Interviewing Vicki Noble
Today horizontal relationships, such as women’s circles, are more and more spread. They come from prehistory, from the cultures of some native communities and from the creative and libertarian impulse of some generations that called into question the dominating patriarchy during the previous century.
I met Vicki at a workshop for women last November in Turin.
As snowflakes started falling, we began a spontaneous and happy chat that turned into this interview.
In the last few years we have been witnessing a new generation of women’s circles all over the world, a strong and fertile generation.
You have been creating the basis for this experience during the last forty years. But at that time you had to create it from zero in a very personal way…according to your experience and the fact that these circles are spreading very quickly, do you think it is possible they bump into superficiality?
I moved from Berkley, I stopped taking pills for my headache and left allopathic medicine focusing on symptoms…and then I entered a psychic level, everything turned spiritual and got back to the Big Mother, as if it were a direct access to the Earth and to the Big Mother.
That was a turning point for me. I am talking about the mid and end of 70’s, when there was a very open context in California. Feminist movement was having a big impact and people were very open about it. There were women gatherings, meetings and discussions on women status …and everybody was very receptive. We were very open about politics and all this stuff seemed almost taken for granted.
In 1973 we had the right for abortion and anything going with it followed soon: for instance the availability of contraceptives. It was really a wonderful time and it reached its maximum development at the end of the 70’s. All unconventional ways of living and women’s values infused in everything, it was great and I thought it would have been like this forever and we would have changed everything. The effects of happy riots we experienced were extraordinary: what is present today is coming from the end of the 80’s. In those years we were free to do anything. I founded a school…everything was extremely easy, we were assisted and supported.
Then in the 90’s there was a shift forced by capitalism. From Reagan and his successors on, multinational corporations overpowered all of us and everything changed very quickly.
Women’s world was very well represented in book shops, clubs, publishing companies and distributors, bars, lesbian groups, everything we needed and anything was connected to Earth. We created it all. Everything was synergy and cooperation. The main publishing houses were interested in what we were doing, some of them chased me and asked me to publish something with them. Later on it never happened again. Indeed at the end of the 90’s, many of us struggled to find a channel to publish the result of their researches. Women’s circles, so powerful all over the Country for more than a decade, became an underground phenomenon.
We had been working all together, in an egalitarian and pragmatic way, and then we found ourselves on the fringes of this network and other women took over our place and brought in the Goddess culture.
You know, we created it all, it was our vision, it was our arts.
So what happened according to you?
Quite simply this part of the human experience became mainstream and turned into a trend, somebody else rode the wave and had the upper hand. After that we struggled to find a publishing house, while if a man was writing about the Goddess he was supported by many publishing houses.
As if you reached a very deep level and life challenged you. How did you react?
Some women, as I did, never stopped researching. Some of them passed over. But nothing can stop us. And in fact it was very nice to see that the values we transmitted to some women during our circles kept on going. Nothing was lost. In every town there was a woman opening a place for women’s circle, but corporates have been awful, they brought out the good and make profit of it.
Today women’s circles are spreading all over Europe, do you have any suggestion for us?
Obviously it depends on each single woman opening a circle: if she is attracted by capitalism and its dynamics, then the circle will go in that direction. It will be different for more radical women, their aim is different. Money is not the aim. A profit is a good thing, but money cannot be the aim.
If a woman performs a spiritual practice, she can be coherent.
I haven’t understood yet if mainstream media can be a good communication channel just because it is the easiest and most effective. In the mainstream communication what is superficial and entails a minimum change becomes the main message and a very popular one. I like to see the awakening, the real and deep transformation. I like to see a woman in a cozy and static situation coming out and saying: I am here… I take my space and do what I feel. One of the Tibetan rites I teach comes from the Vajra Yogini and it teaches you to take your place in your life. This is the kind of awakening I am interested in when I am working with women.
Tibetan rites are divided into external, internal and secret. I mainly teach the internal and secret ones. For example, during this seminar we were able to work on some secret rites thanks to the containment space created by the presence of many senior practitioners, who were well-rooted to Earth.
Do you think everybody can practice spiritual exercises?
This kind of experience is tailored on women, to be practiced among women. If just one man enters the room, no woman would be completely free. It is not because of that specific man or of men in general, but because our bodies carry with them many painful and difficult messages that women have been passing on from one generation to the other.
This is what I am trying to change. Women become what they are and bring it out of the circle, on the streets, within their families, at their workplaces and they are more self-confident and at ease with their bodies. There is something in this practice bringing us to a deeper consciousness of our bodies. We move our energy, we change our patterns, we modify our beliefs…this leads to change, it is worthy and let women go out of the circles in their lives, whatever they are, to be rooted in an irrational way, just be rooted in themselves.
These women won’t stay in silence and will express their potentials.
In traditional societies women cannot respect their potentials.
Sometimes we honor them in a certain way, we say they have intuition, but when they want to act their intuition they usually find resistance on their way. That’s why part of my job is to teach them that energetically we need to be in a different level. The transformation is not easy, it takes time, energy and focusing, but it can take place.
Could you explain us how is movement so important in these practices?
Movement is present in all my workshops on the 5 dakini. I think we really need it and it can be tought in a very simple way without women being scared about moving their bodies.
Movement is a very good way to get teachings and practices rooted in the body.
Even though I have been a yoga teacher for many years, the main practice I’ve been teaching was contemplative. In any case, I am 70 year-old now…I can allow myself to seat and stay with my wisdom.
What do you think about the new therapies based on feminine principles such as containment, listening and non-judgement, the main carachteristics of mothers and Mother Earth?
You know, Lama in Tibetan means mother, men can do something beautiful with feminine archetypes. But please keep in mind that in the Tibetan culture women are not yet fully respected. The same in India. It is as if there is no relation between the Goddesses they venerate and the women they have around them.
I am wondering if in these therapies the masculine view is still too present.
Actually it seems they are still paying much attention on reaching goals. They are motivated to get the others better as if they had something wrong and only the therapist’s skills could heal them…
It is important to stay curious and pay attention to this.
The new instruments for awareness are based on empathy and feminine containment…
You have to consider that in most cases the masculine deduces from the nature of structures and systems and the credit belongs to him. Masculine never detects anything and does not give the right value to the intuition he received from women.
Vicki Noble in Turin – Winter 2017
What do you think about avoiding or repressing emotions, the so-called spiritual bypass?
In the United States it is widespread. The Buddhism that came to us was not from the Tibetan tradition, but from the Vipassana and from some more static patterns of Buddhism. I think that this phenomenon came out from a terrible union with the New Age. The language is very similar. In this way there is the risk of a deceptive and commercial phenomenon. It is not by chance that I can see that many of this practices are more and more popular in corporations. I wonder if they have really understood what could be the result of moving from the surface and teaching meditation in depth…
However in this way we risk to change the planet equilibrium drastically…though…with more composure and dedication…what do you think about it?
Yes, I think it is a very bad idea. There is no ethics, they relax, go to SPA…Come on! However this is a feasible perspective.
Another principle of Buddhism is to never be angry. But we have to wake up because we are destroying the planet and probably we will destroy ourselves along with all the other animals. So should we get angry or what?! This is the spiritual bypass according to me…
We usually say that if you don’t feel anger you are not paying attention.
One thing of Tibetan Buddhism I like and I think it is common to all Buddhist schools, it is that until all of us are not free, nobody will be free… and as a woman, this touches me deeply.
If Bangladesh is flooded, how can I be fine? Nobody can be fine until this is going on.
There is a lot of pain in the world and some people are enough sensitive to perceive the impact it has on all of us.
Climate change, the catastrophe we are contributing to with cars and planes is awful: I think that only few people are spiritually rooted in a way to let themselves be present and aware of all of this…it is almost impossible to avoid being overwhelmed, how can you contain it all, how can we have a bigger container for this, how can you use wisdom and knowledge on this? Most people think they cannot make it, so nobody does nothing.
And all prescriptions coming from masculine patterns about how we should and should not behave are poison, as the one about the fact we should never be angry. People are no longer connected with their anger, with protesting and being wild.
We are more connected with nature, even though we forgot it.
I look at native women and it is so obvious: they are so brave, they rebel against corporations … they do not take it personally, they are simply in the NO. They resist.
They resist the domination by the multinational corporations, the privatization of water and air…they are doing it not because they are smarter or braver than us. Actually they are. The difference is that they know and understand themselves, they are connected with nature and know that Mother Earth is our mother so we have to take care of Her and protect Her.
They are extraordinarily rooted. In Idol No More in Canada or Standing Rock in Montana there is an unbelievable feminine leadership, it is the woman who says no, I am not kidding.
We talk about it, we know it, we are smart on it, but actually we are not rooted in the same way they are, I think we are simply theorizing.
What do you think about copyright on some reworked versions of traditional knowledge and intellectual property?
Patriarchy is influencing it. Corporate interests are on it. This is happening in the USA since 1995: corporations overpowered what was already there. They bewitch you by saying: “You can have it all, you can have spirituality and make a lot of money out of it”, but actually you can’t!
However it is not dealing with the core aim and trading at this level is absolutely inappropriate.
For example, some years ago a famous author, I am not quoting his name, came to the USA and wrote his first book in a very authentic way, being of great support for all of us. At the beginning he was a genuine person, he was sharing the knowledge of his native culture.
Then celebrity was like a poison for him and it poisoned him and this is sad.
What do you think about science talking to spirituality during the last years?
You know, science is not very open to women and often it likes being a step up everything it deal with. According to my experience in a healing group at Berkeley, we were monitored by people from the scientific world, commercial reasons had the best and stopped us from having a dialogue with them. Our procedure was very simple, a circle of drums and women’s hands to support the healing rituals causing spontaneous remissions. I found it very interesting and I would have been pleased to understand them from a scientific point of view, too.
I suggested some healing rituals for a conference on shamanism and science in Colorado, but organizers didn’t know how to position me in the structure of the event since I was not using a scientific method.
I witnessed many healings through vibrational medicine, but it is unlikely to explain them from a scientific point of view. The fact that everything must be scientifically proved is superficial, I think it widely damaged the United States.
For example, in the US naturopaths are now as allopathic doctors. I don’t know what’s left of original naturopathy giving a small stimulus and let the body do the rest because this was leading to equilibrium. Now everything is scientific, they use substances that are quite similar to the ones used in pharmaceuticals. Actually sometimes they are similar, so what’s the difference? They ask for all that money, usually paid by insurances…it is all about sales. When there is something good, then it is sucked in. That’s capitalism, they see a market in something and capitalize it….
However many things sprout in a different field, far from these logics. With one good friend of mine I gathered the experiences of elderly women, the pioneers of women spirituality who are still dedicated to practicing: we interviewed 33 women, including the 2 of us. We told brief stories and answered specific questions. It became a book entitled Foremothers of the Women’s Spirituality Movement: Elders and Visionaries.
I feel I owe you a special thank you. In many cases women started from a language originated by the masculine and today we are regenerating women spiritual practices thanks also to your pioneering work.
Interview by Nadeshwari Joythimayananda
Editing by Serena Caloi and Jerry Diamanti