working out what life and call and prayer and silence are all about

Archive for June, 2015

Dealing with the Hard Stuff: Yoga Teacher Training Week Two

Everything is hard here. Even breathing is hard.

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That look on my face- it says it all. The concentration. The introspection. The hard work. And all I’m doing is breathing.

But it’s not just the new breathing techniques I’m learning, trying to understand their different effects on my body and imagining teaching others to breathe in these ways. It’s also the Sanskrit syllables that now float through my brain, unrelated to the poses I’m trying to memorize. And it’s the 8 Limbs of Yoga (principles,) 5 Yamas (social ethics,) and 7 Chakras (energy centers) I have to memorize by next week (and did I mention they’re all in Sanskrit, too?!) Plus, my body isn’t used to such a long yoga practice every day and I’m learning I have limitations in sometimes very public ways. Everything’s hard here.

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So Sunday I was looking for some relief, something recognizable, something that felt like home. I needed to center myself, ground myself and rest. I went to worship at Memorial Presbyterian Church, an historic congregation in downtown St. Augustine, where I had a connection with one of the pastors (we went to preschool with the same incredible Montessori teacher!)

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I entered the massive sanctuary which was already crowded with the people who knew to get there early. As a latecomer, 10 minutes before worship started, I was seated in the back section, underneath a gargantuan scaffolding erected for restoration of the interior. As I settled into the uncomfortable pew that had been keeping parishioners awake for generations, I noticed that the pastors, instead of wearing the typical Presbyterian black professor-type robes were wearing white albs and colored stoles, just like my own Lutheran tradition. I let out a little sigh – home. As the service continued, we prepared for the Gospel reading by singing, “Alleluia! Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia! Alleluia!” with the same tune I’ve been singing since I was young (that’s LBW setting 2, for all the Lutherans out there.) Again, I sighed – home. The service continued with a commissioning of church camp staff, reminding me of my summer spent with Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Florida, and a sermon from the senior pastor that I would have preached myself. We closed with a verse of “Go, My Children, With My Blessing” which never fails to bring tears to my eyes, and I was filled. Filled with love of God, filled with gratitude for the music and worship, and filled with peace down to my center. I was home.

On the way out, I connected with that fellow pre-schooler. In the midst of hundreds of worshippers, I happened to be sitting across from the one person I wanted to meet. Grace is funny like that. On the steps of this historic church, Pastor Amy and I shared memories of our teacher who came to the U.S. from Ceylon (Sri Lanka, south of India) and the incredible influence she’s had on our lives. I reflected on how strange it was that two Protestant pastors would name a Buddhist teacher as a formative figure. And that’s when I felt it. I began to sense something stirring within me, drawing me outside myself again. The Spirit was compassionate in nourishing me with a worship service that touched my soul, but was not content to leave me there. I was being called back into the world, back into the newness, back into the challenge.

It may be that I still have lessons to learn (and definitely more Sanskrit to memorize!) It may be that I am called to share what I’ve already learned with others. And it may well be that the true purpose of this outward movement won’t be revealed right away. But one thing I know: I am called to leave the comfort of my pew and get out and explore the world and the people and creatures who live there, so that together, we can create a new tomorrow, full of grace and hope and love.

How to Prepare for Yoga Teacher Training

Me on the far left, pink shirt

Me on the far left, pink shirt

One week ago, I was a bundle of nerves. I was preparing for my trip to Discovery Yoga in St. Augustine, FL for a 5-week class on teaching yoga, and I was paralyzed by my anxiety. What should I pack? Do I need another pair of shoes? What if I can’t keep up with the anatomy lessons? Is there a tutor for people who are allergic to science? I’m not very advanced in yoga – what if I’m the worst one in the class and everyone laughs at me?

Me on the front row, in black

Me on the front row, in black

I brought these and so many other questions, along with my bike and kayak (and a million pair of shoes) as I started class Sunday night. The homework started right away (reading in anatomy!) and I launched into a whole new schedule (yoga from 7-9, quick breakfast, philosophy & ethics from 9:30-12:30, break for lunch and back for poses, anatomy, and practice teaching from 2-6.) The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of new people, new vocabulary, new muscle soreness and exhaustion. I expected to be shutting down at this point, overwhelmed with the learning and the lifestyle. But through an act of grace, I was guided to choose Kripalu yoga for my teacher training, a school of yoga that emphasizes self awareness in body, mind, and spirit rather than perfection in poses. And so here is what I have already learned:

I have what I need. I may not have a wide selection of yoga clothes, and I may wish I had brought more silverware so I didn’t have to wash my dishes after every meal. But I have a comfortable bed to sleep in, a grocery store close enough to bike to, and a community with resources to share. What I need for each day continues to be provided.

I will learn what I need to learn. I will probably have to study my anatomy book more than my philosophy book. I may struggle with the foreign language terms and feel childish as I give instructions for a pose I’m not an expert at. But I am certain the learning will come, because I feel it already blossoming within me.

Yoga is not a competition – with anyone else or even with yourself. What my body needs to do today, I will honor. Where my edge in the stretch is today may be different from yesterday. Pushing past that edge only leads to pain, and, to quote one of my teachers, “Yoga is supposed to be about ahh, not ow!” My physical ability is only part of what I bring to my yoga practice.

I’m on a journey into new territory, learning a new skill, learning a new way of seeing the world. But beyond that, I sense the deeper purpose of that grace that led me to choose this yoga teacher training program. What I’m here to learn is a new way of seeing myself: strong and weak, powerful and vulnerable, searching and found. And though I may only be a few days into the process, the glimpse I’ve had of that vision is glorious.

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