On Saturday 21st January, five million people around the world came together for the Women's March. On that day I was teaching a meditation course in London for a dozen people - all women. Whilst it's unusual to have an all female course, it felt like a potent expression of what's going on in the wider society.
In the 15 years I've been teaching Vedic Meditation I've definitely taught more women. The Women's March and the inspiring students I had that weekend led me to reflect on why:
We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.
Just as you need to place the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others, many women are realising they need to prioritise self-care in order to be there for loved ones.
Women are more often the ones who take a primary care role in the family. They are the matrix point through which everything flows. And when you are in a role where others are dependent upon you it amplifies the need to take care of yourself. It's hard to give to others when you feel depleted and exhausted.
So naturally, women are looking for ways to recharge and this is where meditation is a powerful rejuvenator. With a few minutes of meditation, the body rests more deeply than sleep and energy levels increase.
Feminine consciousness = organizing power. And that can wear us out.
A primary trait of feminine consciousness is organising power. In the Vedic tradition this is called Shakti. It manifests as the ability to juggle, be adaptable and hold many things in play at once. This inbuilt capacity pushes women to multitask - often to a point that hits overload. Feeling overwhelmed becomes the catalyst for women to seek out natural techniques to help them deal with the demands of life in a sustainable way.
Stress is making us unhappy and unwell.
In this fast-paced world, technology keeps everyone 'switched on' all the time. The effects of stress are reaching chronic levels. Medical research shows that a woman's physical response to stress is very different to that of a man. For example, when under stress, women produce more cortisol. This effects how efficiently women burn fat vs carbohydrates, creating a knock-on effect of weight gain and reduced energy. And the impact of stress on hormonal balance leaves women with a long list of side-effects that quickly begin to impact relationships and their sense of self worth.
There are many ways to attempt to deal with this, including exercise, changes to diet, medication, and alternative therapies. Given the abundance of research showing meditation's positive effect on stress it's no surprise to see women seeking this out.
We need to reconnect with and value our intuition.
In India you see women wearing a tika or bindi - the small red dot between the brows. This is expressive of the third eye - the feminine-led quality of intuition.
In the West, we've lost much of the ability to trust this inner wisdom. When we're tired, stressed and out of balance we lose our ability to stay present and tuned in to subtle cues that nature delivers. We get pulled into rehashing the past or worrying about the future. We disconnect from our inner voice.
When I ask my female students why they want to learn to meditate they often say, "I want to be able to trust my feelings again." This is another way of saying they want to reconnect with their internal compass of what's right and wrong.
As the mother of a three year-old girl, it's heartening for me to see women stepping into their power and claiming their unique feminine gifts. The imbalances in the collective consciousness between the masculine and feminine are reaching a point that demands change. This is the need of our time.
Jillian Lavender is co-founder and Director of London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center. She's a Vedic Wellness expert, teaching meditation, and mentoring in Ayurveda and sustainable living as well as mother to a three year old. To find out more go to londonmeditationcentre.com or follow Jillian on Instagram @londonmeditationcentre.