Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons.
March 10th, 2019
Change is constant. Everything about life is changing every moment of every day.
And yet, making an intentional change is hard.
How are both of these things true??
I don’t know.
But they are. Right?
So I’ve got some resources to help you work within this reality…
(Please note, this is an especially jam packed post! After you’ve watched the sermon, make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom!)
Intentional Experiments with Change (Lent & Kriya Yoga)
We are now officially in the season of Lent. I observe this season every year, because, as I said last week, it feels like an invitation to me. It offers an opportunity to experiment with change. The 6 weeks of Lent give us a neatly packaged container in which to try out new ways of decision making and behaving. Even though Lent has already started, it’s not too late to take up the practice. Whether or not Christianity is a tradition you identify with, the idea of Lent can be useful for you.
And one way to think about it is through the lens of Kriya Yoga—or Yoga in Action. About a month ago, I shared the practice of Kriya Yoga with you in a sermon about the reduction of suffering. Do you remember it? We talked about the Celtic practice of Three Essential Things and I shared the three aspects of Kriya Yoga with you, which are self-discipline, self-reflection, and self-surrender.
Taken together, these three practices offer us an amazing system of transformation. It’s important to notice that in the middle of discipline and surrender is reflection. Without honest self-reflection, any attempts we make to discipline ourselves or to surrender ourselves, can be at worst, dangerous, and at best, simply ineffectual.
So, let’s pause and take a moment for reflection here:
Let your attention start to move inward a bit. Feel free to close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you.
Connect with the feelings of your body. And the movement of your breath.
Bring your attention to the space between your eyebrows. And then draw back into the center of your head. See if you can find a sense of spaciousness here. And tune into the thoughts currently passing through your mind…
Now, let your attention drop down into your heart. Feel the physical sensations within your chest. And allow yourself to feel the sensations of your emotional heart.
With your attention resting in your heart, ask yourself what needs to be changed in your life.
What popped right up to the surface when you heard this question?
Most of us humans have certain behaviors we wish we didn’t have. We have certain habits that we’ve wanted to change for a long time, but haven’t been able to. Habits that might even cause us embarrassment. Things we don’t easily talk about with people.
But, let’s pause again. Because I’m not trying to lead us all into some sort of shame cycle here. I’m simply trying to open up a window of awareness, where we can surface the inner inklings crying out within us. What change is your heart calling for?
Let me be clear that you might not be ready to make the change your heart is calling for. And that’s ok. I am in no way encouraging any sort of forced change here. You know why? Because forced change doesn’t work. It turns into some sort of suppression. And suppression never leads anywhere good. All I’m asking is that you listen to your heart. And if you feel a desire for some sort of change within you, I’m simply asking that you acknowledge it. That you allow yourself to feel the desire for change that you’re carrying around.
This is where a container for experimentation is so useful. Last week I said that Lent always feels like an invitation to me. Because when we’re carrying the burden of knowing that something needs to change in our lives it can feel scary or overwhelming or hard, but the six weeks of Lent gives us a nicely packaged container in which to experiment with change. To try things out. To take a break from something. Or to make a commitment to something. Experimentation allows us to envision the possibility of change in a new way.
I really want you to feel the difference between forced, cold turkey kind of change making and experimenting with change within a safe container.
So I invite you to take 6 weeks, or 40 days, or any other length of time that feels comfortable to you and make a commitment to be present with the desire for change you feel in your heart. Remember, in Kriya Yoga self-reflection sits between self-discipline and self-surrender. And these are the practices we can experiment with in our container of time. First we listen to the desires of our heart and then we explore ways to respond to what we hear.
Experiments with self-discipline can go in any number of directions, but they usually fall in one of two categories: elimination or cultivation. When you think about the change you want to make, what needs to be eliminated? Be gentle here. Be simple. Unless you feel really ready, don’t try and change 100% of everything. Choose one thing that can be eliminated. And use this elimination as an awareness practice. Every time you would normally take the action you’ve eliminated notice what you feel. What are you doing when the craving for that action arises? Can you determine what the craving is in response to? Are you trying to avoid something? Are you trying to distract yourself? Or ignore a feeling that’s arising? Don’t judge yourself here. Just notice. Notice how long the craving for the eliminated action lasts. Do you get over it quickly? Or not?
The other side of discipline is cultivation. Instead of getting rid of something, you add something. Instead of not taking an action, you specifically take one. All the same noticing applies. Notice what it feels like to cultivate this new behavior. How much effort does it take? How do you feel before, during, and after taking the new action? Experiments with self-discipline can be fascinating. Be intentional with them. Watch your feelings and reactions. Notice, notice, notice.
Because remember, transformation begins with deep noticing. Your experiments with elimination and cultivation are not about forced change. They’re about deepening your awareness.
And the other side of Kriya Yoga to experiment with is surrender. Which can be a tough word for a lot of people. If you’re reacting to it, that’s ok. Just notice your reaction. But allow yourself to think about it a bit more. This aspect of Kriya Yoga can also be understood as humility or devotion. It’s about getting over yourself—over your small “s” self. When we think about making changes, we often get stuck in our own mind and our own ideas of what we “should” be doing. Our own ingrained, rigid ideas of right and wrong that often include shame and judgement. This is where it’s useful to imagine something larger than us. This is where it’s useful to think about ourselves in relation to our source. And to our systems of support. When you think about taking disciplined action, who will support your efforts? Who will help you undergo your experimentation with compassion and curiosity? Maybe it’s a partner or friend. Maybe it’s the practice of exploring Divine Grace. Maybe it’s the practice of opening up to your own inner grace.
No matter how you choose to experiment with change, doing so in the container of Lent provides a reminder that life is short. A reminder that life is full of both pain and joy, but ultimately that life is an utter gift. Intentional experimentation with change reminds us that we each have an inherent potential within us. And it’s my sincerest hope that we’ll each use this season of Lenten examination to move closer to that potential.
- What needs to change in your life? Let yourself answer this question at a heart/gut level…
- How can you respond to what needs to change? What can you experiment with?
- If you decide to experiment with giving something up, work with these questions:
- Every time you would normally take the action you’ve eliminated notice what you feel.
- What are you doing when the craving for that action arises?
- Can you determine what the craving is in response to?
- Are you trying to avoid something?
- Are you trying to distract yourself?
- Or ignore a feeling that’s arising?
- Don’t judge yourself here. Just notice. Notice how long the craving for the eliminated action lasts.
- Do you get over it quickly? Or not?
- If you decide to experiment with adding something in, work with these questions:
- Notice what it feels like to cultivate this new behavior.
- How much effort does it take?
- How do you feel before, during, and after taking the new action?
- Experiments with self-discipline can be fascinating. Be intentional with them. Watch your feelings and reactions.
- If you decide to experiment with the idea of surrender, remember:
- This aspect of Kriya Yoga is about getting over yourself—over your small “s” self.
- When we think about making changes, we often get stuck in our own mind and our own ideas of what we “should” be doing. Our own ingrained, rigid ideas of right and wrong that often include shame and judgement.
- This is where it’s useful to imagine something larger than us. This is where it’s useful to think about ourselves in relation to our source. And to our systems of support.
- When you think about taking disciplined action, who will support your efforts? Who will help you undergo your experimentation with compassion and curiosity? Maybe it’s a partner or friend.
- Maybe it’s the practice of exploring Divine Grace.
- Maybe it’s the practice of opening up to your own inner grace.
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?