Today my guest is Meggan Watterson. Meggan Watterson is a spiritual mentor, speaker, and scholar of the Divine Feminine who inspires women to live from the audacity and authenticity of the voice of their soul.
She is the author of REVEAL: A Sacred Manual For Getting Spiritually Naked. She facilitates the REDLADIES, a spiritual community that encourages women to reclaim their bodies as sacred and to be led by the soul-voice inside them. Meggan was a featured presenter at the May 22, 2014 Power Party in New York City.
In today’s episode, Meggan and I spoke about:
- What she means by getting “Spiritually Naked”
- Acknowledging the shadow-side of our truth just as much as the light
- Connecting with the Soul Voice and how to make this a regular part of our lives
- The current Feminine Spiritual Revolution we are in and acknowledging the feminine
Tune in and listen to “Getting Spiritually Naked” with the fiery and authentic: Meggan Watterson.
OK, welcome Meggan!
Meggan Watterson: Thank you. I’m so happy to be talking with you.
CP: Yes. I’ve been looking forward to this.
MW: I have to warn you, I’ve had an excess amount of dark chocolate, and I’m also wearing my sort-of truth necklace. So it’s going to be fiery. [Laughs]
CP: All right! Throwing it down at the get-go! I love it. OK. That’s my favorite. Well, I would love to just dig right in on REVEAL, which is not only the title of your latest book—which I believe came out last year, in 2013, correct?
CP: And the subtitle, A Sacred Manual for Getting Spiritually Naked, very intriguing. I was wondering if you could start there and tell us what you mean by “spiritually naked.”
MW: Yes, yes. Absolutely. Well, very simply, it refers to our capacity to just strip down to the truth of who we are. That sounds very simple, but sometimes it can take quite a process, quite a wearing away of the things that are no longer serving us, for us to then get to that place where we can just express an immediate truth in the moment, whatever it is that we really need to simply reveal the truth of who we are.
So it’s letting go of those ideas that are [usually] external ideas of who we are and who we need to be and what we need to think and say and do, which also extends into the spiritual practice of spiritual life. What I found in my immersing and emergence in the spiritual world was that there was a lot of pretense and expectation—that same cultural norm and ideal of being somehow perfect exist in the spiritual realm, too.
For me, what I really longed for was a capacity to just be fully human and also fully divine. I wanted to be able to be both. And that’s what was truth for me. Not one or the other. I wanted to find that juicy cosmic mix of being able to be guided every day, every breath, by the voice of my soul, by connection to the part of me that is more than me. And I wanted to be fed by a source of love that was inside of me and not dependent on anything outside of me. The love that is love that is love that is love—that love that renders us all equal. I wanted my life to be led my that.
And at the same time, I wanted to be OK with the unique paths and processes that I had to go through in order to get there and in order to remain there. So incredible heaped buckets and mountains worth of forgiveness and patience and levity. So often when we get into this idea of what it means to be spiritual, we take ourselves so seriously. And I think that can really be an obstacle and a hindrance to us really moving forward with being everything that we are. Because it’s important to really acknowledge that our voice and our soul has something unique to share in the world, but getting too stuck in the seriousness, the heaviness, the weight of it all can really slow the whole process down.
So all of that is really wrapped up in that statement of getting “spiritually naked.” And that’s the process that I went through.
CP: Yes. You know, it’s so interesting, this question of, “What does it mean to be spiritual?” I love how you’re addressing that in terms of, in this world here, we have things like perfection, and we struggle with that, both the light and the dark side of that. But we never really think of that in terms of the spiritual realm. It’s sort of like not an issue. But you’re actually saying that it can be an issue, and that’s very interesting.
MW: Yes, and this sort of ideal that we would want to leave our body behind or deny our body or somehow ignore and transcend the body—for me, the places where my soul actually grows and really does feel more weighty behind my eyes and pulsing and more clear and present are those very times when I need to allow my love to go where it’s never gone before. Which includes those incredibly human moments.
I had a severe anxiety disorder in my 20s. As a teacher, that anxiety disorder allowed me to get to this place where I needed to just accept radically and just fiercely love this body that went into a complete meltdown—embarrassing, sweaty pits, total pale freak-out—every time I tried to get on an airplane. If I tried to control it and get all spiritual in a way where I was secretly hating and loathing my humanity, that didn’t work. That was a withholding of my love. It wasn’t allowing me to go where I was weakest, where I was most vulnerable.
And where I really started to grow was when I had compassion on that part of me, that human part of me, and began to love it really fiercely and say, “You know what? I don’t give a flying F about what I must look like right now to anybody else!” And I started allowing myself to just panic however I needed to, and to look at it with the eyes of love, the way that the soul would, not the ego. And really understand that this was a teacher and that my love needs to reach here, too, and not try and control and perfect and look spiritual in a certain way.
CP: Yes, yes. It’s funny that you say “look spiritual in a certain way.” I know that Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote a book called Spiritual Materialism, which I thought was a very interesting book on that topic, that we look to the spiritual world and spirituality to kind of take us out of the pain that we’re feeling in the everyday. So we kind of expect it to be free of the problems of duality. But in reality, how it plays out, it seems like that kind of stuff just keeps coming us. Even in the spiritual world, we can get attached in a materialistic way to ritual or to the way we think a spiritual response to a situation should be.
MW: Yes. And I think a lot of it is embracing the dark or embracing the shadow, embracing the aspects of ourselves that, in the past, a lot of spiritual teachers have said doesn’t exist for them. And then of course, there’s some great sexual scandal or there’s a secret drinking addiction or sex addiction or something, because the shadow will always present itself, especially if unaddressed or suppressed and denied.
For me, in my journey, a lot of what I’ve studied was this figure, the Black Madonna. I studied her as a scholar and but then also as a pilgrim, and went to many of the sites the Black Madonna [appears] in Italy and France and Switzerland and Spain. There are 500 of them throughout Europe.
And what’s so fascinating about the Black Madonna is a lot of work that’s been done around those who worship her, and they’re people who have really been through the fires in their life—have really gone through pain and suffering and darkness. They felt that she, as opposed to the more European Caucasian Madonna, that the Black Madonna could hold the darkness as well, could acknowledge the light but then also hold them in the dark. It’s like that passage from Robert Frost, the poet. He said, “The only way out is through” in one of his poems, and that to me is really a spiritual practice. Not denying the dark or denying the pain or the true suffering, but really being in it and being with it and being aware of it.
I like to say that I’m somebody who cleans behind my toilet. It’s true. It’s a metaphor but it’s also true. I clean behind my toilet and mentally, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, it’s so important for me to look at the shadow, just as significantly as it is to acknowledge the light.
CP: One of the things that the words—well, obviously the main word is “reveal,” and I just love that word. I just think it’s so nice because it’s like “emerge,” which is my favorite word of all time. [Laughs] But there’s something gentle about it, and it presupposes the existence—it’s almost like you’re the same person, you’re just lifting a veil, as opposed to becoming something different. It’s just got a nice feel to it.
MW: Yes. And that really is the essence of my experience. The path to the divine was simultaneously a path to finding my true self and being able to express that. And that process, for me, was really about lifting those veils that we’re obscuring. Because it’s always there.
I like to say sometimes, in my talks, “If you feel like you’ve never had an experience of the essence of who you are, your soul, or whatever you want to call it, the truth inside of you. If you feel like you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say that, I want you to come up to me and I’m going to stare at you until you feel it.” I said it sort of spontaneously this one time, and I couldn’t believe how many people [came] up and asked for that. And they get it, they have that experience.
It’s right there. It’s in us, and we have all connected to it at different points, sometimes intensely, sometimes methodically because we do it in a meditation practice. But we know what that essence is. It’s just so difficult sometimes to get to that essence of who we are because of self-doubt and shame and a lack of self-worth—all these things that complicate the expression of that essence.
But yes, it’s there, it’s within us, it’s the truth of who we are. And for me, it’s a metaphor that expressed so much better than this idea of becoming something different. It was really more just revealing what’s innately there.
CP: I was going to ask you what you think [is] in our way, and you listed the fear and the self-doubt. I’m curious to see—in the book, you basically call it a manual, because that’s not so easy to overcome those things. And they come and then you overcome it, you know what I mean? I’ve kind of taken my fear as like he’s with me—it’s a “he” for some reason, I don’t know, I just said that—he’s on the journey with me. I’m like, “OK, you can come.” It’s like when the kids want to go to the grocery store with you. After a while, you’re just like, “All right. Come on. Gear up.” [Laughs]
But one of the things that you talk about, I know, in your work is the soul-voice as being something to connect with to help you get to reveal yourself, get to that soul essence of yourself. And I’m curious if you can elaborate on that, let us know what you mean by “soul-voice.” What does it sound like?
MW: What does it sound like? It sounds like Barry White. Have you ever heard Barry White? [Laughs]
CP: Oh, I know Barry White, yes!
MW: Totally. It’s actually a very unfeeling voice. It’s actually incredible easy to miss. I like to say that my ego, when I go into meditation, my ego sounds a lot like a used car salesman. And over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying the ego, which is not to say [I] deny and not listen to it, but it’s to be in right relation to it. So I’m not always being guided by that voice, and can choose and can connect to the voice of my soul when I want to.
But yes, the voice of the soul—it works on a sense of timelessness and the eternal. So if we think about that, the soul is not going to be putting any pressure—the energy of the voice is, “Whenever you choose.” It has this sense of timelessness and this sense of acceptance and just fathomless love, like a love that has no limit and has no depth. It just goes on and on and on and on. It has no bottom to it.
For me, navigating through that phobia of flying—which, what I found with it, I was like, “OK, fine, I just won’t fly. I’ll be one of those people who takes trains and drives everywhere.” But what I found is when you move in the direction of fear, fear actually only increases. At least that was true for me. The more and more I allowed fear to dictate what I was going to do in my life, the big life choices that I was going to make, the more and more fear began to contain me and cage me.
So what I found was that I needed a practice that helped me connect and make the choice. Because I was getting usurped by fear and choices were being made for me. I didn’t feel like I even had a choice in the matter when I was pulled off planes or when I would make a decision about my life totally based on staying small. So I wanted to figure out a way, “How can I, in a very disciplined and pragmatic way, connect to that voice that I know is in highest alignment with my truth, with my highest truth, with that essence of why I’m here and what it is that I’m here to do?”
And so I was in seminary for three years. I was literally living in a convent. I was very much an urban nun. And I was studying these monastics from the Byzantine era, the desert fathers known as the Hesychasts. And they had this Prayer of the Heart, and it was such a powerful, beautiful prayer, but you had to crawl forward and had to repeat, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner,” and that didn’t really resonate with me and that wasn’t what I wanted to do.
But I took that idea of dropping into the heart—the idea of the Hesychasts, what they wanted, was a theological term called theosis, which is a perpetual connection to the divine. No matter when and where they are, no matter what they’re doing, they’re constantly connected to the divine.
And that really lit me up, that idea. Because I didn’t just need spirituality on a Sunday or holidays. I wanted it to infuse my every day and my every breath. And I felt like this was the way because if I had a practice where I could go within no matter where I was or what I was doing, then it was a spiritual tool that went with me everywhere.
And so I sort of took that as inspiration, that Hesychast Prayer of the Heart and I created this soul-voice meditation. And that became my prayer, but I didn’t do it—I’m an indie mom, so I’ve been raising a son on my own for the past four years, and waking up and sitting on a cushion for half an hour with incense and beads, that was never going to work for me.
So I wanted to figure out a way where I could be changing diapers and praying. I could be on the subway and praying. I could be standing in line at the grocery store and praying. A way that I could be constantly checking in using my soul like a fist pump and really feeling like I was connected and moving from that place of truth inside of me.
In the third veil, in REVEAL, I talk a lot about that process and creating that soul-voice meditation, and it’s really become a constant thing. Right before we started talking, I went within for a moment. It’s like giving a wink and a kiss [to] the soul and saying, “May you be present. And may I speak from that source of truth inside of me.” And it was a constant connecting and moving from that place, and it ultimately, then, is this cultivation of expressing that essence of who I am.
And again, going back to what we were originally talking about when we first started talking, it’s devoid of a sense of perfection or a sense of, “There’s a right way to do this.” “Oh, I always have to follow that Barry White voice of my soul. I can never listen to fear. I can never listen to the ego.” It’s not like that. It’s that you’re conscious of where you’re making your choices from.
I’ve made choices from my ego, and then I’m not a victim, because I’m conscious of the choice that I’m making. And if there are repercussions or if things go badly or unfold in a way that is difficult, I’m conscious of the fact that I made that choice from that place and this is what’s unfolding. So it’s not about this idea of, “Oh, I always have to hear the voice of my soul, and I always have to follow my soul.” But it’s just—I have found life moves with a certain amount of grace and levity and ease and beauty. There’s a lot more space when I take that time to delve in and really follow that voice.
CP: Yes. It’s funny how we can actually, when we’re connected, create a feeling of time and space, expand it. Things kind of slow down.
CP: Well, first of all, I love the fact that you’re a Harvard divinity scholar and you said “fist pump.” [Laughs]
CP: I just love the moderne, this is how we’re going. It’s just all kind of there. I feel like you’re totally feeling authentic and true to who you are, and I hear you. I think it’s a strong message. I think there’s really—it’s funny how it ends up being that to be truly spiritual is to be human.
MW: It’s a paradox.
CP: Right? The incarnated human being. I love that. Well, that’s what you’re saying, right?
MW: Yes, I mean, what I’ve found in my own personal journey was that I was highly disassociated from my body as a teen and then growing up, 1) because of physical abuse that happened. I know a lot of women who were struggling just as much with feeling disassociated with their bodies as I am and they didn’t have abuse. It’s because they didn’t have a family or a culture or an idea of the body that allowed them to be fully in it.
What I found was that my spiritual path was really in the opposite direction than a lot of the spiritual paths that I encountered as a teen. Rather than really trying to transcend the body, it was actually about being fully embodied, about really coming into the body. I realized that part of how disassociation was serving me was that you can not know and you can be in this state of, “Oh, who am I, what am I going to do?” when you’re disassociated. When you really come into your body, when you really—when you’ve got your ear to your pelvis, you’re just fully, fully, here, it’s very difficult not to know who you are, very difficult not to know exactly what you need and what you want.
And that kind of truth, that kind of power is actually, I think, on a very real level, scary for a lot of us. Because it comes with it, then, the weight of following through with that knowing. And some of us aren’t ready for that, or we want to play that hide-and-go-seek game of, “I think I know…” and all this kind of stuff. When we really start getting disciplined about coming into the body and being present, it’s incredibly difficult not to hear exactly who we are and what we need and what we want to do.
That’s a whole process for so many of us, and it looks different for every one of us, what it means to be embodied or to come back into our bodies. For some of us, we have a lot of shame we have to let go of. Others of us, physical traumas. And some of us, it’s just forgiveness for being human, you know? And others, just [having] some kind of physical practice that allows us to really be embodied—walks or exercise or sex that’s really good and really brings us back to life and present.
MW: Yes! You’re like, “Yes, I hear you.”
CP: Now we’re talking about sex, I love it.
CP: You know, it just feels so feminine. I mean, this is what I’m saying about—I hate to get on my Emerging Women soapbox here, but hey, I’ve got the platform. But it’s just another example of how the new spirituality, so to speak—and I actually feel like spirituality itself is in an evolutionary process, and that it’s now going to have more of an integrated and feminine approach. It seems like that’s an evolution right now. Who knows, a masculine approach might yet be another evolution as we get closer and closer.
MW: Yes. I hope!
CP: Yes, you know? Jeez. Yes.
MW: That’s an incredibly significant aspect of my initial experience with religion and spirituality: the apparent jaw-dropping lack of not only women’s voices, but also women’s physical presence in places of spiritual authority. That, to me, was kind of like the elephant in the room. It’s like, “Why aren’t we talking about this? And why isn’t this something that we’re really seeking to find balance with?”
But then also, as I was talking about, the presence and the significance and the sacredness of the body—that was also incredibly missing. I think that what we’re all hungering for, including men—I know so many men who are starving for a more embodied experience of the divine and more embodied spirituality and more balanced spirituality that doesn’t just focus on light but also really holds the dark.
So it’s all of those dualities. Rather than having them be one in a dichotomy or a hierarchy, like one being above the other—so God above human, man above woman, light above dark, all of those dualities, angel above human being, whatever dwelling. The radical evolution that I’ve seen, that I’ve experienced, was when I mentioned the practice of that love that renders us all equal. So it renders all of that equal, so there isn’t this hierarchy.
We’re actually radically standing on the same—we’re all eye to eye. An angel is just as significant as we are. We’re totally eye to eye. Or whatever you want to describe: man, woman; masculine, feminine; dark, light. All of those things that we have seen as being dualities, it’s really bringing them together and seeing how significant and important it all is.
CP: Right. Of course. Without the interplay between the polarities, that’s just part of it.
MW: Right. But we haven’t been really acknowledging that in a spiritual way for about 2,000 years. [Laughs]
CP: Totally! I know, right? What are they called? Yugas, right? That’s another reason why I feel strongly about relishing it a little bit, because for the last, I would say, 100 years especially, at least in our culture, it seems to have totally been skewed in one direction, to a point where I feel like the masculine is almost become kind of a caricature of itself. Do you know what I mean by that?
And so I don’t want to just skip to the nondual world where we’re all just integrated. It’s like, “OK, hang on a second here. Let’s really celebrate and see what happens when the feminine is really exalted,” you know?
MW: Oh yes, I don’t mean that it all becomes one soupy pot.
CP: Oh no, I’m just continuing the conversation. I know you weren’t saying that, but I’m just saying—well, in the end, there will be balance. No, I know what you’re saying, girl! You’re totally all about this!
MW: Yes. I’m so supportive and have been so excited to hear from men in my generation who are really talking about rebirthing the masculine and a new masculinity that has incorporated the feminine. So it isn’t that hyper kind of thick throat, over-muscled—I’m seeing one of those gym guys, you know. Like a hyperbole of the masculine.
It’s more a masculine that has the yin-yang of—it has this deep appreciation and capacity to worship the divine feminine. It really understands the worth and the crucial, crucial need for the feminine in the world, which we haven’t seen the masculine honor and acknowledge in very concrete ways in any of the realms of our culture.
CP: Well, we haven’t even—I feel like as a woman, I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to acknowledge the feminine, truthfully.
MW: Yes. And that’s where we have to start. That’s brilliant that you mention that, because that really is where we have to start, with ourselves. And really [look] at the vulnerable and the aspects of us that receive and the intuitive powers—even, like what I was mentioning with the soul-voice meditation, contemplation.
Contemplative prayer is really a feminine form of prayer. It’s going within. We focus a lot [on] the external worship and the external ways of what spirituality looks like, but at the end of the day, for me at least, the most significant thing is about going within and daring that dark terrain that exists within us of finding the light that we can only get by turning inward.
It’s an uncelebrated courage, really, that effort of shutting out the voices that are so loud outside of us. Shutting those out and really trusting, “No, I’m going to listen to this very quiet, unassuming voice inside of me, despite what anybody in my life wants to say. I’m going to trust my voice inside of me.” That, to me, has been my way of honoring the divine feminine, by practicing that daily.
CP: Yes. Well, we can get that soul meditation. There’s a version of it on your website? I saw something there.
MW: Yes, yes. Hay House produced the soul-voice meditation, and it’s just free on my website. You can just go to MegganWatterson.com. It’s right there on the home page.
CP: OK. Cool. And then, you also have an event coming up, right? Your REVEAL, that’s in New York?
MW: Yes. It’s in New York City at [the] NYU Center for Spiritual Life. It’s basically a large calling-out to any woman who really feels a sense of being a spiritual misfit and being called, at this point, to live her life in alignment with that voice of truth. It’s an urban spiritual retreat, I like to call it. It’s a day when we get to practice that effort of getting spiritually naked. So we get to practice in a safe, really supportive environment to just be the essence of who we are. And there’s a whole lot of dancing, because that, for me, is one of the truest forms of worship and prayer. So we have a ton of dancing all day, and we have ritual, and we have fiery women who get up and talk and share their truth and offer spiritual tools. It’s my favorite day of the year. It’s always like a wedding for my soul every year. I love it.
CP: Cool. Well, great. It was so good to connect. So great to talk to you.
MW: Yes, thank you for this.
CP: Yes, thank you. Thank you for your time. And we will see you also at our retail event, the Power Party.
MW: Yes! I’m very excited for that night. That feels like it’s going to be incredibly fiery.
CP: Yes. You’re bringing it. Good. [Laughs] OK, thank you Meggan! Bye bye.
MW: Thank you.
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