I see you’ve returned for more of my story. (I knew you’d get sucked in. Resistance is futile!)
(If this is your first visit to my blog, and you feel like maybe you missed something crucial to understanding the plot of my story, feel free to read part 1 and part 2. Go ahead… I need a potty break and a coffee refill anyway…)
So, where were we… oh yeah, lots of athletically induced physical pain in pursuit of relief and happiness, and the discovery of yoga…
While I strangely derived satisfaction from my intense pursuit of physical pain, (seriously, I could have found a better way to relieve stress… like yoga! I’m getting there… stay with me…), I could not relieve the pain in my heart. I was suffering from intense depression brought on by the sickness in my spirit… a lifetime of guilt, shame, fear, disappointment, disillusionment, and any other negative “-ment” you can think of. This realization hit me full in the face one morning, right after I had sent my kids to the bus stop, and sat down in front of my huge picture window with a cup of deliciously creamy coffee. I had lifted the cup up to my lips, and then…
“What a load of crap!” I shouted.
I was just realizing that the programming I had received since the day of my birth had left me chock-full of various and cruel ways to torment, punish, and abuse myself.
Now, I have good, loving parents. They did the best to raise me properly with what they knew from their own life experiences, same as I’m doing with my own children, same as many other parents on this planet. My siblings and I were dragged to church on Sundays where we were told to “stop thinking, stop questioning; just believe what I tell you to believe.” (Ok, those weren’t the EXACT words, but this was definitely my take-away after years of being involved in church and church leadership.) I walked away from that abuse about 5 years ago. After wandering rootless, aimless, angry, and wounded for a few years, I chose to willingly and lovingly forgive the church for their negative words, actions, and deeds, whether done consciously or unconsciously, while attempting to love and serve to the best of their abilities.
(I’m positive that in my years of religious service, I, too, inflicted a substantial chunk of fear, guilt, and shame in the name of love and service, and I now choose to willingly and lovingly forgive myself the past, pains, and problems around the issue. I take responsibility for my attitudes and actions, and kindly, lovingly, and supportively transmute, transform, transcend, and dissolve the issue into all-encompassing love. Amen.)
Being raised in the Christian tradition, I cried out to God in my frustration, anger, and pain, right there in my living room, coffee cup still clutched in my hand. This is all I knew to do. My heart had been leaking its life force all over the place for too long, and I needed relief from the pain. While tears pooled in my eyes, and my throat tightened, I managed to squeak-out a desperate prayer:
“God, I want to know what is really real. Who are you, really? Who am I, really? What is the point of this human life, really? Please, help me see and hear through the veil of religious conditioning, beyond my preconceived notions and prejudices, and past the barrier of my subconscious beliefs and limitations. I desperately need to know the truth that will set me free from this anger and depression, because whatever “truth” I’ve experienced up to now is killing me on the inside.”
And then I waited. I sat in front of my window, sobbing, watching the sunrise light up the coastal mountain range. Once the tears and snot subsided, I noticed that I felt utterly spent, drained, and empty. There was nothing left to think or feel; nothing left to pretend or hide. I had poured out years of pain that I had been stuffing down into the recesses of my soul. It was like the “coffee can with springy snake” gag… the lid popped off and all my emotional crap spewed everywhere, leaving the can empty. All I knew at that moment was that I couldn’t snap the lid back on… I didn’t WANT to snap the lid back on.
My answer didn’t come right away or all at once, (there was no audible voice, thunder, lightning, goose bumps, uncontrollable laughter, gold dust, or mysteriously falling feathers, etc.), but I became aware of the synchronicity happening in my life… a coffee date with a friend that lead me to a podcast, that lead me to a book, that led me to a forgotten desire to learn more about yoga and the benefits of living a new way of life, (etcetera, etcetera). And THAT is what I was ultimately after… a new way of life… a new way of being. The old way wasn’t serving me in a positive, loving way, so I let it go, and I began the search for the REAL things, the eternal things.
This one morning turned into many mornings of reading and praying and reading and journaling and reading some more. My heart was soaring! I couldn’t get enough. My spirit wanted more and more, so I continued to feed it whatever sounded tasty. (Check out the book list at the end of this post, if you are a reader with a penchant for tasty books, too.) The book that hooked me into learning more about the philosophy of yoga was a little book by Deepak Chopra titled, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga.” Fantastic book! Engaging and insightful. Here is a very, VERY basic outline of the 8 Limbs (Asthanga) of yoga:
Before I continue, I want to first state that I am NOT an expert on yoga or the lifestyle philosophies of yoga. I only know what I have personally experienced from my study and practice of yoga. There. Read on…
The 8 Limbs of Yoga:
- Yama – Rules of Social Behavior
- Ahimsa – practicing non-violence
- Satya – speaking truthfully
- Brahmacharya – exercising appropriate sexual control (moderation)
- Asteya – being honest
- Aparigraha – being generous
- Niyama – Rules of personal behavior
- Shoucha – purity
- Santosha – contentment
- Tapas – discipline (fire)
- Svadhyana – spiritual exploration (self-study)
- Ishwara-Pranidhana – surrender to the Divine (faith)
- Asana – physical practice of yoga, holding various poses.
- Pranayama – conscious breathing, life force
- Pratyahara – directing the senses inward
- Dharana – mastery of attention and intention
- Dhyana – cultivation of awareness
- Samadhi – connection, peace, unbound awareness
Deepak Chopra described each of these limbs so simply and creatively, it was easy for me to understand and imagine how it could influence my own experience of life. He made yoga so accessible and rich. (Seriously, my outline above is SO basic.) The single thought swirling around my mind as I read this book was, “This is what I want! I want to be a kinder, healthier, happier human being!”
Now, for all the Christians reading this post… your religious warning bells are firing full blast right now, I know. It’s ok. Mine did too. I was super scared to even consider an alternative point of view about human existence and the condition of the soul. The shoulder angel on one side whispered fear, guilt, and shame into my ear, while the shoulder angel on my other side whispered that which my heart was pounding so intensely to experience… HOPE, LIFE, and FREEDOM.
As I continued to read through this book, (and a handful of others), I recognized so many similarities between the teachings of Jesus, and the ancient Native and Eastern teachings about mindfulness and God-consciousness. After a few months of reading everything that came my way through the synchronicities of life, these are the universal themes that stood out to me the most:
- Love God
- Love yourself
- Love others
- Take care of the place where you live
Yoga isn’t devil worship. Yoga is a way of being human in the world… a kind, forgiving, loving, joyful, happy, graceful human being, filled with gratitude and appreciation for all living things. I desire to know more about God and humanity and love and purpose and real life and a land flowing with milk and honey… minus the religious mumbo-jumbo that exists in every religion.
I find it extraordinary, (and exciting), that ancient cultures existing thousands of miles away from one another, with their own rich spiritual histories, have so much in common… the desire to be the best versions of themselves, to live in peace with all of creation, and to experience life abundant with joy and good health. It feels like the fluff in the belief system I was raised in has floated away, but the stuff that is real and true has stayed and become more rooted within my heart. As I continue to explore my own soul’s desires and follow my divine intuition, the things I experience to be true in my own soul are enhanced and complemented by the universal truths I am finding in everything around me.
Here is what I know, right now, in my own experience of God…
God is real. (I know this because I’ve felt it… the intense power of pure love as it smashed into my spirit one day while I was singing and praying in an empty room. It’s an awesome story! That is when I first began to wake up.)
God created everything, and is in everything, and sustains everything. (Native tribes call God “The Great Spirit that moves through all things.” I love that! I am now more aware than ever of God’s living energy in everything… the wind, the sunset, birdsong, flowers and trees, the smile from a stranger…)
God is as close as the air I breathe. (I don’t need a lengthy, wordy prayer to convince God that I’m worthy enough to spend time with. I have always been enough! I close my eyes, turn my heart toward gratitude, and breathe deeply. God is there, instantly, because He was already! Only now, my awareness of Him is there, too.)
God is eternal, Spirit, pure energy, the Divine Source of all love, and as an eternal spirit myself, created by God, I am a spark of the Divine. I am made of pure energy and love, and through this living, spirit-to-spirit connection, I have access to peace, joy, and love in unlimited and fathomless amounts! And so do you!
These are things I already knew in my mind, but now, somehow, they dropped into my heart and made perfect sense, like all the dots had finally connected. What made the difference? Why couldn’t I understand these things at the soul level before now? Maybe because there was too much other crap taking up space in there? Perhaps. It was like an internal refocus, a setting free, a heavy weight lifted, and a glimpse of the majestic within my own heart.
Yesterday, I stumbled across an old journal entry:
“I long to soar even though I’m standing still… I want to feel the thrill of a grand, new adventure. I want to fly! Lord, give me wings! Amen.”
I am happy to report that God has helped me find my wings. I have always had them; I had just forgotten how to use them. Everyday feels like a new adventure… the adventure of a life filled with infinite possibility, gratitude, love, joy, peace, and the lightness of soul that comes from being exactly myself in every moment.
Now, who wouldn’t want that??
Namaste, beautiful souls!
The Divine in me honors the Divine in you.
P.S. Here are a few books from my extensive reading list. If you would like to discover more about yoga and/or begin your own unique journey toward “Soul Liberation,” (I made that up just now), these books are where I started, and they will help you get started, too…
- “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” – by: Rob Bell
- “Love Wins” – by: Rob Bell
- “How To Be Here” – by: Rob Bell
- “What Is The Bible…” – Rob Bell
- “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga” – by: Deepak Chopra
- “The Third Jesus…” – by: Deepak Chopra
- “The Four Agreements” – by: Don Miguel Ruiz
- “Grandfather” – by: Tom Brown, Jr.