Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons

Late Fall 2020


As we make our way toward the end of 2020 and into the heart of winter, I’ve got a really important sermon for you.

It’s meditative. It’s practical. It’s filled with both ancient and modern wisdom. It will help you find the ground beneath you. It will help you listen inward for guidance.

Get yourself in a cozy posture and listen now. Trust me, your heart will thank you.

What Grounds and Guides You?

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  • As we move into the dark depths of winter, take time for stillness. Over and over again ask yourself:
    • What grounds me?
    • What guides me?
    • Where do I find my true identity?
    • What illumines my inner vision?
    • What’s the thread of my spiritual life?
    • And how—in the midst of our ever-changing world—can I keep ahold of the thread?

Transcript

As we approach the end of a deeply tumultuous year, and move toward a New Year, one that won’t be without its problems, I have a question for you. What grounds and guides you? As we continue to face the double pandemics of coronavirus and racial inequality, I have a question for you. What grounds and guides you? As you face the unique particularities of your own life in this moment, I have a question for you. What grounds and guides you?

No matter the situation, this question is always relevant. What grounds and guides you?

As spiritual seekers, this is a root question. One that expands into questions like: Where do you find stability and your sense of identity? Where do you find your sense of vision and inspiration?

As we ask ourselves these questions, we enter into a long lineage of seekers who’ve wrestled with big questions since, well, since the beginning of humanity I would guess. Which means that we’re not on our own. We don’t have to flail around in the dark. Our ancestors left us maps and descriptions of the discoveries they made. And while their discoveries can’t save us from the hard work of our own spiritual searching, they can give us support.

And we need support. We need to know—and be able to name in any given moment—what grounds and guides us.

Thomas Kelly, a Quaker mystic born in the late 1800’s wrote a book called A Testament of Devotion. In the chapter called “Inner Light” he wrote:

“Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return.”

With these words Kelly is attempting to describe his answer to the question: What grounds and guides you? Again, he wrote:

“Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return.”

What grounds and guides you?

William Stafford, who was born in the early 1900’s, spent his life wrestling with big questions through the art of poetry. In his poem The Way It Is, he tells us:

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

What’s the thread you follow? Every spiritual tradition has a name for the thread. And even though names and words will always fail—because we’re describing something that’s indescribable—they point us toward something important.

Yoga calls the thread purusha, or pure, unchanging awareness. I don’t know if William Stafford was familiar with yogic teachings, but is poem speaks to me of the idea of purusha:

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

What’s the thread you follow?

And another question—a question about spiritual practice—how do you keep hold of the thread?

In our fast moving, frenetically changing world, our thoughts are constantly shifting. We hold onto memories of the past. We hold onto imaginations about the future. Sometimes we’re holding onto fear or laughter or stress or excitement or grief. We spend most of our time living at the level of constant change. We lose hold of the thread. We forget the inner sanctuary of the soul. We lose touch with what grounds and guides us.

The first question of our spiritual practice then, is how do we remember? How do we remember, not just once a week, but continuously? How do we hold onto the thread—in line at the grocery store, or doing the dishes, or struggling at work, or while enjoying a Friday night out? How do we keep hold of the thread in our decisions and actions? How do we stay rooted in the inner sanctuary of our soul? We have to ask these questions because the reality is, we often don’t. We often forget. We lose hold of the thread. We get lost in the momentum of our everyday habits and routines.

As we lose ourselves in our ever changing thoughts, we lose our connection to what grounds and guides us. We lose our connection to the Truth of who we are. Remembering the True Self or the Light Within—or whatever insufficient words we might use to describe it—is one of the most important goals of spiritual practice. We’re all searching for peace. For joy. But true and lasting joy doesn’t come from the frenetic, anxiety producing external world in which we live. It comes from within. From deep within the inner sanctuary of the soul.

Please understand that I am not asking you to live the life of a monk. I’m not saying that the only way to live a life of true peace is to withdraw from the world of change. In fact, I think most of us are called to live and work in this troubled, beautiful, ever-changing world. What I’m asking you to do is to think about how you live in the world. What if you reacted (take a moment to think about that word…reacted. Something happens and you react. How many reactions do you have––good, bad, or neutral––every day?) What if you reacted to the world (to everything and everyone you know) from the mindset of rootedness in what grounds and guides you, rather than the mindset of your ever-shifting, habitual thought patterns?

If our reactions reflected what grounds and guides us, I think the world would be a different place. And this is why I find daily practice so important. I think of spiritual practice as anything a person does on a regular basis to keep a hold of the thread.

So how do we do it? How do we practice remembering? How do we move through our lives rooted in the inner sanctuary of the soul that Thomas Kelly so poetically described?

First, and I’m getting really practical here, you have to find it. You have to make an initial connection––a personal one, that allows you to glimpse the spaciousness within you. If this feels hard or foreign or confusing, ask for help. Know I’m here to support you. And know that a starting place is stillness. We’ve all been conditioned by distraction. The world distracts us. And we distract ourselves. The inner sanctuary is always and already present. We’re just usually too distracted to notice. So be still. Be still long enough for the changing nature of your thoughts to calm down, to subside, to clear some space. Please understand that this practice of stillness is not easy work. Let me give you an example from the Hebrew Bible, from a story about the prophet Elijah:

“The word of the Lord came to him… ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I can’t think of a more apt description of the reality and tumultuous nature of spiritual practice. When we become still, we’re not always met with peaceful silence. We’re often met by the feeling of a wind so strong it can split mountains. We’re often met by the feeling of earthquakes within our minds and our bodies. We’re often met by the feeling that God is not there. But in my experience, if we stick with it, if we, like Elijah, can stick with our efforts long enough, we may encounter a moment of sheer silence. We may hear an inner voice asking us ‘What are you doing here.’

Which is a deeply startling question. But it’s a question that indicates we’re getting somewhere. It’s a question that highlights the spaciousness within each one of us. As Thomas Kelly wrote:

“Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return.”

Throughout this sermon I’ve been asking what grounds and guides you. This is a deeply personal question. And the answer can only come from within. To feel grounded—in the midst of this chaotic world—you have to find your Ground. And no one can give it to you. But the good news is, you don’t need them to. A constant refrain of our spiritual ancestors is that what grounds and guides us is always and already within us.

In the Chandogya Upanishad we’re told:

“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.”

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is within us. I love this verse. Religious leaders were demanding to know when the Kingdom of God was coming and Jesus responding by saying that it wouldn’t be found through any outward observation. He said, don’t look there and don’t look there, for it’s already within you.

And in the Gayatri Mantra, a beloved prayer that’s been prayed by millions of people for thousands of years, we’re told:

We recognize within ourselves and meditate upon

that wondrous Spirit of Divine Light

may this Light guide our inner vision.

For me this prayer does three things: It calls us to recognition and remembrance of our true identity and it gives us a very real, material symbol of energy, illumination, and compassion, and it helps us ask for guidance, discernment, and vision.

I could go on and on with ancient and modern wisdom alike. There is no shortage of spiritual inspiration available to us. But remember, while the discoveries of our spiritual ancestors can give us support, they can’t save us from the hard work of our own spiritual searching.

So here’s my invitation… As we move into the dark depths of winter, take time for stillness. Over and over again ask yourself: What grounds me? What guides me? Where do I find my true identity? What illumines my inner vision? What’s the thread of my spiritual life? And how—in the midst of our ever-changing world—can I keep ahold of the thread?

As we close, I invite you to soften your gaze or close your eyes. Become aware of your breath, that holy and vital source of life flowing through you. Allow your breath to slow down. Savor the sensation of it as your lungs fill and empty. Allow your attention to rest in the center of your being. Imagine an inner cave. A cave like the one that Elijah was in as he witnessed a mountain-splitting-wind, an earthquake, a fire, and sheer silence. In your own inner silence, remember Thomas Kelly’s words: “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return.” Allow yourself to rest in this holy place, to listen for this speaking Voice.

What grounds and guides 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?