Spiritual Sidebar-Maria

Ang met Maria at reiki training. Ang was inspired by Maria’s energy and commitment to healing. Maria’s life has not always been easy, but she has not let the negativity of outside circumstances eat away her soul. Her commitment to her spiritual journey is admirable and she shares her thoughts with us today.

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1. Tell us about yourself. My chronological number is forty-three, my mind, spirit and soul are ageless. I am a mass of energy made up of love, resilience, with a side of chicken. I am  a free spirit, lover of words, music, dancing and all things different. I am passionately curious. A natural born teacher, a solver of problems, a perfectionist, a SURVIVOR, a warrior. I am genuine. I am me and I am learning to love me.

2. What do you believe spirituality is? I believe spirituality is a force that lives deep inside of us. It is in the songs of the birds, the warmth of the sun and the light of the moon. It is all around us. I believe that when we self-care and self-love we nourish our spirituality and grow in it’s abundance completely flourishing! I believe spirituality is the fruit of our heart and must go through the harvest season in order to continue growing, rooting ourselves deeper and finding our true north.

painting by Maria

painting by Maria

3. Did you attend church? Did you identify with a specific religion? How was it presented to you? How did you relate to it? I had a very strict Catholic upbringing, in a very traditional home. Friday nights echoes of the rosary could be heard through our neighborhood. Padre  Nuestro, Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Gloria…Saturday was catechism and Sunday morning was service. Our religious release time slips were always signed. At Christmas, family, friends and neighbors would gather and recreate Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus’ pilgrimage for a total of 9 days. I loved it. Religion was always present in my life, it gave me a sense of belonging, of community that I loved and related to.

4. Tell us about a significant moment that caused a shift in your spiritual development. From the ages of 5-13 I was sexually abused. I clearly remember sitting in my hurt almost negotiating with God. I could accept the path and asked that in return one day know, feel and live in true love. A feeling so powerful, yet comforting, passed through me. That moment, I knew with no doubt he truly existed and thus my curiosity was born and my free spirit took over. In that moment, I was five, but my mind, spirit and soul were ageless.

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 5. Did your spiritual views change as you entered adolescence? As life went on, my voice was hushed by the same people who I loved and believed were there to protect me. My wings were clipped and my spirit defeated. That is when I begin to question, “why, dear Lord, why?” I fell into a deep depression, but still prayed and continued with my confirmation classes. I still believed and questioned. Because I did, I was told to live life by the cross, the most important part of life is that you have a relationship with God above and treat those around you with love and respect. I still questioned, but still confirmed myself as a Catholic.

6. Has your relationship with spirituality shifted as you entered adulthood? Spirituality and I have a love/hate relationship. I broken up and made up with it many times. After years of therapy, I was finally able to let go of the hurt, anger and grieve properly. I let go of all the pain. I am now building and growing new relationships with new friends, my family and my most cherished one of all, my mama. Today I am fully committed to my spirituality and have no plans of every breaking up again. Ever. I am blessed.

Maria 1 7. What is your spiritual life like today? It is one of abundance. I flourish in the lessons, the knowledge and strength. I continue honoring myself and doing the work. I walk with grace and see life through the eyes of my heart. Today, I am blessed.

8. Are there any books, movies, etc. on spirituality that have had a significant impact? I am a little stuck on this one. I have read many books, some I have read all the way through, some I start and go back to, as needed, some I have yet to open. The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz’s True Happiness, Pema Chodron’s Feeling Good, David Burns’ She Walks in Beauty, Poems selected by Caroline Kenney, Oprah’s What I Know for Sure, Victor E. Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are just a few. I believe one needs to find what works best for them, whether it be through painting, music, creating, journaling, going to park, beach, etc. Whatever brings your soul joy and comfort.

spiritual sidebar We are interested in hearing about your spiritual journey! If you would like to be featured on Spiritual Sidebar, please email us at spiritualbahana@gmail.com or comment here!

Mantra Monday: “I Am Non-Violent.”

Ahimsa is the first of the yamas that I will be exploring. The yamas are one of the branches of the yoga tree and are a guideline for behavior towards yourself and others.

Most people would probably deny that they are violent. They may even say they dislike violence. They may have never been in a physical fight and dislike blood and gore in movies. I am certainly one of those people, so when I begin to study ahimsa, I thought, “I got this one!” Ahimsa is the basic tenant of the way I choose to eat and why I follow a vegan diet. Look at me and how good at I am at ahimsa.

Ha.

The more I studied and explored, the more I realized there was more than one way to be violent.

One of the ways we can be violent to ourselves and others is through our thoughts, which turn to attitudes, which turn to actions.

Oh. I guess I am not so good at it after all.

I can be down right murderous to myself. I can chew myself up mentally and completely change my perspective on a situation.

As I taught this concept to my students this week, I tried to be extra mindful of the violent thoughts I had towards myself. I really took note of this past Thursday. I normally wake up at 4 AM to meditate and journal, but I overslept and woke up in a rush at 5:15. I had an appointment at the gym at 6:00 and still needed to prepare breakfast and lunches for myself and my family. My first thought was “you really fucked up.” I said that over and over as I stumbled out of bed. I begin to talk myself into how the day was now off to a bad start and how I just could not seem to get my shit together. I caught myself about mid-way through the tirade, I took a deep breath and reminded myself I was doing the best I could. I reminded myself that I would still have time to accomplish everything and would be fine.

That happened about 50 other times throughout the week.

I am only half-kidding. I realized I am pretty hard on myself and although I do not need to let up on reaching my goals, I do not need to rip myself apart on the way there.

I tried to make my students more aware of this on their yoga mats. Instead of jumping to “I suck at this pose” can we reframe the thought as “I am still working this pose.” Small shifts in language have made such a big difference in the perspective I take both on and off my mat.

The pose I chose to demonstrate ahimsa is Goddess pose with Lotus mudra. Goddess pose feels so beautiful and feminine to me, with great strength and balance to make it work. The Lotus is a symbol of beauty amongst difficulty. Lotuses rise above mucky, muddy waters and provide beauty in a dirty situation. As we live in this violent world, can we be that lotus that displays kindness and beauty? Not only for others, but also for ourselves?

ahimsa

Mantra Monday: You Are So Worth Loving

you are so worth loving

You are so worth loving.

Did you know that? Did you forget it somewhere along your journey? Have you lost hope that it’s true? There have definitely been times in my life when I did not believe I was worth loving, or not as much as I used to be.

I had a few conversations this week that showed me I am not the only one who has felt this way. I was able to share and connect with some important women in my life who have also felt unworthy to be loved. I am sure men feel this way, as well, but I think this is particularly a problem for women. Particularly, around the experiences we have had that have caused SHAME, and subsequently translating into feelings of diminished worth and an overall “no-good-ness.”

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we let other people do this to us? Why do we let societal expectations, gender roles and religious norms dictate the way we feel? As logical, intelligent beings, we often realize that these thought processes are harmful, but as emotional beings, all those expectations (and failing to meet them) can be extremely hurtful and led to feelings of unworthiness.

Other people’s stories of diminished worth have been on my mind and heart and led me to reflect on times I have also allowed my own light to dim. I think about times when my SHAME has held me back from speaking up when I needed to, held me back from moving forward in relationships, career and personal growth, led me to make destructive, unhealthy choices because I was “no-good” anyways.

The time in my own life when I felt the most SHAME was after my divorce. I married far too young and was a divorcee at the age of 26. I was oh, so embarrassed that my poor choices were on display for everyone to see. I was ashamed of my lack of good judgment. I was afraid that people would think I did not hold marriage sacred. I was worried that I would never love again or be worth of love.

Slowly, I begin to heal and re-build up my worth. I learned from my mistakes and caught myself before I made them in future relationships. I got real, ugly, gut-wrenching, in-my-own-face-honest with myself about my own pitfalls and hang ups and starting working through them. I meditated, cried, journaled and continued to call myself on my own bullshit.

I realized I was still worth loving.

And, so are YOU.

Music Monday: Heal the World

I venture to say most of you have heard about the tragic massacre in San Bernardino that occurred last week.

I am pretty gutted by this one, especially because I have to refer to it as “this one,” to distinguish it from so many other mass shootings that have occurred in the United States.

I live in San Bernardino. My house is not far from where the shooting occurred. It has not hit too close to home. It has hit home. It felt so surreal to see my city all over news outlets, with familiar streets and sites.

The sadness and outrage I feel in no way compares to that of friends and families of the victims, the injured and those who were present, in fear of their own lives.

I cannot believe this happened again, but, of course I can, it’s an issue that is still not being addressed. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that it happened in my city, but why should we be exempt? UGH. I HATE (and I do not use that word freely) how common this has become. I HATE that it has hurt my community. I HATE that more families are hurting, scared and shaken.

I do not want to rant about my personal political views, desires for policy change, speculation for motives or personal feelings about implications and aftermath. There is enough of that going around and I feel drained.

What I need to process through in this space and maybe along with you, is HURT and HEALING. When I feel like my head will explode if I ask myself one more “WHY?” question, I have to look back on my own personal experiences of hurt and healing for support.

These tragedies of course strike up personal chords. I can empathize with what it feels like to lose someone to gun violence. Certainly not in this magnitude, and I will not pretend to understand the pain of these loved ones, but I I can sympathize somewhat. A violent loss is different from other loses. I still deal with the loss of my father to gun violence and crime. I still enter court rooms and sit feet away from the accused. There was fear, anger, nightmares and profound sadness that followed and emotions that I still, and always will, encounter.

At the simplest level, I think it comes down to “hurt people hurt people.” This phrase has helped me not hate. This phrase has helped me let go of valid anger. This phrase helped me not be scared anymore. Most importantly, this phrase helps me be mindful of the way I treat each and every entity on this planet.

I know I am an idealist. I know I have far-out-head-in-the-clouds-hippie ideals, with bleeding heart liberal values and can be too idealistic. But maybe, if we all treated one another a bit kinder, or at the very least, not go out of our way to hurt one another, well, maybe we would stop giving others the motivation to want to hurt us.

I am not saying the shooters did this because someone called them names. But, I cannot help but wonder what level of hurt they experienced in their own lives, to motivate them to so viciously hurt others.

If I had it my way, everyone would have enough to eat and their food would be affordable without additives, preservatives or dyes. Every animal would have a peaceful, happy life and every child that wanted a puppy would get one. Everyone would do yoga and practice preventative medicine. No one would liter. We would all have open and peaceful communication and solve our issues through conflict management practices. No one would own or need a gun. Hunting would be thought of as a past barbaric practice and protection would be unnecessary because no one would not want to hurt each other.

I know this will never happen, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder…

At the very least, can we just stop being so mean to each other? Can we not go out of our way to say an unnecessary comment, post a spiteful reply, give a dirty look or let our FEAR take over?

I feel that fear is the true motivating force behind those types of mean behaviors and I feel that it is running completely rampant right now. I sure do not blame anyone for feeling fearful, but it bums me out to see how pervasive and dangerous it is becoming.

Can we make the conscious effort to not be afraid?

It’s hard. Really hard.

My dad was shot and killed in March of 2012. An arrest was not made until July 2012. The first fews weeks, I was fearfully obsessed that “the shooter was out there.”

I remember suspiciously looking at people. I remember creating stereotypes in mind of who this person must be that pulled that trigger and when I saw someone that fit that description, I would look them in the eye and think, “was it you?” I remember feeling my intestines quiver. I remember constantly feeling anxious and fearful. I had a hard time sleeping and woke up multiple times per night from nightmares.

Somewhere in my grieving brain, logic kicked in and said, “you have to stop!” I accredited this to my yoga and the awareness that I had been starting to practice on my mat.

It had to be an extremely conscious decision to not be afraid anymore. I had to take deep breaths when I went out in public and be completely at peace with the knowledge that the person who killed my dad was somewhere free. I had to separate the justice and legal process from my healing process and VERY consciously re-focus on my health, sleep and heart.

Can we all make that commitment to consciously practice awareness of our fear? Can we try not to stereotype, blame, argue and fight? Can we agree that maybe we disagree about many things, but be OK with not changing minds and proving ourselves “right”?

Can we just for a moment, stop pushing our personal agendas and speculations and just support one another? Seriously, can we just give one another a hug? We really need it.

I have been listening to this song. MJ has comforted me through many times and helped me make sense of some pretty trying situations. I know it seems like a childish notion to simply be nice and loving, but maybe that simplicity is what we need to return to. Be nice. Treat others how they want to be treated. Be OK with being wrong. Don’t let fear win.

I wish I had better answers. I wish I knew what to do to stop the hurt. But maybe, can we start with healing and letting go of fear?

There Are Ways
To Get There
If You Care Enough
For The Living
Make A Little Space
Make A Better Place…

Music Monday: The Mama’s Broken Heart Version

Do you handle conflict, stress, set backs and anxiety exactly the way your Mama would like you to?

I sure don’t, not always.

When I first heard this Miranda Lambert song, it resonated with me so deeply. I wondered when Miranda had met my mother.

Although my mom is not concerned with appearances or the way we look to others, I have heard my fair amount of “you are being too dramatic,” “what are you crying for? That does not solve anything.” “Get it together,” “act like a young lady.”

I know this all came from my mom’s best intentions to prepare me for a world and life that was a roller coaster and would stop just because I was having a melt down. Again.

I have always seen my mom as a pillar of strength. Fiercely independent, resilient and forever overcoming obstacles. I am not naturally like this, and I definitely was not while growing up.

My mom recently found a folder with my old journal entries from my sophmore year of English class. We were given a prompt each day to explore. One day, I wrote about how HORRIBLE my day had been because I spilled all my French fries at lunch, which kick started a wave of unfortunate events. I read it aloud and my mom and I both laughed at my dramatics. However, when I thought about it, I could still see myself getting upset about the same thing today, nearly 16 years later. French fries are important.

I was the anxious kid who went ballistic when I had my first cavity, when I got an F on a test (and this only ever happened once, because it was that traumatic) and when my mom would not allow me to use furniture polish to clean (because cleaning was important to me). This picture says so much about how I have handled set backs, and I can picture my mom behind the camera laughing at me as she snapped away:

anxiety Her responses snapped me back into reality and times when she was not present and I felt like I was losing it, I would hear her in the back of my head “crying does not solve everything.”

I found a balance now between my natural, emotional tendencies and my mom’s realistic approach to set-backs. I do feel that crying is necessary and healthy, but I can pull myself together and overcome. Most days.

But some days, I still cry over spilled French fries.

How were you taught handle set backs? 

 

Music Monday: The Crazy Version

I have been thinking lately about moments of crazy. I have been thinking about how no one, no matter who you are, what your career is, what degrees or accolades you have, is above those moments of crazy.

I have also been thinking about that word “crazy” and the way that it gets applied to women.

Are they in fact, a little crazy, or do they outwardly display sometimes, all the pain of the people they love, that they tend to carry for them?

Generally speaking, women often support and hold others together. They do what needs to be done so their partners and children can thrive. They support others in the workplace and also try to find some balance for themselves.

All this is a little “crazy”-making.

I am currently listening to Iyanla Vanzant’s audiobook during my crazy-making commute to work (which has increased to 90 minutes, one way, on some days).  Ed loaned it to me, it’s called Peace from Broken Pieces, and he told me to make sure I tell him when I get to the part about the broccoli.

I had no clue what he meant at that time, but now I completely get it.

Iyanla is talking about the grief she feels in the months following the death of her daughter, whom she lost to cancer. Iyanla describes a day when she walks into what she refers to as an “affluent, organic grocery store” and sees broccoli in the produce section. Her daughter loved broccoli and for no and every reason, this triggered all her pent up grief. She had a complete breakdown, cried and threw herself on the broccoli and made a HUGE scene.

I am imagining that she was at Whole Foods, with all these white people looking at this African-American woman crying and wailing over broccoli. It must have been quite the scene, but was it a moment of crazy? Or, was it completely appropriate for the profound loss she had just experienced and the task of trying to keep it all together?

Ed & I have both had our share of moments of crazy. I no longer feel embarrassed to text him in the middle of those times. He does not judge me for them and doesn’t make me feel like there is something wrong with me, because I am crying for no describable (at least at the moment) reason, or because I cannot get off the floor of my bathroom. (Two things that both happened this week. Don’t worry, I am OK.)

I love Patsy Cline’s song, Crazy. I think most of us women can relate to feeling like they wasted too much time on the wrong man.

But, is it really fair to describe yourself as “Crazy” for feeling lonely, feeling blue, crying, trying, worrying, wondering or not knowing what to do? I think these are pretty normal feelings in the development and growth of a woman. I still struggle with society’s view of woman as emotional, and therefore, mentally unstable beings. And yet, I understand and view it in the lens of my own reluctance to share my moments of “crazy” from this past week.

Either way, I love this song and can imagine myself singing it in produce section, into a stalk of broccoli.

Spiritual Sidebar: Kristin B

Kristin B is an infectious ball of light and love. She is one of Ang’s fellow yoga teachers and a overall lover of life. We definitely wanted to know her spiritual secrets! You can also follow her blog Sorta Enlightened for more inspiration!

KB

Hello! I’m Kristin Booth. Wife, dog-mama, yoga teacher, sandwich-lover, lover of travel and pretty things.

I grew up in a small town in Southern California and was introduced to ‘church’ at a very young age. My father, mother, sister, and I went to The United Methodist Church in my hometown every Sunday and were highly involved in activities and happenings going on there. It was not uncommon for us to be at the facility two to three times a week for various events and my parents could often be found cleaning up after spaghetti dinners and other gatherings late into the night.

The United Methodists are a denomination of the Christian church with the belief that Jesus is the son of God and through his death on the cross we receive the grace of God, should we accept it. This belief, and others, was taught to me through Sunday school, youth group, summer camp, and Bible Studies. I memorized scripture and was an acolyte- bringing the lit candles to the church altar during Sunday service. I met some of my best friends in my church home and credit them with keeping me out of trouble during most of my high school years and well into college. ‘Spirituality’ wasn’t a factor during this time- ‘religion’ was and I accepted all of it at face-value.

During my college years I didn’t go to church. I wasn’t used to not being in ‘my church’ and felt uncomfortable exploring other options on my own. There was the occasional venturing out, but nothing felt right. I felt guilty for not being involved in a church and felt ashamed that it wasn’t a priority for me to find a new church home.

It was during this time that I traveled out of the country for the first time, started practicing yoga on a regular basis, and started to develop my own opinions about who I am and who I want to be. It was on my yoga mat and in the outdoors that I started to feel more spiritually connected than ever before. I came to realize that my connection with the Devine did not have to be facilitated in a religious service- it can be anywhere- and that my relationship with the Holy Trinity, the Devine, is an actual relationship.

As most relationships go, they need to be cultivated and nurtured. Relationships go through highs and lows, they experience distance and extreme closeness and connection. My spiritual life right now consists of having a small space in my home that serves as a retreat where I can go to pray, practice breath work, and be. In addition, I have been become a student of the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda and A Course in Miracles. Both have given me fresh ideas and principles and have been building blocks to the foundation that my early church upbringing gave me.

It has been a long time since I have been in a traditional church service. In the meantime, I have been blessed by a Buddhist monk, skipped work to go hear the Dali Lama speak, prayed in the Sistine Chapel, seen heaven over the Alps, and experienced the greatest peace riding an elephant in a forest in Thailand. I feel like my spiritual practice is…practice. It’s sometimes easy and sometimes complicated. It takes effort, but sometimes is effortless. My practice is not pretty, but I cannot help but whisper a prayer of thanks when I’m surrounded by beauty.

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My greatest recommendation is to soul-search to discover your own connection on your own terms. If you spend all of your time in a church only surrounded by people who agree with you and never allow you to question your own beliefs, you miss out on the world outside its walls and challenges that will help you grow. This big universe was created for YOU- to enjoy, to explore, to love, and to cherish. Enlightenment is not a destination, it’s a journey. There’s so much joy in the journey!

spiritual sidebar

We are interested in hearing about your spiritual journey! If you would like to be featured on Spiritual Sidebar, please email us at spiritualbahana@gmail.com or comment here!