An Interview with Sharada, Founder of the Be Woman Project
The warm Balinese air caresses my skin as I walk across three stepping stones to a cute little house guarded by a quaint little moat, surrounded by tropical plants and the gentle hum of insects and frogs, whilst the birds chatter in the distant trees. Leisurely lounging on a giant window seat with a pot of homemade chai, a cat, and multiple cushions is a beautiful woman whom you’d almost mistake for a fairy queen. With a tender spirit, a smile that could melt butter, she floats over to me
with her invisible wings to give me a sweet, loving hug.
Sharada is the creatrix and founder of an incredible organization called “The Be Woman Project”. Knowledgeable in Yoga Philosophy, Vedanta, Sanskrit, Puja ceremony, and a former Odissi dancer, she teaches on international yoga teacher trainings and continues to manage the growth of her project centered on women’s health, womanhood, and sisterhood.
She sits with me to discuss living a spiritual life and how the Be Woman Project came into being.
Q. How has the spiritual practices of Vedanta and Vaidika alter how you live and how you approach life?
In every possible way it has completely changed my view of life, my attitude, how I look at life and how I receive life (or am with life). It has given me a completely different “myth”, I grew up with the “Western myth” where we are a competitive society and our focus is on achievement and improving ourselves all the time and becoming a successful person. In the Vedic (Vaidik) vision it isn’t about “becoming” successful, I discover that I am already a successful person and then as a successful person, as a sacred being, as a whole and complete being I contribute to the well-being of all beings and not just of the well-being for myself.
So, the Vedic view teaches me to always have heart and have good intentions that are ultimately good for me and for all beings. And so, I realize am a successful person in the present moment, I understand that all beings are sacred, I have a daily practice of creating harmony and I find a sacred symbiosis between me and all living beings. So, as you can see, that’s a very different “myth” to the one from the western world. I am no longer striving anymore to be somebody; I already am whole and complete.
Q. What is Vedanta and what makes it so special and you have a favorite
aspect to your daily spiritual practice?
Vedanta is the knowledge and teaching that helps us see the success that we are already whole and complete in the here and now. This sounds so simple doesn’t it but its not. We have to really look at how we live as human beings, We live in a world where we’re told we’re not good enough- its always about improving ourselves and becoming better, becoming something other than who we are in order to attain happiness and so that’s a problem because then we’re never acceptable in the here
and now and as we are. And so, Vedanta helps me to discover that I am OK the way I am, it helps me discover self-acceptance, because then once there is self-acceptance then I can do everything out of fullness, instead of for the purpose of trying to attain fullness from external factors.
Vedanta means self-knowledge, we call it a map of life and it comes from a portion of the Vedas that helps human beings find emotional maturity and to become integrated individuals, therefore we’d have a healthy self-image in order to contribute and take care of others. There is that saying that you
cannot love others until you love yourself, so it is like that, Vedanta helps us discover ourselves as whole and complete and that we are essentially the embodiment of love.
The rituals and ceremonies are a favorite part of my daily spiritual practice because then you really enter and participate in the magic that is ongoing, not that the magic is never not there, it’s always around us, but we get so caught up in samsara “the becoming disease” and then we miss the magic that is here and everywhere. In rituals and in ceremonies you play with the magic and enter that magical world and you bring all your awareness to the world beyond our own. It’s a really beautiful
way to ritualize our lives, just taking a moment to give thanks with a prayer or offering to our home, our garden, mother earth and even the clothes we wear and the food we eat creates an exchange of positive energy which has a ripple effect for the rest of the day.
Q. You facilitate Devi circles, what are they and what does it mean to be a
Devi is a Sanskrit word and comes from the word Deva which means “divine”. Sanskrit is the most refined and sacred language revealing that Devi means goddess. So what does it mean to be a goddess? If we look into the inner meaning it is “she who shines” or “She who gives existence to this whole universe.” She is like the light that gives life and makes everything light up. The light is a metaphor. So this is a message to all beings, to you and me- you are, I am, I shine! You shine! I exist and that existence is sacred. Devi who is existent, a shining, sacred being!
This word Devi (or Deva) teaches us that God is not away from us, it is within us, we are God, all that is here is Goddess. There is no such thing as many goddesses or one goddess (god), there is only “Goddess”. Everything that is here is the sacred feminine- we are connected via the collective energy that makes up mother earth and the entire cosmos, so you see, you are the sacred feminine in the form of YOU or ME, or that tree and that puppy. But also in the form of man, woman, children, all that is here is Devi really. This is interesting because we don’t look at ourselves as Devi, as goddess. So many of us do not see how beautiful and shining we are, just as we are!
A Devi circle is a beautiful gathering of women where we can discover that fact about ourselves, that we are Devi, that we are goddess, that we are whole and complete, that we are sacred. We are the source of love and actually we have everything we want and need from within ourselves in order to be happy. It’s a beautiful gathering where women can come and share their stories because we all have many different stories in our lives. And we want to discover that those stories are sacred and
have made us who we are today. And then we can learn that we are the heroine of our own stories, that every challenging situation can become a blessing.
So, the circle offers that safe scared space to share our stories, to heal from our story and then to grow from the stories. It is here we then learn about our essential nature as love. We also bring in rituals and prayers and sacred beauty. Where we discover that beauty is self-acceptance. Beauty has nothing to do with a colour, a form, or a size. It is self-acceptance to see that everything is ok with me, I can accept myself the way I am, there is nothing wrong with wanting to change something, to refine, but in essence, I discover I am acceptable. Devi circles are very magical.
Q. What is the Vedic vision of Mother Earth, of the goddess, of the Sacred
The Vedic vision of mother earth is that the earth is like a mother, we need to look at her as a sacred being so she is not something that we abuse and constantly take from and then not give back. The whole universe is not distant from us, we are not distant from her, and we are one and the same. Whatever flows through the universe, flows through us. All our actions, our thoughts and expressions and our gratitude for being here in our bodies and in this life, embodies the love that we are in whatever way we can show it, in whatever gifts we have been given and when we discover
that essential oneness, and that permanent connection then this sense of alienation and disconnection disappears, separation is there because of ignorance.
There is this disease of being disconnected from the planet, which is so painful as we all know, so to get back to that connectedness we have to reach out and make the effort and have a value for knowledge to discover that we are never away from the whole- from mother earth, it is like the wave belongs to the ocean, we are the ocean. Some days we look at ourselves and think we are just a small little wave, but really we are the ocean, from the stand point of water, there is only water- there is only goddess. Knowing we are never away from the whole and discovering the sacred
feminine as mother earth, it is a way to relate to the whole and thus discover we are the whole. We can then bring in sanctity into all aspects of our lives, this is the Vedic vision, that everything that is here is sacred.
Q. You offer three Women’s circle facilitator training courses; can you give us
a glimpse into all three?
I realized there wasn’t much information or trainings available for women to gain a deeper knowledge of Vedanta and the goddesses or to even create a sisterhood. I know there are similar movements happening in the USA and the UK, many Red Tents and gatherings are happening but non as of yet have fused these gatherings with ceremony and ritual specific to Hindu goddesses. Everything that I have learned over the years have gone into these three trainings so women can really discover that Sarasvati, Laksmi and Durga are really an aspect of themselves. These deities are
not high up in the clouds somewhere looking down and judging, they are the many faces of mother earth and of every woman.
Is the goddess of knowledge and sacred arts so training based around this goddess helps women to discover the value for knowledge, where ever there is knowledge there can be no ignorance, like where there is light there can be no darkness. The Sarasvati training is the discovery of self-knowledge and healing and to have the foundation or structure to then lead your own sharing circles. This training is like a starter kit giving you all the tools to become a mentor but also lead a
healthy, heart centered lifestyle full of creativity and then provide a space for other women to grow, heal and share. This training is dedicated to KNOWING yourself as a woman to then take the lead and help other women. This course is held in Sweden.
Is the goddess of abundance, self-worth, sacred beauty and sacred sexuality. This second training is all about BEING a woman, so once I know who I am; I can just be myself, to truly invest in the sweetness of my being, as a woman. Therefore the healing is so important in this training because maybe there is trauma that needs to surface, different painful experiences perhaps associated with our sexual history or body image which can then stunt our self worth. When we sift
through the trauma and heal from it, we find that every woman is a jewel, she is so precious and beautiful the way she is and we can love our bodies and accept ourselves. This training is all about healing and being able to embody the love that we are to then teach that to other women. This course is held in Barcelona, Spain.
Is the goddess of courage and bravery, she who is a Dharmic spiritual warrior; she protects all the people who follow all universal values. She is a mentor, a leader, a role model and mother figure that people can really look up to. So the Durga training is dedicated to rites of passage in life, where women can heal the different transitions in life that maybe were not honoured. So we take you back to those times like birth, first day at school, menarche and so on in order to ritualize all the important times a woman goes through that has perhaps painful memories attached. This then helps
the women on the training to become a role model and facilitate rites of passage and ceremony out in her community for ALL women. This course is held in Ubud, Bali.
In conclusion, the Sarasvati training is KNOW WOMAN; essentially gaining knowledge about yourself, the Laksmi training is BE WOMAN; to heal and just be yourself as a woman and lastly the Durga training is about ALL WOMEN; being a leader and representative of all women and womanhood.
I created a song/mantra that embodies the Be Woman Project and all three trainings; you can listen to it here on Soundcloud: The Be Woman Project Mantra
Q. What inspired you to facilitate these courses?
My journey for healing, growth and clarity has been deeply impacted by the vedic concepts and its mythology and so the goddesses are archetypes that helped me to relate to that which is sacred within and around me. They have been a huge impact in my life in a way to really sanctify myself and how I live. The goddesses have been like sisters and mothers, each with their own story and personality. They represent the sacred feminine aspect of myself which were all the things I thought I didn’t have. All these beautiful qualities residing in these goddesses are symbolic and remind me of
my self-worth, of my beauty, my courage, compassion and creativity. These archetypes teach us that all of these qualities are within us too. The inspiration to create these training courses came from knowing that the Vedic teachings, practices and archetypes have helped me so much in my growth and I thought it could help other women as well. And I wanted to create a project that facilitates a
space where one can really learn about aspects of the goddesses.
Q. How did you your creation of the Be Woman Project manifest and what
are your future aspirations for this venture?
The Be Woman Project manifested from experiencing a lot of jealousy in my life, like all women we all do, we tend to compete with each other and the big part of the teaching and values of this Project is to overcome those traits because how can you embody love if there is always jealousy and competition? The way to overcome this is having an attitude of practicing the opposite, if there is jealousy then takes a step back for a moment and instead practice admiration. If there is competition then instead contribute and support. You express what you think you don’t have, so
what you see in another woman, let go of fear and voice it! Say “Wow I admire you so much, it touches my heart so deeply! I am so inspired by you and thank you for having the courage to shine!” which in turn negates jealousy and nurtures a positive attitude to be inspired.
So, it became a sisterhood. And through sharing space with so many amazing women, I learn that I am also blessed with amazing gifts. A part of me didn’t want to share my talents because I thought “Oh I don’t want to make anybody jealous” and then also seeing talents from other women who might trigger my jealousy! So instead of pushing these feelings away, we talk about it and share, we become open hearted and kind when these feelings come up, validate them and then heal them. Its
ok to have these thoughts, we all have them, these thoughts come up because of pain and not really knowing who we are, it’s just ignorance, we can’t blame anybody for that. The Be Woman Project came to fruition because I have so many amazing sisters in my life, I love to share and I love to nurture others to grow, to be all one together. I want to have my sisters at my side so we can all shine together and then inspire other women to shine and be support to other sisters.
This project is so much bigger than I am, this vision that I had is growing every day, it merely came from an idea but it is amazing sisters by my side helping me make it a reality. It’s not just my project, its your project, its every woman’s project. My heart is your heart. You want exactly the same thing that I want: happiness, love, support, togetherness, safety, community and friendship. So this project really is about that.
And it’s just a name really, it’s a prayer, it all started with a prayer. And it’s a prayer for peace, wholeness, safety and fearlessness.
Q. Do you have any past experiences and interests that have influenced your
decision to hold women’s circles?
Yes I have a love of Yoga, Ayurveda and Odissi dance which has been a major part of my life and it brought me into the whole world of yoga philosophy and Hindu spirituality and mythology. I have an aversion to religion but I’ve always been inquisitive about the big questions; yoga and Vedanta allow me to be free in my spirituality without being dogmatic. Ayurveda comes from a love of wanting to be healthy and gain more knowledge about my body and its rhythms but also have a balanced lifestyle. And from a very young age I have always wanted to be dancer, it was my biggest dream to be a dancer, however sadly it was not supported, to this day it still makes me tear up. In the West, the arts are not valued or considered sacred; the West can be so empty of all of this. And dance connects me to myself and to source, I cannot put into words how it makes me feel. It was my way of experiencing the sacred feminine and connecting with Goddess. But that love was frowned upon, how can you make a living as a dancer? So I never pursued that, even though I wanted it with all my heart.
And then through the discovery of Yoga and Ayurveda I went to India. Once in India I saw this temple dance and I was mesmerized, I cried. It’s one of those magical moments where you know it was meant to be, that there is purpose and meaning. I felt it so deeply so the next day I signed up for a month intensive Odissi training course, where I’d be dancing 5 to 6 hours a day, every day. Then suddenly that one month turned into nine months! And it’s in this dance where I learned about the goddess archetypes, I and other women embodied them, we danced them. And then suddenly I was a dancer, maybe only for 2 or 3 years but finally I could fulfil that dream. I danced every single day and then when I moved to Bali I shared it with girls and boys. We danced for three months in many temples in Bali as an offering. Here in Bali, there is only art, they don’t even have a word for art, because all that is here is art, is creativity, is scared because it is an offering or an expression of Devi, of the goddess.
So now I had knowledge on yoga, Ayurveda, and devotional movements to goddess, how do I bring this all together? And then I found my Vedanta teacher here in Bali who helped me bring it all together and from that, the Be Woman Project and Devi circles were born.
Q. Devi Circles and Red Tents were once an important part of daily life for
women in ancient cultures around the world, why do you believe there is a
revival and need for a variety of women’s gatherings in the 21st century?
Before the industrial age, before the churches and in ancient cultures around the world it was common practice for women in their tribes, communities and temples to gather together to essentially share everything. If a woman gave birth, then all the women in the community would take care of her and the new born baby for weeks if not months, the child would have been raised by the whole village. Nowadays women are left alone to struggle caring for herself (trying to heal from giving birth) and caring for her baby on top of going back to work, hence the increase in post-natal depression and so forth and children growing up with an array of complexes due to lack of proper bonding with the mother and even other women. Red tents were once considered sacred and women seen as magical, we bleed yet we do not die, our emotions harmonize with the rhythms of life and the moon and we are life givers too. We used to gather together during our moon time in red tents to laugh, cry and tell stories, offer remedies to soothe period pain, teach young girls about the menarche (their first bleed), self-care (breast and womb massage with herbs and oils), fertility
rituals, breastfeed and enjoy a week of rest and letting go. The elders would mentor the younger women on how to be a woman and dancing, offerings, singing and art making was also encouraged as a way to give thanks to the sacred feminine but also enjoy time together being creative, day dreaming and resting.
Red tents were symbolic of sisterhood. At some point in history when society turned very patriarchal red tents soon represented something dirty to be hidden away, periods were seen as unclean, women are forced to keep quiet about any topic related to the vagina, yet penis references are everywhere! And now in the 21st century women and young girls are bombarded with messages in the media and in magazines encouraging body shaming, to look a certain way for the male gaze and
shove a tampon up there to pretend your period doesn’t exist whilst you attempt to work a full time job, raise children, clean the house and cook dinner. Devi circles honour and support a woman. Your period is the most sacred time for a woman but now we just close down, shove a tampon in and take pills.
I feel that the rise in the sacred feminine movement with red tents, priestess trainings, Devi circles and gatherings is almost a quiet rebellion to bring balance back to the world. Where there is yang, there needs to be yin, Shiva needs Shakti. Women’s gatherings also encourage women to support each other and celebrate womanhood rather than hiding it. Its about sisterhood for we are all sisters, rather than competitors. There is a revival because women haven’t really had a safe, sacred place to just be a woman and talk about women’s issues or subjects or even just have a place to feel cherished and respected. I am so grateful I chose to come to this world in a female body, because there are so many blessings of the female body. For example, we have bigger Corpus Callosums, so we’re able to better integrate left brain and right brain information using the unity of our intuitive, artistic and creative nature with our analytical linear thinking modes, to weave those together in a that way we perceive reality is really powerful! We also have these beautiful hormone cycles that flow with the moon and the tide and also sync in with other women so if one woman is powerful on her own, imagine a whole group of women together! It’s really magical!
Q. What do you believe your dharma, your life mission is?
My life mission is to gain Moksha. Moksha means freedom from pain, so freedom from self-judgement, from the disease of becoming, to discover myself as whole and complete. That is my goal in life, to abide by that and then to share with whoever wants to discover that they are also the source of love and happiness.
Know Woman. Be Woman. All Women. Nature. Nurture. Me.-
Be Woman Project
If you are interested in learning more about Sharada, her teachings and be involved with the Be Woman Project please click on the links below. There is information on the latest women’s circle facilitator trainings, retreats, gatherings and an online presence every Sunday published in the Facebook group. This is a live video feed in which individual women teach or talk about their specialist field such as womb yoga, women’s health, Ayurveda for women, belly dance, menstruation, psychology, art, singing, puja and much more!