A Temple For Women

The day I was invited to a temple evening for women I was thrilled. This was exactly where I had ever longed for: A temple, a sacred place for women, where we can connect with each other from heart to heart. The warm-hearted welcome in a circle of women, who nourishes, unconditionally accept and support one another. This is offered in the temple evening with the guidance of Yashodhara van Vilsteren in Gauting near Munich. Born in the Netherlands, she is a woman who loves laughter. She offers something special to women, that you rarely can find anywhere else - Shakti Sadhana, the female spiritual practice. The practices are interactive and include movement, self-expression, as well as respectful touch. Ursula Fournier enjoyed the wonderful interview with Yashodhara van Vilsteren.


Yashodhara, your eyes shine when you talk about the temple evenings. How did you discover the temple women network?

By discovering Chameli Ardagh, the founder of the temple evenings, at that time there was no large network. It all started with a friend sharing that Chameli was offering a temple evening in Munich which I attended. In the course of the evening we had a practise in which two women touched me gently and softly. I was so moved within that my eyes were full of tears. I had a lot of experience with women workshops, but this was very new. I felt a longing in me for this kind of gentle touch. It brought me in contact with a very dear and tender part deep inside me, which I normally don’t reach. Later I discovered that this gentle touch still is a taboo for many women. Often women are afraid to confront their deep feelings or grief. I was so moved that it lasted the whole night, I felt embraced with love and acceptance.


Afterwards I participated in Chameli’s weekend workshop and was totally inspired. Chameli had made the feminine spirituality manifest, unknowingly I had been looking and longing for that. We learned to come home in our own body and to enjoy it and that this is important and necessary. After all that we women had experienced together this weekend, I couldn’t imagine Chameli departing for the U.S.A. and that would be it. I had discovered something and I wanted to continue with it. After having one great meeting together and another weekend with Chameli, I rented a space and started with the temple evenings. At the beginning we were a very small group. 


What exactly symbolizes the term ”temple“ for women?

When I bought some flowers for a recent temple evening, the shopkeeper asked me for what I was using the rose petals. I answered: “To spread on the floor in the women temple.” He said: “Ah, I see, you are chatting there together.“ That’s exactly not it. The temple is not a space for a gossip meeting. In the temple we drop our masks. Most important in the temple is, to come closer to our self. That means to relax and to let go of everything that others and I think about me. Although I offer some program to you in the temple, it might be that in that moment you need something else. It is your space, your oasis to come home, to meet yourself, your being, your essence. The body is the temple of the soul. Women have grown up in a male world that revolves around issues like “the father in heaven” or the “brain”. The female and “mother Earth” - our body is the earth - is missing. 


In our body new life grows, we women feed with our breast. So for us, our body is our temple. It might be that even a man can experience his body as a temple, but here we talk about the feminine aspect. During the temple evening we reconnect with our bodies. Our body is a holy instrument that never lies. When I take time to feel my body, it can tell me what is really here, what I feel in me, what disturbs me, it brings me closer to myself. “Feeling” is a female aspect. Feeling is only possible in the body. Feelings arise for example in the heart, in the belly, in the solar plexus. Therefore in the temple we connect with our body, part of it is also our sensuality. In (patriarchal) religions, women are considered dangerous – in some of these religions for example, man should avoid looking at a woman. Yet woman embodies beauty and sensuality and when we give our inner allowance to these aspects we reconnect with our divinity and we start to shine. We can let go of our shame. We can embrace and accept every part of us to rediscover our womanhood.

A temple is a holy place. "Holy" has the meaning of "whole". It seems to me that the temple is also a protected place where I can be whole and complete. I can only let go of the masks if I am safe and protected.
Yes, this is most important: to create a protected place, where every woman feels save, respected and valued for who she is. Then comes the willingness to take responsibility for ourselves. Chameli and some other women wrote in Corfu at the yogini retreat the "temple manifesto". It says: “I take hundred percent responsibility for myself." This means: You don’t need to worry about me. It is so relaxing because women tend to always care for others. In the temple I take my responsibility and say: "I tell you when I need something. You don’t need to worry about me."  
Our conditioning is quite the reverse. We usually care about others first. If I act on my own responsibility, do I get what I need?
This is an exercise for women. We are not accustomed to ask for or tell what we need. In the temple we practice to behave differently.
You are concerned with women’s issues for a long time. How did it happen that you became a temple leader in addition to your profession as a nurse and the individual sessions in Tibetan Pulsing Yoga and the Journey?
Because I am on fire with this work, it has my heart. It nourishes me, I am coming home in the temple. I can relax. I am inspired. During these evenings I can feel again what I am living for. I wanted this kind of evenings for myself with my women friends, but no one else wanted to lead, so it was up to me.
At the temple evening everything is okay just as it happens at this moment. Feelings can flow. You do not discuss intellectually. There are no dramas, no conflicts. Women, who sometimes do not know each other at all, come very close. How do you explain that?
It is important to know what supports us. Why should I think negatively, when it does not do me any good? We - women - need positive feedback. It helps us to believe in our potential. We start trusting ourselves. This will make us shine. Thus in the temple we give each other a lot of positive feedback. We feel and connect with our deepest longing. We realise all that is given to us and we feel grateful.

If women meet regularly in the temple, is there a constant positive effect to their life, their relationship to themselves, to their partners, to their children? What kind of “effect “do you see in the temple evenings?
An unbelievable great effect. When I give myself a treat, I can also do good to others. When I am more in contact with my truth, I am also more honest to others. When I become gentle with myself, I can be softer with my children and my lover, too. In my relationship to my partner I have noticed that I can better stay within my own energy, without creating disharmony. When we are free from “have to“, “should” and “suppose to” our love can flow more easily. The temple evenings also create a strong women’s network. 
Where do women find information about the temple evening? How can they participate in temple evenings and find a group nearby?
On the awakening women website they can find all temple groups in the world. See the links listed below. The Awakening Women Institute has a newsletter and there are several possibilities to connect with the temple sisters via internet. Women can also found their own groups. They can start with their friends in their living room. Chameli wrote a “Temple Manual” with lots of guidelines and suggestions for the temple evenings. It is so wonderful to support, nourish and celebrate each other. For that purpose a large group is not necessary.
How do you finance the evenings? You have to pay for a large and comfortable room which is decorated so beautifully. 
Each woman pays a contribution. Every temple leader can ask for the amount according to her expenses.
Yashodhara, thank you for this beneficial talk. I wish you many women visiting your temple and opening their hearts. 
For further information see: International temple women network of Chameli Ardagh: www.awakeningwomen.com
German temple women network of Chameli Ardagh: www.awakeningwomen.de
Temple evenings with Yashodhara van Vilsteren: www.komm-dir-naeher.de; E-Mail: info@komm-dir-naeher.de; Phone: 0049 89 89 53 07 81

UF/Credits: Pictures by Jasmin Breidenbach, with kind permission of Yashodhara van Vilsteren