and blocks out the sun at every turn.

She is my childhood best friend, grown up. On the occasions that we chat, she in her unique perspective teases me about my seemingly “女強人”days; in her definition, a superwoman with a tinge of overachieving misandry arrogance.

Despite our years of acquaintance, I cringe at her label. I only agree that I often went into majors, professions and hobbies where there are relatively few women, more specifically in the years after my immigration to the U.S., outspoken Asian American women. I used to puff myself up and speak with fire on many a circumstances.

I went into civil rights work — strident, self-conscious and constantly on the lookout for discrimination, I found that I was expressing a limited number of facets of me. Increasingly, I was creating a stereotype of my own and fulfilling it.

As my spiritual search led me to different classrooms, congregations, synagogues and temples, I came to appreciate the rootedness and expansiveness that I experienced in my journey eastward. I recovered a sense of freedom about who I am, rather than who I am to be.

Having walked the path of a Buddhist nun for more than a decade, I am more comfortable about being me; or as Popeye puts it, “I yam as I yam.” I am increasingly deprived of the need to impress others; any aspect of my personae may emerge as the situation calls for it!

I credit this to my years of experimentation. In the laboratory of my mind, speech and body, I observe what occurs and the outcome of each thought, each word and each action. For example, I notice that when I am so completely absorbed with a task at hand, I am very content in that moment. Or as Yogi says, Yogi Berra that is, he thinks of “nothing” when he is giving his best. I also notice that I am less anxious in social situations when I shift my concerns to other people: how can I bring out the best in them?

In this regard, I invite you to pause for a moment and savor the incoming and outgoing of your breath, to watch and see if 90% of your flurry of thoughts are recycled daily and to extend a kind gesture to someone whom you like, dislike or feel neutral about. May your every journey as a feminist be spritely, spirited and spirit-filled.

Reverend Guo Cheen is a Buddhist nun who embraces compassionate action, interspiritual inquiries and circle leadership. She is a cocreator of Women of Spirit and Faith, the founder of TCN Buddhist Center, and Ambassador for the Council of Parliament of World Religions.

Join the Conversation