Most of my life I have been drawn to “alternative” spiritualties. Being raised a Catholic, there were always parts of the scriptures that never seemed to ring true for me, and because of that I have spent a lifetime looking for ideas that more match my songs. I have been relatively blessed in my life to be surrounded by people that are open and accepting of all of my strange, crazy ideas. Recently, however, I have been more exposed to people who are less open, and less understanding of spiritualties and ideas that are not, strictly speaking, those of their parents.
I grew up in middle America. That is to say I grew up in a culture that was very ‘traditional’. It was pretty accepted that you grew up, went to collage, had kids, and retired. Further you just kind of followed along with what was happening in the world, and you were a Christian. Not everyone mind you, but the norm of the day was growing up and being the spiritual practice of your parents.
I have never been so traditional, particularly when it comes to spiritualties. Even as a child I read a number of different books dealing with philosophy, spirituality, and over all different ideas on life and the greater questions of the universe. As an adult I came to an understanding about my spiritual ideas, and began calling myself a “Spiritual Mutt”, taking multiple different ideas from each spiritualties and meshing them into my own ideas and faith system.
As I grew older and began speaking with other people regarding these questions and ideas. One thing that always seemed to puzzle me was the stories they would tell me about people being less than receptive regarding alternative ideas. For the most part I had never encountered people unwilling to understand and accept my spiritual path. In fact often times the differences between us would lead to deep meaningful discussions that would broaden both of our ideas.
Spirituality to me has always been a very personal practice. My deepest spiritual practices have always been kept and practiced alone. Further, it being a personal practice, I have always felt that spiritual paths and ideas are individualized to each and every person. All rivers lead to the ocean right?
Recently I have been challenged with the exact thing that people have been telling me about. Particularly I have been challenged with students and colleagues that are not open to view points other than their own. I have students who refuse to even listen to differing opinions, and colleagues whom have a hard time understanding how anyone would not believe what she does.
This is not to say I am trying to challenge anyone’s ideas and faith. Rather the opposite really. When I teach yoga I am simply trying to show people a different way of looking at their faith, or a way to deepen it using methods that they may not have been exposed to before.
The biggest challenge with being an ‘alternative’ spirituality is the challenge of people unwilling to open up to the ideas. Not as a proselytizing idea, but as an idea of discourse. Being of an alternate spiritual practice, when people assume you are the exact same as them it can be challenging to decide to open up. If you do you could be met with sever ignorance or stubbornness; but if you do not you could also be allowing the perpetuating of ignorance within the world.
There are reasons that spiritual and religious discussions are considered taboo. By deciding to enter into a conversation with someone you could also be taking the risk of loosing a friendship, a collogue, or a client. This discourse has to be met with the up most understanding and willingness to take these risks. Further we have to choose to be compassionate to other people’s view points and beliefs whether or not we agree with them.
Those of us with spiritual paths outside of our norm culture have to keep in mind more than the person on the norm. First we have to be aware of the challenge of our cultural norm and how our differing spirituality brings to them. Second by understanding what that thought process is, we should explain ourselves from their point of view. Finally we have to be aware when to concede and just let go. There are many times where we can end up in circular arguments that will go no where from the start. Also there are times where the person we are discussing with will make some really great points we might not want to concede out of pride, even if we should.
It is always challenging being the odd ball, or being the fish out of water. However it is our own choice how we decide to live in that space. For me it is a choice that is dictated by delicate weighing of pros and cons for discussions and spreading knowledge. As long as we are all careful and aware of the words we use and the space another person is in, we have the ability to create deep meaningful discussions.
Practice in Peace and Love.