Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons

Early Fall 2020

Sometimes strong emotions—like anger or despair—make us feel uncomfortable or guilty. Sometimes we’re tempted to push strong emotions away. But our emotions keep us rooted in our humanity. And our world needs our humanity right now. We’ve got to build the capacity to stay with (and learn from) our strong emotions. This sermon draws on the wisdom of Valarie Kaur, Donna Farhi, and the Upanishads to help us remember the importance of feeling our feelings.


The Beauty of Feeling

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  • What strong emotions have you been feeling recently? Do you notice any stories that come along with these feelings?
  • 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?)

PRACTICE IDEA

  • Create 5 scraps of paper.
  • On each of the scraps, write down one emotion you’ve been feeling lately.
  • Fold them up and put them in a bowl.
  • Pull out two of the scraps and write the two emotions on the top of a blank piece of paper.
  • Reflect on how the two feelings relate and differ from one another…
  • Reflect on how the two feelings move through you in relationship to one another…
  • What are these two feelings helping you remember?
  • What can you learn from them?

TRANSCRIPT

I invite you to bring a hand to your chest, to your heart. Take a moment to find your heart beat… … Can you feel it? … Do you notice how your hand moves in response to your breath? … Can you feel the movement of your body as your lungs fill… And empty… Bring your hand to your belly. Allow your belly to move with the rhythm of your breath. As breath comes in, let your belly expand…. As breath goes out, gently squeeze your belly in… Let this movement be easy. As breath comes in, let your belly stretch and expand…. As breath goes out, gently squeeze your belly in…

As you’re breathing, remember our simple mantra from last week: Here I am. Say it to yourself: Here I am. An embodied, breathing being.

Listen to these words from Valarie Kaur’s memoir See No Stranger:

You are alive. You are here. Look around you. What is the most beautiful thing that you can see right now? Look at it for a moment. Notice its color, and shape, the way the light falls on it. Let yourself wonder at it. No matter what is happening out there in the world right now—no matter how dark or violent or cruel—this beautiful thing also exists. The world right here is just as real as the world out there. Take another deep breath. Notice how it’s a little easier. Now—who can share this beautiful thing with you?

I’m grateful for Valarie’s reminder to seek out beauty in the midst of all that’s hard in the world. And I’m inspired by her call to share it with others. Who are the people you share beauty with? As you bring someone to mind, visualize sitting face to face with them. And take a moment to feel into the space between you.

The space between people is an old spiritual idea. It’s an idea that invites us into Mystery. When I gather 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.

For the past six-months, as I’ve been sitting in virtual circle with this community and listening to your hearts—and my own—I’ve felt a wave of strong emotion coming in every imaginable size and shape. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of feeling our feelings. And recently I’ve been thinking about the space between and wondering if can we search out the space between our ever changing emotions.

Searching out the space between feelings isn’t about denial or suppression. It’s not about pushing away or ignoring our strong emotions. It’s about spaciousness. It’s about finding the spaciousness that always and already exists within us. The Chandogya Upanishad (1.3) tells us that:

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.

The space between is a space that welcomes feelings—that allows them to come and be felt. A space that’s big enough to hold every emotion. A space that allows for multiplicity and movement.

We can get stuck in a story that says “It’s utterly hopeless. The world is doomed” and be fooled into believing that we’ll never feel hopeful again. We can get stuck in a story that says “my rage is unceasing” and be fooled into believing that there’s no room for laughter. Neither of these things are true. Our despair is true. Our anger is true. But it’s not true that despair and anger 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. Allowing ourselves to feel our feelings keeps us rooted in our humanity. 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 moment, we need the full force of our emotional intelligence and wisdom directing the course of our future.

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.

If we want to create a balance world—if we want to move beyond crisis toward collective healing—we have to stay with our feelings. We have to listen to our bodies. We have to connect to the spaciousness within and not get stuck in stories of all-or-nothing.

So here’s our practice: 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 listen to what our feelings have to teach us? Can we ask ourselves: “What kind of world do I want to live in? And how can my emotions help me get there?”

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 so much 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. Our feelings give us clarity. They help us find our next, right action.

So let us listen inward.

To the sensations of the body.

To our connection with the earth.

To the rhythm of our breath.

To the beating of our heart.

Let us listen inward. Let us find the place of spaciousness within. What do you feel?

What’s your emotional heart trying to tell you?

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?