In this Conversation with seasoned teacher Jac O’Keeffe, we explore spiritual autonomy, attachment, and models of women that are also mothers in spiritual leadership.
“I’m done. I received my paper, ran and haven’t looked back.” This is what Jac said after receiving a degree in Theology from Catholic Religious Institution in Ireland. As a student, she found it nearly impossible to sit passively and regurgitate a head in the sand rhetoric detached from regular life. I couldn’t agree more as I was indoctrinated into Catholic Parochial School prior to an advanced degree in Theology from Boston University. She described her felt experience as one of dominance, control, judgment and lacking love. She was not trained to have her own autonomy or submit creative ideas. There wasn’t space for personal analysis or opinions. It made her an atheist. “I tried many ways to find love or God in these teachings.”
At age 30 she felt a strong tug on her shoulder, “hey sweetie, look again!” This was a spiritual initiation that knocked her socks off and turned her life upside down, as initiations do. She felt lucky, suspecting she had thrown the baby out with the bath water, and was ready to have a much deeper look. In no time at all, she found herself meandering through various different spiritual modalities and hearing teachings from a different place. Walking down paths to God or Spirit she never imagined, learning and growing in ways that spurred more curiosity and wonder. A big surprise came when she felt in order to go full on to God, she needed to leave her marriage. She felt the need to let go of everything to find out what the practice of detachment really is. “If I stay in my marriage, how do I know if I am attached or not?” This idea pressed on her night and day for a good long time.
At age 37 she left her marriage to find out. “Did you ever think about becoming a parent?” At this juncture in her journey she felt the need as an autonomous and single person, to decide if she wanted to be a parent. She contemplated this for a long time. Historically, she had not been able to find women in roles of spiritual leadership that are also mothers. Jac looked and could not find these examples anywhere. In her experience, we are not given examples of spirituality demonstrated through motherhood, ever. In my research I also found this to be true and wondered why. This is a topic of a larger conversation. “That was the modeling, zero, there was none. If I have children, my life should be about them. Children are a gift to the planet and require well-resourced parents.” She questioned in herself if she was holding an attachment to an idea. “Do I need to do this? I’m the youngest of 5 sisters. They all have children.”
She pondered is this an either/or. As she looked within, she clarified, “I don’t need it. I don’t have a karmic obligation to be a mother.” She couldn’t find a stronger pull to be a mother than to go within and be with silence. Disconnecting with everything, felt like the stronger pull. After leaving your marriage, how did the detachment play out for you? What does detachment mean to you? “Are we willing to be solo to have our own autonomy, our own human identity independent from those around us? Or do we define and find comfort and identity in the roles we play whether that be a lover, mother, spouse, partner, child, doctor… do we need something in that for our own reassurance?” Is the relationship to the role, how we are relating to or from it? Is it serving an unconscious need? “Is it compensating for something I need to do for me? Or I am running it through someone else or my role, or my ideas of what I think.”
Without prior role models, Jac simply could not be sure that she could be in that first marriage and learn about detachment. Spending time alone for a while she learned that there were some skills that she did not have. From that place, she prepared herself to be in her next relationship in a different way, from a different place with less compulsory behavior and as an independent woman in a much healthier relationship with herself.
Jac and Prajna are spiritual teachers with a keen interest in the evolution of spiritual autonomy, responsibility and leadership. Both have their own unique teaching style that draws on direct experience applicable to everyday life. This blog post is part of a series of intimate conversations with Prajna. Click HERE to follow the conversation. Please subscribe to Prajna O’Hara on YouTube to be notified of uploads.
Prajna O’Hara is a seasoned dharma meditation teacher, trauma-informed Hakomi therapist, medicine woman, and the mother of three children, two with disabilities. Read about her journey in the best-selling book, Edge of Grace, A Fierce Awakening to Love.
Jac O’Keeffe offers insights and skills so that every student is empowered in their own inner exploration. She helps them cultivate inner autonomy and encourages them to take responsibility in both their spiritual and human evolution. For more information about Jac visit jac-okeeffe.com. Truth Serum Cafe Expanding the Field of Consciousness Founder, Association for Spiritual Integrity Author of Born to Be Free and How to Be a Spiritual Rebel