Monday, April 20, 2015

What's a spiritual practice for, anyway?

Image compliments of
After I returned from my last session of yoga therapy training, on mental and emotional health, I felt an awakened urgency in developing a relationship with _____ (insert your word of choice - God, the Universe, Divine Mother, Nature... something greater than myself).  I finally felt capable of sitting in wonder and silence and not controlling the outcome.  I've struggled with meditation for years and so its availability to me as a tool was quite exciting and novel.

I came home and proudly declared myself a theist of some sort.  I've been relishing this new identity.  Reading Nietzsche in college, and a healthy dose of skepticism in my early childhood experiences with religion, had sort of ruled out spiritual experiences for me.  However, I'm a deeply spiritual person.  So I found these types of trances of connection and immersion in other ways (food, alcohol, etc.)  At first, my new-found ability to connect with that-which-is-greater-than-myself seemed like it could be a tool in dealing with my own anxiety and depression, and serving as a substitute for less healthy "trances."  A very solo pursuit... though worthy.

The past few weeks have been a wild ride.  Especially for me as a mother and a wife.  Not only have a few minor illnesses ripped through the house, but there has been a lot of arguing.  I'm not proud of how I've acted on all occasions.  I have a ton of very negative conditioning around inter-family relationships.  I often feel I'm being criticized when I'm actually being hyper-sensitive and reading negativity into interactions when there is nothing behind it.  My go-to reaction to perceived criticism is overt hostility and passive aggressive behavior.

I had a chance to explore some of my new practices this weekend (of the new moon).  I took part in a meditation using Liberation Breathing combined with Mantra and Murti (Om Namaha Shivaya) and Babaji on Friday night.  Yesterday I had the time to listen to some uplifting words of Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith about the yogic practice of calming the mind (9AM service).  And I enjoyed some Hebrew chanting with a women's Rosh Chodesh group yesterday afternoon.  I've also been reading a WONDERFUL highly recommended book about women's spirituality called The Unknown She - Eight Faces of an Emerging Consciousness by Hilary Hart.

I have experienced a truly awesome shift in my understanding of a spiritual practice over the weekend.  Before I was craving me-time to solve me-problems and seeing my family situation as a barrier to getting there, which was leaving me feeling tapped out, angry, snappy, and highly dissatisfied.

What I see now, thanks to all of these inspiring sources (but especially to Hilary Hart's book), is that my spiritual practice is a tool to be more present with my family and more loving with them.  Even through the hard times.  I see now that my me-centered spiritual goals have some merit, but that the true work I have to do here is to learn to be kind, and to not overreact.

I still need to carve out time to refill my tank from sources like these.  But I grow increasingly confident that I can do that (and less and less desperate) as I give myself these treats of soul nourishment.  And I can do it in the midst of my rich family life.  And my family life is not to be avoided.  It is the day-to-day that will provide the rich soil for my peaceful being to grow.  Nurtured by my ability to break the chains that have been passed down through many generations of people doing the best they could at the time.

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