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Extra Grace Required - Our Blog

Tea, Lent, and the Ethical Observance of Purity

"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)  Read More 

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Storytelling and The Ethic of 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.  Read More 

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Led Forth in Peace: The Ethic of 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.  Read More 

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What's Your Name?

Encouraged by a friend last December, I joined an Interfaith group in St. Paul, MN. Our group began, prompted by the facilitator, with sharing our name and something about ourselves. I relaxed into familiar territory. Then the woman next to me introduced herself as Cynthia. My stomach clutched, my eyes widened and I tuned in: that name meant something to me. That name signaled trouble! Next it was my turn and I of course introduced myself as Cindy and we all chuckled at two very different people having the same, kind of, name. During the break Cynthia and I discussed our names. Cynthia preferred the more formal given name as she felt it held more mystery. I shared that the only mystery for me in the name Cynthia, was the mystery of what had I now done wrong? Cynthia was the name used whenever my mother needed to draw my attention to the error of my ways.  Read More 

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God's Eye: Contemplative Gazing

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

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.  Read More 
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