The Prayer of Sweat

This past weekend I tried a Hot Yoga class for the first time with a my friend and brother Wesley.  First all, if you know me, you know that heat and me are not friends…AT ALL.  I would rather live in the Northwestern Territory than be above 90 degrees at any time in my life.  However, when a good friend tells you that it will be good for you and keeps bugging you to go, you go for that friend (and yourself).

So I walk into a room of 20-30 people, the temperature slowing rising to HEAT OF THE RISING SUN or 105-115 if you don’t want to be dramatic.  The air is heavy with heat and humidity, it feels like a struggle to breathe, to take that breath in and out burns down to my lungs.  I am dripping sweat everywhere after about 5 minutes.  I can feel the heat seeping down into my gut and my heart.  I think my interior organs are frying, or at least, steaming within my body.

But I keep going…

After awhile, I begin to view this sweat as a prayer. Each drop, a song to my creator, thanking Him for forming me.  The heat began to feel like the love of God, the refining and purifying Love of God found through Christ.  Each movement, each position, was an act of surrender to Him, to Him placing me in the furnace to be renewed again.

I met God on Saturday in my practice on my mat as an individual and with a group of people who were of mixed ages, races, genders, political affiliations, and religious backgrounds.  Most of them probably didn’t recognize the grace that comes from the heat, but I felt it, and I came out of it different.

I have found yoga to be the manliest activity I can do, not because yoga is in and of itself “manly,” but because I am being taken down to my base parts to be made new by Christ.  I am learning that I do have my own strength, but that I am made more of a man through Christ’s strength working in me.  It has taught me to be a more peaceful father and husband, to see all things  as working together for God’s good will and purpose.

So as I leave this evening to go and be tortured by the heat, may I continue to see Christ’s love coming to me through my practice so that I can become more fully in line with His Grace & Love.

 

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Balance

I awaken each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day.

-E.B. White

 

A theme running in my life has been finding balance– balance between activity and rest, movement and contemplation, yin and yang– in order to become a complete and whole person.

I noticed it first in my prayer– I never stopped to listen, to sense, to revel in the Word Made Flesh– for in that time I was focused on the action, the movement from prayer to prayer to reading to prayer without taking time to sit and be still.  I then found it in my mind and my breath, where my mind was constantly in motion from one item to the next without stopping.  My breath was shallow– unfocused and unnoticed– as a secondary function of my body.  My battle with anxiety made it even worse as the shallower my breath got, the faster my heart raced, the more my mind worried, and the more I couldn’t stop the cycle from spiraling downward into panic and fear and depression.

When I first started practicing yoga with Yin Yoga six months ago, I found myself noticing my breath and the shallowness.  There was a hesitation on my part, a block there, that prevented me from breathing deeply.  Sitting on my mat, the active part of myself would overpower my mind and I would lose focus.  Even now, I’ll have a train of thought that will take my practice completely off track.  The beauty of yoga is that it’s a reminder that we are all still practicing, there are no perfect practitioners, but all are perfectly imperfect students.  Christ has met me in yoga in that it’s only through His Grace that my strength is made whole.

Back to the quote, we all have this balance to keep within our lives between action and contemplation, and that’s the important thing– the balance.  Always trying to save the world will leave you tired and dead.  Always trying to savor the world will leave you disconnected and lazy.  Our aim is to find the balance in our lives that we live from our rest to be active, that we want to save the world entirely because it’s worth is what we savor.  We love entirely because He first loved us– that He gives us grace for us to give grace.

It is the paradox of the Warrior Monk and the Soldier of Love.  We are strong in order to bring shalom, or peaceful wholeness.  We are both/and not either/or.

Live from the Shalom of Christ in order to show the world His Eucharistic love.