I once saw a quote that read, "Self-improvement is nothing without self-acceptance."
The words nearly knocked me out of my chair. I had never heard it put so plainly, so clearly. This feeling I knew so well, had never been communicated to my head and my heart so effectively.
I spent the vast majority of my life feeling as though something wasn't right. I didn't fit in. I wasn't thin enough. I wasn't smart enough, or worse, I was too smart. There were so many things I couldn't put my finger on that made me feel "less than;" and I was determined to change them all. I would dress certain ways, speak in certain ways, hang out with certain people. But there was still something off. I had cultivated the "right" everything on the outside, but I still couldn't shake that feeling that something was wrong.
It wasn't until I started practicing yoga that I started to really come to terms with who I am. I was forced to look at all the areas of my life where I felt lack and accept them as they were. And oddly enough, that's when things started to change. When I started to feel comfortable in my body just as it was, is exactly when things started to change for the better. It's exactly when I started accepting who I truly was that I felt empowered to move forward in my life and make lasting positive changes.
I learned so much about myself. Coming to terms with my sexuality felt like my life got turned right side up. So many aspects of my life and who I was suddenly made sense. Discovering this part of myself and learning to speak it clearly and bravely in today's culture was a revelation for me.
The next one, though, was the biggest. Shortly after moving to Austin I was encouraged to attend a church with a funny name that practiced the style of meditation I had been practicing for the last year at my yoga studio in Arkansas. The second I set foot in the sanctuary I felt at home, which was surprising considering I had left the Church and organized religion almost a decade before and never looked back. This place was different, though. It felt like the yoga of church. The more I attended and listened to the teachings the more I felt my heart on fire. I had finally found a place and a group of people where I fit, where they spoke my language, where I belonged. I was home.
Suddenly, I was faced with a new acceptance to undertake: I had to come to terms with the fact that I was a Christian. I feel as though my story is backwards from most Queer Christians I know. The story usually goes, "I'm a christian, and I'm working through my sexuality." I found myself saying, "I'm Queer, and I'm working through my spirituality." I still find myself shying away from labeling myself as a Christian because of the extreme amount of negative energy associated with that word in today's society. I want to say, "I'm a Christian, but not that kind of Christian," (sung to the tune of "not all men!")
What I've learned is that I am that kind of Christian. Or at very least, I was. I was militant. I was closed-minded. I was vehemently anti-LGBT. I was exactly the kind of Christian you didn't want to be around. And I honestly thought I was doing the right thing. By the grace of God, I was lead out of the church and into the real world. The things I had been taught as a child didn't line up with my experiences. I couldn't reconcile the giant world around me with the shallow spirituality I had been given. So, I left. I quit God, the Church, Christ, Jesus, all of it.
I thought I was fine. I had dealt with my spirituality. It wasn't until grounding myself at The Church of Conscious Harmony that I was able to see the deep psychic and spiritual wounds I had been carrying for the better part of a decade. Going toward eastern spirituality through yoga and meditation gave me more openness and a new framework, but it didn't address the wounds the West had given me. When I began to see and accept them in this new context, they began to heal. This new Christ-centered spirituality was deep, deeper than anything I've ever experienced. It swallowed up all my experience, held it all lovingly, and gave it a place, gave it all meaning.
And here I am. A Queer, Christian, yoga instructor, working to accept myself fully and hoping to empower others to accept themselves as well. Because it's from this place that we can really begin to heal and make space for others to do the same.