The Holiday season can be an uneasy time if we have had a negative experience with religion. The family get-togethers, decorating, gift giving and festivities are one thing, but when we look at the Babe in the manger, what is that all about? Did the Infinite really come to earth as a human baby? And if so, for what reason? Depending on what religious tradition we were raised in, our next thought might be of sin and redemption, i.e. GUILT, which is why many of us long ago threw out the Babe along with the bathwater. Maybe we want to celebrate Christ but religion has ruined that for us! Anyway, God is in everyone, right? so what’s the big deal about the Avatar myth, the Incarnation, Mithras, Jesus, Krishna, etc.? And for my atheist friends, it’s all a bunch of made-up stuff, sheer fantasy, and therefore moot. Now, at this point we could go into theological arguments about “original sin” and stuff, but let’s not, ok?*
Two of my favorite** yoga students, a mom and her 3-year-old daughter, were at Lothlorien for their private lesson today and afterwards we were talking about Christmas and the whole religious “guilt trip.” She told me her daughter one day recited: “God is good and we are bad.” ?! She apparently picked this up at her religious preschool. A fundamentalist relative, on hearing this, said, “Oh, wisdom from the mouths of babes!” Mom and I agreed, no, NOT wisdom – false and hurtful indoctrination. We need to nip this in the bud! Mom explained to the child, “No, honey, we are good; but sometimes we do bad things.” The child had been just a wee bit rowdy today – very mildly so, based on my limited experience of 3-year-olds – and the little angel, Heaven shining in her innocent blue eyes, turned to me and asked, “Am I bad??” I took her in my arms and said, “No, no, my dear, you are very, very GOOD!!”
What to do?! The best way to protect yourself, and your children, from damaging religious dogma is to have a very deep, solid, intimate relationship with the Divine yourself. When you know in your heart of hearts that you are perfectly loved, perfectly cared for, and you feel secure, rooted and grounded in that Love, then nothing anybody can say is going to hurt or confuse you. Of course, if you are an atheist all you need to do is say it’s just made up stories and not to worry about it, which is much easier. But most of us, like this student, do have some kind of spiritual inclination which has unfortunately been tarnished or totally ruined by the religious indoctrination we received in our childhood. The images, such as the Babe in the manger, have become associated with unhealthy thought patterns like, “God is good and I am bad.” How do we replace those negative patterns?
We replace them with direct experience of the Divine. Throw out the dogma and do your yoga! As my teacher Mark Whitwell says, “Yoga is your direct participation in Source Reality.” When we breathe we are participating in That which is breathing us. If you are religious, the breath is the Holy Spirit filling you. Every one of us can experience that intimate connection, that re-linking with the Divine – the same Love which manifested the universe and called it “good.” The Love that took specific human form and lived among us as Avatar. The same Love that lives in our heart, expressing as you and me. Whatever language you use for It, allow yourself to be embraced by that Love, moved, animated, sustained by It. When you have a consistent daily yoga practice and you live in that relationship of Love your children will feel it, too. Bad theology will naturally be repelled like dirty bathwater off a duck’s back. And then we need not throw out the Babe with the bathwater. Merry Christmas.
* I've already addressed some of the theological arguments in my previous blog posts.
** Am I allowed to have favorites? oh, but I love every one of them so much; I have the best students in the world; I guess they are all my favorites!!