About five months ago I started practicing yoga. And not the kind of practicing that makes perfect! I’m naturally an inflexible person (I’m talking about my physicality here!) (well, probably personality wise as well) and it has been amazing to me to see how excited I get at the slightest limbering movement. From the very first class I was hooked. I’m not sure why but it’s not too dramatic of a statement to say that it is actually changing my life for the better. I try to go about four times a week and I’m taking from four different instructors.
It’s fascinating how the varied teaching styles of the different instructors tap into different areas of my body that need stretching. Since yoga seems to be influencing how I see everything these days, this realization has made me wonder if perhaps this is what I, as part of a people of faith, of country, of humanity, need to recognize as a need in my relationship with others as well. Especially those who have different theological, political, and social ideas than me. I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with differing opinions. One only has to pull up Facebook to see how polarized and inflexible some of us have become. The rants I see are downright depressing. Rants about a person or an idea that is different than the one held by the one doing the posting. I’ve noticed that there is usually a train of comments in support of the rant. For every attempt at rebuttal there is usually a new tirade against that. I have a hard time seeing any connective tissue in these rants. No movement forward.
The yoga instructors remind us to breathe and to pay attention to our breath. When we are learning a new pose, or perfecting (ha!) one we’ve already learned they remind us to breath into the areas where we are experiencing pain. So, sometimes, I find myself inhaling and visualizing air going into my torso, my hamstrings, my glutes, and back all at the same time. And then visualizing exhaling out all the pain and stiffness that is holding me back from letting go and moving forward. Amazingly, if I am true to the breathing there will be a lessening of the pain, a relaxing of the muscle, and an ever so slight lengthening of the pose.
What would it look like to make a difference in the brittle stiffness of the world today as we wade through the many challenges that face us? What would it take to connect with those with different beliefs and ideas instead of being contentious with anyone who disagrees? How can I (perhaps even we?) begin to have conversations instead of debates. Can you imagine if there was a televised presidential candidate conversation instead of debate?? What would that even look like. Would anyone watch? What would the commentators have to say? Would there be a winner?
A friend of mine reminded me the other day that ancient Hebrew was written with consonants only, and it is as it is read out loud and the vowels are breathed into the words that the passage makes sense. And, depending on what vowels are breathed into the words, a passage could say a variety of things. And there could be truth in each.
Lessoning the pain of the world will require conversation, true connective conversations. A conversation requires breathing space in which to listen. It’s hard sometimes to remember that when I am thinking of my next words. Especially when the topic is one about which I have a passionate opinion. Especially when I am certain that my opinion is the correct opinion. It’s hard to take the time to breathe, much less listen, when I am determined to hold tightly to my positioned opinion. But what if, just what if, I tried some yoga. What if I intentionally took the time to breathe into the pain of the current issue, whatever that might be, and allowed air to come into my mind and heart. Air in the form of another’s opinion. What if I could breathe that in and exhale my need to be correct, more significantly, to win. I wonder if there would be an ever so slight letting go of my resistance to “the other”, a lengthening of my vision. And I wonder, if “the other” tried the same, if, then together, we might move ever so slightly forward.
It’s crazy, huh. But, perhaps, something to chew on…(namaste) (peace be with you) (love of Christ)