It will take me some time to process what I learned about myself in London. I knew it would be an eye-opening journey – I was travelling with my mother and visiting family I’d never met before – but I didn’t expect to be so confronted by my own views on family and religion.
I was brought up within a minority Shia sect of the Muslim faith. This group differs from the majority of (Sunni) Muslims in many ways – too many to go into here (and I’m not an expert anyway). I remember going to mosque as a child and not really getting what was going on. My grandparents were extremely religious, my parents less so – but we still attended mosque somewhat regularly.
Being Muslim was my identity. Back then, I referred to all my white friends as ‘Christian’, regardless of their spiritual belief. ‘White’ and ‘Christian’ were synonymous in my little mind.
I always resented that I had to be part of a religion that didn’t get to celebrate fun things like Christmas and Easter. But I also felt conflict and guilt that I didn’t like my religion. My mother tried to make me see the positive aspects of the faith, but it never took. I didn’t understand any of the rituals (and wasn’t motivated to really explore them), and I’d get preoccupied by the dynamics of the people around me. At mosque, I was irritated by any gossiping I heard, or excessive dressing up. It was hard to see beyond those things.
My deep conflict surrounding religion was majorly triggered in London. Several of the family members I met have converted to the more traditional Sunni Muslim path in recent years. They view this path as more ’true’ and ‘logical’ to follow. Each family gathering I went to in London involved discussion of religion and over the course of my trip I was becoming more resistant, irritated, and yes, judgmental of those around me. I was also experiencing the old feelings of guilt, alienation, and fundamental wrongness. I am so different from these people! What would they think if I started talking about ascension and starseeds and blue rays?!
On some level, I always thought that ‘someday’ I would embrace my faith and make my mother happy by attending mosque more often. What I realized on this trip is that might never happen. I mean, I really got that. I also understood that my deep resistance, guilt, and judgment was showing me that more healing is needed. I know a part of me still views the faith through the eyes of an alienated child who wanted Christmas instead – and that’s the part that needs compassion and release. I will never find peace with my religion by running away from it.
I know that there are beautiful aspects of my faith, and I’ve seen the peace and kindness in my family members who credit their religion for helping them be better human beings.
I also know that my own inner truth is longing to be heard, and that it could be very different from the truths of my parents, grandparents, and the long line of ancestors behind them. This path is lonely, scary, doubtful and, at times, filled with grief. It has felt like a betrayal of my family, and of God. But my own truth, whatever it is, isn’t going away. I love that meditating in the mosque makes my mother so happy. But I want to meditate beyond the mosque.
It’s possible that my ancestors are jumping for joy at what’s happening within me, and on planet earth in general, as many of us are finding our own ways of connecting to God or Spirit (or not). Maybe those in my lineage are thrilled that I’m rediscovering my ancient Indian yogi roots! Maybe they’re excited that I and many others are taking it beyond religion, as we expand into something that transcends any doctrine, belief, or dogma.
London is one of my most favourite cities ever…even more so now. I can’t wait to go back for more.