Is Yoga a Religion?
Here’s the link to my latest ‘musing’s about the somewhat juicy subject of whether Yoga is a Religion…. Enjoy xx
I am not a Goddess….
Recently I was in conversation with a friend. I was telling him how I felt like a fraud as I’m not always able to practice what I preach. He said, “You are not God. Relax”.
Every cell in my body unclenched and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I am not God. I don’t have to be God. I definitely need to stop ‘playing God’. I can be me!! Thank God!!!
This conversation provoked me to seeing how very stuck we can become on this so called “Spiritual” path. Seeing how we can take a wrong turn so easily in our earnest quest for ‘enlightenment’ / ‘consciousness’ and how careful we need to be as we shed old false beliefs not to fill back up with new, albeit more spiritual sounding false beliefs….
Here are my top 5 new age spiritual potholes
1. I am not a Goddess.
You are a Goddess!” They say, “You deserve a man that will treat you like a Goddess!” They say, “Don’t settle for anyone who doesn’t adore you!” They say. And for a long, long time my Ego said. Yup! That’s totally true. I am a Goddess and I want to be put on a Goddess pedestal and worshipped. Oh dear….
After some time. After waiting impatiently for ‘that’ man I’ve thankfully realised I am not a Goddess. I don’t want to be a Goddess. I don’t need to be adored…. and seriously, please don’t ever worship me.
Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not an invitation to treat me like shit. It’s simply recognition that I am a human being. Whilst we all have Divinity within us and on a good day we manage to access and share it with each other. We are human. I choose to be with a man who meets me as an equal. Who sees the truth of who I am, my flaws, my glory, the work that I’m doing, the work that I need to do…. and loves me anyway…. as an equal. Of course there must be respect, kindness, compassion etc. But, If he puts me on a pedestal, if he worships me, if he sees me as a Goddess he is not seeing me. My ego might enjoy it temporarily but it is a delusion.
2. The purpose of a Spiritual practice is not to be Spiritual.
It confuses me when I hear people say “I’m very Spiritual”. I’m not sure I even understand what that really means.
I have a range of spiritual practices but none of them is about making me more Spiritual. They are about helping me to see the truth and become a better human being so I can make the most of the gifts I have been given, enjoy my life to the full and have a positive impact on this planet.
For me, spirituality is the path not the destination.
3. Polyamory is not the only way to practice non attachment in relationship
OK I need to be careful here. I’m not into Polyamory. At all. I’m a monogamy kind of girl. Totally, fully, completely.
I’m not dismissing Polyamory for those that enjoy this way of relating as long as it’s not an unconscious shield that is being used to avoid true connection and emotional availability. As long as Polyamory is conscious and consensual go for it!
However, it is a myth to assume that monogamy is synonymous with attachment in relationship. It is very possible, very lovely and very precious to be totally committed to one person and for both partners to have complete freedom to be their authentic selves within that. And the freedom to be really, truly, fully me is the ultimate freedom.
For sure it is also very, very challenging as our society and language invites us to create unhealthy attachment and expectation in relationships. But if we remain conscious, clear and true we can navigate non-attached, monogamous, wonderful relationships.
4. Self-deprecation is not humble
Being humble is a noble and desirable quality. But very many of us (myself included) mistake self-deprecation for humility.
How can we tell the difference? Humility never (EVER) looks or sounds like putting yourself down. Humble people are able to acknowledge another’s greatness and beauty without making any reference to themselves. “You are a beautiful singer”, “You inspire me”, “I’m interested in your point of view” says a humble person. They do not add “I’m no good at that”, “I wish I was as inspiring as you”, “I’m completely ignorant about that”.
Humble people also accept compliments with grace. “Thank you. That’s a lovely thing to say”, “Thank you. I love this dress too’ . Not “Oh do you think so? I think my hips look too big”. They humbly accept the gift of the compliment as opposed to arrogantly rebuking the kind words and implying the giver of the compliment doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Culturally we’re encouraged to self-deprecate consider it modest/humble. But it’s not. It’s a form of self harm. Another way the sneaky ego has to keep us stuck in the illusion that we are not enough. Notice the language you use to talk about yourself and if necessary make a course correction.
5. There isn’t a aright way … or a wrong way.
There is only your way. Beware of anyone telling you you’re not doing enough, you’re not doing it right. Beware of anyone that tells you their way is the only way. Do not give away your power to choose what works for you.
The way that works for you is the right way. Not into Yoga? Fine!! Find what you are into….Trust yourself. A true ‘Guru’ / mentor will help you to find and follow your path not impose theirs on you.
The truth is we are here to be human. Beautifully, funnily, messily human. We mess up, we triumph, we fail, we fall we get up, we love, we loose, our hearts open, our hearts break. For me the it’s a trap to expect or want it to be any other way. I’d hate to loose my passion, I’d hate to loose my child like excitement. My spiritual path is not to be perfect but to navigate my imperfections.
I am not God….. and neither are you 😉
With love, Alison x
8 Relationship lessons….
from buying a used car
They (whoever “they” are) say “The way we do anything is the way we do everything”. So when, after many years of faithful, reliable service my old Ford Focus decided that it was time to retire I was given the gift of seeing what happens to me when I enter into a new (car) relationship …
Here’s (some of) what I learned
1. The opportunity for a new relationship will come to you when you least expect it, when you’re not looking for it and quite likely when you’re not particularly interested.
I had often dreamed / wished my car was different and definitely felt that it wasn’t a true expression of who I am. However, I was happily driving my trusty Ford Focus and financially not in a position to change it…. or so I thought….
We’ve all heard it before. The minute you let go of the need for something (someone) to complete you it miraculously arrives. It just so happens that this is totally true. When we are at peace with ourselves and our current circumstances we attract new things into our life from a place of wholeness and not neediness.
2. We have to let something go in order to create space
When my Ford Focus broke down beyond economic repair it forced me to re-evaluate. I began to realise how many memories I was holding onto with this car. Past relationships, good times, bad times…. I was driving these around with me everywhere I went. And to a greater extent than I imagined holding on to the car was blocking me from moving on. Keeping me slightly trapped in a story that no longer fitted with the person I am becoming. Although it was massively inconvenient, accepting it was time to let the car and the story go created space…. actually it felt like more of a vacuum into which a new car, more befitting the current ‘me’ had no choice but to rush in and fill.
We have to be willing to release old patterns, old stories, ex’s (especially ex’s) so that there is space for something new. Otherwise we continue to recreate the same patterns. Those which we’ve complained about in the past. Those which haven’t served us. It’s as simple as that. Not easy. But simple….and essential.
3. You absolutely can have what you really want.
At first I resigned myself to getting an old banger. I hadn’t saved or planned for a new car and my familiar ‘unworthiness’ shadow decreed that this was all I deserved. A wise friend steered (no driving pun intended) me in another direction. “What is your dream car?”, he said. It didn’t take much persuasion to set my sights higher. A few years back I’d seen someone driving the cutest car EVER!!! I remembered the exact spot that I first saw it and how I’d said to myself “Oh wow! One day I’d love a car like that!” So I set to searching and surprisingly quickly found Gordon, the perfect car on Done Deal (the dating site for cars).
How many of us have settled for less than we want in a relationship. The false belief that we can’t have the partner of our dreams. This will have to do. That destructive voice that lies “I’m not worthy”… Don’t believe it. Don’t settle. Dream your dream. Create your perfect partner… and go for it!
4. Be careful what you wish for
I got exactly what I’d asked for. Swanky, sexy, gorgeous Gordon. What I forget to mention to the Universe was that Gordon should also be reliable. And so…. The very day I picked him up. Within 2 hours. He broke down. Completely. Steadfastly. Gordon refused to start.
I’ve experienced of this one before so I had to smile through my tears at the way this lesson was being repeated. Asking for sexy, adventurous, unconventional but omitting emotional availability. We really do get what we wish for. So let’s make our wishes very, very carefully.
5. Ask for what you need
I was devastated. Here he was at last! Gordon! Car of my dreams! Dead on my doorstep! I phoned a friend (the aforementioned wise one). He said “What does the previous owner say?”, “Oh I haven’t phoned him. I cant’ do that!” was my reply. Seriously?! Embarrassingly true (welcome back unworthiness shadow). Luckily my friend bluntly pointed out that not only I could but I absolutely had to “do that” I had owned the car for less than 2 hours. I had to at least ask for the problem to be put right. I understood there were no guarantees as it was a private sale. But I had to ask. Gulp! It was very difficult (big learning for me about how afraid I am to ask for my needs to be met) but luckily Gordon’s previous owner was as horrified as I was and agreed to put whatever had gone wrong right.
We can’t complain that someone isn’t meeting our needs unless we have asked for what we want. Game playing, manipulating, saying “They should just know!” are not OK. If I don’t ask you for what I want you can’t deliver it. And I get to blame you for not giving me something I haven’t asked for. It’s a very damaging and very unhealthy cycle.
6. Everyone has baggage. Everyone has shadows. Everyone is perfectly imperfect.
So here was gorgeous Gordon. Looking swanky and sexy outside my house. And totally broken. I was very lucky that his previous owner and mechanic are super genuine and lovely people. The problem was diagnosed. It was the fuel pump. An unforeseeable problem. And Gordon’s previous owner agreed to foot the bill for the repair . All I had to do was make a decision. Was I willing to accept Gordon complete with his shadow side, his history, his baggage? It was a difficult decision for me. Having seen his shadow I wanted to run. But I also knew deep down there was so much more to Gordon than a broken fuel pump.
Usually we don’t see someones shadow straight away because we mask and hide our vulnerability and the bits of us we don’t like. It can be a big shock months into a relationship to discover our beloved isn’t the hero / heroine we thought. I was really lucky here. Gordon was willing to be vulnerable and show me his truth straight away. How many perspective partners show us their shadow on the first date?
7. Falling in love is frightening
After Gordon was repaired I took him for a spa treatment (valet) and he came back home like a brand new car. In 48 hours my feelings for him had shifted from disappointment and doubt to true love. Two days later I was driving him to visit a friend. The route to her house is up a very steep and narrow lane. No passing spaces. Stone walls either side. I’ve taken this route many times before in the Ford Focus. This time I was terrified that I was going to damage/hurt Gordon. That I might loose him.
Falling in Love is scary. We open ourselves up to be seen by and to see another. We know there are risks. That we might get hurt. That we might loose our love. And we have to decide whether we are willing to take the risk. Are we willing to continue to drive down the road with full commitment, trust and dare to be vulnerable?
PS I took a different route home 😉
8. A relationship is a two way street.
If I want Gordon to take care of me. To drive me around reliably and safely and purr like a kitten at every turn of the key I have to make sure I give him time, care, love and attention too. Regular servicing , careful and considerate driving, the right fuel etc.
Often we are so focussed on our own needs that we forget to consider the other person in a relationship. How different would it be if we asked “What have I got to give the person?”, “What do they need from me?” instead of “What do I want from them?”
After a tentative start Gordon and I have bonded and fallen head over wheels in love. He happily accompanies me to Yoga classes in East Cork where you are welcome to come and meet him.
Gordon, The new car in my life x
at Yoga Rocks, Triopetra, Crete
Who is she? I wondered as I drove my trusty Ford Focus up to Dublin for my sixth visit, my annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary that has become my Spiritual home Yoga Rocks.
Who is she? This woman I spend every breath of every day with. This woman I used to run from (and sometimes still do). This woman I am so proud of. The one who has stopped to turn around and face herself, her fears, her shadows. The courageous, beautiful one who dares to be vulnerable. Who dares to take step after treacherous step. Often stumbling, often falling but never turning back. I wonder who she is and what she will reveal to me as I arrive at the airport. Early. Always early. Anxious. Hmmmm yes she’s still always a little anxious.
Arriving at Yoga Rocks I am welcomed by my Soul family. The people who loved me, trusted in me and saw me long before I did. And who always inspire me. Cheerleaders with just the right sprinkling of humour and naughtiness to ensure I don’t take myself too seriously.
This week Helen Reavill is the teacher. Helen is Co-Founder of Yoga Rocks with her partner Phil. Together with a team of generous and kind Karma Yogis Helen and Phil have created a slice of pure Heaven. Helen’s holistic, nurturing and authentic approach to Yoga is a delight and a joy. Her knowledge and commitment to the practice on and off the mat is impressive and inspiring.
Each morning starts at 0630 with Meditation and Pranayama followed by a long, deep and juicy Asana practice. Breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade peanut butter, jam, muesli, yoghurt together with an abundance of fruit is enthusiastically devoured by our group of blissed out Yogis before I dissolve into ‘my’ hammock for a read and a snooze. I am woken by the gentle sound of a cow bell calling me to lunch. A fresh, colourful, delicious vegetarian feast. Afternoons are spent chatting and laughing around or in the pool, possibly exploring local beaches, maybe a massage…. usually (in my case) more snoozing before the afternoon practice. A more mellow yet equally deep affair with a Yin/ Restorative focus….. and the occasional sneaky backbend that Helen guides you into so gently and lovingly that you almost think you’re still hugging a bolster!
As I watch myself and my thoughts (Svadhyaya, the practice of self study is one of the 8 limbs of Yoga and my favourite word in the whole world) I observe I am slightly withdrawn from the group. On the periphery of the action. And I notice that that’s ok. 6 years ago I was an attention seeker and a drama queen. Desperate for external validation. Now this seems to be fading. I’m listening more to myself and to others. Taking time for rest. Taking time to reflect before responding. Able to be present and compassionate to their challenges without judgement. Happy to enjoy their successes without needing to compete. Yet at the same time somewhat detached.
And also I’m willing to be seen. To show my vulnerability and share my fears genuinely. No drama. No pity pot. No need to self deprecate or be a victim. I’m willing to lower my shield and risk showing my truth. To get naked.
And as if to demonstrate this the Universe presented me with a wonderful opportunity to witness myself towards the end of the retreat. Our morning meditation had taken the form of chanting the ancient Gayatri Mantra 108 times on the beach. Following this there was the chance to go for a swim. Most of the group headed straight for the sea in their bikinis…. but a couple of women walked slightly away and stripped off for a skinny dip. I stood and watched these women in slight awe and admiration for a while before realising that I could join them. And I did! And it was fantastic!! Liberating! Such a relief to let go albeit temporarily, albeit of a skimpy 2 piece that barely covers me anyway. Such a wonderful metaphor for the process of un-conditioning, delayering and allowing my authentic self to be seen.
So who is she?
Is she there? Is she fixed / healed / awakened? No!!! I’m right here. Right where I’m meant to be. Gloriously, messily, courageously authentically here. Sometimes it’s awesome. Sometimes it sucks. And I wouldn’t have it any other way
With love and thanks to Helen, Phil and all the Yoga Rocks team.
For details of retreats at Yoga Rocks see www.yogaholidaysgreece.com