I am a recovering adult child of the religiously traumatized.
If you were force fed religion as a child for the sole purpose of performing in a rite of passage ceremony at a certain age, perhaps you know what I mean. If the messengers of that said religion delivered its doctrines while instilling in you fear, guilt, and confusion, then maybe you too, once suffered from the condition I am talking about. It didn't help that the God they presented to me was not the most loving and forgiving of all holy beings. God was watching, and he was judging. Rather harshly, I might add.
While I chose to walk away from organized religion, I never walked away from God. In my adult years, I have found other communities and other outlets for exploring spirituality, one of them being yoga.
On Sundays, instead of attending religious services, I visit Yogi C's studio, where he reminds me to "live my yoga. " He encourages me to go about life with an open heart and to give selflessly, expecting nothing in return. He proclaims that yoga is preparing us for great things to come. Yoga helps us build the awareness we need to know those great things when we see them – so that we won't miss them.
Yogi C reminds me to pay no attention to the hyena that can let loose in my mind and when it does, literally ruin my day. (Reader, here's a good takeaway: We do not have stressful moments or days, we have stressful thoughts which lead to stressful moments or days. Want to eliminate stress? Change your thoughts! ). He encourages me to test my comfort zone but to listen to and respect my limits at the same time.
I don't view Yogi C as some kind of prophet or religious leader. He's simply a yoga teacher, a well-studied one at that, who interprets the Sutras of Pantanjali in a language that I can easily understand. Oh, and on top of that, he plays Radiohead and U2 and the Rolling Stones during practice. Best church music ever.
Yesterday, Yogi C gave us a reality check about relationships. It was a fierce reminder that we cannot control those around us, but that we can only control our reactions to those around us. Most of you probably realize that, but how easy is it to get caught up in wanting people to change in order to make our lives more convenient?
I have a few situations right now where I want others to change to accommodate me. As a matter of fact, most, if not all, of the interpersonal conflicts in my life have been caused by this very problem. I need to accept others as they are right now, and furthermore, appreciate the fact that they are trying to best they can. Because most of us are.
Anger and resentment are wastes of energy. It's energy that we can use on something more constructive, like preparing for the great things to come. This week, on top of drinking a lot of green smoothies, I want to focus my energy wisely.
I believe there is infinite diversity in the places where we can communicate with God or a higher power. For some it's church or synagogue. For others, it's hiking, their sailboat, a yoga class, or a walk on the beach. There are many different doors, all leading to the same room. And if behind that door, is the willingness to have faith and be a good person, then it's a good door to open.
What did you learn in your "church" this weekend, whether that church has a steeple, mast, or is made of sand? Please tell!
© 2012 Ilene Evans