At the beginning of a new year, I like to look back on aspects of my life to see the paths I’ve taken:
I was raised Catholic but only taught the barest basics of the faith. Although I had an extreme fear of priests and of going to confession, I practiced Catholicism superficially until I was in college in my early 20s. My major was Anthropology. One day, one of my classmates asked the professor: “Are all anthropologists atheists?” I giggled at the seemingly silly, naive question (thinking, “of course NOT!”), yet it changed something within me. From that day, by beliefs changed. It seemed to happen gradually, but I eventually considered myself an atheist.
When I was 30, suffering from severe postpartum depression, I attempted suicide by prescription drug overdose. I ended up on a psych ward for a while. They wanted to put me in a weekly support group but couldn’t really find one that fit my situation – so they put me in Narcotics Anonymous. Because I had “abused drugs” by taking an overdose! I remember the facilitator trying to get me to agree that there MUST be a higher power in the universe – but I refused over and over.
I’d been teaching fitness classes since age 17, and eventually decided to take a weekend Yoga training in 2000. That was my first real intro to Yoga (although I’d taken some Yoga classes in the past that I didn’t realize were Yoga because they were labeled as “stretch” classes).
Around this same time, I picked up Huston Smith’s classic book on world religions and became fascinated with Buddhism when I read the Four Noble Truths. I learned vipassana meditation and joined a meditation group. I learned how to stop my negative thoughts which helped a great deal in overcoming depressive tendencies. I considered myself a Buddhist for about four years.
Then, in 2004, when my mother died, I suddenly sensed she was telling me (from the “other side”) that I’d always been meant to become a nun. I started going back to church – even to daily Mass which was something I’d never done in the past. I made up my mind to learn what the Church REALLY teaches and why. I spent the next five years as a diehard conservative Catholic. During this time, I still practiced and taught Yoga. I still felt that Yoga had a lot to teach me.
I ended up joining a religious community (a hermitage) and stayed there from 2007-2008. The place was hell on earth. I was sexually abused by the chaplain (priest) and emotionally abused by the mother superior. After returning home, I tried to continue as a Catholic for a while but my heart was no longer in it. Plus, I was tired of all the endless scandals in the Church.
In 2009, John introduced me to a local Buddhist meditation group where I was given a book by Paramahansa Yogananda, the great Hindu Master who did much work to establish Yoga in the USA. I now consider myself a disciple of Yogananda.
Through all of this (since 2000), Yoga has been a backbone for me. I’ve been learning and practicing more and more. I finally completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training last year. At this point, I consider myself a yogini in the sense that I take Yoga as my religion and as a blueprint for how to live my life.
Looking back on my life so far, it’s interesting to see how I’ve changed my views so many times. Personally, I’d rather live like this – being able to change when it feels necessary – rather than stubbornly sticking to one set of beliefs no matter what, just because that was what someone else said was “right.” And the journey continues….