Yoga-mat-carrying-chics could learn something from bible-carrying chics. I should know. I got schooled by some sassy, suit-wearing lady-preachers this past year when I moved back down south to Virginia, land of the notorious Bible Belt.
A few months back I had a big ole’ fat case of the poor-me’s. A mind gremlin had actually wrapped her slimy webbed palms around my head and heart. She was ruthless, loudly blaring things into my heart space that made me wanna’ give up on my dreams and get in bed with a box of Chex-mix and a block of cheese.
Luckily, my mama (Vera) was around to pull me out of funk-city, dragging me kicking and screaming to a bible study. The last time I had been to bible class I was wearing MC-hammer pants, braiding friendship bracelets and listing to Toni Braxton. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled at the prospect of revisiting that awkward time of my embodiment.
“I demand it,” she said. “You are coming with me to my ‘little’ bible study.”
My mom always calls it her “little” bible study. Its as if by adding a diminutive qualifier to the whole charade she can somehow fool all the other non-Christians into overlooking what clearly proved to be a Jesusy-Tantrik, Christ-Worshipin’, Lady-Witch gathering, complete with scented oils, speaking in tongues and the laying of hands.
Little, my ass. There is nothing little about my mamas bible study. Not only are most of the women buxom and juicy, but the unapologetic spiritual dexterity and prayer-filled dedication of these Jesus-loving ladies made me wonder if we yogini gals had a few things to learn from them.
Let me explain….
About half-way through the study’s lesson on faith and surrender, it became obvious to the group that I wasn’t sharing much (an oddity for me in any lady-group circle, let me assure you). With much trepidation, I admitted to the group of women that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing and connecting with them because I could feel myself holding so much pain and anger against the Christian church.
“What are you angry about,” said the leader-lady, a no-nonsense woman with a loving matriarchal tone.
“Well, Im angry that a bunch of middle aged southern men made me feel so bad for being a sexual, sensual creature. Im angry that at the age of 13 I had to sign a “promise” stating that I would never have sex before marriage. I am angry that I was subjected to lock-ins at the age 14 where me and my Jewish friends were shown graphic low-fi videos depicting non-Christians’ eventual resting place – the fiery lakes of Satan’s, teeth-gnashing hot wonderland. I was angry that I was stuffed full of Krispee Creme donuts and Mr. Pibb throughout the night, and at a hazy, sugar-drugged 3 AM, asked whether or not I wanted to be a child of God or not. I was so angry, and even sadder, that the single most intimate aspects of myself – my body, my sexuality and my connection to the Divine Creator of the Universe was co-opted by a patriarchal religious system that was so afraid of my vagina that they wanted to keep it on lock-down through prepubescent pseudo-contracts and fattening me up with donut creme".
As I finished my tear-stained rant, the preacher-woman stood up and came over by my side. She put her hands on my head and I closed my eyes as she entered into some sort of Christ-loving lady-trance.
“Lord,” she proclaimed, “Free Katie from this burden she is carrying, oh Divine One. Lord, may all the thoughts inside Katie that were placed into her by these men in bad suits and bad hair cuts, be removed from her right here and right now. We know Lord, that she is your sacred jewel, your most beloved possession. Lord, we know that she was created by you, in perfection. May all these thoughts and feelings she has inside of her that tell her she is damaged, that she is dirty, that she is shamed, be removed from her right here and right now, Oh Lord. This child of God is a light for your love. This is how you see her, Oh Lord, and let her see herself in this way from here on out.”
As she continued praying and laying hands over me, I felt the store house of years of 13-year old-girl-sadness and angst leave my body. I felt relief, knowing that there was a group of people that embodied Christ’s nonjudgmental love and acceptance. With my eyes closed, I saw my whole body fill up with light, tears streaming down my face, as I let this woman of God midwife the exorcism of the thought-forms that the southern Baptist charade had mistakenly planted into my body.
Slowly, each of the ten women came over and put their hands on me. I felt safe, knowing that these women loved me for exactly who I was as they cried out Amen and whispered “Yes, Jesus.” I felt healed. I was being healed by the MAMAS of the Christian realms. I felt the whole wily band of Christ’s cheerleaders placing their loving mama-hands on the wounds that had wrapped themselves on my heart like tentacles.
But Jesus wasn’t done with me yet…
The leader-mama actually got down under the tall table, on hands and knees, in her sleek black lady-suit, and anointed my feet with oil, just like in old-school Bible times. She freaking anointed me with oil. She was fearless. She put it on my feet, praying that I may be protected wherever I walked.
She put it on my hands, saying that my hands would act as servants of love in the world. She put it on my forehead, saying that my mind would be a clear vessel for Christ. Finally she looked up at me and said, “Now Katie, do you FORGIVE them? Do you forgive those men in suits? Do you forgive the church?”
Oh hot damn. She was asking ME to be the forgiving one. Not the men in the suits or the church, but ME. She was asking me to do what Jesus Christ would have done. She was skilled at her craft and I was ready. “Yes,” I whispered. And I did forgive. And forgiveness washed through me like a cool river. Like love.
These women, acting on behalf of the love of Christ, saved me.
I got saved – saved for the second time. Not like the first time, out of fear-coercion and childish innocence, but saved out of love and forgiveness. I was saved from the memories that lived in me of how bad Christianity had been to me. I was saved from all the anger that I was carrying around. I was saved from myself and my own limited view of what it means to be on the real-deal spiritual path. I was saved from that limited sense of self that told me that I knew what I needed. I got saved.
My Christianity may never look like my parents’ version, the Church’s version, or even that wild group of Christian lady-witches’ version. But what I do know is that I am a Guardian of Love, chosen by Christ to continue to forgive and love, forgive and love, forgive and love. Thats how Jesus is alive in me.
And that was how my mama’s ‘little’ bible study went down.
To conclude, here is what I learned from real-deal Christian mamas:
i. They aren’t impressed with the political and economic use of Christianity – they are impressed by acts of great trust and love.
ii. Lots of cool Christian women (and men I assume) are NOT happy with the way things have been going down in the Christian church. That real-deal preacher woman told me that oftentimes it is the very leaders of religion that are closest to “the devil” himself. I knew that, but to have a preacher woman SAY it. Word.
iii. Prayer is something Christians go to – like everyday – to help support one another and themselves. These ladies are praying for each other ON THE DAILY. When was the last time you sat your hot yoga-toned bootie down and PRAYED for your friends? Maybe we could start being fearless enough to do that for ourselves and selfless enough to do it for one another.
iv. Circles are good for study. These women get together weekly to deeply study their sacred text – the Bible. When was the last time you got together with your yoga mates to dig deep into the Sutras or Rumi or a rad Tantric text? We can learn so much from these mamas. Gather in circles. Talk to one another. Not in your “yoga voice,” but in your most vulnerable, real-deal voice. You know, the voice that your friends from high school would recognize as you. Bring the spiritual book of your choice, it doesn’t matter. The bible says that when 2 or more are gathered in “my name,” Love appears.
v. Real-deal Christians are doing the same thing that real-deal yogis or Buddhists or Hindus or Jews are doing. Call yourself whatever you want – the end game is the same for all of us. Its love. L-O-V-E, love.
What lessons have you learned from unlikely places that change how you practice yoga – on the mat, and in life?