I Was Raised A Devout Catholic. Here's How Yoga Redefined My Idea Of Spirituality
I am a female lawyer. Although lawyers, even female ones, are generally regarded as soulless bottom feeders, my professional journey has actually been central to my life's spiritual journey. This spiritual journey led me from the convent-bound Catholic girl to civil rights lawyer and single mother to yogi. I am a lawyogi.
As the third of 10 children and the first girl in my Irish Catholic family, I was precociously pissed off at the obvious misogyny of the Catholic Church and its entrapment of Catholic women. Still, I experienced a rich spiritual life while growing up here, and the pursuit of justice became part of it. My original plan to escape enslavement was, oddly, to become a nun. I was disqualified from the convent, however, when I got pregnant my senior year at Rosary College. So I got married and stumbled into the very trap from which I was plotting escape. My next gambit had to set me free.
Yoga means union of mind, body, and soul, and I grabbed on as if to a life raft in choppy seas.
By the time I graduated from law school in 1975, I had three preschool-age kids and a husband, at a time when female lawyers comprised less than 3 percent of all lawyers and were generally unwelcome in law firms and the halls of justice. Viewing my law license as a ticket to adventure, with no real plan and mostly on a lark, I started my own practice.
But I quickly realized I now had a platform to right some of the wrongs I had been inventorying since childhood. I was dead serious in my pursuit of justice for my clients. Simply keeping mind, body, and soul together became an increasingly difficult challenge. I struggled more and more with my practice of Catholicism and its dogma and started to feel drawn to a feminine Divine.
A spiritual crisis was inevitable, and a rip-roaring one brought me to my knees amid a family crisis when three of my kids were in middle school. I decided I was a failure as a mother, a Catholic, and a woman. All the judgment of Catholicism that I had so neatly packed away and denied suddenly loomed up as an insurmountable obstacle to a happy life.
Then my 14-year-old daughter Erin introduced me to a more evolved and kinder spirituality in yoga and meditation. Yoga means union of mind, body, and soul, and I grabbed on as if to a life raft in choppy seas. Erin and I went to a 7 a.m. Ashtanga class every morning for several years, as yoga and meditation became a part of my very being.
Most days over the ensuing 29 years of practice as a female lawyer have started and ended with some form of yoga and meditation practice. I use shoulder stands and headstands to bring myself into balance when I have difficulty sleeping and use conscious breathing practices and visualizations throughout the day to center myself so I can navigate the battlefield where I fight for justice for my clients. Also just to keep from jumping out of my skin.
Daily conflicts in my law practice are tolerable only because of my spiritual life and practices, and I now, after all these years and several life-threatening health crises, take only cases I believe are truly about justice and are congruent with my spiritual life.
Every morning, I sit before my candlelit altar with statues of both the Blessed Mother and Ganesh. Just beyond my open window a fountain gurgles in my balcony garden now fragrant with jasmine. I watch little birds take turns at the fountain. I am at peace.