I have wanted to write this post for a long time, but have struggled to find the language. I am still struggling a little, but here goes:
My grandmother has thus far lived what can only be called an Interesting Life. Which is to say, if you looked at her life from the outside, you would mostly see suffering. She was in London during WW2 and experienced all the privations associated with war. When she began to eat normally again, she became very ill, almost died, and lost all her teeth. She was widowed young and left to raise five daughters singlehandedly. Money was never plentiful. Then she spent twenty years care-giving her aged mother. She has lived most of her life in Zimbabwe and only recently left, because there literally was no food or medicine. So, more privation, more upheaval.
And yet. She is one of the most content people I know. I am certain that this is because of her Faith. She has always known her God, in a personal and intimate way, and she has always attended church regularly. I think the combination of faith and community support are what have made her able to feel she is blessed, despite a life that doesn’t appear to have been very comfortable. Not by our modern, Western standards of material comfort, anyway.
I have seen this phenomenon in people of other faiths too: in South Africa I was very lucky to know several devout Jewish and Muslim people who seemed to experience life in the same way as my grandmother (they all came to yoga). And a lrage number of Hindu people in South India. My Godmother is a practicing Christian and has a special and intimate link to Source/God/whatever you want to call it. My oldest friend is a practicing Catholic. Same thing. And that link, once you feel it, seems to naturally extend to helping others. If you feel your own Divinity, you also feel the ineluctable Divinity of everyone else. And you want to help. My Godmother does community work with kids in the townships and she knits for AIDS orphans. My friend is a social worker, and has a foster son who used to live on the streets. My mother, whose faith is more like mine – perhaps you could say shamanic? – spends her days counselling, advocating, educating. Caring. She is the person in our family who takes care – when people are sick, they stay at her house. The last funeral that needed to be held was at her house. She is the one who remembers the birthdays, who knits for the babies, who organises the visas. Everyone leans on her.
Now, what, you ask, is my point? Well, I find myself living in Interesting Times. And I feel how much help it is to know, really feel, my Divinity, my connection to Source. You don’t suffer things in the same way then. I live on the opposite end of the earth to my family and my oldest friends, and my marriage is ending. Yet, I feel the Mother, the Goddess, Source, with me every moment. I get on my yoga mat, and with my body, I pray. I breathe, I move, I pray. I feel, again, Source.
This is why I do the work I do. So others can feel this, know this, live a life that is in the subtle things: the movement of Life through us, the wind in the trees, the blessing of friends whom I need like I need water. And if you can feel something properly, once, and then surrender it, you don’t suffer in the same way as if you feel yourself to be in isolation. I know, because there was a time when I felt myself to be alone. I know better now.
When I practice alone, at home, in the still of morning, I am praying. When I go to class, I feel that it’s like going to church. A nonsectarian church, to be sure, but there is community there. I see this in how my students stay after class to catch up on each others lives. How they ask after each other if one of them isn’t at class.
So many of us are wary of organised religion these days. But there is always a way, and an need to feel connection, community, Source. Maybe in the yoga room. Maybe at your running club, or the soup kitchen where you volunteer.
It’s when we are intimately connected with others that we really feel God(dess). As the wonderful Crescence Krueger says so well:
Pure love is a state of being, not an emotion or a thought process. It’s taken me years to put this understanding into words; it is the essence of both Birth and Yoga. I’ll repeat: pure love is not an emotion or a thought process but a state of being. Science understands that it is the release of oxytocin and endorphins into a woman’s system that enables her to give birth. Our bodies are flooded with these “hormones of love” whenever we are in a situation of intimate connection: sex, giving birth, breastfeeding, even sharing food with others brings us into a physical state where our minds are present, our bodies are at peace and the boundaries between ourselves and the rest of the world dissolve. This is Nature’s way of ensuring our survival.
And Mark Whitwell would say:
You are completely loved. Completely loved. Even if the social conditions are suggesting otherwise.
My grandmother knows this. She has led a blessed life.