A Lesson from Yoga

There was a time that I studied and practiced yoga very consistently. When you first start yoga, you’re concerned with big movements: where your limbs go, bending at the hips, pointing right or left.

Then after you’ve gotten the basic posture down, you find that even the most minute adjustments can make the biggest difference. Distributing the pressure among your toes and trying to increase the weight on your pinky toe suddenly opens your hips, which opens your chest, and suddenly you are like a blossoming flower with a sense of lightness and openness that is at once totally new and like coming home.

What’s funny in yoga is that sometimes the movements are so tiny they are nearly imaginary. I remember my yoga teacher telling us to adjust our tailbones in a way that, she admitted, may not be physically possible, yet somehow making the attempt makes a difference in your sense of alignment.

This is the way of a Christian life, as well. Small adjustments make big differences.

For example, I am a person who suffers from cyclical depression. It’s not chronic in the sense that I am constantly feeling depressed, but it is chronic in the sense that I have experienced multiple bouts of depression and can expect to experience more in the future. “Depression management” is a necessary part of my daily life whether I feel great or awful.

I have had some graces from my experience of depression. One is that in meditating through depression and not denying it (and to be clear, this also involves using medication and working with both a therapist and a psychiatrist) I have felt my heart break totally open. Though my heart, like all hearts, has a human tendency to want to close up tight, one grace of depression is that I have had my heart wide open at a time of utmost pain, and I survived it. So I can carry that knowledge of survival with me into anything else. Another grace is that I know, not just intellectually but from profound experience, that my thoughts are not always trustworthy. What seems like cold, hard reason in depression is merely an illness talking. I know this so deeply that it is much easier for me to regard my thoughts and feelings with interest and a bit of skepticism. This is a blessing.

I am, however, offended deeply at the notion that God gave me depression to teach me these lessons. I can’t bear to hear people say that God gave a child cancer for the purpose of building character or correcting a fault. The verse is “God turns all things to good,” not “God does all things for good.” This may seem like a minor adjustment to the notion of how God works in the world, but it is a crucial one.

I have recently made a “re-alignment” in the way I pray that has made a huge difference to me. A common motto of those who pray is “give it to God,” as in “let go, let God.” This is a nice idea. But it is not one that ever clicked genuinely with me, as I never really felt that sense of peace that I had truly decided to let God steer the ship.

After some additional meditation training this summer, in a class on depression management, I came to try a different way of praying. I had an experience much like the “opening up” experiences I have had in yoga. I could see that in “giving it to God” I was pushing things away, trying to separate a person, a thing, a problem from myself and hand it off.

What I do now is “give it to God” through me. I use my “broken-open heart” as a doorway to the heart of Jesus. I embrace that person, thing, or problem that is causing me so much distress, because I know my heart can take it, and it can because behind it lay the heart of Jesus, which is big enough for every mistake, every hurt, every injustice.

When I pray this way I have that sense of lightness and openness that is at once new and like coming home. I have a closer understanding of what Jesus meant by saying “I leave you my peace.”

Advertisements
Published in: on November 11, 2007 at 10:36 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,