There have been two major threads that formed the essence of the quest of my life; gender and spirituality. Gender only exists in our social world; it’s a primal form of identity, which creates relationships, then our entire social world. Spirituality lies behind the world we live in, it’s the world of the intangible, the spirit, feelings, awareness, which is all the invisible hand in the glove that creates our lives.

I have now been a meditator for almost fifty years and have come to value the awareness, the insight, sense of being that this has brought. It is my conviction that to experience who and what we are in our hidden depths some form of spiritual practice is essential. It’s also necessary to have a guide, someone who has walked the tricky paths of self awareness before us and can guide us along our own camino, our own way.

In this episode I am quoting from the Karmapa, the head of one of the great traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, because his wise, concise words from his book The Heart is Noble, precisely match my own experience, with a special quality of humility and humanity that make them truly noble.

I then comment on what he has said from my own specific gendered experience, to share my own insights that parallel the Karmapa’s.

The image on this post, by the way, is of a sculpture that greeted me as I entered De Tropen, the cafe in the Tropenmuseum – the museum of the tropics – in Amsterdam just a few days ago. I find this high art sculpture entitled ‘Rhinoceros, father and son’ to be extraordinarily beautiful and powerful; it magically brings together the spirit of the animal and the human into our shared essence, full of love, beyond gender or species. The artist was from Zimbabwe, which has a magnificent tradition of sculpture. I am searching for their name right now.

This was supposed to be the first episode, in which I gave some idea of what The Masks of Gender podcast was all about. Claire Doran came to ask me some questions to get the show on the road, and added to the whole thing with her clear mind, her own identity issues – which box do I tick when none of them are me? – her easy understanding of the complexities and realities of gender identities, and more. I think I hesitated to post this episode because I quickly found that this whole concept was far deeper and wider than I imagined, so I left it to see what I said still made sense some time later. It does, so here it is.