September 2022 WATERmeditation with Mary E. Hunt
“Our Spirits, Ourselves”
WATER thanks Mary E. Hunt for her leadership of the WATER Meditation on “Our Spirits, Ourselves.” It was a chance for participants to explore what spiritual self-help looks like and look within to find resources to share.
Women of a certain age will detect that I am riffing off the title of a revolutionary book first published in 1970 by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Do you recall the cover? Did you read it? The cover had the iconic picture “Women Unite” and in bold red letters “Our Bodies Ourselves”. The point was that women knew very little about our bodies and had even less control. The feminist movements vowed that had to change and to a degree it has with much more work ahead.
The materials for the book were first gathered at a workshop in 1969 on Women and Their Bodies. The publication by that name became a stapled together newsprint publication in 1970 that sold for 75 cents. In 1971, Our Bodies, Ourselves became a best seller for 30 cents. The authors were always attentive to making the work accessible widely. In 1972, OBO went mainstream under the authorship of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. It has since been published in 33 languages and updated every 4 years. in 1998, the huge compendium, nearly 800 pages of collective wisdom and up-to-date formation entitled Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century came out.
Each successive edition contained more and varied voices, new, updated information on themes including: Taking Care of Ourselves, Relationships and Sexuality, Sexual Health and Controlling our Fertility, Child-bearing and Knowledge Is Power which included reflections on women getting older, Global Politics and the Persistent Problem of Racism which made the lives of women of color, especially Black women, so hard.
This extraordinary book project, developed collectively over five decades, changed millions of women’s lives. Finally, we had knowledge about our bodies that our mothers never had, an invitation to learn more and places to share what we knew. The mandate to keep growing, deepening, and broadening the community took hold. In 2022, the on-line resource “Our Bodies, Ourselves Today” is a well-established project of the Suffolk University Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights as a new generation of women and non-binary people keep this important work going.
I encountered this book in newsprint form in the early 1970s and have been grateful for it all of my adult life. So, it is not surprising that with my interest in spirituality I would imagine how we at WATER and our many colleagues are creating something very similar in spiritualty, hence my shameless riff—Our Spirits, Ourselves.
We are doing something similar in religion and spirituality when we create new forms of contemplative prayer and meditation, when we write and engage in new forms of liturgy and ritual, when we re-imagine the divine and ourselves, when we develop new ethical perspectives, and seek to say what it means to live a good life. I think of our newsletters and booklets, books and even series (like the feminist biblical commentary series by Liturgical Press), our WATERtalks and WATERteas. They all add up to “Our Spirits, Ourselves,” (OSO) so necessary because women’s spirits have been colonized and knowledge of our own internal desires and connections have been obscured from us.
Some common threads run through our many projects:
We reject the notion that patriarchal/kyriarchal religious traditions will shape our spiritual lives. We can do better.
We reimagine and replace language and imagery, texts and teachings that exclude or limit people, dishonor Earth, or contribute to power imbalances and injustice.
We embrace the endless variety of ways of being spiritual in the world that foster community and undergird justice, beginning with racial, sexual, economic, and ecological justice.
We create new ways of looking at Spirit, appreciating all of its complexity.
We collaborate with people the planet over who seek to do the same.
This is the germ of an idea, OSO, which, like Our Bodies, Ourselves, is being developed by literally thousands of people for generations to come. I am simply introducing it as a global project, trying to cluster ideas and organize it a bit. I am anxious to see if and how it might unfold. You heard it first tonight. What do you think? What is your role in it?
If you were to share your unique way of engaging in your spiritual life, of being part of a community of people trying to bring feminist religious values to the work of social change, what would you contribute? What quilt piece of spirit—maybe music, prayer, silence, a favorite text, a new insight—would you add to the large quilt we might sew together as we construct “Our Spirits, Ourselves”?
Let us turn now to a time of communal contemplation, the shared and sacred silence, to see what is right there in our own imaginations, hearts and minds, what of Our Spirits, Ourselves might emerge.