Little known fact about me: when I graduated high school, I received an award for excellence in religious studies. Little known, and to anyone who knows me, probably little believed. Honestly, when they announced that I’d won it, I had to stifle a snort-laugh. I’d taken the “World Religions” elective as an easy class to boost my average, but if you want to give me an award for it too, go right ahead!
I’ve always kind of thought of Christianity in the same way as I think of astrology: a big pile of hokum. And I’m not singling out Christianity in particular; every faith I’d learned about in that world religion course sounded pretty far-fetched to me. How could you believe in this stuff, when all the logic, all the science, all the rational thinking in the world goes against it?? Mentally I’d lower someones IQ a few notches once I found out they were an active believer in any type of religion. Terrible of me, I know, but the idea of people so blindly believing in some kind of “higher being” seemed incredibly naive.
The conversations I have with customers at work never cease to surprise me. I’m so glad I’ve become a more talkative person as I’ve gotten older – venturing past the small talk about the weather has led to some pretty interesting and unexpected conversations. Amidst bank-talk the other day, an older gentleman (I’m really not sure why) quipped a few lines from a poem I recognized. I looked at him kind of funny and asked, Jabberwocky? He seemed delighted I had caught on, and from there we had a lovely, meandering chat about god knows what else. (It was a slow day at work, okay? I wasn’t holding up the line-up being a too-chatty bank teller, I promise!)
It was all fine and dandy and as we said our goodbyes and I was thinking what a lovely man he was, he added, “I’m the pastor at _______ church, you’re welcome to come join us any Sunday morning!” What?!? But he seemed so…normal. And intelligent. And funny. It just didn’t add up in my brain.
I’ve said it before, but confession time again now: I break the “no judgment” rule of yoga far too often. Coincidentally, I think that’s a pretty big rule in a lot of religions as well. And the more I’ve pondered over this whole thing in my head, the more I’ve realized it’s not the only thing religion and yoga have in common.
There’s the blatantly obvious, physical similarities: bringing hands to heart centre in prayer pose, and literally bowing down as if to pray in child’s pose. The “commandments”, you could call them, of yoga: no competition, no judgment, no expectations. The calm, peaceful sanctity of a yoga studio, almost as if it were some sort of temple. Ending the practice with a “namaste” – the yogic version of “amen”. The entire yoga practice traces back to sacred Hindu texts, so making the yoga-religion connection really isn’t that much of a stretch.
Having stirred up this section of brain, I’ve found myself re-examining some of my beliefs. I say, and believe, things like “the universe has this in store for me” and “everything happens for a reason” – what’s that, if not belief in some higher power?! What makes my faith in “the universe” any less silly than your belief in whatever deity you worship?? Time to take a little step down from my high horse.
What keeps bringing me back to my yoga practice? The same thing that draws so many people to religion: comfort, safety, faith. It’s my constant when the rest of life seems crazy, the bright spot in a terrible day. It’s a ritual I hold sacred, a reassurance that, in time, everything will be alright. It’s nice to have something to believe in, and when I frame religion in my mind like this, I can understand the appeal.
I’ve said loud and proud I’m a bad yogi, and in a lot of ways I’m happy keeping it that way. When it comes to the “no judgment”, however, I’ve got a lot of room for improvement. I’m grateful for that conversation with the “normal, intellectual, funny” pastor man. If he had mentioned right from the get-go that he was a minister (/pastor/reverend/I don’t know if all these mean the same thing?), I’m sure I wouldn’t have carried on with him like I did. My close-minded judginess would have shut down any chance of a “normal” conversation, and I never would have had this whole series of thoughts and realizations.
Whether you believe in God or Allah or Ganesh or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarianism, it’s a thing, google it), that’s your prerogative! Everyone has their own reasons to believe in what they do, and it’s none of mine or anyone else’s business to judge them on that. If something, be it religion or yoga or whatever else, gives you the happiness, faith, and strength to get through this life, you hold on to it.
Whatever beliefs you hold dear, honour them.
The love, and the peace, and the joy in me honour the love and the peace and the joy in you.