Religious Co-Op in My Soul

No, it’s not a They Might Be Giants song, (Birdhouse in Your Soul might be too obscure to open this blog post, but that’s the joy of no boss!) … it’s how I feel about being a drop-out Catholic yogini during Lent season.

SrDororty
Sr. Dorothy Wilkinson in front of St. Leo the Great Parish with an unidentified and evidently chilly but well-prepared woman

I’m religiously open, even though I was raised Catholic. Those last two words, when shared among friends, often feel like the midst of therapy session … hey, I’ve moved on from the injustices of Sister Dorothy of St. Leo the Great Parish in Lancaster, Pa. Right, Mom?

Through the years, I have enjoyed close friendship with many Jews. Cloaked in neon and fancy fabrics, I’ve attended many a bar/bat mitzvah (can I get credit for spelling this correctly the first time?). In college, I oddly and awesomely received a box of sweets and masks from Hillel, the Jewish Culture Foundation at NYU, for the holiday of Purim (An interesting tangent: Read this essay by Jeffrey Rubenstein). I’ve celebrated many a Seder and Hanukkah (I spelled that wrong at first!). I have even traveled to Israel for a magazine assignment.

In college, I connected with the Buddhist Student Association and began practicing meditation and Yoga, albeit sporadically but lasting through today. (Click here for a good resource) About 15 months ago, I graduated Yoga teacher training and have been a teacher of Yoga since.

lord-hanuman-hd
Hanuman, the awesome monkey god who embodies Bhakti, and I love how this photo mimics the Sr. Dorothy photo. #notoverit

While I was learning all about the root Hindu mysticism of the Yogic tradition, I loved having religious conversations with my Christian friend Amy while we walk the bridges over the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

My boyfriend was raised Unitarian, and interestingly my office is next door to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Stuart. Now to the point:

Even though I am in no way a practicing Catholic and haven’t been to church in years, I gave something up for Lent last year and am doing it again this year. I guess I did it as a kid; I really don’t remember it being anything stressful. I do remember Easter baskets after the 40-day denial fest! My parents would hide my purple and yellow woven plastic basket filled with chocolate and jelly beans (and eggs we would paint prior – to be discussed in a subsequent blog posting) throughout the house on the big day. One time, the “Easter Bunny” hid my older brother’s basket in the dryer, and he failed to find it. Mine, meanwhile, was long-found from under the dining room table, and I was munching and laughing. Sorry, sucka!

Wait, back to God. Right. Before you get the goods of Jesus rising again and somehow saving me (comments welcome below), you have to give something up or create a positive habit to make you remember God in your life every day.

Back up to God, since this is the religious blog post, so what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks: I believe in God, she’s awesome! As far as I’m concerned, God lives in each and every one of us, and we are limitless and amazingly beautiful and perfect and are so blessed and blissed.

GodinClouds
This crepuscular God in Clouds is brought to you by Jazz Fest 2014. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, like God in a fest.

Am I wrong? If New Orleans knows anything, it’s that life is a party. Mardi Gras, mais oui.

So it’s Lent time, and last year I gave up alcohol. I’m certainly not a drunk (well, I function. That’s good, right?), but it was a bit of a challenge to give up all alcohol for 40 days.

Catholic rules – at least when I was a kid – was that you could break your Lenten vows on Sundays, because you have to go to church that day so you’re already forced to remember God because you’re dragged to a stain-glass castle with Latin chanting, incense and wine. I must admit that I saved up my Sundays for the end of Lent, when I partied at the Wanee Festival last year. And even then I definitely didn’t drink as much as I did the last festival I enjoyed.

See, last year at this time, I was pretty stressed out. I was working to pass a referendum for the Children’s Services Council of Martin County, which ended up passing with 77% of the vote. (Woot!) Still, at that time, I didn’t know the outcome and $9 million for local children and family programs was riding on it. It could drive you to drink!

Enter Lent. I had to confront that stress head-on – in the now. Instead I did a lot of Yoga. I started teaching the previous December, and sobriety jived with many of the teachings of the Yoga Sutra. A quick connection to a few Yamas and Niyamas:

  • Isvarapraṇidhana: connection to God – this is the obvious one, where we contemplate the supreme being constantly
  • Ahimsa: non-violence – alcohol is a toxin to the body
  • Satya: truth – I am not truly myself when drunk
  • Asteya: non-stealing – You steal time from your highest self when drunk
  • Sauca: purity – Clear minds aren’t influenced by drink

What a buzz kill!

Indeed, not drinking made me a bit of a social hermit, since so many of my friends would invite me out to get a craft beer or dance to live music. It took my love of the latter to overcome my love of the former!

So, 2015: This year, I’ve given up processed sugar, and I can tell already it’s going to be a snap. Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, when Catholics smear ash on their foreheads and not wipe it off to let everyone know that it’s all temporary, man. As an acne-ridden teen paranoid about clogged pores, I hated that tradition. Way to smite me twice, God! Who am I, Job?HomerDonut

Anywho, I’ve come across a bunch of sugar in the last four days and it’s all good. I even upped the ante by purchasing dark chocolate-covered almonds earlier in the week. Who needs those when you have Barlean’s Chocolate Silk Greens to mix with almond milk? I realized that I eat very little processed sugar from the get-go.

So what can I learn? I am continuing to analyze myself to change, improve and evolve. Who knows? By the time this is live on the intrawebs, I may be gorging on vegan sugar doughnuts in the corner of my kitchen. There are still 36 days left in Lent.

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