For a long time now, I’ve wanted to join a yoga studio. But I’ve always been a starving student, or a missionary, or whatever. Now that I’m working again, Robert and I decided we have enough wiggle room for me to sign up with the new studio in town, YogaWorks. I was afraid that having a yoga membership wouldn’t be all I had dreamed (why am I always afraid of being disappointed?), but it has turned out to be amazing! I feel strong, my body confidence is way up, and it’s a fantastic stress reliever. After attending for a week there as a guest, Robert decided to sign up, too! So now it’s also a fun and healthy thing for us to do together.
Since September, I’ve been going through a the Ignatian spiritual exercises using a book called Journey with Jesus. Every day I ask myself “examen questions” and one of them is when I sensed Immanuel, God with me, in the previous day. It’s interesting that the most consistent time of sensing God’s presence has been during yoga. I wonder if that is because in a challenging yoga class, I must be totally “in” my body–I can’t disconnect or detach. (I just read a line by Dallas Willard where he states, “our body is a primary resource for the spiritual life.” Huh!) And that integrated activity, where I’m using my mind and my body, somehow becomes an almost spiritual exercise. I find the same to be true when I’m in nature–again, it’s a time when I’m not “checking out” of my body, like when I’m working on a computer or even so consumed in dealing with students at work that I can’t address my body’s needs like thirst–or even needing to use the restroom!
I was thinking about all this the other day, and remembering a piece I wrote last year for my Master’s thesis project, Telling the Treasure: Reflections, Essays, and Anecdotes from a Backslidden Mystic. It’s called “Namaste,” and it’s about the Holy Spirit and a little about yoga, among other things. Since Pentecost Sunday just passed, I thought I’d share the piece here on Eeper.
“God in three Persons, blessed Trinity…” or so the old hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” goes. I’d sung those words a thousand times before I started to think about the three persons of the triune God as, well, three persons. There’s God the Father, of course, and God the Son—that would be Jesus—but what of the third? The Holy Spirit, or as some Bible Belt folk might say, the Holy Ghost. It wasn’t until halfway through my year in Norway that I heard someone really emphasize the importance of viewing the Holy Spirit as a person. For me, that changed everything.
Jan, a guest lecturer in our little discipleship school (and the rapping prophet I’ve written about elsewhere), reminded us of what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit. He called the Spirit the helper, the friend, the teacher, the comforter, and the one who leads us into all truth. One who plays these roles more logically falls into the category of a person, rather than some ethereal force—although I suppose the Spirit is that, too, if we think of the way she (or he) hovered over the waters before the dawn of time. Jan encouraged us to think of the Holy Spirit as a person, and to address the Spirit as such, praying to him as we might to Jesus, asking to guide us, to comfort us and be a friend to us.
And really, it is Jesus we are addressing—the Spirit is the way that Jesus chose to come and be present with each one of us until the end of time, when we will all live in a new city fresh out of heaven, where God will dwell among us in whatever holy and terrifying and joyful and astounding form that will take.
When I was fourteen, I attended my sister’s high school graduation, and the valedictorian’s speech ended with the saying, “Yesterday is history, and tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift—that’s why it’s called ‘the present.’” Though now I would cringe at the use of such a cliché, I remember thinking at the time that it was clever, even profound. For some reason I remembered it the other day, and I thought about how Peter preaches in the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit is a gift. I’ve found that is partly because it is the Spirit who helps us get on in this daily life of ours, whose presence with me in the present is as much a gift as my husband’s is, when he sits with me and lets me cry or talk or merely sigh many heavy sighs.
In the Old Testament, the presence of God is something awful (or awesome) and indescribable—smoke on Mount Sinai, an unbearable glory in the tabernacle’s Holy of Holies. The presence of God is a desert shrub on fire, burning without being consumed. It is a cloud in the wilderness, swaddling the liberated Hebrews as it leads them onward. It is something to be feared and something to be desired. Continue reading