Thursday, August 30, 2018

Some Thoughts About Yoga as Spiritual Practice

Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our true nature.  –Henri Nouwen

Nouwen is speaking of the importance of solitude, but I also believe these words have applicability to the practice of yoga if one is approaching yoga as more than simply a way to exercise. I encourage students to come to yoga with openness, because the physical practice is only a part of the overall aim and philosophy of yoga.

The physical practice of yoga becomes a spiritual practice when we are able to extend grace to ourselves. We learn our limitations and do not view these as deficiencies. We accept and honor our capability, yet always seek to do the best we can do. When we can accept and honor our own capacity, it then becomes possible to accept and honor the capacity of others.

Our ability to accept our wounds makes the physical practice of yoga an exercise in spiritual growth. We may have injuries or conditions or aches and pains that bring us to yoga in the hope of finding relief. It requires vulnerability to accept and work with the wounds we have, be they physical or emotional. As we learn to love our bodies and what they are capable of doing, we find healing of attitudes that may be more limiting than the wounds themselves. Our culture does not encourage vulnerability, so the ability to hold our woundedness lovingly grows us spiritually.

Finally, there are poses in yoga that challenge us, that invite us to move past fear of failure, that coax us to try, in a safe space, something we may not have thought we could do. For me, that was a significant aspect of spiritual growth. Yoga helped me to be strong in the face of fear, to “breathe through the pose,” and come out on the other side more confident than before. In yoga, I discovered strength within me that I wasn’t aware I possessed. I know where that strength came from, so yoga has helped me to tune in more fully to the presence of God’s spirit in me.

Thursday, August 9, 2018


“When an unclean spirit leaves a person, it wanders through dry places looking for a place to rest. But it doesn’t find any. Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the place vacant, cleaned up, and decorated. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself. They go in and make their home there. That person is worse off at the end than at the beginning.  
–Matthew 12:43-45

Let my heart not be found vacant, Lord,
well-adorned yet empty. Let my heart be
filled with warmth, love and your presence,
that I may walk in your way,
that I may radiate your love to others.
Fill me full of yourself, O God.
Leave no cell void of you
that I may dissolve into you

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Birthday Reflections

I celebrated my birthday this week and I certainly know I have much to celebrate. I am living in a place of fullness, joy and peace that I could have never imagined for myself. Some people use the expression “living the dream” sarcastically, but I use it with sincerity. Friends of mine have heard me say that truly, I am living my dream. I am grateful for the way my life has unfolded to bring me to this place of deep gladness.

Frederick Buechner says this: The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. When I first heard this quote, I was in a season of discernment about what I sensed as a call for my life. Following that call took me from what felt comfortable and predictable and set me on a journey that defied any effort at making a five year plan. Even if I had made such a plan, the events that unfolded along the way were ones I could have never predicted.

Fullness of life doesn’t mean rainbows and unicorns. I went through the hardest season of my life thus far in the years between following this call and now. In fact, there were days dark enough and circumstances unsettling enough that I questioned my worth and my call. But God’s love was manifested to me in the love, companionship and encouragement of friends. I likewise realized that the consistent practice of centering prayer and lectio divina had led to a sense of God’s presence that sustained me. I was grateful that I never felt abandoned by God, even when I questioned everything else about my life.

As I reflect on life at the conclusion of another trip around the sun, I can’t think of anything I’d wish for if I had birthday candles to blow out. I am grateful for each moment. I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for the communities to which I belong. And yes, I am grateful, supremely grateful, for the season of struggle, the pain and the people whose words and actions hurt me. Without them, I would not be where I am today. I would not have learned and lived the truth of death and resurrection in such a palpable way.

So I celebrate that I have been born and that I have been reborn. Life is good. Thanks be to God!