Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons

The practice of yoga asks us to find the Center point deep within. It asks us to find a posture of steadiness and ease, a place from which we can relax into the infinite. A grounded place from which we can remain undisturbed by the play of opposites. (Yoga Sutra 2.46-48). This teaching describes the place where we can allow what’s real to move through us. In the Yoga Church Community Hub last week, someone shared that her heart was heavy and she was trying to sit with it, without getting stuck in it. This is practice. And it’s powerful.

Her words were clearly in my heart as I began to write this week. I meant to write a sermon about Kriya Yoga, but instead, what poured out of me was a message I needed to hear about sitting with what’s real without getting stuck in it.

In the Quaker tradition of meeting for worship, people sit in silence and listen together for that of God. When a message arises within, people are supposed to discern whether the message is just for them or whether they’re supposed to share it with the collective body. My sermon this week feels like a message of comfort for my heart. And (always the and) it feels like a message that might offer your heart comfort as well.

If you’ve felt overwhelmed by grief (yours and that of the whole world’s) I pray that this short sermon can offer you a sense of ease and balance.

Coming to Practice as a Refuge

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  • What feels heavy to you right now?
  • What feels joyful?
  • What feels supportive?
  • How do you practice ‘cultivating the pause’ in your daily life?
  • Does your practice feel like a place of refuge for you?

Transcript

I once heard that a single issue of the Sunday New York Times contains more information than people used to get in their entire lifetime. I don’t remember where I heard this and I have no idea how it would stand up to fact-checking, but what I do know, is that it feels true in my body. In our 21st century lives, there’s way more information available to us then we can possibly process and absorb. Everyday, even though there’s no way we’ve digested everything from yesterday—or last week, or maybe even last year—there’s already a new flood of information coming at us. We live in an utterly global world. We know about every tragedy happening everywhere. And it’s too much for our hearts and minds to hold. Digital and media technology has developed faster than humans have evolved. We weren’t built to hold the grief and joy of the whole world. But I continue to try. And day after day after day, as my heart grows weary under the deluge, I often feel myself wanting to shut down. Which diminishes my capacity to hold anything.

And so I practice. I come to my practice as a refuge. If I’m able to notice when I feel myself starting to shut down, I can pause for a moment and direct my attention inward. I can pause and listen for the faint whisper of wisdom that resides within me. I can listen for that voice that rises up from deep within and invites me to rest… I can listen to that voice that reminds me to feel my feet on the earth. To feel the reality that breath is moving through my body. I can listen to that inner voice that calls me back into balance. I can pause and remember that I can’t hold everything and that I was never meant to. As I sit in the pause, I’m reminded of the vastness of Divine Mystery. And I’m able to allow a feeling of spaciousness to interrupt the constrictions of my mind.

Making a commitment to personal practice—making a commitment to cultivate the pause in our everyday life—is like wrapping ourselves in a protective container. Every time we notice constriction and choose to pause and listen for the inner voice of wisdom we strengthen our foundation. Every time we choose to pause and remember the vastness of the universe—the spaciousness of Divine Mystery—we loosen the grip of our fear based ego-self and reconnect with our Source.

The invitation to pause—the invitation to practice—is an invitation into spaciousness. In the refuge of our practice we can feel into the energies of constriction and openness. We can feel into the energies of grief and joy. We can feel into the energies of overwhelm and ease. We can welcome them all in. We can experiment with moving back and forth between different feeling states rather than getting stuck in any one of them. In the refuge of our practice we can feel into—in an experiential and an embodied way—the reality that everything is always changing. We can remember that we’re never stuck.

We can’t hold all of the world’s pain. But we can’t turn away from it either. In the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen, we’re invited to take in, to breathe in, pain and to send out, to breathe out, relief. It’s the opposite of what our ego wants… We want to take in pleasure and avoid pain. At first hearing, most people think the practice is backwards—they ask: “shouldn’t I breathe in relief and breathe out pain?” But the power of the practice, what loosens our sense of trying to hold everything in our tightly gripped fists, is the crucial first step of tonglen. Which is the step of opening ourselves to the void, to the spaciousness, to the ever expansive energy that’s big enough to hold everything. In this practice, we don’t take in the pain of the world and let it get stuck in our cells. When we feel overwhelmed by the reality of suffering, we notice. We pause. We feel our feet on the earth. We feel into the Ground of Being. We touch into the open expanse of spaciousness that exists within and around us.

As the Chandogya Upanishad says:

“As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained in that inner space, both fire and air, sun and moon, lightening and stars. Whether we know it in this world or know it not, everything is contained in that inner space.”

It is into this spaciousness that we breathe in the pain. And it is from this spaciousness that we breathe out relief.

We tap into a larger energy. We feel into the grandeur of the universe. We feel into the mystery of God. We remind ourselves that the notions of separateness and individualism—these notions that have so deeply conditioned us—are false. And we practice, over and over again, remembering the spaciousness that is our birthright—that is our True Being.

“As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained in that inner space, both fire and air, sun and moon, lightening and stars. Whether we know it in this world or know it not, everything is contained in that inner space.”

As we establish ourselves in the habit of practice—in the habit of returning again and again to our Center, to our inner spaciousness—we’re more easily able to let the emotions of our lives and the reality of our overloaded world move through us. We can pause and let the grief move through us without getting stuck. We can pause and let the weariness move through us without getting stuck. We can pause and notice that joy is present too. We can let the joy wash through us. We can welcome it all in. We can feel our feet on the earth and remember that we are supported and held. We can breathe in. We can breathe out. We can remember our Center. And from this place of spacious support, we can move forward in the world, taking up the action that we’ve been called to.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS

We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation. What did this week’s sermon and reflection questions spark in you?