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Global Mala and Sweet Om Alabama in Birmingham: an Interfaith gathering

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The term Interfaith simply means a healthy respect for all religions, faiths, and also belief systems that incorporate no transcendent or metaphysical beliefs. The term Interfaith Christian means that although the person is Christian (i.e. believes Jesus as the way to heaven for himself/herself), he or she respects the right of all individuals to decide for themselves what the path should be. Obviously, Interfaith Jew, Interfaith Buddhist, Interfaith Muslim, and so forth, would also mean the same thing: The individual has decided what is right for himself/herself, but allows for the freedom of all people to make that decision based on their own understanding of the Divine. And simply Interfaith would mean that a person has no preference of one way, but samples from the buffet of religion and spirituality because he or she sees the Divine inside and outside of all faiths and religions.

Yoga and meditation can be seen as Interfaith practices. Yoga and meditation instructors and the community at large care not which deity name a person prefers, and consequently, many include them all in practice. After all, the name isn't the important part, right? When anyone realizes the quickening within that signals a connection with the Divine, that person only has his or her language to identify the source, right? So if a person was raised in a Native American family or a community of Jehovah's Witnesses, the terms he or she understands and are practiced at saying will vary. Does that mean the Source is different? In addition, if a person had no structured religious base from which to draw, the quickening within could be termed nature, or higher self, or soul.

In yoga and meditation, participants are taught such terms as opening or aligning or going deeper: All are terms that in a spiritual sense take people to meet that which is decided is the right term for them alone. The terms also refer to physical postures: straight lines, erect back, shoulders back, and the like. The instructors stress the recommendation of going only as far as is right for the person, with no competition, and always listening to inner guidance. These gifted spiritual people understand that the Oneness of this planet and of humanity is dependent upon each individual's relationship and understanding with his or her deepest self, and the understanding of that which is Divine.

Interfaith religious services can be difficult to lead or attend, because the fear is ever-present that someone will be left out with the wrong use of the reference to the Source. Those who were abused in some way in a traditional Christian church might feel isolated by the reference to God as a "He", and may have turned to a softer understanding of the Divine Feminine. Incidentally, those who have failed to understand God as truly being present in this everyday mess may see God as withdrawn or judgmental, and a different word--or phrase--may have been adopted to account for this, such as: The Universe, The Infinite Source of All that Is, or the Is-ness. The problem with it all, remains in the terminology alone.

God as sole Creator conjures in the mind's eye an array of possibilities ranging from the bearded one in the sky to some scientific explosion, and many areas in between. It's really no different from the term car. If we hear car, it is likely that no two people will envision the exact same make, model, and color of the car, and yet all people know what a car is, and can agree on its function, for the most part.

This is where people committed to yoga and meditation are displaying their Interfaith beliefs.

Yoga and meditation teachers don't attempt to call the Source by specific names. The generic references leave people the freedom to call upon whatever they believe in and by whatever name they prefer to use. (And if ever you attend any event where a teacher tries to tell you the ONLY way is through a certain path, roll up your mat, pack up your cushion, and exit immediately!) This is part of the beauty of the community of teachers and practitioners in yoga communities all over the planet. If a teacher is a Hindu, the students in the class would never know it (and the same goes for any other religion).

This is why yoga and meditation have seemed threatening to fundamentalists of all religions throughout time: They both allow for a personal understanding of that which most can all agree is Divine. Fundamentalists who seek to make the world all of one religion (or destroy those whose beliefs differ) are threatened by the portal that opens with many who are attracted to yoga and meditation. That portal is the direct link with the Great Mystery, and that is just scary to people who have been taught to believe in one way only. They sometimes think that because their religion works for them, it will work for everyone else, and they are so convinced in fact, that they will often go to great lengths to prove it.

The term energy is often used within yoga and meditation, and it is no different from the Holy Spirit for a charged Christian worship service of any kind. And an energy worker is really no different from any type of minister who is blessed to have special gifts of connection with the Divine. The word theology is also not limited to Christian studies of God, but is inclusive to any theory and discussion of the Divine.

With all that said, you are cordially invited to join yogis all around the world in conjunction with locals for Global Mala weekend as they come together at Cahaba Pumping Station for Kundalini Yoga and Meditation on Friday night, September 23rd at 6:30 p.m. and again on Saturday morning at Vulcan Park at 8:00 a.m. for 108 Sun Salutations (yoga) as Global Mala is celebrated and shared with those in the Birmingham area. Sweet Om Alabama is the name of the organization here, who puts together events such as this in conjunction with worldwide peace and service projects. The aim is to aid and assist in empowering each individual soul to seek and arrive while growing in his or her spiritual journey without regards to any religious or faith base. T-shirts can be purchased with proceeds going toward outreach programs for kids at-risk. For more information, check out the official site at www.SweetOmAlabama.org, or look them up on Facebook.

My personal favorite places to practice yoga, mediation, and community are at The Yoga Circle, Studio G, Birmingham Yoga (inside First Avenue Rocks), Heartwood Yoga, and with Deb Paradise (meditation and community) although there are many more from which to choose.

Laurie M. Knight is Interfaith, believing in the personalized experiential nature of the Infinite Source of All that Is, and on a journey to lead with love, respect, compassion, and gratitude toward a more unified world. She writes, teaches, holds the Net of Light, receives many blessings, and remains open to whatever the Universe wants to drop in which inevitably leads to expansion. Purchase her book Journal to the Center of the Soul through any online bookseller, and find her through Facebook. Namaste.

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