Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Tag

Normal Turbulence

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These days, I’m coming to appreciate mere normalcy more than ever. You know, the kind of day when you wake up, make some coffee and breakfast, go to work, maybe see a friend for lunch, make dinner, hang out with the fam, and go to bed. A day devoid of drama — nobody’s died, nobody’s almost died, nobody’s been convicted, nobody’s getting divorced, and nobody’s been shot and killed at the local mall. In recent times, all of those things have happened, and some have become shockingly common occurrences. There’s nothing particularly special about any of this…these things happen every day, all over the world. The density of these events in my life, however, has sometimes been breath-taking; not to mention that they’re happening to people I love. I’m realizing that this is, in fact, “normal,” whether I like it or not. Joy and pain are two sides of the same coin in this life; a few things are helping me navigate these turbulent waters:

Rely on your community. I’m fortunate to be part of several communities of people who I can count on…family, church, and yoga communities. I’m not doing life on my own. While my tendency is to cocoon, especially when it all seems to be too much, I’m learning that reaching out is better than withdrawing.

Remember to be grateful every day. No matter what’s happening, there’s something to be grateful for. Find it. As Meister Eckhardt wrote, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” I’ve taken to watching at least part of the sunrise every morning, giving gratitude for the new day and the Creator who made it.

Keep the big picture in mind. Some days are harder than others to hang onto the belief in a Grand, Good Plan. And yet, all is despair without that faith. Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, “I’ve got to get this thing, what it means to trust, to gut-believe in the good touch of God toward me, because it’s true: I can’t fill with joy until I learn how to trust.” There’s certainly no joy in stress! So rather than wearing stress as some weird badge of honor, I’m continually choosing to trust God. Sometimes it’s a minute-by-minute thing, and that’s ok.

Stay present to your breath and your body every day. Shocking, I know, that a yoga teacher would say this! But here’s the thing — if you’re paying attention, really paying attention, to your breath, then you’re automatically being present in that one moment. Your mind isn’t wandering to the past or future when you’re focused on this very breath — a welcome mental break. Being present, breath by breath, also plays a healthy trick on your nervous system, and calms you down despite your best efforts at hysteria. Try this:  sit somewhere, and notice the parts of your body that are touching something…feet to the floor, butt on the chair, etc. Sit up tall and take a hand to your heart. Place the other hand on your belly. Relax the tops of your shoulders down, away from your ears. Close your eyes if that feels comfortable, and begin by noticing the rise and fall of the chest. Gradually allow the breath to deepen into your belly, and let the belly expand into your hand with every inhale. A long, smooth exhalation finds the belly retreating inward. Notice the warmth beneath each hand. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring awareness back to your breath. Allow the sense of yourself sitting and breathing to really wash over you, to renew and refresh you.

Be generous with “I love you.” Just say it, every chance you get, over and over and over. Make no assumptions about what someone knows. No matter what we know, we all want to hear it.

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.
One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut,
or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.
–Mary Jean Iron

View my complete schedule of yoga classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

Keeping a Vacation Spirit Alive

I’m just back from a wonderful week of relaxing vacation with friends and family. Now home, I’m wondering how to hold on to a little bit of last week’s spirit…less frenzy, more peace, more fun. I never wore a watch last week, didn’t check my calendar, and only occasionally looked at email. I rested, walked the beach, read, played games, floated in the Atlantic, and practiced yoga. One of my favorite spots was on a deck swing overlooking the ocean, breathing in gratitude and letting go of stress. Ah, the bliss of free days!

With the return to my normal life, there’s laundry to do, bills to pay, errands to run, and myriad other mundane tasks. Riding the wake of vacation, though, I find myself navigating through stress a bit more skillfully. Deeper breaths, a softer tone and demeanor, and more conscious gratitude envelop me. I’m blessed in so many ways — supportive, loving friends and family who know me and love me anyway, a truly wonderful “work” environment (I still can’t believe people pay me to teach yoga and help run a studio!), many creature comforts — and yet peace can be so elusive.

Taking a yoga class yesterday, my teacher encouraged deep breaths, a personal pace to the practice, and feeling the earth beneath our feet and hands. It was just the message I needed to hear. Full, nourishing breaths helped me find spaciousness inside and calmed my mind. Pacing the practice to serve my own needs strengthened my resolve not to let my busy calendar push me into a frenzy. The grounding practice I enjoyed in class reminded me that God is always with me and that I am best served when I relinquish control. While that deck swing and the Atlantic are miles and miles away at the moment, I do believe I can still feel a touch of ocean breeze and taste the salty air!

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

The Calm Amid the Storm

I’ve had a stormy week, for reasons I can’t easily explain. I sought solace on my yoga mat again and again. My best times were with students, teaching. Guiding them through a practice drew me inside, even as I engaged with them. The rhythm and pace of the practice, the laughter and smiles, brought a measure of peace for which I was very grateful.

And so this is life:  ups and downs, storm and calm, tranquility and strife. Our challenge is to walk through it all with courage, being true to ourselves, and always working toward the best. As we walk on this earth, life will never be perfect. The mindset of “…and THEN I’ll be happy” is pure foolishness. Minute by minute, life is moving by.

When a storm hits, how do you make your way through it? How are you in the middle of it? After it’s passed, do you spend some time reflecting and considering what you learned? How do you support others through their turbulent times?

Here are a few things I know for sure:

  1. People matter more than things.
  2. Never underestimate the power of your words.
  3. I’m not responsible for other people’s “stuff.”
  4. I’m never going to be perfect, so I might as well give up the idea and be okay with it. Ditto for everyone else.
  5. No matter what, I return to gratitude for all that God has blessed me with.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
-Hebrews 4:16

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia! Free classes the week of July 9.

Light Brings Life

The lengthening days of spring as we head toward summer solstice on June 20 are something to celebrate! More sunlight hours beckon me outside onto the deck in the evening…with dinner al fresco, I linger outside, reveling in the last moments of light and enjoying the birds, deer, and foxes that make their home just outside my yard. Each evening outside is a little mini-vacation, and I’m refreshed and renewed.

Light is more than just something to read by; it’s the very source of life. Nearly all life on earth depends upon the sun! Don’t you love its warmth shining down on you? Being outside is one of the ways that so many of us relax and nurture ourselves. In many cultures, light is a symbol of consciousness. God is often spoken of as the source of light; Jesus is considered the Light of the world.  The contrast of light and dark enriches any experience:  poets write of shadow and light to engage our emotions, artists use shadow and light to create depth and dimension. Times of darkness teach us to appreciate the light when it shines brilliantly into our lives, just as the cold days of February invite longing for the sunny days of spring.

The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit, is a dynamic series of poses (asana) that require precise physical alignment and engagement with the flow of breath in the body as heat builds. The body-mind softens as tensions dissipate and we create a silent “meditation in motion.” The Sun Salutation originated almost 3000 years ago as a ritual bowing to the dawn; the sequence draws us inward toward a humble adoration of the Light.

May the lengthening days bring a smile to your face and invite a sense of gratitude in your heart for all the good things in your life!

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

Staying Grounded on a Bumpy Road

It’s coming up on a year since my husband and two daughters were each hospitalized for different reasons, all within about two weeks of each other. Some of this was planned, some not. None of it was pleasant of course, and taken as a whole, it was something of a nightmare. In the midst of so much uncertainty, I relied on what I know: faith, family, and some close friends. Life is stripped down to basics when the road gets bumpy, and I was reminded of what’s most important. My take-away was a deep sense of gratitude, and that gift hasn’t left me, even a year later. I’m thankful that I have an abiding belief in a God who’ll never abandon me and who has a plan that works for good; for a family foursome that pulls together in a heartbeat; and for friends who’ll pray with us, bring dinner, and who understand that some good wine, chocolate, and laughter are essential elements of sanity. These foundational elements…faith, family, close friends (who bring wine and chocolate)…kept me steady.

In yoga, too, we rely on our foundation. The dictionary defines this as the basis or groundwork of anything. Yogis know that your physical foundation is whatever part of your body is supporting you in a pose — your feet, sit bones, or hands. We set the foundation with great precision and care, because it underpins the whole pose. And then we hold ourselves strong in that foundation, solid & sure. That bedrock keeps us physically safe, and so long as we hold strong within it, we can count on it. We find lightness and power in our bodies, and more strength than we thought we had.

We can learn alot from this basic, beginning lesson from the yoga mat, and take it out into our life. What do you hold onto when push comes to shove? Can you hold steady, receiving support and not holding onto more than is necessary? Are your roots deep and strong? I love this quote from Paolo Coelho, a Brazilian writer: Everything will be okay in the end. And if it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

Hope Lives!

When I was a kid, my friend David and I loved to play inside the honeysuckle tree that was part of the natural divider between our yards. We would sit under that tree playing for hours every spring, fully enveloped in the heady honeysuckle scent. Those days were sweet and carefree!

As we move into spring, the days get longer and nature is reborn. The pulse of life is everywhere. After the dark, cold days of winter, we’re ready for new life and hope. As I enjoy the blooming landscape and the music of children playing outside, this spring I’ll also savor the greatest blessing: the Empty Tomb, as Holy Week concludes with an Easter celebration. Hope lives!

Spring is also a time of budding energy within ourselves; especially if we’ve nurtured ourselves well during winter, energy abounds during the spring months. It’s a great time to dig into a more energetic yoga practice! You’ll hear and feel your breath, and you’ll notice the blood flowing within you. These are tangible reminders that you’re alive, and that Hope lives within you.

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia. Free classes coming April 2-8!