To Yoga or not to Yoga … that’s the question.

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The other day i decided to finally do a gym class to mix up my exercise routine a little. So i checked the classes available, picked Body Balance, which is a ‘toning/strengthening/stretching class inspired by a mixture of different exercise techniques’. Wonderful! Off came the running shoes and there, on my little mat, i sat waiting. A lady dressed in tights and a loosely fitted top with the picture of ‘Ganesh’ on it (apparently) then walked in, and announced that the instructor who was supposed to do the class couldn’t make its, so she would be giving us a Yoga class.

Unsure of how i felt about Yoga (being a Christian and all) i contemplated leaving, but thought it would look rather rude… So i shrugged, and decided to give it a go.

Without going into detail, let me just say that it was … interesting, but also FLIPPIN hard work, and i LOVED it. I had a really good time once the workout started, and i particularly enjoyed the balancing aspect of the class, since it’s one thing we all largely neglect!
I walked out sweating like a little piggy, and even more confused about how i felt about it. So, the next day i did it again … and then could barely move. Let me tell you, it’s a great workout.

Since i enjoyed it so much, i decided to find out what it is about Yoga that makes Christians so … resistant. My argument was that i should be able to put my foot on my head if i wanted to! It’s my foot, and nobody should tell me that just because THEY believe i’m saluting some part of nature, i can’t do it. ‘What they believe about where i put my foot is not my problem’ I thought.

So after asking around, I spoke to one of the elders at our church, who chatted to me for a while about it, and then sent me the link to Mark Driscoll’s blog where he speaks about Christians and Yoga and all the rest of it. You can read the blog here:

http://pastormark.tv/2011/11/02/christian-yoga-its-a-stretch

Another good opinion to hear is that of Ravi Zacharias. Having grown up in India himself, he would know:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ravi+zacharias%2C+yoga

These men are brilliant, and i truly value their opinion since i respect them both so much. So this is what i took out of it…

sacred
ˈseɪkrɪd/
adjective
  1. connected with God or a god or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration.

These men helped me to realise that Yoga is a sacred practise in the Hindu (among others) religion. Each pose is symbolic of what the person should be working on emotionally during the session and it is a time of introspection, the opening of chakras and concentration and meditation, where you receive spiritual enlightenment. Western society has adopted this as ‘just exercise’ and to do that, is actually disrespectful.
Now i think it’s hard for us to understand because we don’t believe that any physical acts bring you closer or further away from God, but as Mark Driscoll pointed out… it’s like someone coming to be baptised, but completely denying the resurrection of Christ.
Well now that doesn’t make any sense, does it?
Can you imagine someone of a different faith coming to get baptised just because he/she likes to swim? What would you tell that person? ‘Well then you’re more than welcome to go swim over there, we’re busy with some sacred stuff here ;)”

At the end of the day, it’s true that we can exercise any way we want, stretch any way we want, twist and turn and lean and move any way we want, in that way we are free in Christ, yes! But we have plenty of other options out there to help us do so (like Pilates for example, where you’ll find many of the same positions) we don’t have to participate in someone else’s sacred activity and use it purely for our own benefit.

This has been a great lesson for me! In every aspect of life I need to recognise the significance of people, cultures, religions and races and treat all with the respect that I, myself would want to receive!

Now i wonder if i can still stand on my head for ages, like i did when i was a kid???

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Life is Hard…

Many song titles could have been typed into the title bar of this entry, but i decided to book-end this post with a bit of ‘Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’. You know why.

I realise we’re not very far into 2014 but, until today, i didn’t have many wonderful expectations for this year. It started off pretty crummy. I won’t go in to detail, but let’s just say it was disappointing. Disappointing, frustrating, and rather annoying. I would say more (not really) but I think most can relate to those three words in one way or another… and another… and another.
I was feeling sad, a little hopeless, and somewhat negative. I didn’t feel negative about life in general, just certain areas which i wished were different. I wasn’t necessarily walking around with a long face, but i was definitely walking around with a perplexed mind and a hurting heart. I tried to recognise exactly what i was believing about my circumstances, if (and how) i believed they would change, whether or not i was powerless to change them, and what the heck to do with myself until change did appear.

If, after many years, our expectations aren’t met, we can easily be tempted to stop expecting.
If, after many prayers, nothing happens, we can easily be tempted to stop praying.
If, after many (enter appropriate amount of time here) your dreams still seem to be without a glimmer of hope, we can easily be tempted to stop dreaming, or wishing, or hoping.

This is, basically, what went through my mind as i walked around contemplating God and life, and overanalysing behaviours (mine and others) all the live long day. The good thing is that it kept me very busy… I’ve been on holiday, so i’ve had nothing but time. It also made me ask myself some very important questions, which is a good thing every once in a while. However, it made me very tired (who knew that considering throwing in the towel could be such an arduous task?) and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

I guess, no matter how cheerful one’s disposition, there will always be moments in life that are ‘less fuzzy bunny – more prickly pear’ as my flat-mate Sian would say. (Oh Siany and her jokes!) I also remembered hearing ‘you might not be able to change your circumstances but you can change your attitude’, which I would be SO tempted to argue against, if I wasn’t so tempted to try it.

I don’t think it’s healthy for people to never feel anything negative. It’s a good thing to go through tough times, to question what you believe and why, and to ask for help when you need it. Moments like that are important for us to grow and learn and mature, absolutely. But sooner or later one can get tired of tripping over one’s own bottom lip. Plus, you’ll need that lip for when you want to comfort-eat yourself through your next soft-serve.
Being sad and confused in the dark is boring, and sooner or later you need to find your way back into the sunshine.

Life is far more fun with a head full of dreams, expecting something wonderful to happen at any moment, and believing that something is possible no matter how hopeless it seems. To live beyond hurts, failures, un-forgiveness and revenge and to always remember that the picture is way bigger than the part we can see.

God’s timing IS perfect.
His plans for us ARE good.
And anything IS possible.
(The three lines that made me want to punch people in the face a week ago.)

That’s something I (have to) CHOOSE to believe, and live.

So to end this post. I leave you with one of my favourite quotes from my favourite musician, Alexander Ebert…

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“…The intellectual path left me very depleted of spirit… my sense of adventure and spirit and magic disappeared and, honestly, it’s just more fun to live with magic than without it… with the sense of anything being possible… with the sense of the the invisible as a possibility, than it is to believe that ‘this table is just a table’. It’s just more fun to believe in the possibility of anything being possible!

Thank you Alex! You’re a real gem!
Jo
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I watch the sunrise

This morning i’ve been up since 5am … let me rephrase … i’ve been awake since 5am, i’m still not actually “up”.

I don’t know what it is about my body or mind that won’t let me get more than 8 hours sleep at one time. ‘Sleeping in’ isn’t really something i’ve ever been able to do, so what does one do then, awake so early with house full of sleeping people???

One good thing, i thought, about being up so early, is being able to watch the sunrise. Nothing speaks louder to me of God than nature, and particularly the solar system. Then i was reminded of my favorite old Catholic hymn ‘Close to me’. The lyrics are so beautiful and encouraging i thought i’d share them, some of you (church goers) may remember it.

I watch the sunrise lighting the sky,
Casting its shadows near.
And on this morning bright though it be,
I feel those shadows near me.

But you are always close to me
Following all my ways.
May I be always close to you
Following all your ways, Lord.

I watch the sunlight shine through the clouds,
Warming the earth below.
And at the mid-day, life seems to say:
I feel your brightness near me.
For you are always . . .

I watch the sunset fading away,
Lighting the clouds with sleep.
And as the evening closes its eyes,
I feel your presence near me.
For you are always . . .

I watch the moonlight guarding the night,
Waiting till morning comes.
The air is silent, earth is at rest
Only your peace is near me.

So, after a bit of thought and mild promptings from friends, I’ve decided to add another category to my blog. I figure i can’t have a blog about things that make my heart sing without including God. So I’ve decided to share some of my spiritual revelations too! *cheer*

This, my first entry in the “Spiritual” category, is something that i was reminded about during Alan Bogart’s preach last night at my home church: New Covenant Church in Bryanston. He had me laughing so hard i could barely breath, and I eventually had to use a tissue to help get rid of the tears that were pouring down my face, but his teaching on family and fights and forgiveness reminded me of something that God taught me a while ago.

Ephesians 4:36 says “don’t let your anger cause you to sin”.  At first i thought this meant “if you are angry with someone, please don’t kill them.”  The word “sin” automatically made me think of the 10 commandments, and then obviously murder. (OBVIOUSLY) I mean, after all, we’ve all used the phrase “I’M SO ANGRY I COULD KILL HIM/HER”. But then i remembered that Jesus said “a new commandment i give unto you, that you love one another … ” and that got me thinking. If the most important thing that we can do is love, then surely NOT loving is a sin? And since we love people with our thoughts, our mouths and our actions, these are the things we need to control.

So now when i remember the verse “do not let your anger cause you to sin” … I know it means that, even if i’m REALLY REALLY mad at someone, i need to STILL love them with my thoughts, my mouth and my actions. I need to still respect them, i still need to speak highly and respectfully of them to others and not gossip about them or swear at them, and i definitely should not attempt to murder them. And last but not least, we need to forgive.

“FORGIVE AND FORGET” they say, and I often hear people say that they can forgive but they can’t forget. Other people say they’ll never forgive. But I don’t think we understand what “forgive and forget” means. As a Christian, we have been forgiven –  through Jesus – for every sin we’ve committed, and all the sins we WILL commit, and that is the attitude we should have toward others. Flip, that’s a tough attitude to have, to have already decided to forgive those who will no doubt hurt us in the future, and keep our minds in a forgiving “mode”. It’s in our sinful nature to want revenge and hold grudges. I stood on my cat’s tail yesterday, and he SCREECHED with pain, but two minutes later jumped on my lap, purring, as if i’d never done a thing to hurt him. All was forgotten. Which brings me to the “FORGET” part.

It’s impossible to forget what people have done to you. We can’t erase our memory, block it out of our minds, or hypnotise ourselves to create the illusion that it never happened, that’s not what forgetting means. I believe that what you forget, is not the action, but the pain it caused. We forget how much that person’s action hurt us. For example: I remember crying my eyes out when i was 8 and someone at the ninja turtle off my birthday cake, but now i laugh at what was then, the most upsetting scenario…   I think back to when i was 16 and my best friend kissed the boy i liked, i remember how devastated i was, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I’m sure just about every women that gives birth swears she’ll never have another child, but sure enough they forget the pain over and over again!

I know that sometimes the scenario is a lot more serious than first loves and ninja turtle cakes… it seems almost impossible to look at the crime in our country with a forgiving attitude, especially when it has personally effected you or your loved ones. But  nothing is impossible with God. There’s no way men and women would be able to stand victoriously over crime or abuse, without knowing the healing power of our God. A God that would never ask us to do something He’s not willing to help us with, or that Jesus didn’t overcome. We just need to make the choice, and open our hearts up to be worked on by our Almighty Father!

We make the decision to forgive, and God will work on the forgetting part 🙂

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