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THE WEEKLY PRAYER
I - with the help of a very kind friend - recently updated the likeaprayeryoga.com website. Included on the website are each of these weekly emails, the weekly prayer. At first I was a bit nervous to title these pieces a prayer - any mention of religious words like prayer or God, or images of crosses can get a bit awkward. It's hard to know where someone else stands on different religions or being spiritual and conversations trying to understand viewpoints around religion can open up a lot of passion, aggression and hostility.
A big part of what attracted me to yoga in the first place was the spiritual aspect and the idea of it being a moving prayer. In sun salutations, you start with your hands at your heart, in prayer, and after various flowing postures and movements, end in the same place. In this action, depending upon the individual, you might be praying to God, the universe, possibly ourselves or maybe a mixture of all three.
Yoga doesn't have to be spiritual for everyone, but for me it is. One hundred percent. Having an intention to use yoga to be present and aware in our bodies - the trusty, lovely shell of our spirits - engaging with our energy, feeling the ground underneath your feet all helps us to connect with ourselves - what we want, why we are here, our destiny, our fate - and establishing and nurturing this connection with ourselves allows us to better be able to connect with others. And to belong.
Somewhere along the way everything seems to have been a little messed up. Our connection to God seemed only possible if you were part of an organised religion. There were rules about who was in and who was out and there were explicit directions on how to communicate to God and the rituals you had to perform. "Being spiritual" has a lot of formulaic ideas tied to it as well. If you've ever been to a yoga or meditation retreat there always seems this underlying need to prove how truly spiritual you are - whether its by how long you meditate for, how many months you have spent in an ashram in India, your will to only eat plant-based foods or a belief that you can always rise above anger. Spirituality should never be competitive.
Spirituality and having faith are inherently personal. Nobody can define it for you, it's what you understand it to be. If you're not into crystals, think astrology is whack and are generally scared of hippies, that doesn't mean you aren't spiritual. Maybe you understand your spirituality when you're in nature, the immense and enveloping green of lush gardens could fill your heart or floating in the salty sea bobbing up and down with the gentle waves or seeing a puppy or kitten or any animal really and feeling awe for this being. When you are with the people you love and who love you, there is nothing more spiritual, divine or God-like.
I'm not a particularly religious person. We went to Sunday school when I was little for a few years but that was as far as any strict devotion got. When we went traveling two years ago Amanda and I visited a monastery that our very handsome Sicilian hotelier recommended. When we got there we both experienced how light, bright and divine the place felt. It's hard to describe it other than it felt God-like. I had never experienced a place so lifted, so light and divine. I hang crosses in the Like a Prayer Yoga studio because they are beautiful and one came from this place and reminds me of it. You can feel the divinity and sacredness in it. Your spirituality or belief can be whatever you make it.
There is so much opportunity to see the divine in every day life, all you have to do is be open to it. There is magic synchronicity in every coincidence, there are messages and guidance around every corner, if you want to hear. There are water spirits shining on the east river, there are fairies in prospect park. But you can believe as much or as little as you want. And if you are sceptical when it comes to the unseen mystical world, then know that you are a spiritual being. We each carry the light of the universe inside of ourselves. And having faith in yourself and believing in your worth is a very spiritual practice. Looking after your body, finding a meaningful purpose and nurturing relationships are all soulful and divine activities.
Sometimes it can be difficult to keep the faith - whatever your faith is - especially when it feels like your life is falling apart. You might find yourself feeling a sense of loss, hurt or hopelessness. It's okay and natural and not wrong to lose faith in these moments. Of course if you are going through a hard time, you will feel angry, sad, deserted and scared. What is true is that even in our darkest, loneliest moments, we are never deserted by what's divine. Even in those moments when we feel like we have nothing, are nothing and there is no one who can console us; there is always God, angels, light, guiding, supporting and holding us. Because they are always there, you can always pray to the higher beings, angels or even loved ones who have passed for their help and assistance.
Here on earth, the way through a hard time always seems to be the same - connecting and sharing with those people who support you. If you lose faith in everything else, know that there are still people out there who love and care for you.
I'll leave it to George Michael to end this note