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December 17, 2014

How Yoga helped me Make Peace with the Catholic Church.

rosary
Christmas brings up many emotions for people.

It’s a season of family and celebration, but it can also bring up feelings of loss or even anxiety for some.

Each year, I debate yet again, my relationship with the Catholic Church.
I’m Irish and was raised a Catholic. A Catholic by tradition. Part of my education was focused on Catholic rites of passage: First Communion and Confirmation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do value the sense of tradition and togetherness as well as some of the values this instilled on me.

However, my relationship with the church first became strained in my early 20s, when stories of institutional abuse came flooding into main stream society and people began talking about what was happening “Catholic” Ireland.

The stories of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, the neglect, families torn apart by what the church deemed to be appropriate behavior at the time. The list goes on.

This and other actions of church leaders lead me to question Catholosism and everything it stood for. I felt an array of emotions, anger, despair even hatred. But, part of me lost something with that anger. I lost part of my spirituality.

I’ve always had a deep faith, and curiosity. As a child I wondered at the clouds and beyond and always felt a deep connection to the earth, trees, animals and people. I was branded a “sensitive” child, something I now hold as a strength in both my personal and professional life.

I have not revisited my standing with the church in some time, but this year with the sparkle of all the Christmas lights, excitement building towards the day itself—I have found myself back there. But in a different, less angry place.

Through my Yoga practice, I have learned the importance of responding and not reacting. All the time I held my anger, I was reacting. I was reacting to the defence of a close family members hurt inflicted by the church.

Throughout my study of Yoga, I sometimes identify similarities between the teachings of Yoga and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The Yama’s and Niyamas are similar to the 10 Commandments. The sound of a church full of people calling “Amen” has a very similar vibration and impact as a room full of yogi’s meaningfully saying, “om.” Rosary beads are used by Catholics while Mala beads are used in Yoga Mantra Meditation.

The prayers are Mantras, the sense of community created is the same. The list goes on.
Yoga teaches us about union—union of the body and mind, but also the deep connection we have with each other and the earth.

We are one.

This Christmas, for the first time in a long time, I will go to Catholic mass. I will stand beside my family in a church, no longer carrying a burden of resentment towards the people at the top of the church.

I will wonder at the lights and the traditions and I will relive youthful memories of Christmas. I will stand with people I don’t know to celebrate and acknowledge a higher being.

We will set intentions for the year ahead and reflect in gratitude for the year gone by.

I will go with a deeper understanding that we are all in this together, no matter what our religion.

We are one.

Even though I might let an “Om” slip out at the end.


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Author: Gina Dunlevy

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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