Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons
Early Spring 2020
This was a tough week for me. I found myself randomly bursting into tears while listening to a doctor on a podcast or walking with my dog in the woods…
Emotions—all different kinds—are coming fast. I’m doing my best to let them come. And I’m doing my best to let them go. It’s a dance. And it’s ongoing.
This week’s sermon explores the importance of feeling our feelings. I know that resistance can be strong in moments like this, but it’s crucial that we stay present to what’s real.
If a strong feeling comes and we tell ourselves to “ignore it and move on” or that we “should” be feeling some other way, we’re denying a part of ourselves. And the world needs our full (messy, imperfect) selves right now. So whatever you’re feeling in this moment, stay present and be kind to yourself. There’s no right way to feel. And there’s no perfect action to take. There’s only what’s real.
I wish you much love and pray that this sermon can bring you comfort and courage.
The Space Between (coronavirus and emotion)
- What strong emotions have you been feeling recently? Do you notice any stories that come along with these feelings? What does it feel like to let go of the story and simply stay with the energy of the feeling?
- Can you find the moment when your emotion shifts from one feeling to something different? Is it hard to let the strong emotion go?
- How are your feelings showing up in your body? What kind of movement would help you feel the feeling? What kind of movement would help you release the feeling? (curling up in fetal posture? running and screaming and punching? big stretchy exercises? challenging strength exercises?)
- Are your emotions leading you anywhere? (Maybe they’re pointing you toward a nap? Maybe they’re pointing you to imagine a new kind of world? Maybe they’re pointing you to check on your neighbor?)
Let us begin as we did last week… With the simple mantra: Here I Am.
Here I am, trying to find the right words to share with you. Here you are, listening to my final draft. Here we are together, still in a moment of pandemic. Here we are together, a global community living in a new world—united in our unknowing.
Here we are, embodied, breathing beings held to the earth through the force of gravity.
As you locate yourself in this singular moment of your life, say to yourself “Here I Am.”
Feel into the sensations of your body.
Feel into your connection with the earth.
Feel into the rhythm of your breath.
Feel into your emotional heart. What’s real right now?
All week I’ve had the privilege of coming alongside members of this beloved Yoga Church community and listening. Listening to your emotional hearts.
And as I’ve listened and processed, and listened some more, and felt my own heart, and processed some more, here’s the thought that came to me in my dreams: The Space Between.
The space between is an old spiritual idea. It refers to a presence that exists in the space between people. When I gather—even virtually—with another person, or a group of people I know there’s a Divine presence within and among us. When I sit down to listen to another person share their emotional heart, I can feel the presence of Divine Energy in the space between us.
But right now, I also feel the space between as something more solid. I feel it as 6 ft between me and the other person at the grocery store. There’s a literal space between and the loss of physical connection is palpable. We can also feel the space between the plans we had for our year and the reality of more and more things being removed from the calendar. As doors remain closed everywhere the space between work and home is becoming nonexistent. And for many, the space between that last paycheck and the possibility of another one now feels deeply frightening. And as the numbers of people with covid-19 increase, we can viscerally feel the space between life and death.
As I listen to your hearts—and my own—I feel a wave of strong emotion coming in every imaginable size and shape. We’re riding a tide of intense feeling, being rocked back and forth between emotional extremes.
We can’t stop the waves. But we can find the space between them.
The space between feelings is a powerful place to rest. There are two important reasons why: The space between isn’t about denial or suppression. It’s a space that welcomes feelings. That allows them to come and be felt. But it’s a space that allows for multiplicity and movement.
We can get stuck in a moment of strong emotion that says “I’m so afraid” and be fooled into believing that fear is more powerful than our other emotions. We can get stuck in a moment of strong emotion that says “This sadness is too much” and be fooled into believing that there’s no way out from underneath it. Neither of these things are true. Our fear is true. Our sadness is true. But it’s not true that fear or sadness is all there is.
We are multi-dimensional beings and the world is a multi-dimensional place. So of course, our emotions are multi-dimensional too. And, it’s important to remember, they’re a bedrock of our experience. We feel our way through life. Some aspects of our culture have tried to turn us against our emotions. But it will never ultimately work. Our emotions are a powerful part of who we are. They’re underneath every decision we’ve ever made. And in this unprecedented moment, we need the full force of our emotional intelligence and wisdom directing the course of our future.
We’re in a powerful moment. We’re in a between space. We’re in the space between the world as we’ve always known it and something different… Something unknown. In this space lies great potential. But if we want to access this potential, we have to feel our feelings. We have to fight the inner resistance to turn away and shut down.
In her book “Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit” Donna Farhi wrote:
We live in a time of extreme dissociation from bodily experience. When we are not in our bodies, we are dissociated from our instincts, intuitions, feelings and insights, and it becomes possible to dissociate ourselves from other people’s feelings, and other people’s suffering. The insidious ways in which we become numb to our bodily experience and the feelings and perceptions that arise from them leave us powerless to know who we are, what we believe in, and what kind of world we wish to create. If we do not know when we are breathing in and when we are breathing out, when we are unable to perceive gross levels of tension, how then can we possibly know how to create a balanced world? Every violent impulse begins in a body filled with tension; every failure to reach out to someone in need begins in a body that has forgotten how to feel.
We’re living in a moment of global pandemic. We can’t go back to the world as it was a month ago. And we can’t know what the future will bring. This, of course, is always true. But a crisis has a way of forcing us into the present. We have to live here—in this moment of uncertainty with the full range of our ever changing emotions. Can we be kind to ourselves and let the feelings come without judgment? Can we be brave and stay with them? Can we allow them to move around inside our hearts? Can we pay close enough attention to feel the moments of shift—the moment one emotion gives way to the next? Can we feel the space between fear and joy? The space between sadness and hope?
It’s not all joyful. And it’s not all fearful. Life is much more complicated than that. So here’s our practice… Can we allow ourselves to feel both the moments of intensity and the spaces between them? And in the between spaces can we pause and listen inward? Can we ask ourselves: “What kind of world do I want to live in?
Our emotions are powerful. And they give us power. If we’re willing to experience the full range of our feelings—the anger we feel about injustice, the hope we feel in solidarity, the grief we feel over loss—then we’ll feel who we are, we’ll feel what we believe in, and we’ll feel what kind of world we want to create.
So let us listen inward.
Listen inward to the sensations of your body.
Listen inward to your connection with the earth.
Listen inward to the rhythm of your breath.
Listen inward to your emotional heart. What’s real right now?
Here we are. Together. Feeling our way forward.
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?