Whether we seek something called spirituality, holiness, or enlightenment, the route to it is through our humanness, complete with our strengths AND our weaknesses, our successes AND our failures. You might say that we use ourselves to discover ourselves.
About 3 years ago, I walked out of and away from the Christian church. I had a very clear directive from above: to let go, follow my own inner wisdom and be free. It was as if chains had been cut and I could not only walk in freedom, I felt like I was flying. I no longer felt suppressed or oppressed, or any of the other “pressed”s. I stopped worrying about what god or christians thought of me and my decisions and started living, actually living, my own life.
Ever since I was a child, I was a devout student of Christianity. I knew the stories backwards and forwards, could quote the Bible at a turn, wondered and sought and journaled about the divine, specifically in the form of Jesus, and gobbled up spiritual books like candy. I knew how the writings of Merton differed from those of St. Augustine, and why Anne Lamott was such a revolutionary. I enjoyed my time of study and seeking, but when I left the church, I left that all behind.
I was burned out, exhausted, emotionally/spiritually bankrupt and I just needed a sincere space to rest and just BE.
Still, even as I wrestled with my anger toward the church and my frustration with spirituality as I had known it, I found that the only and rare times I was able to pray was during my practice. I didn’t often know who I was directing my prayers with as God had become a faceless, distant character. And my prayers didn’t look like they once had-instead of large questions and appeals they became statements. Instead of asking for peace for myself or someone I loved, I simply repeated the statement over and over as I moved through the poses and movements. Somewhere, deep down, I knew I would need to nurture my spiritual self but could only find myself capable of doing that when practicing yoga.
Prior to leaving the church, I engaged in a 9-month spiritual journey through my church in which I’d done a lot of deconstructing. We dug deep into the structure of all we’d been taught to believe about being “Christians” and examined the very fabric of our creations. All that deconstruction, I know, eventually set me free from the constructs I had been operating in.
As yoga teacher training approached, I began to sense the time had come to rebuild.
Our first gathering/class time was last Tuesday and one of the first questions we had to answer was, “Which area of your life do you sense is needing the most attention at this time: Intellectual, Social, Emotional, Physical and/or Spiritual.”
Ding ding ding. I’ll take Spiritual for $200, Alex.
There is something about standing on this precipice. Having avoided it for nearly 3 years, and having been hurt and wounded by “spiritual” people for the nearly 25 years prior to that, I’ve been hesitant to proceed. It is as if I’ve been standing on the edge of cliff, knowing I’ll have to eventually take the leap, and all I can utter is “fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”
Then I open my homework assignment and start reading “Living Your Yoga” by Judith Lasater, and chapter one is titled “Spiritual Seeking.”
How did I get here? How did this once curious, open-hearted child get so jaded and scared? How do I open my heart to the vastness of all that is beyond? How do I allow myself the possibility of experiencing spirituality beyond the confines of religion, and namely Christianity?
These have been my true Week 1 Homework Questions, and I have a feeling I will spend the next 20 weeks (and the many years after) trying to answer them.