Thursday, 26 April 2012

A few answers

The answers to my questions about my Christian faith and yoga have come slowly (and there are still some I haven't found). Mostly, it has been a case of living with the questions, continuing to practice and to pray and talking to some wise friends.

For example, after I'd been doing yoga for about six months I went to visit a friend of mine who is also a priest and also practices yoga. I wanted to see what she had to say about this 'dual approach'.

I told her that I was concerned that practising yoga would cause me to lose my Christian faith, and that I would be letting God down by exploring yoga. Her response came in the form of a question that has stuck with me ever since. She said: Do you really think that Jesus would let you go just because you practice yoga?

After a few moments' thought I replied that, no, I didn't think he would ever do that. I felt that the Jesus I knew and loved would know that I wasn't trying to replace him - more that I was trying to grow closer to him in a new way.

And I keep coming back that question whenever I begin to doubt my love for Jesus: Do I think that he would abandon me because I follow the way of yoga too? Not in a million years.

But to hold on to that takes courage. Because it means moving away from an old way of believing (i.e. not having the courage to find my own way of following Jesus) and moving towards a new way which comes from the heart. And it means, for me at least, trusting Jesus more than I did before so that I can be the person I am now in his presence.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Not without its problems...

So discovering yoga (or being discovered by it) is the most significant thing that's happened to me in the last two years. But it's not been an easy journey.

I've had a lot of doubts and questions about yoga and about whether or not I should practice - a lot of things to work through.

The main issue for me has been the potential clash between yoga and my Christian faith. And because my faith is so much part of who I am and what I do, that's caused me to ask a lot of deep questions.

For instance:

Is yoga, with its roots in Eastern religious traditions, likely to take me away from my Christian faith?
When I do yoga, am I praying to a deity in whom I do not believe?
Am I serving 'two masters' - yoga and Christ?

And, perhaps most difficult:

When Jesus speaks of 'losing the self' how do I approach yoga's invitation to discover my true self?

But don't worry! There are some answers!

Friday, 20 April 2012

So what's changed?

What's changed?

A lot.

A couple of years ago I began to have the feeling that I was living most of my life in my head - an intellectual existence. My job (or, should I say, vocation) involves a lot of thinking, and planning, and words. A lot of meetings, deadlines, hours at the computer, time wrestling over the right phrase or the right course of action.

Not only that, but my vocation means that I was giving about 95% of my time to other people and I often felt that my identity was disappearing. Not good. Not good at all. But I felt so called to live that life.

So what to do?

I'd looked in passing at yoga a few times before: a flick through a yoga magazine, a browse on the web, just to see what the appeal might be. And the thing which stood out most clearly was that this was a way of life which wasn't located solely in the mind - the body and the spirit had something to say, too. And this was the missing bit. To get the balance I was so badly lacking I needed all three parts of being human - mind, body and spirit - to belong and exist together. It had to be yoga.

So since then I've done a year and half of classes, plus a daily practice. And I'm reading up on yoga theory and philosophy, too. And I'm seeing changes, little by little.

What I'm striving for is summed up wonderfully by yoga master Donna Farhi in her beautiful book, Bringing Yoga to Life:

When we are in full command of our physical, mental and emotional capacities and in complete possession of our self, we begin to live fearlessly and to open to new experiences, new possibilities, and new challenges.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Planting the first seed

It's been a long while since I wrote a blog, and a lot's happened since then. For example, I practice yoga now. Every day. In fact, that's probably the biggest thing that's happened to me in the last year.

And so, I feel that it's time to start writing again. Because it's not just straightforwardly practising yoga, as though I was just trying to get into shape (and at my age, that's an issue!). No, it's just as much about continuing to find out who I am and how I can relate to the world with integrity as my experience of life changes. And yoga is helping.

I'm no expert. I fall over in simple poses. I often find that I'm as inflexible today as I was yesterday. I find that a 20 minute practice sometimes feels like an hour and three quarters.

But I'm here, and I'm in for the long haul. I now find that I can't do without yoga. And I never thought I'd find myself typing that sentence.

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