Long awaited update…

Haven’t been writing much lately–haven’t had a lot of inspiration or time to write.

I have been working on developing a daily practice. I get up at about 6:40, and go in the spare bedroom and do a couple of sun salutations and a few other poses depending on how I feel. I’ve done that every day since last Sunday. Let’s see if I have the discipline to keep this up.

Read More

Yoga and Skepticism

I’ve said in a previous post that there is some tension present in being an atheist and a yogi. I think it’s more to the point to say there is tension between being a skeptic and a yogi. While in general the teachers whose classes I frequent usually stick with pretty non-controversial claims about the benefits of yoga, every now and then I hear things that make me smirk and squirm a little inside. Stuff like this (not exact quotes):

  • We’re going to have a relaxed class today because it’s near the new moon. Our energy levels are lowest during the new moon.
  • Anything about chakras.
  • Anything about Kundalini.
  • Anything about Ayurveda.
  • Claims that any of the above must be real and good because it’s been practiced for 1000’s of years.

I’ve tolerated this stuff for the most part, and have even gone along with it for the sake of experimentation. I have found that, in general, these things have not been core to the classes. The chakra talk I can deal with as being symbolic for different areas and characteristics of the body. No problem. Same with Kundalini. The alternative medicine stuff does set me a bit on edge though. Especially when I read about things like this: http://whatstheharm.net/ayurvedicmedicine.html. Maybe I’ll ask my teacher about that. Were all these people just doing it wrong?

I’m into the holistic aspect of yoga, and this is why it’s been the only exercise program I’ve stuck with regularly going on two years now. I’m not in it “just for the workout,” it’s also about the mental and emotional benefit as well. I’m all for the non-rational–I don’t have to reason everything out and understand how everything works in order to accept it. What I can’t accept is the irrational.  What if some of these things being practiced as part of yoga can actually be harmful?

Read More

Who am I?

When I was a teenager I used to think a lot about the question “Who am I?” Lots of descriptive words would pop into my mind: daughter, student, reader, Christian…the list could go on. But the more I thought about these words the more I realized that they do not say a thing about who I am. They only describe different aspects of me. I read during my exploration of Buddhism that the thing we know of as “I” disappears when you look for it and that indicated that it is does not really exist. This is consistent with my own experience.  

However, I still feel some need to identify myself, and my list has changed quite a lot since I was a teen. You will probably note that I listed “Christian” as one of my identity words. Yea, “Christian” was a huge part of my identity and for a time in my life my life practically revolved around that piece. If you asked me who I was when I was a teen, that is likely one of the first words I would think of after my name. A lot has changed since then.

I’m aware that lots of atheists out there do not consider “atheist” to be a large part of their identity. And it’s probably fair to say a lot of Christians do not consider it to be a huge identity issue either. I’m sure that the reason it is for me is the huge importance religion has always had to my sense of self. When I eventually found the teachings to be Christianity to be out of sync with what I knew of the world, I went through a major identity crisis. I was at a bit of a loss on how to act in certain circumstances–like how to react to parents and family members who still strongly identified with Christianity. (From stories I’ve read from other atheists with Christian parents this is a very, very common issue.) Since I’d always been taught that morality comes from God, I had to completely rework my understanding of morality. It was no longer about obedience to a higher power, but about human wellbeing and happiness (a great improvement, since obedience is a very poor and childish basis for morality). One example of major change in my thinking is that I could no longer find any good reason whatsoever why gay people should not be allowed to marry. I am still of the opinion that the reason that Christians are so strongly opposed to homosexuals is that one of the very, very few issues that the Bible seems unambiguous about. Actual unambiguous direction from the Bible? That is something you don’t see every day.

 I strongly identify as an atheist. But having come to the conclusion that it’s not healthy to identify only as one thing (especially something that is just saying what I don’t believe), I’ve branched out into other areas of interest as well. Yoga, of course—though that does at time create some tension with the atheist label. I am also a nature lover, and love camping and kayaking. I’m interested in improving my communication and public speaking skills so I’ve signed up with Toastmasters International. My first meeting as a member is this coming Monday.

Identity is a complex thing. Atheism is only a starting point, and part of a realization that you are responsible for creating your own self –according to what kind of person you want to be.  And not waiting around for a god to “reveal his will for your life.” It’s a start.

Read More

Things I’ve Learned about Atheism

There is a Barns and Noble bookstore within a couple minutes drive of my office, so from time to time I hang out there during my lunch break. Last Wednesday I went in and sat by the section in Philosophy with the books of atheism and reflected on some of the things I have learned about atheism in my 7 years of considering myself an atheist. Things I didn’t realize when I started out of this path.

Read More

Plow Pose (Halasana)

Lately in my home practice I’ve been concentrating on Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana) and Plow Pose (Halasana). I’ve been starting off in Shoulderstand and lowering my feet to a chair for Plow, but today I lowered my feet all the way to the floor. Still need to work on coming out of the Plow with control, but this is a milestone for me.

Read More