Monday, May 28, 2012
Yesterday, I shook hands with a woman at church who was in a wheelchair. She was beautiful, a brunette with long shiny hair and big brown eyes, and a huge smile on her face. She couldn't have been too much older than me. Obviously a woman of faith, she seemed completely content with her life and shared her joy with others. I felt happier after speaking with her.
Then, I found out this woman used to be a full-functioning "normal" woman with a great job and a prosperous life, until she got into an awful car-wreck and is now paralyzed for the rest of her life and needs around-the-clock help. She could live at home with her family in Mississippi but wanted to live in Atlanta on her own.
Now, that to me is courage and that is faith, and whenever I start to think I have a really huge problem, I'll try to think of the amount of strength she must have inside of herself and how huge her spirit must be.
1. I can wake up everyday, put both of my feet on the ground and engage in life. I also have the power to make my life miserable or make it as joyful as possible.
2. I have a healthy body and I am able to participate in activities I love (i.e. yoga, running, hiking, swimming, eating, etc.) because of that. I have enough food to nourish my body everyday and I have the choice to respect my body and take care of it.
3. I have people in my life who love me and who will always be there for me when I am hurting, and visa versa.
4. I have a healthy mind that allows me to do other things I love, like writing, reading and learning. And, I have the power to create peace and balance in my mind if I consciously work on it.
After my run, these are the thoughts that drifted into the forefront of my brain, after a day in which I was probably taking all of those wonderful things for granted. And sometimes, no I don't have the energy to "consciously create balance in my mind" but that is okay. It's ok to have some days of mental chaos and distrust that life is working out the way it is supposed to. It's hard sometimes to remember that but I believe if we can always keep (or try to) the grateful thoughts in our minds and hearts, regardless of what happens externally, we can realize how much we have already. We can see clearer, and life becomes richer and more meaningful.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Most mornings I try to read a Hindu Sutra, which was required material during my yoga training. I made a decision, I guess you could call it a New Year’s resolution, this past January: Most mornings, I will read a sutra and let it sink in, reflect on it, then re-write it in my journal to fit my perception of it. I am happy to say, I have carried through with it, and my journal is now full of my interpretations of each sutra (I’m a little over halfway through now), along with random prayers, thoughts, drawings and yoga class plans.
A few months ago, I was reading a few sentences explaining why it is important for a “yogi” or practitioner to turn back to his or her religious foundation once they started to delve into Hinduism. Most messages inside the sutras are indeed hard-hitting and impactful to me, but I could go as far to say that this one was personally transformative. Being raised an Episcopalian and coming from a southern religious family, I have struggled with balancing my yoga practice and spiritual beliefs with my relationship to Christianity—until now.
“For those students who have rejected a particular faith tradition, it might be beneficial to review at least some of its fundamental teachings, prayers, customs and practices….Developing a deep interfaith-based vision of spirituality is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the Yoga Sutras.”- Hindu Sutras, Pada Two
In the recent past, I thought, “Well, I can’t call myself a Christian or read any of the scriptures because that would be contradictory to my study of Yoga.” And I would still go to church from time to time and always enjoyed it, but just made sure I was mentally-detached from the Christian philosophy. My parents would cringe when I said, ‘Sorry guys, but I’m not a Christian.”
And I get that. They watched me be baptized, take First Communion, sing in the choir, perform in Christmas pageants, get Confirmed, and they plan on seeing me married by a priest. I understand why those words would bother them. Luckily, my parents are the type to let me figure it out in my own time, in my own way, so they would just nod their heads and say Okay.
But in the past few months, I’ve realized how comforting is to turn back to the Church in a connected way, in a way that makes me feel okay about carrying out my Christian roots. Just because I’ve devoted a chunk of my life to the practice of yoga and studying the Sutras to better understand where yoga comes from, does not mean I have to cut off my Christian past. As corny as it sounds, my childhood in the Episcopal church was a beautiful one and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
This morning, I was sitting in church listening to the Sermon about transformation and making changes with God’s help to become a better person. The preacher talked about how important it is to recognize when God is truly doing work inside of you, and to make a conscious effort to create more moments in your life like that. Instantly, I thought about my yoga class I had taught 24 hours before that service. When I am teaching yoga or practicing yoga, I feel the most present, compassionate, spiritually elevated and free from my mind’s exhausting agenda and any of life’s distractions. I feel like teaching is my opportunity to spread a little bit of God’s everlasting peace, strength, joy and love.
“All faiths contain the same essential universal teachings.” – Hindu sutras, Pada Two
In other words, we are all after the same thing, at least those of us who choose to believe in something. We all pray to the same God, we just have different names for Him, we just envision different manifestations of that “Higher Power.” So now, personally, I prefer not to say, “I am Christian,” or “I’m not Christian” or “I am Hindu,” and so on.
I just have a whole lot of faith and make sure it keeps getting stronger. And that’s really all that matters.