“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
My mom had a dream a few weeks ago about existence. It stuck with her, and she asked me if I thought we are humans trying to live spiritual lives or are we spirits trying to live as humans? I quickly responded, I believe in the latter, we are spirits trying to live as humans. She was surprised I didn’t need to ponder it, and I laughed saying I’ve thought about this already many times in my quest for understanding life.
I don’t call myself a spirit, but a human with a soul. As I think about expressing my definition of it, I find it difficult to put into words. It’s not in any one particular book or dogma of faith, but an awareness of more, not more ego, not individuality, but of energy and stardust, of each life force being a minute, but integral, piece of the universe.
I’ve pondered faith and religion far too frequently than most. My beliefs have wavered, faltered, doubted, and questioned in so many different ways. Growing up Catholic and attending parochial school in an era where fear was a tool to enforce my allegiance backfired. I couldn’t grasp Jesus’ message of turn the other cheek with the concept of purgatory much less judgement day. I personally think people mess things up by trying to put too many rules and definitions in such concrete terms. How could pure compassion and the miracle of existence be part of religions that condemn nonbelievers? I’m relatively certain I can find similar mixed messages in just about any religion. There is no one size fits all, or best for everyone, in reality, there is more than one road to the same end. “Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.” Sivananda Saraswati
In conference with Sharath, while I was there, someone asked a question about faith and guidance. Sharath stated simply to gain knowledge of faith and spirituality, not to follow his faith of Hinduism, unless of course that was also your path. Ashtanga yoga most certainly can have a spiritual aspect to it, but so can almost anything that is your yoga, whether your yoga is prayer, music, dancing, running, meditating, or mountain climbing. Conversely, those same things can have no meaning to some, or different ones. The choice is not meant to be enforced or judged.
In one of my favorite translations of the Yoga Sutras, by Sri Swami Satchidananda, he states in the introduction , ” Sri Pantanjali was the epitome of acceptance of all methods and of broad-mindedness of approach. He did not limit his instruction to one particular technique, to members of any particular religion or philosophy, or in any other way. He gave general principles and used specifics only as examples. For instance, in delineating objects for meditation, rather than saying, ‘Jesus is the only way,’ or ‘Krishna is the highest Godhead, meditate on Krishna, ‘ or ‘ Only meditation on a sound vibration, or mantram, will bring the Yogic results,’ he simply gave various possibilities to choose from and then concluded, ‘ or by meditating on anything one chooses is elevating.”
Personally, I had a tough week. My husband was deathly ill in the hospital, and thankfully is now home, but not out of the woods yet. Of course I was by his side and present to his needs and doing the best I could to assist him, help the medical team, and take care of my family. I still practiced yoga throughout it, and devoted my energy to his healing. My soul, my energy, my ability to give, absolutely was strengthened by my practice. For someone else, maybe that would have been reaching out to their clergy, or sitting in prayer, or meditation, or some other positive concentration of faith, even just faith in the best infectious team of modern medicine. My soul, my spirit, was soothed by a vigorous practice of stilling my mind through asana. I wouldn’t assume that would work for everyone, just as I wouldn’t assume a piano is the only way to play music. It’s a rich, lovely sound, but this world gives an orchestral beauty of different instruments and voices, who am I to decide which chord strikes your heart and soul best?