Religious v. Spiritual: The Dilemma & The Solution

Religious vs. Spiritual…this is a battle my mind toyed with when I was first introduced to yoga and meditation. But I later came to realize that these two things are more alike than different.

The Dilemma: We are Different

You see, I grew up with a heavy Baptist Christian upbringing. I was the ideal church girl: singing in the choir, praise dancing, church 3 days a week and 6 hours on Sunday. I heard of yoga growing up, but never dared to dabble because it was “of the devil” <in the voice of water boy’s mama>. But then I actually got on a mat; and ‘poof’, all of the “of the devil” BS faded away. I’m learning that a lot of this shunning by some of the church is based on ignorance and fear of the unknown. Btw, I realize my words may not seem nice (more on that later), but I assure that they are intentional.

Prayer vs. Meditation

Now, I understand that yoga does have rooting in specific religions systems, but the act itself is not necessarily worshiping another god (which is the main concern of the church). Simply put, yoga and meditation train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of your own nature. Do I believe that this goes against my christian beliefs? Or Would I consider this a sin? No.

On the contrary, I strongly believe that my meditation and yoga practice support my relationship with God and my Faith. Prayer and meditation actually work hand in hand. When I pray, I feel God’s presence surrounding me and imagine Him in my mind’s eye as I speak to Him. And when I meditate, I focus on my breath, giving appreciation to my creator for each one as they grow deeper and deeper.

Religion vs. Spirituality

On a larger level, my spiritual being enhances my religious beliefs. In fact, you cannot be religious without being spiritual. I understand that the word ‘spiritual’ rubs some folks the wrong way (for the same reasons listed above regarding yoga). Spirituality is really just the acknowledgement that there is something beyond your physical self and you believe in something greater than yourself. Depending on your religion, this “something” can range from Jesus Christ, the Universe, Buddha, Allah, etc. Each religion has its own structure and system of religious beliefs, but spirituality is what connects us all.

I like to think of this in terms of espresso drinks [I am currently drinking my newest addiction aka a dirty chai latte as I type this]. There’s many different kinds (i.e. lattes, macchiatos, and cappuccinos), but there is one similarity that is the core of each of these drinks. Without the espresso these drinks would lose their essence (an americano without the espresso is literally water!). In this example, the different kinds of drinks are the religions and the espresso is spirituality. We all may not order the same espresso drink, but we all crave that caffeine boost. It’s the espresso that connects us!

The Solution: We are the Same AKA Namaste

Yes we all have our differences: I’m a black, bald woman and you may be a white boy with a man bun. But there is a place beyond what we can see physically where we connect even deeper. This is where NAMASTE comes in…Namaste is simply acknowledging that we are all connected on this level.

Many yoga teachers close out their classes with this definition of namaste: “the light in me sees and recognizes the light in you”. This rendition holds a lot of power but can get tired after hearing it a billion times and still having the same question of WTF is Namaste.

I end my classes instead with this explanation of namaste that speaks more to my experience of the term in my day to day life:

First bring your hands to your heart center, connecting your thumbs/your fingers (your actions) to your heart. Then guide your hands up to your seat of intuition, connecting those same actions to your mind for mindful and loving actions to all of those around us. We are ALL in this together! Namaste!

Now, mindful and loving actions does not mean that we need to be nice to everyone. NO – this is not human nor necessary! But the idea here is to be loving and mindful with our interactions because we are all trying to navigate this crazy ass experience we call life. Our actions have purpose and are intentional, so we are not lashing out on someone because we are upset about something else that has nothing to do with them. We are instead kind with our words and actions (Please note that kind and nice are NOT synonyms!) Side Note: Sometimes the kindest action you can give is pulling your energy away from a relationship that doesn’t serve you [see last week’s blog and/or Sunday Slowdown #7]. An-ty-way…Namaste is more than just a fun thing to say after yoga; it is a guiding principle for how we treat each other despite our many differences.

For this week’s Sunday Slowdown (#8), we are going to namaste it up! Tune in on Facebook at 7:07pm on 4/1/2018 to start your week off right. If you are reading this after 4/1/2018, check out the video saved to Facebook and Youtube.