Is there conflict in yogic beliefs and spirituality with religion?
My informal interview with a Roman Catholic nun in Rome International Airport
“I fought religion my whole life, how can you look at me and say we are the same?” I replied to Jocelyn, a modern day traveling nun waiting in line next to me at Aeroporti di Roma.
Jocelyn looked at me and responded to my question with a huge smile on her face. She replied, “You left home to travel around the world to learn more about yourself and others and spread love. Learn and then write and teach about other cultures, religions and backgrounds. Volunteer. How are we any different? I left my country when I was 25, too.”
Jocelyn is flying back home to Montreal, Canada, after attending her quarterly annual meeting at the nun convention at the Vatican in Rome. She is a part of The Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, an organization of nuns founded in 1869, created to staff orphanages in poverish areas of Africa. She has lived in Africa the majority of her life, caring for the orphans and immersing herself in the native culture, language and religion, while also teaching her own.
Okay, so I have to admit, it sounds weird being compared to a nun. Also, I am coming out of the Spirituality closet. I apologize to my family and teachers who raised me Catholic and are reading this now. Whoops.
The line always seemed to be blurred for me between different religions, I never fully understood how we differed from one another; and then the line seemed to get even more foggy when introducing Spirituality into the mix.
Then there is the time I told my dad in second grade that I am Buddhist, and didn’t want to be Catholic just because our family thinks I should be…so proud to have always been the “difficult” child in my parents eyes! Love you!
My intention now? To focus on our sameness, not differences, get curious, and take away that line that separates any religion or spirituality beliefs.
Mother Earth, She, He, Life, Source, God, Goddess, Father, Mother, Great Mother, Mother God, Beloved and the Universe…if none of these words resonate with you in my writing, then please trade them for your own, because they are all the same.
“I do not resonate as being religious,” I replied to Jocelyn, secretly wondering if I am going to be punished by God for saying these words out loud to a Vatican nun; sometimes my beliefs from Catholic school upbringing come back to haunt me from now and then (in the funniest of ways).
“I consider myself Spiritual, identifying most with the Hindu religion if I had to choose. Yoga, on and off the mat, is my church. Meditation is my prayer. How does the church in your eyes see us, modern day yogis?”
Jocelyn replied, “I see myself in you. It is that simple. I have lived with Hindus, and I see myself in them, too. I have lived with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religions, and these people are all the same to me. These groups of people come together in their own form of prayer and ritual and acknowledge that there is something greater than themselves, and the foundation is the same. Religion or Spirituality is not the defining factor. The underlying want to learn others who are different from you, and to get curious instead of judge, see them as an individual and not a group, and love them anyways, it what matters most regardless of any religion. We are just people trying to figure it out.”
Yoga creates a safe space for the breath and mind to flow freely and to be open to ourselves and others without judgement. For me, yoga gives me a sense of knowing, even when I don’t understand what is going on in the world around me. When everything gets crazy, I can just turn my mind inwards, and find that sense of calm and then almost instantaneously know how to deal with the situation. I have a feeling that this is what church provides for my grandma, what dance provides for my current “sister” in my fun, loving Mexican, host family. Dance is her religion, as church is my grandmas, as yoga is mine.
Jocelyn made a profound impact on me that day in Rome International Airport, as it was last flight before returning back to the United States after months abroad. She reminded me that it was my responsibility to share my knowledge of other religions and cultures with the Western world, and that I was returning home temporarily for a reason, even if I didn’t quite understand it yet. Because of her and a radical Priest named Brian Baker, my views on religion have forever been shifted. Before, I accepted the belief system that terrorism, hate crimes, and violence identified and belonged to certain religions. Now, I understand that religion is general, broad, and left up for interpretation, and different groups choose more extremist approaches, but in the end, we are all individuals left to decide what beliefs we choose to accept and take on. And just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they are wrong.
My goal in 2018? To continue immersing myself in other cultures, lifestyle backgrounds, and religions, because the more I learn about them, the more I learn about myself….and the more I learn and love myself, the more I learn and love all walks of life.
Up next, Cancun, Mexico xx
"The world now is too dangerous and too beautiful for anything but love." Brian Baker, Christian priest, Burning Man goer, and radically cool individual