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by authors Cindy Senarighi and Heidi Green

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Introduction to Raja Yoga:
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras for Spiritual Growth

August 7, 2018

Tags: Raja Yoga, Heidi, Patanjali

“For everything there is a season.” “Measure twice, cut once.” “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” These types of pithy sayings are known as aphorisms. (The book of Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Bible is full of them.) They are easy to remember and contain a readily recognized truth. Raja yoga – or royal yoga, the yoga path of spiritual growth -- is based on a series of aphorisms called sutras in Sanskirt, that are attributed to an ancient Yogi sage, Patanjali. Not much is known about Patanjali—whether he was one person or many, when he lived or what kind of profession he had.

The sutras that he is credited with authoring are thought to have been written down anywhere from 200 BCE to 200 CE. Patanjali is not considered the originator of yoga—the practice of yoga is much older, dated by some scholars as early as 5000 BCE. But Patanjali’s yoga sutras are considered by many to contain the essence of yoga--a distillation of the yoga spiritual technology written down in a simple, accessible manner to encourage each of us to find our Authentic Self, God within, and in so doing experience the peace that "surpasses all understanding."

As far as we know Patanjali was not a religious leader. He proposed no theology, no dogma, wrote no creeds nor sacred texts, nor founded a religious community. In fact Patanjali, in the yoga sutras, despite living in the ancient world of the Indian subcontinent, does not describe any religious practices at all-- neither Hindu nor Buddhist. He does acknowledge that worship is one path to spiritual growth (Sutra 1.23) but adds that we are free to worship the God of our heart. (Sutra 2.44.) Not sure about what you believe? No worries--Patanjali encourages seekers to then meditate on anything that they find life affirming. (Sutra 1.39.)

Despite this rather cavalier attitude towards religion, inherent in the yoga sutras is the assumption that the Supreme Creator, God (Ishwara) already abides in each and every one of us as the "Seer" (Purusha). Seer is often translated and understood as pure consciousness or our Authentic Self, our soul. The sutras assert that our biggest obstacle to experiencing this truth of God within is our misidentification with our own endless internal narrative (called vritti in Sanskrit and often translated as mind-stuff modifications). These yappy little thoughts in and of themselves are not a problem. The problem lies in our attachment to them, to our own ego-centric, selfish version of reality. To reconnect us with our Authentic Self, Patanjali's sutras describe practices that seek to remove the obstacles that keep us stuck in the small self. These practices are called yoga.
(more…)

Seven Sacred Breaths: The Daily Offices

May 17, 2018

Tags: Heidi, Daily Offices

“Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:7

One of the first yoga skills that I try to cultivate in new students is the practice of paying attention to the breath. Breath awareness is central to all yoga practice: breath draws the spirit inward, calms the monkey mind by giving it focus, and nourishes the body. It’s no coincidence that the ancient words for spirit, ruach (Hebrew), pneuma (Greek), and spiritus (Latin) also mean breath. The quality of the breath reflects our state of being. When we are stressed our breath becomes fast and shallow, preparing us for a quick burst of energy to run away from the proverbial tiger. A deep and slow breath, on the other hand, indicates that the body is in a healing “rest and digest” mode.

I knew all of this in my head but it wasn't until I learned a new way to pray that I was finally able to stop viewing the breath as a physiological event and actually experience my breath as a vehicle of the spirit. This happened last fall when I had the pleasure of attending a women’s retreat with the wise and wonderful Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. The theme of the retreat was “Savoring the Sacred Pauses: Practices for the Rhythm of our Days and a Rule for our Lives”. I found myself particularly resonating with Bishop Jennifer's descriptions of the Daily Offices or “Hours” – prescribed periods of daily prayer commonly observed in many monastic and church communities. Pointing out that “the well-being of creation does not depend on endless work,” the Bishop described practical ways for us to tap into the spiritual power of praying the Offices to increase our awareness of God’s Presence and experience our Holy connection throughout each and every day. (more…)

Samadhi - Amazing Grace

December 14, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Samadhi, Grace, Eight Fold Path

When we've been here ten thousand years.
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Then when we'd first begun."

Amazing Grace by John Newton, Verse 4


My beloved mother died from cancer in the living room of our Victorian farm house surrounded by her family, having been taken out of the hospital to die at home. In the minutes after her death I fled to the fields behind our barn, unable to stay in the same room with her lifeless body and my family members’ cries. My sister followed me. Stunned with grief I squatted next to my sister, my gaze fixed on the dirt, the detritus of the harvested row crop, stretching before us. How long we were there, I don’t remember, but long enough for my attention to be caught by the airy movement of a small yellow butterfly nearby. As I mindlessly watched the little insect flit around me, I noticed that it wasn’t going away. As I raised my head I noticed another butterfly, and then another, and another, until my vision widened and I saw a company of butterflies, seeming to dance around my sister and me. I found myself softly smiling with recognition, ‘Hey Mom’, I thought, and KNEW that she was well. (more…)

Dhyana - Releasing to God

November 3, 2017

Tags: Heidi, dhyana, meditation, Centering Prayer, Eight Fold Path

Not my will, but thy will.
Luke 22:42


I’m a long-time Alanon member, finding in that 12-step program a spiritual recipe that allows me to stay in healthy relationship with an alcoholic loved-one. Step 11 in particular has been critical to the maintenance of my own serenity.

Step 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

To put Step 11 into practice I experimented with various meditation and contemplative techniques that I had learned in church, in my yoga classes, and through my own investigation – particularly in Zen meditation. I found that while attention-focused meditation practices made me feel more peaceful, clear-thinking and alert, in other words, “10% happier”, I was missing the deeper connection with God for which I was praying and hoping. I was still having trouble discerning God's will from my will.

To experience a deep connection to God is the whole point of Patanjali's eight limb yoga path for spiritual growth, and it is in the seventh limb, dhyana, that I have found one of the most profound intersections of my Christian faith and yoga. Dhyana is typically taught as meditation, but it is much more than that: dhyana is the release of our ego-centric self to uncover our essential nature held deep in ancient memory: that we are beloved children of God. (more…)

Dharana - Seeing the Holy

October 12, 2017

Tags: Heidi, dharana, meditation, Eight Fold Path

" ... in your light we see light"
Psalm 36


Teenagers at my church go on a week-long pilgrimage to a Holy site as part of their discernment process before confirmation. As a youth leader, I learned many practical things about pilgrimage: how to organize it, where to go, how to prepare physically for the long days of walking, etc. But I discovered the most important part of pilgrimage from our wise Faith Formation director (imagine a female Dumbledore in a long india-print skirt, shoulder-length grey hair, and an infectious laugh). After the evening meal, when the group re-gathered after another day of walking, she encouraged conversation to center on this question:

Where did you see the Holy today?

Dharana, the sixth of Patanjali's yoga limbs, is often translated as concentrated focus. It is similar to pilgrimage as it is practiced through specific exercises that direct our attention away from distractions to that which is presently before us. I was introduced to this limb by being encouraged to “watch” my breath. In this practice one observes the sound and sensation of the inhalation, the brief pause between inhalation and exhalation, and follows the exhalation to the pause before inhalation. This breath-watching exercise invites yoga students to focus their attention on the breath and observe bodily sensation. In doing so, the student is gently prompted to become the objective witness or seer, free of judgment--taking in the body's information without the distraction of mental commentary or wanderings.

The importance of focused attention in our yoga practice cannot be overstated: our mindful presence is drawn from the focused attention we bring to the practice. This witness to our own bodies, mind, and breath, connects us to information that help keep us safe and balanced in our asanas, and affirm our being. In the medical world, studies confirm how a regular practice of non judgmental focused attention through yoga and meditation, provides rest and relief to our monkey minds, improves memory, increases productivity by strengthening the brain to be better able to concentrate on the task at hand, and is a skill that can be successfully cultivated for chronic pain management. (more…)

Pratyahara - Remembering Sabbath

July 14, 2017

Tags: Heidi, pratyahara, Eight Fold Path

Namaste! We are back and blogging again after our summer break. Today's post is the fifth in a series started last spring on the Eight Limbs of Yoga as viewed through Yogadevotion's faith-based lens.

He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." Mark 6:31

In our efforts to be good, do we forget to be whole? Barbara Brown Taylor poses this question in her book Leaving Church, as she recounts the busy-ness that permeated her life as an Episcopal parish priest. But its a question that applies to all of us, not just overworked clergy. How many of us, in our effort to live a good life, pack our calendars full of activity, and end up feeling drained rather than fulfilled?

Pratyahara, the fifth yoga limb, is a set of tools that help us restore balance in our busy lives. It's the practice of dampening external distractions, including those of our own making, to increase our awareness of God's healing Presence. Pratyahara is often likened to a turtle withdrawing limbs inside of its shell, or of traveling metaphorically to the desert, as Jesus did, to pray and be restored. Pratyahara is arguably one of the most important yoga limbs to practice today in our overstimulated, over-scheduled, 24X7 smart phone dominated culture. (more…)

Pranayama: Connecting to the Spirit

May 10, 2017

Tags: Heidi, pranayama, ruach, spiritus, pneuma, Holy Spirit, Langhana, Brahmana, Eight Fold Path

Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ John 20:21-22

This blog post is the fourth in our series about the eight limbs of yoga, the yoga technology of spiritual growth, outlined in Patanjali’s yoga sutras. The fourth limb of the path is pranayama, breath work.

The yoga word for life force or Spirit is prana, and breath is the vehicle used in yoga practice to encourage the free flow of prana. It is somewhat similar to the eastern idea of qi or chi. The idea of unblocking qi underlies the practice of Tai chi, Qigong, Reiki, Healing Touch, Acupuncture, etc. As in this eastern therapeutic concept of qi, in yoga, the free movement of life force/prana/Spirit is thought to encourage vitality in the body and foster its ability to heal. What distinguishes prana from the energetic concept of qi is the yoga idea that life force, prana, rides on the breath. We can see in this yoga idea of prana our Judeo/Christian concepts of the breath of God and the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Consider the synonymous meaning of the following words as both breath and Spirit: ruach (Hebrew), pneuma (Greek), and spiritus (Latin). (more…)

Asana: Embodied Prayer

May 8, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Eight Fold Path, Patanjali, Asana, Thomas Ryan

“Let the posture of our body incline our hearts to prayer.” Thomas Ryan CSP

This is the third in our series about the eight limbs of yoga. The third limb of yoga is asana or right posture. Hatha yoga is the practice of asana. Hatha means balance. Ha is often translated as sun, while tha may be translated as moon. Together ha-tha or sun-moon suggests the balance of energy that is promoted through the physical movement of asana. Traditionally, hatha yoga is taught as movement that prepares the body for prolonged seated meditation.

There are many hatha yoga styles but most of the hatha yoga practiced in the West today originates from a single teacher-- the yogi Krishnamacharya (1888-1989). Krishnamacharya’s students include: BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikachar, and Pattabhi Jois. Each of these students interpreted Krishnamacharya’s teachings about asana in a slightly different fashion, although they all adhere to yoga practice as described in Patanjali's yoga sutras. (See our blog post Yoga's Eight Limbs: A Spiritual Pathway for more information about the sutras.)

Iyengar Yoga focuses on spinal alignment in yoga shapes, and students tend to use props to achieve that alignment. Ashtanga Yoga, as taught by Pattabhi Jois, focuses on the linked poses or vinyasa of the Sun Salutation series. It tends to be a vigorous practice and many “power” yoga styles trace their lineage back to Jois. Viniyoga, is a therapeutic style of yoga that is taught by the students of TKV Desikachar (Krishnamacharya’s son). Viniyoga uses breath-centered, gentle asana to encourage the flow of prana throughout the body to promote healing. (more…)

The Yamas and Niyamas – Yoga’s Ethical Foundation

April 27, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Yamas, Niyamas, Deborah Adele, Eight Fold Path

“The kingdom of heaven…you don’t die into it; you awaken into it.” Cynthia Bourgeault

The foundation of yoga practice, the first two limb's in Patanjali's eight fold path describing the spiritual technology of yoga, is a set of ethics and ethical practices called the yamas and niyamas. This ethical foundation is what distinguishes yoga as a spiritual practice, something more that just exercise. Often referred to as “jewels” the yamas and niyamas guide not only the physical practice of asana, but also have application for our lives off the yoga mat. There are many similarities between the yamas and niyamas and the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes of our Judeo/Christian faith. But rather than try to equate them, we invite you to explore how your faith beliefs inform and deepen your understanding of this yoga philosophy and visa versa. We have found affirmation and insights into our faith, when we study the yamas and niyamas.

The yamas describe right action or principles. Perhaps the most important yama is that of ahimsa, non violence. Ahimsa encourages us to practice non violence on our yoga mats by listening to our bodies and modifying yoga shapes so as to do no harm. Off the mat, ahimas encourages us to practice the Golden Rule--to do unto others as we would have others do unto us: to practice non violence in our relationships and towards the earth. The next two yama “jewels” are satya or truth, and asteya or nonstealing. Keeping our asana practice grounded in the truth of our own bodily limitations and not comparing ourselves with others, are ways that we practice satya and asteya on the mat. These jewels encourage us to delve deeply into our faith teachings and share what we find. In our relationships, satya and asteya encourage us to communicate truthfully, from our own experience and perspective. (more…)

Yoga's Eight Limbs: A Spiritual Pathway

April 23, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Eight Fold Path, Ashtanga, Patanjali, Limbs

Abide in me...as I in you. John 15

We have been writing off and on this year about yoga’s ethical foundation, the yamas and niyamas, and how they inform our Christian faith. But we thought we had better back up and put them in context. The yamas and niyamas are part of yoga’s eight fold path, or “limbs” of spiritual growth. Over the next few weeks we’ll be writing about each of the limbs and showing how, in total, they form a transformative spiritual path for all, regardless of whether you are churched, unchurched, or a none.

The yoga sage Patanjali, in the 2nd century of the common era, wrote a series of short aphorisms about the practice of yoga, referred to as the yoga sutras. The practice of yoga as a spiritual practice had originated thousands of years earlier, some say as early as 5,000 BCE. Patanjali’s sutras capsulized the wisdom from the ancient yoga practices, but did so in a particularly non-religion specific way, although the sutras clearly anticipate connection with the divine. There was vast religious diversity on the Indian subcontinent when Patanjali wrote the sutras. Clearly he saw yoga as a spiritual discipline benefiting all who practiced it, regardless of individual religious beliefs. (more…)

Components of a Faith-Based Yoga Practice

April 18, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Faith-based yoga, Patanjali, Yoga sutras

I had lunch recently with a busy working mom who had very kind words to say about the book. Specifically, she praised an aspect of the weekly devotions that I hadn’t considered: their brevity. She confided that she and her friends don’t have time to go to an hour-long yoga class, but long for and need the calm and affirmation of faith that she found in the devotions. In response to my friend's needs, here is an outline (below) describing the basic components of a faith-based yoga practice that is easily scaled for practices ranging from as little as ten minutes to an hour or longer. The practice components are derived from the eight limbs of yoga as described in the classic yoga sutras of Patanjali. This one is for you Katie!

Components of a Faith-based Yoga Practice

Be Present
Practice Presence. Give yourself permission to be fully present during your practice. Set a timer if needed. Even if you can only practice for ten minutes, imagine putting your cares and “to do’s” away for a time, perhaps inside of an imaginary cupboard. Assure yourself that you may return to them when you are done practicing.

Breathe
Practice Breath. Encourage your mind to focus by following several cycles of breath. Watch yourself inhale and exhale as you slow, deepen, and lengthen your breath. During practice, whenever your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the present by returning your attention to your breath. (more…)

Intention and Heat

March 22, 2017

Tags: Heidi, niyama, tapas, discipline, mindfulness, intention

"When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground." Psalm 104:30

It’s spring time in the Midwest: the crocuses are up and the daffodils are blooming. I’ve got a big bare spot in my backyard that needs to be raked and planted with grass seed. It’s time to start thinking about putting my gardening chores back into my daily routine. Years of gardening have taught me a little about myself: 1) that I’m apt to do too much too early, itching to plant before the frost-free “safe” planting date and 2) that in my enthusiasm to be outdoors digging in the dirt I’ll put in too long of a day, and my back will be complaining by evening. So I’ve learned to curb my spring-fever exuberance, and set up a schedule for myself, working a little bit in the garden each day, pacing myself.

I suppose you could say that my daily gardening routine is, shudder, a discipline. I shudder because the word discipline by itself instantly conjures up punitive images of a naughty child being spanked on the bum, or ranks of young military recruits piping in unison, “Yes, Sir!”, to the command of a drill sergeant. The word self-discipline is almost worse, conjuring up images of rigidity, self-absorption, and obsession. But disciplines—and I’m using the word in its non-punitive sense-- can be very, very helpful. In the dog days of summer, mid-to-late July, when everything is wilting in the heat and high humidity (plants and me, both) the last thing I want to be doing is sweating in the dirt, outside, gardening. That’s when my moderate gardening routine really pays off and I’m able to coach myself, “Just put in a half hour in the garden, the roses really do need to be deadheaded”. (more…)

Quick to Listen - The Ethical Practice of Nonattachment

March 21, 2017

Tags: Heidi, nonattachment, aparigrapha, yama

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
James 1:13


The yoga ethic of aparigrapha—nonattachment or nonpossessiveness is an idea with which I have had to grapple. At first glance this ethic or yama seems to be about materialism, and I’m all about simplifying my life. But it gets harder for me to apply the ethic to my relationships. I love my family and my friends. Why on earth would I ever try to be unattached from them?

Watching my kids grow into independent adults, moving away from home, has helped me understand this yoga ethic. As many empty-nesters know, this can be a very painful, emotional experience for the parent. There is a profound feeling of loss and grief when the formerly dependent child, who you love so much, is no longer physically present in your home. But at the same time you know, deep down, that this was your job as a parent—to nurture and allow your child to grow into their own person, to follow their own path. As your adult child detaches from you, and you from them, you don’t stop loving the child, but rather, in letting go, you acknowledge that child’s inherent right to learn from life's lessons in their own time, trusting them to become the person they were created to be. (more…)

House Envy, Contentment Stealing, and Yoga

March 15, 2017

Tags: Heidi, asteya, santosha, half moon, ardha chandrasana, yama, niyama, Diane Bloomfield

"Though you may not be aware of it, you are already a vessel containing hidden light...within you are all the powers that are in all the worlds, within you is the hidden light of the first day of creation."

Diane Bloomfield, Torah Yoga


Most of the time, I am a really lousy Christian. Do I love my neighbor as myself? No. Do I give all that I can to the poor? No. Do I welcome the stranger? No. Do I comfort the sick? No. For me, living my Christian faith as Jesus taught is hard work. Some days it seems like the only thing I’ve got going for me, is that I love God, and that I am hugely grateful that I am loved back, warts and all.

But I do try. My Judeo-Christian heritage and the ten commandments help ground me. I like to think I’ve got most of the ten commandments covered (admittedly I’m wobbly on keeping the Sabbath), and therein lies the issue. But there’s one commandment in particular that drives me to distraction: I’m a coveter. Specifically, I suffer from periodic episodes of extreme house-envy. (more…)

Tea, Lent, and the Ethical Observance of Purity

February 27, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Niyama, Saucha, Purity, Lent

"Blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8


I love tea. I find the process of making tea a spiritually cleansing practice. It requires my full attention, and brings me out of my life's busyness, and into the current moment. Coming home from my former office job, I would make myself a cup of tea, my focused attention on the tea-making effectively removing the residuals of the day's unfinished office business from my head, so that I could be present with my family.

Purity is different from cleansing, although the two are often confused. Cleansing is the act of removing impurities, while purity is the result of release—freedom from that which binds. Recall the beauty of a flower that blossoms from a constrained bud, or the pure sound of a beautifully sung note, unencumbered by straining vocal cords. Jesus' teachings guide us to focus on releasing the pure love found deep in our heart and not confine ourselves to practices that merely clean the human vessel. He taught that what ultimately defiles a person, making them impure, is not unwashed hands, but the thoughts and actions that constrain and try to separate us from God. (Matthew 15:18-20) (more…)

Storytelling and The Ethic of Truthfulness

February 24, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Yamas, satya, truthfulness

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”
1 John 3:1


One of the ethical principles of right action in yoga is truthfulness or satya. Simple enough at face value. Truthfulness is one of the first virtues that we teach children. A wide-eyed toddler tells a story of the teddy bear that picked up a crayon and drew on the wall, prompting a suppressed smile from a care-giving adult during the telling. Undoubtedly a lesson will follow from the caregiver equating truth with reality, separating truth from fantasy. Eventually there will follow a moral lesson for the youngster, that truth is good and untruth, a lie, is bad.

The fact is we don’t stop telling stories when we get older—although they probably will become less fanciful. We are storytellers throughout our lives. (more…)

Led Forth in Peace: The Ethic of Nonviolence

February 16, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Deborah Adele, Yamas, Niyamas, Ahimsa, Nonviolence

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
Isaiah 55:12


To my great frustration, as I’ve aged, I have developed knee issues. If I don’t take care of my knees by the regular practice of strengthening poses such as chair, utkatasana, they ache and bother me. A byproduct of my lifestyle, my mind is also often over-taxed: thoughts whirling between uncompleted tasks, family concerns, and my full calendar. A yoga practice that allows me to focus on the bodily sensation that I feel in each pose calms and soothes me. I love my asana practice, but my practice intention is often directed by the clamoring needs of my stiff body and cluttered brain. It is easy for me to forget that asana is more than movement and sensation awareness for physical and mental benefit. Underlying every yoga practice are ethics that help transform the asana from exercise to a spiritual practice, a practice with the power to heal, to bring into union body, mind, and spirit. (more…)

God's Eye: Contemplative Gazing

February 5, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Contemplative Gazing, Meditation, Meister Eckhart, James Finley

But one day the wind will show its kindness
And remove the tiny patches that
Cover your eyes,
And you will see God more clearly
Than you have ever seen
Yourself.

Meister Eckhart


From the people of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico comes the Ojo de Dios, a God’s Eye. Although plenty of children have made God’s Eyes as a summer camp craft, it was originally (and still is) a contemplative practice. The creator follows the yarn around and around two crossed sticks, the four ends representing the energies of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. The God’s Eye symbolizes the mystery of the known and unknown, and the finished Ojo de Dios is often put in a home: God’s watchful gaze blessing the household. Half way around the globe, the creation of a mandala similarly offers a geometric pattern, a creative space on which to direct the eye's gaze. (more…)

Starfish

January 26, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Authentic Self, Energy, Balance

"Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures." Genesis 1:20

When I was young, my favorite summer outing was an entire day spent at the beach. My mother would pack a picnic lunch, and while she watched the younger children and wrote letters under a sun umbrella, I played in the waves with the “big” kids and built sand castles with large moats that filled with seawater as the surf came in. Our favorite beach was not the wide sandy swath near the boardwalk, crowded with well-oiled sunbathers sprawled on their towels listening to transistor radios, but the partly rocky beach further along the coast where we had found tide pools. As a child I typically spent half the day playing in the water companionably with my siblings, and the other half of the day, belly down on a large rock, staring into a tide pool, watching small crabs scuttle about, poking my finger into sea anemones, and intently searching the pool with my gaze for starfish and sand dollars, content to be still and watch the activity in the miniature water world beneath me. (more…)

Holding Opposites

January 19, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Light, Darkness, Opposites

Compare: to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Hot and cold, hard and soft, tight and loose, dry and wet: these are just a few of the many contrasting sensations that abound in our every day life. We humans, in the face of contrast, are notorious for judging these differences. Admittedly judgment is sometimes needed to evaluate or discern a particular situation, or to ensure our safety. But often judgment occurs as a reflex, a bad habit that unnecessarily highlights differences and obscures similarities. In our faith-integrated yoga practice we work to replace the knee-jerk habit of judging, especially judging our own bodies and effort, with comparison-- observing differences, but without the value judgment. (more…)

Listen: Prepare for Centering Prayer

January 12, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Listen, Centering Prayer, meditation

It has been said that prayer is talking to God, while meditation is listening for God. In faith-based yoga we practice listening to our bodies, as a first step towards sacred listening. Supine poses are wonderful positions from which to listen. In our book's practice of Listening to our Internal Teacher, the Soul we show the practice embodied in Legs Up the Wall pose. Supine pigeon (sometimes called Figure 4) is another lovely pose to considering adding to this practice, as it helps prepare the body for seated meditation.

Pose Focus: Supine Pigeon
Begin on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Bending one knee, bring your ankle to rest on the opposite thigh, with the foot flexed to align your knee. Modify the pose as you need to for safety and comfort. If it feels good on your body, deepen the pose by lifting the anchoring foot, off of the mat. Hold the pose for at least 5 full, slow breaths. Return to the starting position with knees bent, both feet on the mat, and compare the amount of space that you now feel in each hip. Repeat the pose on the opposite side and when you finish, return again to the starting position and pause. Compare the sensations on both sides of your pelvis. Listen to what your body tells you. (more…)

Surely the Lord is in this Place

December 17, 2016

Tags: Heidi, Refugees, Altar

Bienvenue! They came from half a world away and now stood before the congregation to receive simple welcoming gifts of fleece-knotted prayer shawls made by the Sunday School. The father and boys were soberly clad in western clothing but the mother and teen-age daughter were attired in bright-colored dresses and turbans, proudly proclaiming their African identify. Before arriving in the United States this family of six had spent three years in a United Nations refugee camp in Cameroon, fleeing violence in their Central African Republic homeland. Now, after months of preparation by the church to sponsor and outfit a home for them, they were finally here. (more…)

A Joyful Noise

December 12, 2016

Tags: Heidi, Ujjayi, Chanting

Broad Ripple Village Holiday Parade, Indianapolis, Indiana
On a crisp cloud-covered night last Saturday, my husband and I walked into the village to watch the annual holiday parade. The sidewalks were lined with bundled-up children, attentive guardians, and young adults in Santa hats taking a break from the village pub crawl. The parade's "floats" consisted of trucks and cars strewn with ropes of colored lights and blinking holiday decorations, many advertising local businesses. The girl scouts and animal rescue organizations marched and dispersed candy canes to the crowd, a couple of community bands enthusiastically played Carols, and a waving Santa Claus brought up the rear. The parade ended at the historic brick fire station where the parade's Santa led the gathered crowd in singing Jingle Bells. Kids, pub-crawlers, parents and grandparents, all sang together in the cold night air, "...jingle all the way!" I felt like I was among Who’s down in Who-ville, with nary a Grinch in sight. (more…)

The Mystery By Which We Live

December 4, 2016

Tags: Heidi, Prayer, Mystery, Wonder

I have a stack of wonderful books on my bedside table: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor; The Yamas & Niyamas, Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele; and Torah Yoga by Diane Bloomfield. And I have read part way through all of them. But what have I actually finished reading lately? Last week I had my nose in a cozy mystery, a story about a smart and sassy middle-aged detective, and a victim genteelly poisoned amid descriptions of nostalgic small town life: literary comfort food. Meanwhile, the books of wisdom on my bedside table gathered dust, unopened, and unfinished.

Unfortunately, my prayer life is often like my reading habits. I stick with the familiar and comfortable and then get frustrated with my own stagnant spirituality. Over the weekend my darling Aunt G sent me a beautiful quotation attributed to the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, that pushed me out of my recent prayer complacency. (more…)

Love Replaces Hate in Bean Blossom

December 1, 2016

Tags: Heidi, Bean Blossom

Mary & Joseph in line to help scrub.
I waited my turn in line to scrub the swastika off of the church. The temperature was dropping and I wished I had remembered to bring my gloves. There were two other lines of scrubbers: one to remove “Heil Trump”, and the other to remove the words “Fag Church”. A local TV news crew was there with a beautifully coiffed reporter bouncing up and down on her toes to stay warm between takes. Cleaning the hate speech off of the church walls began after the Rector, Rev. Kelsey Hutto, first led us in prayer, “Tonight we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing as we wash these symbols of division and evil from this church building and also from our own hearts.” A surprisingly short time later, the spray-painted graffiti was gone, and we celebrated, singing Amazing Grace as we processed into the little church’s sanctuary for a candlelit service of healing. (more…)

Off to the Printer!

November 11, 2016

Tags: Book Launch, Heidi

Truth! I was putting the manuscript back in order after FINISHING my review of final edits when lookee what happened! (BTW this weekend's mantra before talking to our wonderful publisher, Tim Beals at Credo House was: I will NOT read the manuscript this weekend--it is done, I will NOT read the manuscript this weekend--it is done, etc.,etc.) Instead I will rake leaves, jump in a big pile of them, and sing!

And the Seasons They Go Round and Round

November 11, 2016

Tags: Cancer, Heidi

Heidi & her "bests": friend and daughter
It is so crazy that my five year cancer-free anniversary coincides with the publication of Yogadevotion, our book about faith-based yoga for healing and spiritual growth. I didn't plan it that way--but there it is. The circle now feels complete. I pray that our book will help someone else find wholeness in body, mind,and spirit. Its been a long road but God has been very very good to me.