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.

27436355362_ec52e1288f_o

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.

maria

 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!

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.

grandma (5)grandma (39)

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.
sand snake 26296096883_969c553604_o
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.
26905127360_72def03f39_o 27111230931_882765355c_o
FUN!

Mantra Monday: “I Honor the Power Within Me”

This week I focused on my solar plexus chakra. This chakra is located around the navel area and is associated with confidence, empowerment and self-assurance. The solar plexus chakra is mostly thrown off balance by SHAME. This can leave one feeling doubtful, without a strong sense of self or lacking in assurance. On a physical level, this can produce digestive issues, problems with the liver or ulcers.

solar plexus

This is one of my stronger, balanced chakras, but it has not always been that way. I think as a woman, shame can be a stronger force. It is not always encouraged or taught to speak up for yourself or feel confident in who you are. I feel it is almost discouraged at times to feel good about yourself and it’s automatic to downplay or refute compliments.

mean girls I have worked hard to re-train my brain and gut instincts to know that I am enough. I am confident and happy with who I am. I have work to do still and I will always try to improve, but I am OK with being imperfect. I am confident in myself and continue to honor the power within me.

I chose Dancer’s pose for the solar plexus chakra. This pose looks very pretty and effortless, but it takes strength and balance. The standing foot needs to be firmly ground into the earth. You keep the hips level, while lifting up the foot. It is a deep backbend and chest opener, while the shoulders, head and mind stay relaxed. I feel this a wonderful metaphor for what it’s like to be a woman. It can be a huge balancing act of putting forth an effortless, beautiful image, while exuding great amounts of strength and balance behind the scenes.

I Honor the Power Within Me This week can you practice honoring the power within you? Can you remind yourself that you are enough? Can you unapologetically embody our strengths, flaws and confidence?

Honor the power within you.

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.

KB1

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!

Field Trip: Wild the Movie

Ed & I saw Wild last week. I was skeptical about this movie. I read the book when it was first released, back in March 2012 and it is so close to my heart. I never know what to expect when a book is adapted to a film, but fortunately, this movie delivered and Reece Witherspoon did a wonderful job portraying one of my heroes, Cheryl Strayed.

In March 2012, my life was about to change forever. The universe was about to take one of my legs out from under me, but, little did I know, it was sending me small guides along the way to act as a crutch on the journey.  Looking back, I know realize how many things had been set into motion before this month, in preparation. An unplanned trip to the bookstore was one of them.

I was drawn to this book on a random Barnes & Noble trip, when it was first released. I saw it on the new release table and a quick read of the cover drew me right in. It was about a young woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone. I was sold. I have hiked small portions of this trail and I am determined one day to hike it in it’s entirety. Reading as much as I can about the trail can only help, right?

The book and movie did an accurate job of portraying the backpackers plight. I remember the first moments I put on my too heavy backpack, for my first trip into the wilderness and thinking “I can NOT do this.” I remember those first agonizing steps and thinking, “whose fucking idea was this?!” I also remember the freedom I found on that trail. I found freedom from fear and attachment. All I had to help me survive was on my back and that is a pretty cool feeling.

DSCN5790

my first backpacking trip, in the Rocky Mountains

This book was about SO much more than information about the trail (although she did provide that). Cheryl Strayed loses her mother when she is in her early 20s and this seems to be the triggering event that sets off her life into an uncontrollable, downward spiral.

Cheryl Strayed gave me an excellent road map for what it was going to be like to lose a parent as a young adult. I was reading this book on the evening of March 28th, 2012. In the section I was reading, Cheryl had just lost her mother and was describing the heart wrenching aftermath. I remember it shaking me up and offering silent gratitude that my parents were still living.

At that very moment, my dad was taking his last breaths.

IMG_0464

I found out a few hours later that my father had been the victim of a homicide, and I had lost him to an act of violence. Over the next week of shock, disbelief and chaos, Wild kept starring at me.

Wild-Cheryl-Strayed-202x300

I was absolutely terrified to open that book. I knew it was going to force me to face feelings I was not ready to face. I also knew, I needed to face them and ready or not, I did.

Cheryl Strayed helped me to start to grieve. She laid out the trail for me, showed me what it was going to be lost. The feelings of loss, of being lost, of anger, of gut-wrenching sadness. She showed me what was coming and I will always be grateful for that.

In love & sisterhood,

~Ang

“The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.”

As a former conservative Catholic, I LOVED THIS STORY!  In the past, I would have compared, judged and dismissed Cheryl Strayed as a lost soul.  If I hadn’t evolved my spiritual beliefs, I would have missed a real good story.  What attracted me the most about this brave woman was the unconventional way she reached her truth.

Life can happen at any moment, and where ever we find ourselves along the journey is how we’ll respond to any given situation.  Cheryl’s mom died while she was still young and the way she responded was to throw caution to the wind: she slept with random strangers, divorced her husband and even tried heroin.  This definitely is not the best way of dealing with ones issues but I understand why she went to the extreme in trying to understand what was going on around her.

Life is not easy; it has many twists and turns that can either be positive or negative.  One of the things I’ve learned through spirituality is that God cannot take away the negative – no matter how much I want to pray it away.  Slowly, as I start to trust in the idea of free willI’m starting to see that the whole mentality behind the devil made me do it is really a lack of personal responsibility.  But there are many roads that lead to truth and Cheryl Strayed’s journey is just one of many.

Peace,
Ed

 

Music Monday: The Wild Woman Version

Last week, Ed & I went to see Wild, a movie based on the book of the same name, by Cheryl Strayed.

The book is the autobiographical story of when Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.  This book resounded with me on so many personal levels. I initially bought it because hiking the Pacific Crest Trails is a dream of mine that I truly hope becomes an attainable goal.

However, the book is about so much more than a long hike. Cheryl Strayed gets hit by life hard and responds by letting her whole world fall apart. She makes bad decision after decision and hastily embarks on this hike.

Ed & I could relate to her plight in a number of different ways. We have each had our moments of being that wild woman and letting our lives spin out of control before us. We have each tackled our own trails, getting lost and found along the way.

This song by another wild woman about a wild woman truly captures the essence of being that woman who rings like a bell through the night.

Here’s to all of our sisters who take to the sky like a bird in flight.