Sunday, March 18, 2012

You know that dream where you're naked in front of a crowd?

Wow.  Stage 1...complete.  It's a bit surreal to think I now have a piece of paper that says I can teach yoga.  I still can't believe it's already been 6 weeks.  But though everything and everybody has been amazing, I am ready for stage 2.  I do have one more week in India where I'll be traveling around with Klara and Deepa, and from there I'm heading to Thailand.  Crazy...crazy good.

So this week started off with a cleanse.  It was a yogic cleans called shatkarma where you drink 15 glasses of salt water, do some asanas, and clear out everything in your bowels within a few hours.  Now I've never been one to buy into the bowel cleansers and this experience has pretty much solidified that choice for me.  Pooping water - not fun.  Pooping water on a squat toilet - even less fun.  I'll stick to cleaning out all those 'toxins' with my good 'ol fashioned high fiber diet.  And because I usually do eat a lot of fiber, I didn't notice feeling any different after the cleanse.  I did take the opportunity to adjust my bowel flora by eating tons of yogurt after the clearing, and I did give up sugar for the rest of the week in order to make sure the flora growing process went the way I desired.  But enough about my bowel...

After the cleansing, we burned the drawings we had been working on for 5 weeks.  I can't say was terribly attached to mine, even if I was surprisingly proud of how well they turned out, so I didn't mind them going up in flames.  But some people created complete works of art, and it was difficult to see those go.  After the fire, we were supposed to collect some of the ash and offer it up to the Ganges along with something else more internal we wished to let go of.  I did do this offering and it was a great experience.  It's interesting to me how a physical ritual really can help support a spiritual sacrifice or decision.        

The next day we started classes again with one of the other students giving a lecture on the Bhakti doctrines of hinduism.  It was an incredibly interesting talk, and afterward, I got into a discussion with Roshan about whether or not those who are enlightened would have the capacity for a physical body.  While discussing this, he invited me to teach a class just talking about the things I know.  I thought he was joking and just laughed at him.  Immediately after this invitation, I got into a rather lengthy discussion about religion with Roshan and a few other women in the group.  I mentioned that I was Mormon and Roshan just had this look of utter shock on his face.  Pramila, an older Indian woman that lives in Canada mentioned she was familiar with the church due to some good friends being Mormon.  I was glad to hear she had a good impression.  I asked her if she saw the similarities I saw between Hinduism and Mormonism.  She confirmed that I am not the only one seeing those 'coincidences.'  Roshan then again proposed that I teach a class, and again I just laughed at him.  I was sure the last thing a large group of liberal minded free spirits would not want to hear about one of the most conservative Christian churches in the world.

That night I didn't sleep at all, and I knew why.  The Lord had basically handed me a golden opportunity to share and strengthen my testimony, and I laughed at it.  So, the next day, I told Roshan I'd teach.  I knew it was what I should do, but so much of me was terrified at the thought.  I worried I would muck it up and be completely incoherent.  I worried about possible hostilities and contention that might arise in discussion.  But mostly, I worried about the fact that I would probably be the only exposure the majority of people in that room had to Mormonism, and I didn't want my shortcomings to incite loathing Mormonism for the rest of their lives.  So, I did what I always do when I feel under pressure.  I called my mom and asked her to pray for me.  I love my Momma.  And I have an INCREDIBLY strong testimony of the power of prayer.  In particular - my momma's prayers lol.

Being the wonderful mother she is, she said she would, let me use her as a sounding board for what I thought I would teach on, and then put me to bed via skype with a bedtime story from the Gitta (hindu scripture) because it has some stark similarities to the war in heaven.  Haha I love my family.

The next day I stood up in front of those 50 people and gave a lesson on The Plan of Salvation.  I drew the diagram, explained the cycle, and explained Christ's role in the whole thing.  Surprisingly, everybody was incredibly curious and receptive to the whole thing.  They did ask a ton of difficult questions and actually seemed satisfied with my rather difficult answers.  I feel comfortable saying that the Spirit was definitely present in that room, in particular with the people listening to me.  I was figuratively naked in front of this crowd, and they were nothing but wonderful to me.  My faith is a very vulnerable subject for me because it's so close to my heart, and it's something I rarely discuss unless someone really wants to know.  The thing that probably most surprised me, was how much they wanted to know.  In just under an hour, I fielded a vast array of questions.  Everything from "Are you Christian?" to "Is homosexuality considered a sin?"  One girl even asked me if I would consider myself a liberal Mormon.  I had to kind of laugh because I wasn't really sure what that meant.  But then I thought of all the hours I've put into searching the scriptures, praying for answers, attending the temple, and reading modern day revelation.  Without really knowing what she was asking, I just responded with "No, I'm about as Mormon as you can get."

That was a self-identifying moment for me.  I've always felt the church was true, and I've never been ashamed to be Mormon, but I don't know if I've ever really owned how "mormon" I am.  Perhaps it's because the colloquial context of being "super religious" usually means being anti-social, judgmental, and weird.  But I suppose that's the beauty of this Gospel.  I can honestly say I am EXTREMELY religious, and not feel ashamed about it because the more you understand about the Gospel, the easier it is to love, interact with, and see the divinity in others.  Anybody who struggles with seeing the potential in everyone around them has a lot to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, no matter how Christian they may claim themselves to be.  And as different as their beliefs, choices, and lives may be from mine, those people in that room are absolutely brimming with divine potential.  I'm excited to see what they do with it. 

After the lecture everyone was incredibly sweet.  They kept telling me how brave I was and how they really enjoyed the lecture because they really didn't know anything about Mormonism - well other than what you hear in the media - and that it was nice to finally understand where our beliefs came from.  Many mentioned how they really liked how the diagram clarified things.  My friend Lesley even asked me to check the diagram she had copied into her notebook because she really wanted to make sure she understood it all.  Several other people said they thought the whole thing was brilliant and really liked how it correlated so well with everything we'd been discussing for the past 5 weeks.  It was nice to get that confirmation from so many others.  As nervous as I was about it, I can honestly say that this was a fantastic experience for me.  Thank you to Roshan.  He has done more for me than I think he will ever know.

That evening, it was my turn to teach a yoga class.  After the afternoon's adventures, teaching yoga seemed like a cakewalk.  I started class by teaching everyone how to move their hips like Shakira.  It was a great ice breaker and a good chance to go over something several people had been bugging me about since the talent show.  The rest of class was mostly core work, followed by a very long relaxation, and ended with some breathing exercises.  The great thing was there was only 10 people in my class because half of the students were sick with Giardia.  Ok so maybe it wasn't so great for them, but I really enjoyed my small class. 

The next day we watched Baraka.  It's a movie/documentary of foreign lands/people/animals with music, but no words.  As always, my hands needed some preoccupation and my friend Erin offered to oblige me.  As I started to play with her hair, she mentioned some bumps she had from brain surgery and said she never gets head massages because the bumps freak other people out.  Considering how many hours of back scratches and scalp massages I've given and received over the years, this kind of broke my heart.  Erin is an incredibly sensitive soul with a heart of gold and a generous nature.  I couldn't stand the idea of someone denying her something as simply pleasant as a scalp massage just because she's had brain surgery that left some scar tissue  She's definitely one of those with magnanimous amounts of potential that is glaringly obvious to everyone except her.  I hope she one day sees how powerful she is as clearly as I do.

That night, I went to Oasis to break my sugar fast with some dessert.  Chandra caught me on the way and mentioned how much she appreciated my lecture that week that week.  She apparently had no idea I was Mormon and mentioned she was a little worried because she had had this impression that I was going to marry a black man, but she didn't think black Mormon men existed.  I tried to convince her there is such a thing, but she still didn't believe me until I showed her pictures. Haha I'm telling you, that woman makes me laugh. 
And that leads me up to today.  We had our last class this morning on the banks of the Ganges.  I was actually able to do a headstand on the sand - so I feel super cool about it.  It was a great class and a great way to end the course.  That afternoon we did a feedback session that really turned into more of a thankamony/testimony meeting.  Then I went into town for some shopping and lunch.  Serendipitously, I ran into Karen right before.  She had tea while I got some food, and again I lost track of time as we expounded about the world, life, and the future ahead.  We barely made it back in time for pictures and the evening's ceremony, but we did make it.

A ritual, a sitar concert, and countless pictures later, I receive my teacher training certificate.  After some chocolate cake Deeno made us for the graduation, I started packing.  Goodbye Rishikesh! It's been great.



  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience, Cherie. And kudos for teaching that class on the church. That would be challenging for anyone, returned missionary or not. I'm proud of you Sis.

  2. What an amazing experience! I love how you describe the difference the Gospel makes. I love it! You are simply brilliant, and I am so proud to know you :)

  3. Cherie...I seriously just love you.
    Congrats, and enjoy Thailand!