I really enjoy musicals, I also enjoy walking in nature and spending time with my family who I love. These things are a part of who I am in only small measure. The deeper me, the one full of experiences in this life is sometimes more difficult to get to know. Sometimes I am full-out in the sun, clear and bright. But there are places, experiences within me that are beneath the water or hidden under the protective overgrowth of scars that keep me walking through life pretty happy. Every now and then though, when a bump in the road suddenly appears, I get thrown off kilter.
Breath is life, without it we literally can’t exist. Inspiration filling us revives as the exhalation emptying creates release. Our yoga classes always begin with the breath. Feeling and deepening the breath. Then to just be, to sit with the breath as we feel this body we inhabit. Noticing tension or heaviness we can breathe into these spaces with our imagination. We become fully present as we focus on breath and body. And then, sometimes, a wondrous awareness occurs. Emotions may rise, joy or sorrow, strength or fear and connections occur to let us know a deeper part of ourselves that has been hidden away, waiting to be revealed.
This week I had the opportunity to explore some of those places within as I moved from breath, to body, to awareness, in Gestalt Pastoral Care class. A new opening to grace as I shed tears that washed away debris and allowed light to reveal a new knowing of myself. The song from “The King and I” began running through my head this morning, “Getting to Know You” “Getting to know all about you, getting to like you, getting to hope you like me. Haven’t you noticed, suddenly I am bright and breezy. Because of all the beautiful and new, things I’m learning about you, day by day” Written by Oscar Hammerstein II in 1951, in the play a teacher is singing to her new and foreign students. But I sing it to myself with joy and anticipation to greet the child, teen, adult within me and uncover the beauty and mystery of my life. I learn that deep sorrow and pain can be a wonderful teacher and that I am never alone on the journey. We can walk the road together.
May you get to know and love yourself.
The woods declare the Glory of God. This was the thought that came to me as I took a walk this weekend. It has been my experience that everything is a lesson but I find that nature is an exceptional teacher. Each stroll or view provides new insights into who I am and where I fit in the creation. Each meditation on the beauty in the stillness speaks volumes better than the A – Z in my old Britannica Encyclopedia.
Take a walk with me in these woods, silent except for bird and cricket song. The scent of pine occasionally breezes by. The soft floor of old leaves, moss and acorns provides a silencing of footfall and a gentle ground to stand. Some trees are so tall, high above our heads as they reach for the sunlight. Others, small and thin sit in their shadows with anticipation of growth. Some of the larger trees bear scars of natures effects, broken branches, leaning and bent in unusual growth. The sun which covers the tallest of tree tops filters down to gently touch the ground in a mosaic of light and dark. The smallest trees and bushes receiving only a small ray of the warmth. It is peaceful, it is beautiful, it is in some places rough and dark.
What did you notice or feel? I became aware of challenges. I wondered did the slow growth and protection of the small struggling trees create a stronger taller tree in the end? I think, they can’t uproot themselves to move into the sunlight so they must grow upward. I see children, ours, who struggle in shadows, I see elders, bent and scarred yet still tall and strong with the experiences of growth brought about by things they could not control. And in their lofty stance protecting the little ones. In the sunlight I felt the Creator of it all dappling down and calling each one to grow. It was then I thought, the Woods declare the Glory of God.
May today provide an awareness of God in nature and an insight into challenges.
I find at times that deep meditation is difficult for me. There are others as well who are revved up by life or just their metabolism who find it a struggle to quiet the mind. It begins just fine. I breathe in and out slowly and set a mantra or focus point for return when distracted. Then the thoughts begin. Ideas and things to do begin dancing around as I struggle to maintain quietness of mind. Some days it’s just a no go and I let go. Meditation is just that. Letting go of my grip on trying and just being. So what if all these images and words fly into my time of supposed peace. Like dreaming I think these things say something to me, so in the moment I resist pondering and just observe.
I return to the breath and the image of sitting on the shoreline watching. It is here, when I release judgement on the thoughts jumping in, truth presents itself as guide. Minutes dissolve as awareness becomes. Birds chirping outside the window, the clock ticking, the cool air brushing past my arm are all in this present moment of bliss. My awareness tunes in to God and the presence within me of Holy Spirit is filled to the top with peace, love, joy. Perhaps it is just a moment but that is all that is needed. Just that, a moment of being, silence, presence.
Have a blessed week of presence,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. [2Co 1:3 RSV]
Some days what I see right in front of me are challenges and when I attempt to see beyond them anxiety empties me and I am filled with lethargy. I can choose to go with this feeling, to sit in self-absorbing distress in front of the TV with a bag of chips. And believe me, I have done this. Or, I can turn to what I know is true. Love.
Another word for Comfort is Contentment – Santosha is the Sanskrit word for contentment and is one of the Niyamas (rules of behavior) in the eight limbs of yoga. It means finding peace within you when outer experience causes distress. The big things, like losing a loved one or loss of a job or home can be overwhelming and comparably small things like financial difficulty, conflict at home or work or just having way too much on our plate create emotional and physical pain. Even the anticipation of these creates dis-contentment. What it is within me that can bring relief? “To be or not to be” content is really the question.
It is interesting that in New Testament Scripture (NIV) Jesus never used the word “comfort”. He does use the word “Love” 217 times. “Love God , Love your neighbor, Love your enemy” are foremost in his direction. He goes on with stories of what that looks like. It is the decision to Love God and not money, it is the generosity of sharing loaves and fish, and it is the help toward healing of the Samaritan. It is in His example to go into the garden or up on the mountain alone to pray that I find my direction.
In the quiet space and time of meditation I focus on Love. I use it as a mantra along with “peace be still” (Mark 4:39 ) to slow my breath and busy mind. Here I come to the truth of Love. Love is not always comfortable but it always comforts and God’s love fills my empty spaces with light so that I can see there is nothing in the present or future that can’t be healed. I remember with gratitude those who have and will help me and I am inspired to be a help of Love to others. Peace and contentment fill me now, for this day.
May you find peace and contentment this week.
Do you ever wish someone would just come to their senses and do the right thing? Do you ever think that about yourself? I know that many times I do not. I can be quick to point the finger away from myself and slow to turn the wrist the other way. What’s up with that? Finger pointing is not a yoga pose, nor is it helpful in relationships. A very famous and humble teacher once said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2
Sensibility is the coming to know your-self and how we see that self in our relationship with the world and with others. It is also awareness of our presence in a space and time. When I am excessively occupied with activities, things-to-do and worry, my sense of self is diminished. I separate myself from what is present and important, from people and from God.
Every time I teach a yoga class we begin by creating awareness. We feel and deepen our breath; we feel our feet or bottom on the floor. We begin to feel – become sensitive to the space we are in. It is a part of what I have been studying in Gestalt Pastoral Care courses that demonstrate how we hold wounds, physical and emotional in parts of our body. And in our human nature to protect our image of self we bury the hurt, the shame or the fear. We get busy or overeat or use substances to entomb the feelings.
So often in my own Gestalt work I come to the truth that the flaws I see in others are present in my own wounds. In the practice of yoga the asana (poses) opens areas of the body we hold closed much of the time. The breath combined with movement may bring about feelings or sensations that rise to our awareness. The time of meditation opens space to experience internal and external sensations. We become sensitive to our inner being and can explore our self while God’s grace meets us there.
When I practice this, a light of compassion always rises in the morning of my soul. Others become mirrors for me instead of irritations, and I learn. Yet still I avoid or distract myself and a reminder comes that urges me to get out the mat and get to work.
This week I pray you are open to your senses, all of them. And that you find your-self growing to find peace and compassion for yourself and others.
I am not flexible. That is not really true. As a yoga teacher I have greatly improved my physical flexibility with practice and patience. But if I look at myself compared to others, specifically other yoga teachers, children, those who are double jointed or acrobatically inclined, I am not flexible. There is much more to this though and if I look through the narrow lens of body image and ego I make judgments about myself that serve only to hinder my growth.
I am flexible. At the age of 60 I can move into poses I could not have done in my twenties. It is work and devotion to keep moving toward growth and includes the knowledge that God strengthens and uplift me to overcoming fear and my own self inflicted limitations.
I am flexible. Through life events and changes I have learned to be flexible in attitudes and beliefs. Change is a good teacher if we allow it to be and God’s grace is always available to help along the way.
This week I will continue my physical practice of flexibility but will also spend time to look in. To seek awareness of how others and my own thoughts and ideas hinder growth. As trees sway in the wind, I hope to sway in the winds of life, firmly rooted and grounded in God’s grace as well as growing tall and strong, remaining flexible.
May your week be filled with flexibility and growth in mind, body and spirit.
Clearly the theme this week is cleaning out to make room. Not getting rid of old stuff for different stuff but the cleansing that removes what does not enrich me and making room for grace. Isn’t that what the gospel message is about?
So I wonder and grieve that we seem to have it all wrong. That our lives are made so much more difficult and painful by our (and I mean humanity in general) unwillingness to open ourselves to the rich experiences of life, joys and sorrows, and instead point at what is wrong with others. Our egos are in the driver’s seat and we have put away teachings of love and mercy.
Cleaning out my wallet I found a dollar bill. On the back someone had written “GOD IS GOOD” across the top. Next to it in different pen was the exclamation “NEVER” and written across the bottom “ ‘ GOD’ F—ed my life in the ass” I have no idea who wrote this painful lament and certain that the one who did was not aware that this was a prayer. So I prayed with her/him for God to make visible the love and mercy that is the only cure for this dis- ease with faith in a loving God.
What I am not certain of are the events and people who led this person to the belief that God is the one causing the pain. I can only imagine what those circumstances might have been. Perhaps parents or pastors who professed belief used God as a source of fear and punishment to keep the kids in line or judge their actions. Perhaps a modern day evangelist taught condemnation for divorce or homosexuality or the myriad of other human branded “sins” we commit. Or maybe this was a person of great faith who suffered a greater loss. Our moments of deep grief can have us shaking our fists at a God who would allow such pain.
Surrounded by a world of pain, it is a gift that I get to work in such a beautiful place at Quinipet on Shelter Island. Pondering my recent experience at an “Opening to Grace Retreat” as I walked on the beach, what flooded in was how much had been required for me to open to the God of all grace and compassion. The beach was quiet and deserted. The wind was calm and the sun warm. The water was clear and shimmered with greens and blues. It was after a storm and among the shells and driftwood there was so much garbage that had washed up on shore. I was amazed at the number of coffee stirrers, straws, bottle caps and ribbons. Articles of other’s celebrations now discarded carelessly or lost and then purged onto the shore during the storm. As I walked along cleaning up, the theme of cleaning out to make room came back to me. Streams of events and people who shaped my life and the awesome creator who will redeem all things….if we allow. The cross is the ultimate symbol for me of sacrifice for others sake and the deep painful wounds of ugly torture that were turned upside down to become Love. It is the deepest and greatest Love of all.
On this beach I have been able to reflect on the blessings in the pain. Memories of walking here with my children and granddaughter filled me with joy. Thoughts of those sisters in faith who walked with me here long ago filled me with gratitude. On retreat God helped me clean out the trash left in me by events and people and see the blessings and openness left behind. I pray that those who feel f…’d by God can open their hearts to Love. But mostly I pray that we stop pointing fingers, laying guilt and blame and begin to open our hearts in love and compassion to everyone.