Not everyone is a cookie cutter 1000-hours-of-whatever-raw food-ultra-marathon-bali-retreat yogi.
Some of us are simply trying to live and get to know ourselves so that we can stand proudly in our authenticity; you don’t have to fit yourself into the mold of who you think you should be in order to be at peace.
Growing up, I was always chasing after religion. I was a curious, smart, young tyke who was craving some explanation—some rational purpose for my existence. I latched onto the first thing that made sense to me: Christianity.
The stories I read and heard seemed to be hinting at something deeper.
It was my first experience with The Divine. With The Big Love—and so I stayed and got serious about my religion.
Church every Sunday. Youth group every Wednesday. Choir. Prayer. Bible study. I did it.
And for many years, I wore the proud badge of a Christian.
I was a volunteer for different organizations; I didn’t curse, I was adamantly against pre-marital sex and abortion. No drugs. No dark arts. But then something happened…
I got curious again.
I started questioning the very religion that had first satiated my hunger for understanding. I started asking “Why?” a lot and when the answers stopped making sense, I resumed my search again.
So I checked out Catholicism—and Adventism—and then Buddhism—I was a religion slut. My unwavering inner desire to place a meaning on my young life was utterly exhausting and emotionally taxing.
And then one day, I became a teenager. Oh, shit got real.
I found myself constantly in the midst of deep inner conflict.
Can I say fuck and still be spiritual? Can I smoke pot and still be a good person? Can I have sex and not be a damned for all eternity? Can I vocalize my yearning to feel a part of something larger than myself without freaking everyone out?
It has taken many, many years of soul-searching and forgiveness to discover my truth—to find the delicate balance between faith and conduct, perception and discernment, authenticity and insincerity.
My constant search for that truth has been the basis for a sound personal practice.
At our very core, I believe we are all searching for peace; we don’t all find it in ashrams or churches or yoga studios.
Some people find it in hallucinogens. Or in the hospital room where their child was born. Or while free falling from a base jump. Or on a surfboard. Or in a garden. Or in a book. Or in music. The point is…
We don’t all arrive at our destination on the same train—and certainly not in the same outfit.
The most destructive thing that you can do to yourself is to go against what is in your heart because someone else told you to. Question everything. Question the rulebook. Question society. Question your parents. Question your thoughts. Question me.
And for fuck’s sake, if you want to say or do something, go right ahead. There are no mistakes, only lessons to learn. Experiment. Have fun. Look alive. Pay attention.
May you find the courage to discover your truth and live it out loud.
Ashley Hook is a retired party animal and reformed spiritual materialist. She writes about love, acceptance, fear, non-goals, and some superficial stuff too. She hopes to one day write full-time, on a magical hippie sanctuary in the woods. For now, she travels the world, takes pictures and makes a living slingin’ food and sellin’ vintage.
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Assistant Ed: Lacy Rae Ramunno
Ed: Bryonie Wise