Judith and I in November 2007
Quite a while ago, I kicked off a series called, They Didn’t Teach Me That in Sunday School. Then my pregnancy got complicated; I had a baby; life got hard, and blogging took a back seat.
When life finally settled down, so much time had passed, I lost my motivation. But, I recently recorded a podcast with my friend and mentor, Judith Hanson Lasater, and my passion for this series was reignited.
In the podcast, Judith shares her heart and wisdom about the intersections of yoga and parenting. But, part way though our chat, I began to panic. I started to worry about how my Christian readers and listeners would receive the insights of a Buddhist. Will they hear the name “Buddha” spill from her lips in the first five minutes and stop listening? Will they lose trust in my discernment?
I sure hope not, because the Lord has used that amazing woman as an instrument of his Grace and Love in my life. Her words have profoundly blessed my life as a follower of Christ. Where I seek him, I will find him – even in the teachings of a Buddhist Yogi. So, today I continue this series. May we all see Love at work in everyone we meet.
I have an early memory, I couldn’t have been more than six or seven, of singing the “Rise and Shine” song in Sunday school. As we sang, “The Lord told Noah: there’s gonna be a floody floody; Get those children out of the muddy muddy, children of the Lord,” I raised my hand to ask, “How exactly did the Lord tell Noah?”
As I recall this interaction, I feel such compassion for that poor Sunday School teacher and for my curious younger self. She probably thought answering that question was above her pay grade. I, on the other hand, was about to hear something that would make it difficult for me to experience intimacy with my Father for many years.
She explained that, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are able to hear God’s voice in our minds, and that’s how we know what he wants us to do. And in all fairness to that woman, that teaching was reinforced throughout my childhood and adolescence. I don’t even disagree with this message, but it is incomplete. It lacks the important information about how to discern God’s voice from among my many thoughts.
I am an anxious soul. Try as I might to shake her, Worry has been a frequent companion on my life journey. Her influence on my mind reached a fevered pitch in high school. By then, I recognized her as a bad influence and desperately wanted to weed out the thoughts she planted in my mind. But, I constantly wondered, is this Worry or is this from God? It was an exhausting dance.
When I shared this struggle at a youth group meeting one Sunday evening, it was suggested that I wasn’t spending enough time in prayer and meditation. If I spent more time with the Lord, His voice would be clear.
I tried. I really did. I wrote in my prayer journal. I studied my Bible. I soaked in every word of Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest. And, peace and clarity still evaded me.
It’s not that I never heard or followed God’s prompting. It was just that I never felt assurance and confidence that it was really from him. And, those are desperately needed for a truly intimate relationship with Jesus.
Fast forward through ten more years of this struggle, and I found myself in a yoga workshop with Judith. She was working with me on a pose she thought would help an old injury. “How does that feel?” She asked.
“I thought I was supposed to do it this way,” I replied.
“No, how does it feel this new way – in your body, not your mind?” She pressed.
“Well, it feels amazing, but I was always taught to do it the other way.”
She shook her head as she gently placed her warm hand on mine. “I don’t want you to just blindly do what you are taught. Get out of your head and into your body. I want you to ask yourself how it feels in your body? Does it create an openness? Do you feel lighter, more peaceful?”
Something broke free in me at that question. Involuntary tears slowly slid down my cheeks as I realized how completely disconnected I was from my physical body. That moment began a journey of learning to quiet my intellect, so I can hear my body’s leading.
This was not an end to my study of anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, alignment and asana. But, it was the end of allowing the information provided to me in books and classes to speak so loudly that it drowned out my body’s own knowing.
Then I made an amazing discovery. When I had my prayer and meditation time immediately after my asana practice, I began to sense the voice of God, but it wasn’t coming from my brain at all, it was in my gut. I started to understand there is a real physicality to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In all my years of Christian education, I never learned to look for the physical sensations that accompany the Holy Spirit’s moving. I know some people discover this through running or other physical pursuits. But, I learned that the Holy Spirit’s voice is more often found in my belly than my brain on my yoga mat.
Worry still influences my thoughts. But, when she does I head to my mat. I draw my attention from my brain to my body. As I do, I enter into an intimate conversation with my Savior. A Savior who used a Buddhist yoga teacher to draw me closer to him.