The problem with labels

I always seem to carry inside myself this sense of not really belonging.  As if I never quite fit the labels in just the right way.  I think in my teens and early 20's I really tried to fit, but it never seems to be a game that can be won.
To be fair, part of the 'not belonging' has to do with choices in lifestyle.  After all, I'm a Texas girl, yet embrace being vegetarian.  Or that I don't watch the news because I don't want the stream of every evil thing that happened on the planet today to obscure all the beauty never reported on. But others have to do with core wiring--like that I'm Christian but I believe salvation is a "whole human race" thing and not just a "some people" thing. Or that I'm drawn to people more different to me than alike.

Oddly enough, at the moment, the label I'm struggling the most is: yogi.

For context, I love yoga.  I feel like I've discovered something I've been looking for all my life.  For an uncoordinated 'smart girl' who was never able to catch a ball, finding something physical that I enjoy and continue to improve at is a big deal.  But my love for yoga goes beyond the physical. I like the stillness of it.  I like the quiet it brings to my mind and the sense of God that flows over me whenever I finally reach savasana. (The pose at the end of every yoga class where you just lie on the floor and be.)  I like how holistic it is encompassing mind, breath and body.  I like the emphasis on mindfulness, kindness, truthfulness and love. I like the other yogis--interesting, vibrant people who come to yoga from a thousand different backgrounds and for a million different reasons.

But some of my Christian friends are cynical.  They feel there is a conflict between the label of yogi and the label of Christianity.  Sometimes I wonder if they are confusing yoga and Hinduism.  (Note a lot of people practicing yoga are Hindu since the country of origin is India, but not all Hindus practice yoga. Many Christians and Muslims do too.) Or maybe the conflict comes from the tendency of Western Christianity to think of the body as fallen and therefore not worthy of care. Or maybe they don't really believe that the Holy Spirit would lead us into anything different than what has been sanctioned and approved by the current thinking of the church.  Even though almost every story in Scripture is about people following God into places that were counter-cultural. And beyond that, the church has changed its stance many times on things they were simply wrong about.  Reference changes in doctrinal statements related to dancing, drinking, racism and the role of women.
But probably most challenging is that labels--no matter how accurate--are two-dimensional categories for multi-dimensional people. They limit rather than liberate. They define rather than expand. And my guess is that no matter how many labels are assigned to you, that they fall terribly short of the person you are inside.

The danger in labels is in when we try to fit to them.  When we attempt to be exactly what the label tells us we should be.  That puts us in a position of not being true to ourselves.  And being in conflict with ourselves is a recipe for unhappiness.  At our core, we have to be who we really are--even if the labels don't quite fit.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall