So I went to sutra study. I was able to read a few comments on yesterday’s post before I left, rather in a distracted rush, for yoga class and sutra study. Many of you made excellent points and I was left feeling awkward, silly and vulnerable. I particularly hate feeling vulnerable. I am much better at over thinking things, if you hadn’t noticed.
When I started this project I knew this quarter would be a challenge for me, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be for me. I’ve spent most of this quarter practicing Christianity by not practicing the Pagan things and Hindu things I’d like to practice. As the comments brought home, that’s not actually a practice. And it’s not very true to Christianity. I ‘knew’ both of those things, but I didn’t know what else to do.
Like all of the major world religions, Christianity is a broad tradition that embraces both fundamentalism and a liberal side so open that many might not recognize it as Christian. Until only a few years ago I was within the Christian tradition thanks to the wide berth a living tradition offers, yet it took a while to recognize that it wasn’t my narrative, it wasn’t my story. Christianity’s symbolism runs deep, but it’s not my metaphor.
When I started this project with Hinduism last summer I faced some of the same issues: how do I practice without falling into the snare of legalism. I think this is the problem that faces people who haven’t embraced the narrative and found a home in the story of a faith. In my reading I kept bumping up against Vedic orthodoxy and I didn’t like it one bit. I kept looking for the parts that resonated with me, and when I got to Tantra I found my narrative thread.
But Christianity is not my story anymore. How many times can I repeat this? It’s not you, the reader, I need to convince, it’s me. I was at peace with this, until I tried to return. And I can’t. There is no returning for me. And that’s what I realized on my drive to yoga. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I wanted to cry. I felt exposed. Look at how ridiculous I’m being – and in ‘public’ too!
How do I stay true to the ‘rules’ I’ve set for myself on this project? I guess I stay true to them by staying true to myself. That means getting back to my practices – back to MY practices. I can finish out this quarter engaging with Christianity, engaging with a beautiful, rich tradition that has given me so much. But I won’t and don’t have to practice.
Several years ago, when I was studying with T Thorn Coyle, I used to beat myself up if I didn’t meditate for at least 20 minutes. And then I realized, the tools are there for me; I’m not here for the tools. Meditation isn’t going to come knocking on my door and ask why I shorted it ten minutes. Or forgot to show up. No, meditation is my tool to use for my liberation. Same with this project, same with this work, same for my path. They are tools that serve me, not the other way around. The point of this project was to get clear and to struggle and to find out more about myself and my practice, and I’d say it’s working!
I’ve been neglecting several things, all in the spirit of ‘not practicing.’ I haven’t set up my altars in my office. I’ve had this wonderful (if cold) new space for several weeks and it’s still unfinished and chaotic. I haven’t been doing my sitting or my prayers or making kala. Boy, do I feel the effects of not practicing! With the exception of the meditative mercy prayer, there hasn’t been anything else to fill the space. That is silly and not particularly helpful.
During yoga class we worked on back bends, which open up the front body, especially the space around the heart and breast bone. That exacerbated my feelings of vulnerability and at several points during class I wanted to cry. I’m not a crier and wish I was. I think it would be healthier for me. Yoga sutra study was nice but not what I’d made it out to be in my head. I felt foolish for making such a big deal about it. I still feel foolish.
humility, vulnerability, and resolution were the themes for me last night and they carry over this morning. On more than one occasion I’ve been encouraged to stop over thinking everything, to get more honest, more vulnerable, more personal here and it’s a struggle for me. But last night was a great gift to me, a release, a resolution. Thanks for helping me along.