Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pillars of the Path

     I have never really understood the seemingly contradictory ideas in Christianity that God wants everyone to be with Him and sent Jesus for the benefit of the whole world. But then there is alot of emphasis on "the path" being narrow. I know I am supposed to believe that the narrow path means that only those who repeat the words "I accept Christ as my saviour" will be the ones with God in Heaven. This does not settle well in my heart. Either God loves the whole world or He waits for us to mutter this phrase then we're in. Nope not buying it anymore. My God is bigger than that, big enough to love everyone who seeks Him whether that seeking takes them to mass or to temple, to a remote mountain or a sweaty yoga class. I believe that everyone who is seeking God is called by God. And while my path is to follow Jesus both as a saviour and also as a darn good role model I respect it when you faithfully walk your path. So what's up with the emphasis on a "narrow path"?

       Well, I believe the path is even narrower than we imagine. That the path to spiritual growth can only be found in this second. Remembering yesterday and predicting/planning tomorrow may have their uses but spiritual growth is found in the here and the now. In Thessalonians 5:17 God tells us to pray "without ceasing". This seemingly impossible direction is made a lot more accessible when we begin to work with using the breath to bring us into present moment awareness. At any moment in your life no matter where you are you can stop and notice your breath. And when you consider that it is with one big inhale that our earthly life beings and one last exhale that changes our form then this breath in this moment can become a holy prayer and we pray without ceasing. One of the two nonnegotiable pillars of a healthy spiritual path then I contend is Present Moment Awareness. The good news about this is that awareness (being awake to spiritual truth in this moment) is cumulative. I started my awareness journey years ago by meditating 3 minutes a day and while I slowly added on to my seated meditation time over the years the more important fact is that those mere 3 minutes began to lead to moments of awareness in daily life. This is not unusual, it is just how it works. You introduce mindfulness to your life in any amount and it begins to grow and wonderfully infect all areas of your life. Jesus was an awesome meditator and He tells us to follow Him. A quick online Bible search turns up 25 instances of us being told to meditate in the old and new testaments. So what are you waiting for? Don't just sit there and do nothing:meditate!

     The second nonnegotiable pillar of human evolution is compassion. Remember the answer to the question "What is the greatest commandment?" "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as you love yourself". So what if you don't like yourself? What if you hate your neighbor? Well, these are just emotions and all emotions are just thoughts that we have written a story about. Compassion has very little to do with emotion! Compassion is cultivating a friendly open curiosity towards yourself, God and people. Compassion is listening to someone without writing a story about their story. Compassion is noticing when our own behaviours disappoint us and sitting with that disappointment without judgement. Compassion is simultaneously saying no to our ego and not demonizing itbut remembering that we must love all parts of our self.
Who is more compassionate the person who writes you a love poem or the person that listens to your worst sins and still walks by your side without judgement? Can we be this person for ourselves? I find that when I am teaching a class if I have prepared for it with a self compassion moment the people in the room seem softer and more open. If I am compassionate with myself as I grocery shop sometimes a person will make bright and loving eye contact or the checker may sense the compassion waving off you and stop for a deep breath.

     So no matter your path, your religion or your spiritual practices are you will find that the twin pillars of Presence and Compassion are the legs that walk you down that path. I love this because these two holy states are available to us always and everywhere. Maybe three minutes is too much for you today, how about three breaths? Maybe self compassion is overwhelming and too uncomfortable to consider right now. How about cultivating compassion for your ceaselessly beating heart or your hardworking feet? There is a seed of Presence and Compassion available for you to grow in every moment. And when your present moment life begins to unfold before you, you discover the truth of Acts 17:28 "for in Him we live and move and have our being" . You are never alone but rather surrounded by Loving Presence. When your compassion begins to mature it makes your easy moments sweeter and your challenging moments softer.

When you learn self compassion you are Love; When you cultivate Presence you are living in Love.
Let's begin here.
Let's begin now.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thy Kingdom Come

     When I take to my mat with my highest intention it is always to connect to God. Sometimes, of course, I do yoga for other reasons, but the deepest desire of my life and practice is to be more intimate with God and to allow the man made separations between us to dissolve like the illusions that they are. So it was,  that I found myself practicing my asanas (postures) to the mantra (chant) of the Lord's prayer. This is the prayer in which Jesus models how to pray. Of course we aren't to just blindly parrot His words but to use the Lords Prayer as a template to go deeper. It begins cordially enough acknowledging God "Our Father Who art in heaven" acknowledging that even His name is holy "hallowed be Thy Name". But then the first direction it gives us to pray is "Thy kingdom come". If this is something that is important for us to pray I want to know why.  What is God's kingdom? How do we make it come? I have lots of questions that wikipedia doesn't necessarily cover! Here's the answer I am exploring at the moment. Romans 14:17 "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking but a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit". So, most of us get that our food choices are linked to health and ethics but not really a huge factor in our God relationship. If we are eating spiritually the only command we are given is to not be a glutton and to not let our food choices stumble others. So, being a proactive person, I'll move on to the "doing part"... I want to be righteous and peaceful and joyful if this is how God is calling us to bring His kingdom. But how?

     Righteousness is simple. Not easy, but simple. Righteousness comes from hearing the Word. What this means is to simply know the rules and laws of your chosen faith structure and follow them. If you wanna be a righteous citizen follow the laws of the land you live in and if you want to be righteous in God's eyes, follow His commandments. So to this end I am recommitting to daily time in the Bible. I have not allowed my daily quiet time to lapse, but sometimes I just read an inspirational book or meditate and it is not sufficient to be righteous. If you want to be a righteous Muslim, read your Koran, if I want to be a righteous version of myself I gotta get into the scriptures I was born into: the Judeo Christian Bible. Don't just expect God's laws to soak into your psyche, study!

     Peace, again simple in concept, peace may take a lifetime to become a constant reality in our lives. To the best of my current understanding, peace is uncovered in us when we are satisfied that what is happening in the present moment is God's will for us. And if we subscribe to God's omnipotence (which I do) then every moment and every space is occupied and under the command of God. So we may not like what is happening in a moment but that does not mean we cannot accept it as His will. Accepting Gods will is not resigning to pain and miserable moments, but rather knowing God is with us in all of our moments the ones we label good and the ones that hurt our heart. When pain comes, we can struggle and moan and potentially exacerbate our pain, or we can accept it is under Gods control and turn to prayer for direction and comfort.

     Joy is the quality I am most actively exploring right now. Joy in the Holy Spirit seems to emanate from a renewed mind. A mind that is placed on God and His word. A mind not allowed to run amuck, but rather a mind that is examined, cleansed and mostly controlled. I have been watchful of my thoughts and beginning to recognize unhealthy ones as they begin. We all have joyless thoughts, they just happen but what are you going to do with them? The first thing God tells us to do with our thoughts is to examine if they are true. Are you really a hopeless loser or is this thought a lie? Are your thoughts lovely? If your thought is not true it must be replaced immediately with a true thought. for example  "I am a loser" can be replaced with " I am a cherished child of God".God calls us to true, lovely, noble, pure,  good and kind thoughts. A tall order, I know, but an achievable one with time, diligence and persistence. And it is when we line our thoughts up with God that we are joyful in the Holy Spirit. Joy is not found outside of you, but uncovered as you slowly allow your mind to be transformed. So, there it is: righteousness, peace and joy! And just like we are to take to our mat daily if we want to rock those yoga postures we need to work our righteousness, peace and joy daily if we want to be a part of "Thy kingdom come". It is my joy to walk with you fellow child of God as we go deeper this year. Happy 2013!

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15