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What Are You, Religious or Spiritual?
By:Tarra Marie Mitchell

I was raised Catholic and, while I like some aspects of the faith, I was always quite unsettled that my Mother and Stepfather were never seen as married in the eyes of the Catholic church because my Mother and Father couldn't afford to have an annulment when they got divorced. We were really poor and so food on the table for my very young sister and I was a priority over an annulment. I guess the Church would rather the family remain together in a broken household OR not feed the kids but pay for the annulment. I've been questioning religion for quite some time and the older and more culturally aware I've become, the more I've questioned.

The warfare over the years even today in the name of religion is just so medieval and backward and so very unenlightened. Much of the fighting and death toll over the decades has been between religions that are only slightly different in their beliefs and traditions. Aside from the warfare issue, I also am also unhappy with the lack of modernization among most religions - society evolves and so must religious practices. Certain core beliefs should be maintained but not those that run counter to the basic evolution of society. Once the 'equal rights' amendment for women passed, the Church should have found it appropriate to bring 'equal rights' into its practices for example. Beliefs should be held up to the standard at the level of morals and values, which has to do with the everyday behaviors and treatment of one another rather than with specific roles and traditions. The roles and traditions of most Religions were based out of 'stories' interpreted and written into texts long, long ago, these interpretations were most certainly influenced by society at that time and most certainly were created as a way to facilitate control of the uneducated masses. There weren't separations of Church and state at the time of early religion and in some countries today there still isn't a separation.

Over the years I've tried to learn as much as I could about the beliefs and traditions practiced in various religions. I have visited Mosques in Egypt and Dubai, Buddhist Wats in Thailand, Cambodia, Korea and Japan, dozens of Cathedrals and Churches in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Canada... , Shinto Shrines in Japan, and Chapels in Africa etc. I ask curious questions and read. What I learn also comes from my diverse set of friends and family who call themselves Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Mormon, Buddhist, Atheist, Jewish, Unitarian and who knows what other names I've missed.

Now I am using as my guide the 8 limbs of Yoga. Yoga isn't a religion it's a way of being in life. Yoga is really a complement to any religion. Many people call themselves religious but they don't practice the basic moral laws of their religion in their everyday life. So, I'm left feeling that there's a difference between being a religious person and a spiritual one. The first 2 Limbs of Yoga offer the moral and ethical basis for living that is common to all religions. Given that Yoga is much older than any religion, one can surmise that the basic, good aspects of behavior in life as communicated through different religions all come from the same starting point somewhere along the line. Why do we care who follows what religion? Shouldn't we just focus on the way we are being in life every day and how we treat others?

An investment professional yogini, Tarra serves others by teaching yoga asana, philosophy and other life lessons in the classroom, on her video series, and in writing on her blog ( http://www.tarrayoga.com ). Tarra offers years of wisdom regarding yogic living, nutrition, sustainability and roles of working women and mothers. Tarra also combines her financial and yoga expertise by advising and supporting entrepreneurs in the LOHAS sector.