I'm reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda right now and really enjoying it. These people be crazy. And I am totally buying into it. I stinking love yoga.
I was introduced to yoga (hatha, to be precise, and I wouldn't touch another type for 10 years because I am a snob) during high school by my Young Women's president, who happened to be a yoga teacher. It always seemed funny to me to meet her in the Relief Society room for yoga every Thursday after school. Something about doing downward-facing dog and sun salutations in church seemed mildly sacriligious, too pagan or something. Ha! Now it seems so fitting that I was introduced to this "technical science of God-realization" by my spiritual steward during one of the most impressionable phases of life, when I was just beginning to realize my inner divinity. This was my first experience uniting body and spirit in a quest to be still and know God, even if I wasn't 100% aware that that was what I was doing. I just knew that I loved it.
College began a long period of being that person who "LOVES yoga" but actually practices it maybe twice a year. During my last pregnancy, however, I got back into walking the walk. As I studied and practiced more, especially as I started really expanding the meditation practice and exploring the spiritual theory and roots of yoga, it once again became a craving I was anxious to satisfy instead of a chore that required very reluctant dragging of the self out of bed. In conjunction with a renewed zeal for scripture study, I noticed a shift occurring in my life. My priorities were changing in healthy ways, a process I still see every day and anticipate will continue forever. What I was most excited about, though, was that I was seeing huge growth in my spiritual gifts.
In Yogananda's book, he relates many of the powers inherent to a highly advanced yogi. These include visions, levitation, perceiving others' thoughts, healing self and others, controlling the weather, seeing the future, dematerializing and reappearing elsewhere, being multiple places at once, and, of course, uniting with God in a state of omnipresence and omniscience. A couple years ago, I would've been, ahem, skeptical, to say the least. Now? I am not a highly advanced yogi (more like a baby yogi), but I've experienced the power of God. I've learned not to place limits. I'm cool with all of the above.
So none of the fantastical stories from his life thus far have caused me a moment's pause. What did cause some reflection, however, was figuring out how yogic injunctions to reject familial relations fit in with my belief system. While family life is considered a noble pursuit, the highest spiritual path is renunciation of all things of this world--18 hours of meditating every day for years and years to achieve enlightenment, that kind of thing. This is obviously in contrast to Mormon theology, which teaches that the family is not only the highest spiritual priority, but that it is also the entire point of the existence of this earth. If family is not necessary and in fact a barrier to true unity with God, that causes a major problem. We subscribe to capital-F Family, extending backward and forward and criss-crossed in a giant net of every single member of humanity, sealed together and to God in temples. We teach that these ordinances are necessary for exaltation, and that's why we're all crazy about the missionary effort. We want to unite our families.
Reading about the teachings of these gurus who describe experiences with divinity that I can identify with and therefore trust as authentic led me to some serious pondering. I believe in the sanctity and necessity of temples, but I will admit I don't fully understand what that means. I probably barely understand, if that. But how could they be necessary if these people who vehemently reject even basic marriage and family are achieving the Ultimate Goal right here and right now, alone?
That's when I realized my answer: what these yogis describe is not actually the Ultimate Goal, or at least it's not mine. It's darn near to it and a lot closer than I think most of us will ever get in this life, but it's not the end. Dwelling with God and in God is not being like God, at least not in the most sacred sense. My studies led me to Doctrine and Covenants and statements from modern prophets, all talking about temples and families and exaltation in the celestial kingdom. And that was the key for me: exaltation, that highest degree of glory, where not only can we dwell with God, but we can also be made partakers of all that he has, including the active, creative power of eternal continuation. Living in families and sealing them together on this earth is not a barrier to God-realization. It is learning how to find God in the profane while learning to be like God, like our Eternal Parents, creating and continuing forever.
I want to go on, but this is long enough, so suffice it to say that I am so grateful for the restoration of the gospel. All truth will come together into a giant whole in the end, and I'm loving watching that happen in my life. I love the truths I'm discovering through yoga, and I love that I can examine them through the lens of revelation, both personal and prophetic. But most of all, I'm so grateful for my family. They make 5am look even earlier than it is and provide plenty of barriers to my daily efforts to be still with God, but they give me a greater motivation to do it in the first place and teach me to find quiet holiness in the midst of chaos. I'm grateful for the help I receive as I try every day to step into my goddess role of Mother, even though I usually look more like Crazy Baggy-Eyed Girl Who Is Loud All the Time. The important thing is that I'm trying every day to nurture the seed of my true identity, as well as those of my husband and kiddos. And maybe it'll take us longer than a cave-dwelling yogi master to find that eternal peace, but I love that we can find it together. And during the Millennium, we can do the yogis' temple work and they can teach us how to teleport ;)
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.