Monday, July 23, 2012

Religion

I grew up in a fairly observant household.

My father’s grandfather was from Russia, and his parents raised him in an Orthodox Jewish home. There were strict rules on the Sabbath.

No driving, no work, no writing, no telephone.

And the men and women sat separately in synagogue.

But, my father was a bit of a rebel in his younger years regarding religion and its related rules.

As a child, the day he broke his wrist, my father was supposed to be sitting safely in Hebrew school and not falling out of a cherry tree where he had chosen to sit, instead.

And, as a teenager, he was supposed to be walking to Friday night services and not driving by the rabbi with a friend on the way to someplace else, instead.

He made a deal with that rabbi not to tell his parents.

He made no such deal with another rabbi a few years later when he snuck out of the Yeshiva to date that rabbi’s daughter. Nor did this Kosher boy tell anyone about his double dates in Chinatown where he feasted on forbidden foods.

So, growing up, our household was less observant than that of my grandfather’s, but my dad still gave us a strong background in our religion.

In my young adult years, I moved away from any religious observances only to return again while raising my children. During that time, the synagogue and its education center were a central and grounding part of our lives.

But, once our rabbi passed away, I really left what connection I had with my religion. That coincided with my children getting older, and my sense of grounding from the synagogue became uprooted.

And now, after having been out of touch for so many years, it is a surprise to find that yoga has reintroduced me to a sense of spirituality, something for which I was not really searching but am glad to have found.

At the end of each practice, we sit with our hands in prayer. And, sometimes, the instructor talks about downloading some energy into the space opened by our practice.

I breathe in and imagine inhaling some sort of positive goodness which, by the way, I often see as the color, white.

Sometimes, he talks about letting go of something onto which we are hanging, and I exhale what I think of as some sort of staleness which, by the way, I often see as the color, grey.

And, sometimes, he talks about sending someone else some energy, and I imagine a whiteness falling like stars on the person about whom I am thinking.

Some people believe that G-d is in all of us and, if that is so, then I figure that sending our thoughts, or our energy, is like saying a prayer.

Yoga has tapped into a spiritual side of me that had been slumbering for quite some time. Not that it was totally gone. I have meaningful reminders in my home of my heritage to which I do feel connected.

One is the painting in the kitchen from Israel of the Hebrew word, Shalom, or peace, along with a prayer for the home.

Another is the pair of my grandmother’s Shabbat candlesticks that sit on the dining room table. These were smuggled out of Russia in the middle of the night in the bottom of a hay wagon during the Pogroms.

And, each room in my house is blessed with a Mezuzah which holds a prayer from the Torah.

But it has been yoga that has made me feel part of something larger than myself, which I guess is what religion is supposed to provide.

So now the spiritual part of yoga has made its way into my heart and into my home.

And, because of that, in addition to the Mezuzahs, the Hebrew painting and my precious Shabbat candlesticks, I now have a little Buddha that rests on the chest in the front hall.

He is smiling, facing the door to greet me every time I make my way home.

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