Dharmist in Progress

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." ~ Einstein

Why I Hate People Bashing

Hate is a strong word.  I am fully aware of that, and try not to use it lightly.

I HATE personal bashing.

But Bethany, what’s so bad about it?

Well, let me tell you.

I had a boyfriend once who called me controlling.  Ever since, I have been terrified to point out things that I don’t like, or ask people to do things for me.  It has been years, but his voice is still in my head, telling me what a terrible person I was/am.

Now, obviously not every example is taken so close to heart, but every single time someone says something bad about you and you find out about it or hear it, it becomes a tiny worm that makes a home in your brain.  As these little worms form a colony, you can’t help but notice them nibbling away up there.

Long story short: self-esteem issues.  Everyone has them, but they all manifest in different ways.  Some people really do love themselves, but there’s always some problem, somewhere.

So what happens when I see or hear someone make an inconsiderate comment?

I get angry.  Not like writing a blog post angry, like HULK SMASH angry.

I understand that it isn’t always intentional.  But when someone posts a picture or status on Facebook saying “Such and such is stupid/ugly/full of it,” it is far from unintentional.  I saw these comments by the hundreds after the Amendment 1 voting in North Carolina.  I see them daily, as what seems like an ongoing battle between atheists and Christians.

How can anyone actually believe that bashing another party makes them any better than that party?

But Bethany, aren’t you afraid that this will make you sound like a hypocrite?

Not if it makes a difference.  So people, please be nice to one another.

Namaste.

Now back to being Bruce Banner.

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Baby Steps

That new job feeling.  When everything that you do makes you feel like a bumbling idiot.  You’re taking in so much information at once that you find yourself unable to master any of the techniques.  During down time, you have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing, and follow your boss or trainer like a poor lost puppy.

You just feel…dumb.

I’ve been experiencing this in my new job for a few days now, and I’ve realized that this is exactly how I feel in my new religion, as well. The inability to recognize the things that I already know, the things I have yet to learn, and the unnecessary information getting in the way of everything.

 

For most of my life, I’ve found it confusing that people don’t understand the difference between stupidity and ignorance.  Yet, it’s suddenly apparent to me that I’m being a hypocrite.

Ignorance is a lack of knowledge.  It simply means that you have to learn more on the subject to fully understand it, whether you’re aware of that or not.

When I struggle at my new job, it’s not because I can’t do something, it’s that I don’t know how.  I have to remain aware of that and not become frustrated.  The same applies to my conversion.  I’m not going to magically wake up one day and find myself to be a yoga master fluent in Sanskrit.  This is going to take a lot of time and effort on my part, and I have to accept that.

I’m a perfectionist, with patience issues.

I have a very long road ahead of me.

Namaste.

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No Pain, No Gain?

As a twenty year old with Fibromyalgia, this statement probably means something entirely different to me than to most of you.

First off, it implies that it is possible not to be in pain.

Have you ever had one of those headaches that throb for so long, you subconsciously start to ignore them?  Then, suddenly, you walk out into the sunlight or bump your head on something, and boom! there’s that headache again.

Fibromyalgia can be like that at times.  Sure, I have bad days where all I can think about is pain.  But I also have those headache-forgetting days, where I don’t realize how sore my back is until I bend over, or I don’t realize how weak I am until I try to lift something moderately heavy.

So how can “no pain, no gain” even be possible, in a literal sense?  I’m always in pain, so shouldn’t I always be gaining?

How about spiritually?

In Christian churches, the question that always makes the preachers visibly shudder is “Why is God doing this to me?  Why did He give my grandmother cancer?  Why did He allow me to be laid off, and lose my house?

Their answer, minus all of the flowery language and preaching, is: “No pain, no gain.”

Now, as much as I dislike their choice of answers, and their way of making you feel silly for even asking, these preachers are correct.

If I hadn’t had bad experiences with Christianity, I would never have considered another religion.  If I hadn’t gone to that awful college that put me into a considerable amount of debt, I wouldn’t have met my fiance, or learned about Hinduism.  If I hadn’t been feeling spiritually drained and hopeless, I would not have begun reading Project Conversion.

Now, obviously, not all pain leads immediately to a gain.  Not everyone can appreciate these things.  Not everyone will believe this post.  Sometimes the gains are so tiny, that it seems as if the universe is mocking you.  Like if your best friend broke your limited edition action figure, and bought you a crappy common one to replace it.

Wouldn’t that make you angry?

Of course it would.  But look at it this way: your friend cared enough to buy you a replacement.  They may not have understood the difference in the two action figures.

The universe, whether you believe in Jesus, Brahman, or something else entirely, doesn’t always give you what you want.  It doesn’t always give you what you immediately need, or what you need on some level.  You might feel that your emotional need has not been met, despite your physical need being taken care of, or something of that sort.

And do you know what?  That is okay.

It’s okay to feel cheated.  It’s okay to be angry.  But remember who you’re talking to.  Mama may think she knows best, but she’s got nothing on (G)od.  You hate your job?  Well it can put food on the table while you look for another.  Can’t get your novel published?  Maybe you’re meant to write poetry, or children’s stories.  Or maybe you just need to keep trying.

Okay, not entirely on topic, but still…

Sometimes happiness, depending on your definition of the word, can be hard to find.  But, oftentimes, that means that you’re ignoring the happiness that is right in front of you.

Don’t believe me?

How many romance movies (or movies with romance) end with the person falling in love with their cool friend instead of the incredibly sexy person who is full of themselves?

Think on that a bit.

Namaste.

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500,000 for a National Day of Pluralism

The United States was founded by people attempting to escape religious persecution.  Here’s Andrew Bowen‘s opinion on the matter:

E Pluribus Unum, though never codified by law, was the de facto motto for the United States until 1956 when Congress adopted “In God We Trust,” as the nation’s official motto. Although many in the United States indeed trust in God, it is clear that not everyone in fact believes in a divine personage and certainly not in the same manner. This divergence in belief and conviction grows more evident in our modern theater of existence on the national stage as members of various theistic and non-theistic groups create greater friction between one another every day.

I believe a National Day of Pluralism, by espousing the ideals of the nation’s original motto, would help American’s remember the multifaceted reality of these United States by encouraging citizens to participate in a day of pluralistic observation. Just as Memorial Day enjoins us to honor those who have offered the ultimate sacrifice for our collective freedom and security, a National Day of Pluralism would remind us of one of the most endearing features of our nation: That we are indeed one people out of many nationalities, ethnicity, race, cultures, philosophies, and yes, even religions.

Recognizing the duty and blessing of coexistence can only manifest with knowledge and acceptance of the various belief systems of our neighbors. A National Day of Pluralism would encourage citizens to meet their theological/philosophical neighbor on their own ground, learn from one another, and share in the unique qualities and ideals that make the United States a variable tapestry of many threads creating one piece of wondrous art.

In this light of understanding, we come to recognize the humanity beneath the skin of our faiths and philosophies. By eliminating the blight of ignorance and intolerance which currently mires our nation with divisive conflict, we can come together on one day, a National Day of Pluralism, and introduce a common goal to coexist and believe responsibly.

Like the Facebook page 500,000 for a National Day of Pluralism and sign the petition!

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Wake Up in the Morning Feeling Like…

My alarm goes off at 6:00am.  One of two scenarios:

  • I get up, take a shower, get ready for work.
  • I roll over and go back to sleep, because I was only waking up early to do a bit of yoga and pray.

Now, wait a moment. Only getting up to pray?  Only getting up to meditate and try to become closer to Shiva?

No.  That is not how it works.  So why does it seem impossible to drag myself out of bed, even when I promise myself a nap afterward?

Why is work a higher priority than my soul?

Well, there is a simple answer.  Work gives me money for food.  Work gives me something to do.  Work allows me to support my family.

Work is selfless.  Worship is selfish.

No, not buying an $80 pair of shoes when you’re on a ramen noodle budget selfish.  Selfish in that the only person that it directly benefits is me.  I am not my top priority, and I never have been.  I feel guilty every month when I see the $43 automatically withdrawn from my bank account to pay for my Weight Watchers membership.  I was only able to talk myself into that membership by convincing myself that I needed to do it so that I would live longer and be with my family longer.

My self esteem issues and selflessness are deeply rooted within me.  I’m not saying that I am never selfish, but I have always been fussed at for spending Christmas or birthday money on other people.  I have always been there for my friends, even though they’re rarely there for me.  I even cook meat and vegetables that I don’t like for my fiance, because his happiness is such a high priority for me.

I am not submissive.  I never ask his permission to do things, and we discuss big purchases like two responsible adults.  Never would I consider either of us to be subservient.  He carries all of the groceries despite my protests, and I always cook.  It’s a partnership, not an ownership.

So, I can stand up for my own well-being with my fiance, but not with myself?

I have to ponder this subject more.  I am a priority, and I need to make myself aware of that fact.

Namaste.

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Feature in Project Conversion

Namaste.

I don’t have much to speak about today (so far), but I did want to share Andrew Bowen’s post in Project Conversion today.  It is about our contact a few days ago, and how it has impacted both of our lives.

Here it is: How Project Conversion Email Reaffirms My Purpose in Life

 

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On Eggs, and Breaking the Rules

Yesterday I ate a fried egg.  Nothing fancy, just a touch of canola oil, pepper, and seasoned salt.  Done.  I had gotten some extra protein in without eating meat…..

But, wait a second.  Vegans think of eggs as meat, don’t they?  What about Hindus?  Did I just break a rule?  Am I going to Hell?

I composed myself, and tried to think rationally.  No, I’m not going to Christian Hell.  I might just end up being a chicken in my next life.  But is that even true?

I Googled Hindu beliefs on eating eggs.  None of the posts contained the same information.  It ranged from eggs being impure, to eggs being meat, to “WELL, I’M A HINDU AND EAT WHAT I WANT.  YOU PEOPLE ARE DUMB.”  Obviously, I paraphrased.

That little egg, that was never meant to be fertilized, taught me a valuable lesson.  A lesson that it will take me a very long time to fully understand.

One of my mentors, Niki Whiting of My Own Ashram, told me this:

There is no Right Way. Let that go right now, as that is a very Christian way of thinking and gets in the way of devotion and unfolding.

And she was absolutely right.  I grew up hearing “do this, don’t do that,” to the point that it is seared into my brain.  It’s incredibly hard for me to grasp that there are no real rules in Hinduism.  Whatever you do is your business, and your karma.  If you want to eat beef, you go right ahead, but you may be a cow in the next life.

You choose your own path, your own life, your own destiny.  It makes me feel so free, and yet so confused.  How can people really be so nice, and not judge you?  Judging is America’s favorite pastime, it seems, and yet there are people who are truly compassionate in the world.

So what do we do to the compassionate people?  Judge them more.  Make their religion the subject of many jokes, jokes that are somehow still deemed “okay for TV,” despite their racial and religious connotations.

This world is filled with so much hate.  It’s up to us to spread love, and try to put out the fires.

Namaste.

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Once upon a Time…

(part 2.  See part 1 here)

A few weeks ago, I decided to do some yoga.  I have Fibromyalgia, and I’m trying to become more active to help with my pain, so yoga seemed like a good place to start.  It’s light, it’s healthy, and I can stop if I hurt.  Good plan.

I put in the DVD, and was immediately met by a cheesy early ’90s introduction.  I grabbed the case and checked the date.  1990.  My yoga DVD is older than I am.  Roll my eyes, roll out my mat, let’s do this.

The woman in the DVD stood with her feet together and there was a gap of several inches between her legs.  I looked down at my own thighs squeezing against one another.  Sigh.

As I was doing the poses, the woman was talking about the spiritual parts of yoga.  Nothing too drastic that would scare people off, just little things about being in touch with your body and the world around you.  My throat felt tight.

I assumed my asthma was acting up, and stood to get my inhaler.  I began sobbing.

Sobbing?! Why am I crying?

I haven’t touched my yoga DVD since this experience.  I found it confusing, and a bit frightening.  It took several weeks for me to realize that I’m not crazy, and something really did happen while I was doing yoga.  I had a spiritual experience.

I sang in the choir in college.  I’ve been to what seems like dozens of different churches.  But never, ever, had I felt something like that.  The Holy Spirit?  Never.  But this?  This was real.  I had felt something.

It was somewhere in this period that I found Project Conversion.  As I read about Andrew’s experiences, I saw that he understood.  He understood what I believe.  I had never met him, he didn’t know I exist, but he understood.  How was this possible?  And that was when I read it.

There are literally thousands of representations of the divine, each for one or more of its aspects. This is why figures like Jesus, the Buddha, and Krishna are all acceptable as projections of the divine within Hinduism. Each are a way to Truth. When I began this month, I clearly thought that Hinduism was a polytheistic faith due to these various representations. Now I know that, depending on which school of thought a Hindu belongs to, they are either monotheists (God exists as a part of and/or outside of creation and selects manifestations) or monist (the divine is manifest in all of creation).


“Holy !@#$,” I thought to myself, “I’m a Hindu.”

Those words.  Those utterly terrifying words.  Christianity never felt right to me, because I’m not a Christian. I am not a Christian.

What does a nice, southern, Christian girl do when she realizes she isn’t Christian?  Panic and mope around for a few days.  But then I caved.  I couldn’t deny the longing in my heart.  I had to follow it.  So I texted a friend of mine, and asked her how to safely become a flexitarian (someone who rarely eats meat, but hasn’t cut it out entirely).  Even though I really don’t want meat right now, doesn’t mean I’ll be able to resist a bacon cheeseburger down the road.

Not knowing where to start, I took a risk.  I emailed Andrew Bowen.  He inspired this change in my life, so I thought that maybe he could help.  And he did.  I never expected him to answer (I have low self esteem, it’s just how I think), but he did, and it was wonderful.

He’s put me in contact with another wonderful, helpful person, and I’ve begun my journey.  However, there is a storm on the horizon.

I’m from a pretty conservative family, as far as beliefs go (not politically.  just thought I’d clarify).  To avoid being disowned or starting some sort of feud, I’ve decided not to tell most of my family, including my own mother.  Eventually, yes, I will come out about it, but I’d like for that to at least be sometime after my wedding.  My wedding will be another blog post.  Whew.

So I’m going through the biggest, most unexpected change that I’ve ever experienced, and most of my support system is null and void. For those friends that I can share this with, I am ever so grateful.  For those people who have stumbled upon this, thank you for reading.

I am terrified, and so excited, and I see a long, winding road ahead of me (not the one that the Beatles sang about, though, I think that one leads to Yoko Ono).

Namaste.

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Day Four – Musings While Awaiting Sunrise

Well, my fiance had to go into work at 5am today.  I woke up at 4:30, took him to work a bit later, and now I’m home alone.  My parents are out of town.  There’s baseball on the television, but I have it muted.  Honestly, if you’re not into baseball, you wouldn’t understand why I left the tv on during my meditation.  If you are, then you know:

Baseball is meditation, in its own special way.  There is  nothing like the feeling of settling down to watch the game with my dad and fiance.  It’s like the rest of the world is put on hold.  So, the tv stayed on.

I’ve meditated for a few minutes while listening to a mantra on YouTube that I discovered thanks to Andrew Bowen of Project Conversion (more on him later), about Shiva as Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance.  This is what really attracted me to Shiva in the first place.  I can close my eyes and see him dancing, creating and destroying simultaneously through something as beautiful as dance.  It’s alluring, mysterious…I can’t explain the feeling I get when I think about it.

At this point, I’ve spoken (aka butchered, I have to find a pronunciation guide) the Gayatri Mantra, and I’m waiting for the sun to rise a bit more before I begin the sun salutation yoga.  This all feels strange to me, and yet welcome and familiar.  It’s as if I’ve always been meant to do this, and simply never tried before.

Later, I will attempt to find decent pictures of Shiva and Durga to print out and use during my prayers and meditation.  I might add more as I learn about the many gods and goddesses, but I also know that focusing my energy on those two will be the most productive for me.

Oh, and I’ll write the other half of my In the Beginning… post, describing how I came to the decision to practice Hinduism without telling many people.  Yay.

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In the Beginning…

I was a Christian.  I was Baptized at age ten, without question.  I loved being around my church family.  But, at some point, my father suddenly didn’t want to attend anymore, and there was tension in the church.  Apparently the deacons had kicked out a young preacher, because he said something they didn’t like.

Fast forward a bit.  My mother became a traveling nurse, and I was home schooled by my father.  One of my earliest memories is watching a conspiracy show about JFK’s death on the History Channel.  Needless to say, my Daddy taught me to be open minded, and ask questions anytime something didn’t make sense to me.  I tried reading the Bible, and the only part that could hold my attention was Revelations.  I found it peculiar, but wrote it off as my imagination.

A few years later.  My mother stopped traveling, and I began attending public school for my seventh grade year.  I rented a book on world religions from the school library.  I couldn’t believe the similarities between the religions of cultures that were so different, and lived so separately from one another.  The wheels in my head continued to turn.

By the time I went to a Presbyterian college (scandalous!  My family is Baptist!) I was questioning everything.  Why would God have one special son that he sent to Earth, if we’re all His children?  Why does He change his mind so often?  Why do so many Christians seem so much farther from Him than the atheists that I’ve known?  Did none of the people around before Christianity get to go to Heaven, because they weren’t saved?  These were just some of my questions.

But I was A Christian.  And A Christian didn’t question these things.  A Christian couldn’t interpret the Bible in their own way.  At least, not in the Bible belt.  Openly supporting gay rights is bad enough, without people thinking that you aren’t a Proper Christian.

So I kept to myself.  Of the friends I did confide in, I’d say about 20% didn’t get freaked out by it at some point or another.  I signed up for a world religion class, because I was still fascinated with the similarities in different beliefs.  My teacher (the preacher on campus, ironically) explained Hinduism to us one day as having multiple deities who were all aspects of one higher power.  This was about three years ago, and I can still hear those words.

I knew, at that moment, that every religion in the world was a different way to worship the same higher power.  Now, hardly anyone likes to hear an idea like that in this day and age.  But I knew it to be true, with every fiber of my being.

And so I became interested in Hinduism.

 

To be continued… 🙂

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