by Angie Follensbee-Hall
I grew up in an ‘almost-Catholic’ home. When I was very young, my family went to church fairly regularly and I did go through catechism school. We had pictures of Mother Mary, and Jesus in the house, and I prayed every night before bed. But my parents were honest with their thoughts on how and where the church had done wrong, and they certainly were not strict Catholics. We were encouraged to pursue our own beliefs and follow our own paths. I recall many a late night car rides listening to the lulling buzz of my parents voices discussing what they believed to be the true nature of God.
Fast forward to me married and a mother of two daughters. I have not been back to the Catholic Church in my adult years. Only once did I find a longing to speak to a clergy man. When my eldest was so very ill and hospitalized at age three, I thought I would lose her, and myself in the process. We lived in the Maine Medical hospital for about a month's time. I remember seeing the chapel in the hospital and occasionally the priest would walk by. Once he even stepped into our room to bless my daughter. I don't remember what he said, but somehow I connected his presence to God and I did long to talk to him. It was shortly after this time that I longed for healing and focused on my personal growth and spiritual practices. I found healing in the path of Yoga. What drew me to Yoga was its emphasis on personal practice: YOU do the WORK to heal Yourself and feel Whole.
But Yoga is not all “Shiny Wholeness, Om’s and Love”. Amidst the ever growing popularity of yoga, I find the same ego issues that exists in all of our human endeavors. It’s not necessarily the stories of teachers acting in unethical ways with students that can be so troubling. I see a lurking egoism in spiritual practices. The ego LOVES thinking it has the One Right Way. Religion and Spirituality can be high octane fuel for the ego. “Look at me, I'm so spiritual living this wholesome life and doing ALL the RIGHT things...” It’s far too easy to judge Self and Other. We ourselves are not practiced enough, or we need to take another class, training, or study with that special Divine Person to prove one’s true worth. There is an unspoken sentiment in the world of yoga that one can get “better at Yoga.” Now, I just don't think that is how anything works at all.
I did once think I needed to take all the classes to make me “better.” Have you thought this too? Maybe there is one more special training I need. Maybe I ought to go to the big yoga festival, or teach at the festival to prove I am a good teacher. Do you get the Kripalu or Omega catalog and think “I NEED go to all of these, then I will be “Enough.” Finally, there is the “I can't be spiritual until I've gone to India" idea. None of this is true. And if you keep following that logic, you will never feel whole. You will always be searching.
Eventually, I cemented what I was searching for. Me. Not in that Ego way “it’s all about ME,” simply, “I AM ENOUGH.” Nothing else will make me more perfect or whole. While taking classes and workshops can have great rewards, and traveling can indeed be amazing, I came to the same realization that my parents had on their path in Catholicism. And it wasn’t so different after all. There isn't some magical person with a fancy ring somewhere who is going to give me the divine blessing to make me whole. I don't need to learn that one special yoga technique, hand mudra, or breathing practice, I don't need a ‘special spiritual name’ that might prove I can be a real Yogi. These are ways to over-identify with Form and I want to fuse with the movement beneath the Form. This is my secret: I wake up. I move mindfully, I sit and breathe. I watch the trees bend and sway in the morning breeze. I kiss my husband when he leaves for work. I kiss my daughters when they wake up in the morning and when they go to bed at night. I look for wholeness in each moment, and I allow the divine to Emerge from within.
Angie Follensbee-Hall, E-RYT 500, and BFA, is the creator of Powerful Woman Yoga, Myriad Yoga, and The Paper Glade, a unique Hand Made Paper gallery. Angie is a woman of myriad avatars … a mother, a yogi, an artist, a wife, daughter, a mentor, a friend. She came to this practice through the near loss of her daughter many years ago. In the depths of her shadow and sadness, she saw her deepest self was a powerful self. She dedicated her life to the yoga practice, and emerged a Powerful Woman. She succeeds in helping others realize the potential to Emerge into their most Powerful Self.