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.


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.


 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 Practice Non-Attachment.”

Aparigraha or Non-Possessiveness is the fifth and final yama. When studying this yama, I learned another way to view non-possessiveness is through the lense of non-attachment.

Attachment is still something I struggle to understand and it is talked about considerably when discussing all branches of the yoga tree and through The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.
Pantanjali defines attachment as “the consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving from objects seen or heard.”
Awesome. Did that make sense to you? It did not to me the first, second and third time I read it. We discussed this concept at length throughout my yoga teacher training and attachment always seemed to be at the core of any sense of suffering; physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, etc.
For awhile, I struggled with the thought process that maybe I was not supposed to care about anything? If caring about something or someone led me to be attached to them and the fear of losing them led to attachment, well, should I just not care?
Not caring can be a freeing concept in some respects. Not caring so much has helped me deal with some forms of my anxiety where maybe I am not caring so much about my appearance, about how fast I can run, about how far I can push myself in a yoga pose.

But, there are some things, or mainly, people, I have a hard time not caring about.
My biggest attachment and thoughts that cause suffering relate to the fear of losing people. My core group of loves ones (husband, step-son, family members and friends) are treasured and dear to me and the thought of anything “bad” happening to them or an untimely death causes me to have anxious thoughts.
I was confronted with this construct pretty head on when my dad was murdered four years ago. My biggest fear and source of anxiety up to that point was losing someone I loved and then crash, bang, boom, I did.
Does non-attachment tell me to not care about what happened to my dad or my healing process? The way I am understanding attachment is that it does not mean a lack of care, but a lack of investment to an expected outcome. I am trying to be at peace with whatever outcomes may come in regards to the things and people I care about.
Non-attachment to outcomes has helped me not suffer as much through the legal process surrounding the arrests made in my dad’s case. The legal process is still dragging on and I work to be at peace with whatever may be and not let the results affect my own personal healing journey.
I believe attachment is the main source of the anxiety I experienced for so many years. Although it still creeps in from time to time, having an awareness of what is going on has helped tremendously in dealing with the racing thoughts.
There was an incident a few months back with my step-son’s school bus. He was almost at school when a stolen truck crashed into the bus. The driver of the truck got out to run and the cops begin shooting at him. Right.next.to.the.bus. Everyone was OK. The driver was arrested. The kids made it to school safely. My step-son was fine.
The next day as I drove to work and thought about him on that bus, I constructed a whole alternative, catastrophized scenario in my head. I decided to never let him out of the house again and cover him in bubble wrap when we needed to go outside for some requisite sunlight.
I am exaggerating, but I am sure you can imagine how this event sent my anxiety soaring, but I was able to recognize it before it spiraled out of control. I beging using the mantra “I do not own safety. I do not own people.” My step-son is one of the greatest blessings of my life, but he does not belong to me. I have to work to be at peace that the universe, his guides and god will always protect him.
I used tree pose or vrksasana to demonstrate non-attachment or possessiveness. I love how this pose feels both grounding and lifting simultaneously. In order to stay stable in this pose, the standing foot must be firmly grounded and connected to the earth. The breath has to flow calmly and freely, the body lifts and the crown of the head connects to a higher source. If you hold your breath, become anxious or overthink it, you will fall out of this pose. Tree pose takes both tremendous focus and freedom of the mind, just like the journey to non-attachment.


Creating Your Own Religion Through Make-Up

Make up has always been powerful to me. I was always amazed by the way it could change appearance and make someone instantly more glamorous. My first make up icon was grandma and I would be in a trance watching her apply her bright red lipstick. My grandma put on that lipstick before going to K Mart, taking me to Chuck E. Cheese or even before taking a walk through the neighborhood. It was essential.

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I knew I would wear make up as soon as I was allowed. My mom told me when I was in middle school, “you can wear make-up, but I am not buying it for you. It’s not a necessity.” Well, maybe to her it wasn’t, but since I had been waiting for that permission for years, my days of crime begin and I started stealing make-up. Then I got caught and stopped. 
Make-up made me feel transformed and glamorous and all that couldn’t stop because I was a reformed shoplifter, so like a good citizen, I worked for my money and begin spending my baby-sitting earnings on new eyeshadows, bright lipsticks and oh, so much glitter. I was completely mesmerized by Kevyn Aucoin. I checked out his book Making Faces over and over again from my local library and tried to create different looks.
My relationship with make-up has not always been healthy and balanced, and I did a complete overhaul of my MAC products when I made the commitment to no longer use products tested on animals.
I have slowly been re-building my collection with cruelty-free alternatives and have been reminded of how transformative a new lipstick can be. If my energy or confidence is dragging low, a bright red seems to work wonders. If a day is mundane and boring, at least my eyeliner doesn’t have to be and I can give myself a lift with a winged look.
I absolutely love having a reason to dress up in costume. I recently went to the Renaissance Faire and had a fun time creating different looks.
The first is an attempt to look like one of The Sand Snakes from Game of Thrones.
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The next weekend, my family coordinated a Steam Punk theme. We have been working on this costume and though we still have more to add, it was improved since last year.
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Figure It Out Friday: Friendships Born In Fear

Ten years ago, as Spring evolved into Summer of 2005, I met a guy who transformed my life from dusk to light.

At the age of thirty – one, I accomplished a goal I never thought possible; I was the first and only person in my family to earn a college degree.  Personally, it was an amazing feat because once I graduated high school, I swore I’d never return to the halls of (m)academia.

I was so inspired by my achievement that I started graduate school soon afterwards.

Towards the last semester of my undergrad, I met Jose; a twenty – one year old who knew exactly what he wanted out of life.  While my life resembled a series of hapless missteps with books and papers scattered all over the floor, Jose walked all over them and into my life.

Our friendship took off from the beginning.  As I look back we were both starting new chapters in our life and our slates had been wiped clean from the past.  He wanted to be a high school counsellor while I studied to be a teacher.  As we moved into graduate school together, we became even closer.  His twenty something year old energy energized me in new and exciting ways.  I went along for the crazy ride as we both dabbled in the lifestyle and night life.  Although I had been involved in the night club scene since I was eighteen, I never attempted any alternative lifestyle before than.  The summer of 2005 was not only a time for new academic beginnings, friendships and new found freedom, for me, it was also the beginning of my gay awakening.

Then, as with all relationships, our time together started to wane.  We’d put our hearts and minds through a lot and it the pressure of it all started to show.  As I was nearing forty, I realized that I had to start focusing on my career and grow some roots.  Jose on the other hand was approaching thirty and wasn’t ready to make a permanent landing.  Without much thought or input from me, Jose left for China to teach English abroad.

I. Was. Devastated.

Today, with the passage of time, I’ve figured out that I was jealous of my friend Jose.  I couldn’t handle that he up and left me without asking if I wanted to go with him.  We had been through so much together I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that he wanted to go off on his own.  In anger I stopped speaking with him after I’d gone to China to visit him because our dynamic was no longer the same.  He met new people, experienced new places and I was left to figure life out on my own.

Almost five years have past since my friend left for China and ten years since we first met. If I were to describe the person I was back then I’d probably start with the word afraid.  I was trying new things and starting to shape new values for myself when Jose came along. His arrival ushered in a new season.  When he left, I couldn’t handle life on my own.  I had grown so dependent, I didn’t know where to turn.

We’ve since reconnected through email but really haven’t established anything new. Life has moved on for both of us and has taken us in different directions.  Last I heard he’s helped open several schools in China that cater to students with special needs. He’s also travelled the world and experienced many different cultures.  As for me, I’ve settled into life and am just starting to begin the process of learning how to live life on life’s terms.


Our trip to NYC together. We had to find and sit where Carrie and Miranda sat in the first movie

Our trip to NYC together. We had to find and sit where Carrie and Miranda sat in the first movie


The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon – knuckleheads


Sedona, AZ


Searching for the Vortex in Sedona

Getting ready for a road trip.

Getting ready for a road trip



Field Trip – Iyanla Vanzant at Agape International Spiritual Center

Iyanla Vanzant is one of my favorite spiritual teachers. Her words and lessons resound in my soul. I respect her life experiences, honesty and transparency. I have learned from her struggle, her lessons just make sense to me. I have been working through her Forgiveness book and am discovering the freedom that comes from forgiving myself.


When Ed text me that Iyanla was going to be speaking at Agape International Spiritual Center, I screamed. We immediately bought tickets and counted down the days to see her speak in person.

25320650386_978cd1f39f_o Iyanla’s new book is entitled Trust and discusses learning how to trust yourself, God, others and life. In her lecture, Iyanla discusses how important it is to do the forgiveness work before delving into trust. I am going to start this book after I finish working my way through the forgiveness book.

TRUSTOne of my favorite quotes of the evening was “forgiveness is a healing technology, it changes your cells and DNA.” I believe that unforgiveness can permeate cells and cause sickness, I feel that it’s something that show on someone’s face and in their demeanor. The idea of forgiving being a healing technology felt like an AHA moment and made sense regarding how it can show on in someone’s appearance.

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Another AHA that stood out from the lecture was Iyanla discussing how most of us are talked out of trusting ourselves at some point in our lives. Typically, it’s when we are children and our natural curiosities or intuition are shut down by someone who thinks they know better. Iyanla also discussed how if we cannot trust ourself, it makes it difficult to trust God, others and life.

Iyanla signed our books and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I told her I was working through forgiveness and she reminded me again to do that work before starting trust. She had a beautiful energy that touched my soul.


I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Lived it and I’m still here to talk about it and help someone else if I can. Iyanla Vanzant

When Iyanla announced that her new book Trust  was about to come out, Angelina and I went on high alert for possible book signings.  I joined the Barnes and Noble events page located in Los Angeles believing that would be her first stop. So when we found out The Agape Spiritual Center in L.A was hosting the author on a Saturday night, we were ecstatic; we planned a whole night around it.

IMG_1406The evening started out with a welcome prayer and blessing for the divinely inspired and heavenly dressed speaker.  Afterward, Iyanla spent the first five minutes of her lecture in gratitude. She thanked and spoke on how humbled she was that everyone came to hear her speak.

Her presentation centered mostly on the issue of trust.  She shared many stories and solutions on how to create an inner space that’s free of personal resentment and past hurts.  The biggest take away from the evening was when she suggested, “get to know God internally rather than externally; that way you learn to trust yourself.”

One of the ingrained habits religion has taught me was to always look externally for God.  In the past I always asked myself: how can I serve others?  It can be a bit confusing and draining when fear and codependency become part of the purpose for serving.  For myself, I’m learning that I can’t help anyone unless I’ve helped myself first.  I can’t show someone how to become a better version of themselves unless I’ve done the work myself.

The evening ended with a book signing and even though it was late, Iyanla stayed until way past eleven to personally sign each book.  She has definitely done the work to remain humble.

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Spiritually Bananas

Life has been a bit off lately which has left me feeling a little less than inspired to write. On 1/29/16, my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack.  A week after the funeral, my uncle passed away from the same fate.  The first two months of 2016 have been a time of transition as my family and I settle into a new normal.

It’s also played havoc on my schedule.

Now that death has introduced itself — this is the first immediate family member to pass away — I’ve been trying to spend as much time with my one remaining parent.  After work, I visit my mom on a regular basis to make sure her needs are being met.  She’s been coping pretty well but sometimes I’m afraid she wants to give up.  I’ll blog about it in a later post.

My mom and I at the Wisteria Festival at Sierra Madre.

My mom and I at the Wisteria Festival at Sierra Madre.

I’m currently on Spring Break and the last two weeks have been a much needed time to regroup and recenter my spiritual practices.  I pressed into them a lot more recently and started to reflect on death a little bit more than usual.

I just finished the audio book of When Air Becomes Breath by Paul Kalanithi.  I don’t think I was ready to listen to a memoir that was left unfinished by a successful up and coming neuro surgeon who passed away from cancer.  It was a bit too early to early for me to delve fully into the subject.  I struggled my way through it and I wasn’t really actively listening while it played.  I’ll give it another try at a later time.

bpjm-square-1536Angelina is currently on Spring Break as well and is hiking and eating her way through Oregon.  Gosh, now that I’m blogging again, there’s a lot of interesting stories coming to mind that I’d like to share.  I recently started dating a guy who has really caught my attention…I believe he feels the same way too.  I’ll ask him if I can blog about our relationship.

Things are looking up as Spring Break comes to a close; with only two months left of the school year and glorious summer vacation on the horizon, I believe we’ll be posting a lot more spiritual stories in the future.

Spiritual Bahana and I at my recent book party.

Spiritual Bahana and I at my recent book party.

I’d like to close this post with pictures of my dad whom I miss terribly.

Rest in peace dad!

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That's me in the middle, hiiiii!!

That’s me in the middle, hiiiii!!

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Mantra Monday: “I Honor My Connection to the Universe.”

The crown chakra is associated with being connected to a higher power. You can choose to sub in God, the Divine, my Inner Wisdom or any word/entity that better resounds within your soul. The Universe is what makes most sense for me. I feel that it covers all beings, nature and celestial entities.

Deficiencies in the crown chakra are associated with a lack of connection, skepticism or confusion. Excess energy in the crown chakra can manifest itself in hyper-spiritualization and a lack of grounding in the real world.

Forced religiosity and a lack of questioning or exploration of spirituality can also throw the crown chakra out of alignment. For myself, I believe my crown chakra has always been seeking a type of connection, but it did not find it until I became an adult. I was not finding it in church while growing. I had so many questions and things being taught were not adding up to me. For a few years in my early adulthood, I tried to shut my crown chakra off completely and deny any connection with a higher power or spirituality. In the past few years, I have been working to re-establish that connection in new ways, which sparked the development of this blog.

I chose lotus pose (padmasana) to work on my crown chakra. Lotus pose is both grounding and lifting. Sitting in the stillness of meditation with the intent to listen and connect opens up the crown chakra. Meditation is what has helped me establish and explore my connection the Universe, the Divine, God and my Inner Wisdom.