17 December 2013

An interview with Chameli from Awakening Women Institute

Chameli Ardagh is a passionate practitioner of embodied feminine spirituality and the
founder of The Awakening Women Institute. She is the initiator of an international
network of Women’s Temple Groups, and the author of two books on feminine
spirituality and embodiment.
I'm connected to The Awakening Women Institute via their Newsletters and wonderful Facebook posts. The energy is very inspiring!

Dear Chameli, I'm very happy to have you here, thank you for joining in the interviews!
Could you tell the readers about yourself  - who you are, where you come from and what you do?

I am the founder of Awakening Women Institute, I travel and practice with Yoginis (feminine spiritual practitioners) all over the world. I am myself a passionate Yogini, a practitioner + teacher of feminine awakening and embodiment, my methods weave mythology and storytelling with embodied practice, meditation and shakti sadhana.
Every summer we gather for many weeks of practice on the island of Corfu, Greece. In the winter some of us travel to India. We also meet 3 times a year for an online 21 Day Shakti Sadhana.
I also train women to be Women’s Temple group facilitators and there is a large network of Women’s Temple groups in many countries, women gathering on a regular basis exploring how the awakening of consciousness is expressed through the feminine. I practice myself in a Women’s Temple here in Northern California where I live, and everything I teach arises out of this alive and embodied exploration.

I know you have come a long way. What was the very first step you took outside your growing-up home, into the world - what made you fly out of Norway?
I left home early, at the age of 16. My passion at that time was avant-garde theater, and how we could through art explore expanded states of consciousness. A few years later this yearning for reality beyond the confined chambers of my limited identity led me to India. Here I was initiated into the world of meditation, a love affair that has been the center of my life ever since.
Last winter I brought a group of my students and fellow Yoginis to India for an intensive initiation retreat. It felt like I was completing a cycle.

Is there something you would like to see taught to all young girls in the world today? What would be the most important message mothers and aunts could tell to the (very) young women?
Maybe this is not for the very young girls, but I feel that the most important key that has been given to me, and that I want to pass on, is that there is no game “out there”. You create the game. Sometimes that means that you have to stand alone at the edge of evolution. Especially since we live in a culture that so heavily emphasizes masculine values, there will be a lot of times when no one can affirm that you are on the right track. We are the ones that have to take a stand and value what we love, no one can do that for us. That is what it means to be a leader.

Who is your teacher, source of inspiration or guru?
The 3 most important teachers in my life are
1:  The Yogini circle. The women’s circle is to me an alive archetype infused with wisdom. To be a facilitator of the circle, is to be a student of the circle. The circle is a ruthless teacher, in the sense that it will never let me fly away on an ego trip or any seductive game of hierarchy (thank God (dess)!).
2: My marriage to my husband, Arjuna, has transformed my life in all ways. His love and mirroring has brought a miraculous sense of wholeness and freedom to my life.
3: My Satguru is ShantiMayi, a wisdom teacher I met more than fifteen years ago. My relationship to her is such a deep love affair. From the moment I surrendered to her as my teacher, I was shown a power I could never have dreamt of.
We often think that in order to feel empowered we have to build our self esteem, or pump ourselves up. In my experience, the power to create all that I am creating in the world today arises out of surrender. In getting out of my own way, and bowing down to that/those which I love and serve, there is this direct access to an unfathomable creative life force. It is a paradox. In surrender I find power.

What is your favourite tool to use in your work? Why?
Music and Myths. I have been meeting with women with all kinds of backgrounds and history, and music and myths always touch us in some way. Both speak to us on a cellular level, both awaken a direct remembrance of a deeper connection to who we are.
The world myths, and for me especially the Goddess myths, are like maps of our collective soul. They give us such potent frameworks for the awakening journey, and perhaps most importantly they model for us a (much needed) spectrum of feminine expressions and embodiment of awakening.

We all have moments when we feel small and vulnerable. What is your way to get back into your core and power?
Prayer gets me out of my own way, particularly the Gayatri Mantra has a special place in my heart. It is an ancient prayer for the awakening of all. I chant it every day, and it opens me to the essential nature of all things, which we can call love.

Are you preparing something at the moment that will soon get out in the world - something you already want to share a sneak peek of?
January 8, 2014, we are starting another 21 day online Sadhana Immersion, guided by the Goddess Inanna. I am trembling in excitement… Usually we are many hundred women from all over the world gathering for these sadhana immersions, and it cannot really be put into words what it is like to be marinated in the field of Shakti we create together. As I prepared for the birth of this sadhana, the words “ The Mature Feminine” came to me. I am curious about what the next evolutionary step for the feminine is, and I am ready to bring it into form.

Let's focus on this moment. What are you grateful for in the here and now?
Right now I am sitting in my beautiful home in Northern California. We have the first snow outside, and I have the fireplace and candles lit. I am grateful to be healthy and warm.

What are you passionate about, outside your work-passions? What makes you happy?
My work is my passion, it is my spiritual practice, it is my livelihood, and it infuses everything in my life. I have been given this seat in a timeless circle, and the assignment to gather women from all over the globe together to bring these practices into form… nothing brings me more happiness. I do love to walk in nature with a friend, and have deep dharma talks and wine with my soul sisters, and be cozy with my husband and my cat, and read novels, and dance and do yoga, and it is all part of my love affair with the Goddess. There is no separation.

Thank you very much for your time and for your shiny awareness!

Thank you Nina, it is an honor to be connected with you.

Photo credits Bibbie Friman

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