When I was a child, my family did not go to church.
They did not talk about God or have blessings before dinner.
There was no cross-stitch above the mantle proclaiming how the love of Jesus would carry us.
There were Christmas and Easter, but they mostly involved food and an influx of extended family—how the holidays were associated with Jesus was a mystery.
I wanted badly to be a “church” family. To dress up and sit quietly in a pew while pretending to listen to a sermon was my idea of heaven; I would casually ask my church-going friends to tag along with them on Sundays. There, I would pretend to understand the rituals and wish I could walk the aisle and receive communion, so then I would be saved.
I grew and my desire to be saved never waned, but the pew sitting, quiet path to this divinity began to reveal itself as a conflict.
Now, as I sit in this holy area and look out on this stunningly understated land, I am feeling restless…being in church, surrounded by stained glass and breathtaking idols, but still unable to tap dance on top of the incense table.
The quiet has set in, the leaves have fallen and I’m supposed to be preparing my family for a move to South America in two months.
I need church…badly.
The kind of religion that quells the need for affirmation of what is right and clears the mind. The kind of godly intervention that comes from having a short attention span.
My restlessness is not from boredom or from being high-strung. It comes from an inability to be idle. I find it hard to sit through meetings lasting more than 15 minutes, movies, lectures, plays and worst of all, elementary school assemblies (don’t tell my children, of course I love recorder concerts). All of these would be tolerable if I was able to move during them—put my feet up on the chair in front of me, stretch out and take lots of chit-chat breaks.
I am uncomfortable with the stillness and stiff with the feeling of entrapment.
I know what you’re thinking, “this woman needs a serious sitting meditation practice.” Embrace the stillness, quiet the mind, be in the moment.
Just as I sat in the hard wooden pew focusing on looking extraordinarily pious, I would sit and breathe and sit and breathe and sit…sit…sit…almost to the point of exhaustion.
My body wanted to move and I felt cloudier the more I remained still.
I brought this up to a meditation teacher asking for guidance, and he asked me, “Why don’t you just move?” He suggested I take my meditation on a walk or maybe dancing.
The thought of dating my meditation practice sounded perfectly fitting and our first time out I knew it was love at first sight. I walked and said mantras, while for the first time becoming peace and clarity. The movement settled my mind and united the forces I needed.
I deepened the meditative quality of my yoga practice and began dancing with therapeutic abandon.
I ran in the woods as my feet pounded out a mantra.
Yoga studios have become my temples, as well as the vast expanse of outdoors and sometimes the pounding floor of a dance club.
I take communion in the breaths that go deep, deep down and prostrate my devotion with every downward dog. My penance would probably be the Thursday night Dharma Mittra that leaves me sore for a whole week.
This is my church, this body and the movement I am grateful to create.
In this time of idleness, I feel the need for prayer.
I am still in a world of whirlwind revolution. Awakening little by little, the people of this planet are ready to rally and my prayers go to a place of loving action.
I go to church and send my movement to you, to your children.
I send it out as a way to receive, a way to bring myself closer to this God that will still love me, even though I cannot sit too long.
Rachel Haley lives with her family in a magical pocket of upstate New York. She is a Doula, Teacher, Student, Sometimes Writer and Wannabe Farmer. She practices these things while trying to keep 3 small children and a bunch of chickens fed and happy.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta
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