Could I have found a little part of myself tucked away for many years inside my own self? Today? In my forty-somethings?
How did I find it? What opened up to allow me to see it? And if I found that little part of my true self, could I have more waiting to be discovered?
For Christians around the world, this week is very special. This Holy Week is the conclusion of Lent, a period of preparation through prayer, penance, and repentance to receive the Jesus' resurrection and ascension to Heaven. To the surprise of many, I still consider myself to be a Catholic man - not because I was raised Catholic, but because I have chosen (and choose every day) to be Catholic. Questions are often thrown at me about how I can reconcile being Catholic when the Catholic church thinks less of me than It thinks of others, doesn't recognize my family, or continues to tout that this man that God made (i.e., I) is a matter of choice not a matter of being. But I don't see any of it that way. More importantly, I don't feel any of it that way, and at the end of the day, that is the funny thing about religion: it's not just about intellect, but it is about feeling. I like the ritual. I grew up with Jesuit priests in high school and college. My family attends Mass with Jesuits. And to me, these men have been my guides, my teachers, my dads, my leaders, my family. They remind me of the reason we exist and coexist. They inspire me. And they remind me of that personal and so intimate relationship I have with God. It is my relationship with God - no one else's. Interestingly, on this Easter Sunday, I was once again reminded of why I am a Catholic man and why my spirit is inspired when I share in Mass with others.
I also consider myself to be a yogi, a practitioner of yoga. (I just clarify that a yogi is simply a practitioner, not a guru.) In yoga, I have found peace, quiet, the ability to hear myself, and to little-by-little shed the noise that has covered up my true self. I have shared some stories with you about how I found the ability to breathe through yoga. In studying philosophy, anatomy, and asanas (the poses) in the yoga teacher training, I have discovered that there are two major components to most practices: one physical which draws most of us in, and one spiritual which keeps us "in" if we allow it. For me and still to this day, both of these components - the spiritual and the physical - tend to get all convoluted. In the asana practice, when all seems so tough, my mind goes ablaze. I can't think. Meditation is a distant lover. And breathing - the core of asana practice - often seems impossible. Ugh. But there is such emotional joy in all of that at the same time. It's oxymoronic, I know. On the other hand, when I meditate, my body doesn't seem to be able to hold me up. It aches. It is impatient. It bothers. All I can think of is what one of my teachers often says, "we practice asanas to build the body strong so that we can meditate." Right. But there is such beauty in quieting the mind. There is such a wonderful challenge in stilling one's self. There is such a light. There is such hope.
Funnily, the groove I find in my yoga meditation, or in prayer at church is the same groove I find when I knit. In both yoga and in Mass, we chant as a way to open up and allow the greater universe to bathe us with its wisdom. When I knit, every stitch feels like part of a chant. There, I find peace, too.
My mother who just recently turned 85 and thinks she is in her 50s (bless her heart) quoted a friend of ours the other day describing me as having an inner peace. It is the second time I have heard this compliment (thank you to both parties who shared!). And I am still confused. LOL! Me? Inner peace? ...seriously?!
I look at my friends' posts on Facebook - especially those with children my son's age, and I know that we all have our ups and downs and sometimes we seem to live more in our downs than our ups... Even those friends without children have tough issues in their lives and those are no less than mine. I feel lost half of the time I am parenting. (Where is that darn parenting workbook?! Someone publish it soon!) I feel confused most of the time when I am trying to figure out what is next for myself and my loved ones. I yearn for some greater power to guide me and show me the path. In that moment, I don't feel special, and I don't feel that inner peace... well, at least not all the time.
I do know one thing, however, I feel that I know myself better today than I did a few months ago - let alone a few years or decades ago. For that, I am grateful (and a little scared).
In this last year, my son discovered he liked the Rasta colors (yellow, green, and red). Interestingly, he admits that he knows very little about the Rastafari movement. Well... if my son is going to sport those colors, I knew I needed to inform myself about what this was. Come to find out, it is no different than many of the things we try to do: research, study, learn and grow. Rastas do not consider Rastafari to be a religion but an ideology and a way of life which similar to what I am doing with yoga, religion, and my education is a fabric with a number of threads and/or stitches. The Rastafari movement takes from Christianity and Judaism, believing in many of the same ideas most of us were taught and feeling much of the same feelings we do as we observe or follow whatever religion we have chosen.