Go over and over your beads, paint weird designs on your forehead, wear your hair matted, long, and ostentatious, but when deep inside you there is a loaded gun, how can you have God? ~ Kabir
This summer, I got a postcard in the mail that was folded in two, taped together and addressed to me by hand with the return address from my childhood church in East Tennessee. I unfolded it and found a form with two options: 1.) check here if membership is still with this church 2.) check here: I have transferred to ____ Church. I smiled. A diligent woman from the church office always finds my address. I moved away in 1995. It’s 2010.
I went back three years ago for my grandfather’s funeral service. At the reception, she found me with my family and asked, “Do you want to move your membership to another church?” I froze, surrounded by the community, remembering my grandmother saying, “Did you hear Mr. White died? He never went to church, but he was so nice! You reckon he went to heaven even not going to Church? Oh, I just worry about that so much!”
I responded honestly: “I don’t have a church.” She kindly frowned and said, “We’ll just keep you here until you find one.” I immediately felt silly. Really, Emily, do you think you matter that much? People thought Mr. White was nice! I realized, poignantly, I missed having a spiritual discipline and community.
I grew up in the Bible Belt. I loved the community of church and message of love your enemy. I went on a retreat to North Carolina when I was 15 and took a silent night hike, dogma biting at doubts I felt in my heart. I sat on a cold mountaintop and felt a warm love surround me. After the retreat, God came to me in a very vivid moment and let go of my hand. It was terrifying and left me feeling incredibly empty.
I was lost in the wilderness. I stopped going to church to the chagrin of my family and friends. I was scared, confused and angry. I rejected religion as I saw it used as a weapon of judgment. I hardened my heart under the guise of protection. I knew my path was out there and kept searching. I found my way to yoga and, subsequently, the eight-fold path in a search for compassion. It spilled off my mat into my life like a flashflood.
While lost in the wilderness, I stuffed a suitcase in my psyche with experiences, reactions and teachings. The eight-fold path showed me how to unpack and unfold all the things I have been carrying for so long. Some I discard, others need to be cleaned, and some things I thought lost have been here all along, buried deep. I arrange these things and make a home in my heart. I am finally coming to a place of reconciliation and peace.
One day in savasana, I felt the warm love from that mountaintop. It held my hand and whispered in my ear: God is love. Now I get it: God is Love. The eight-fold path gave me the discipline to wake up and realize I was never alone. Quite the opposite. God let go of my hand so I would learn how to walk on my own. Love and I, we’ve been walking together, side by side, all along. I still stray off the path, but I have faith Love will always be there for me. When I follow the path in my heart, I avoid catastrophe, make difficult decisions and am happy. When I am lost, I humbly surrender, call out for help and Love is there. My yoga practice keeps me connected to the Love inside of me.
This is by no means a unique story. I find great comfort in its lack of uniqueness. What makes this ordinary story extraordinary is the foundation of a spiritual community. It is our story.
Back to unfolding that church post card — it wasn’t just where I am on my journey but something she wrote that made me smile and respond that I can be taken off the mailing list: “You will not find another church like this one, but as I like to say, Bloom where you are planted.”
I’ve decided to get planted. My heart unfolds more each day as I surrender, letting myself bloom.
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Emily Taggart is currently completing her very first 200-hour teacher training program in Sacramento, California. She collects thoughts on yay, moments, and tweets as yaynamaste. She loves facilitating or immersing herself and others in experiences when she’s at work in the performing arts, at home in her historic neighborhood, or living it up in Sacramento’s vibrant, creative yoga community.