Monday, March 14, 2016

dedicating my practice

At the beginning of each yoga class, our instructor asks us to calmly come into our bodies and our breath, to attempt to clear our minds (impossible for this monkey brain), and to set an intention for our practice.  This might be a quality that we want to focus on, or a characteristic we are hoping to bring into our bigger lives, or we also might dedicate this practice to someone or something.

In an attempt to get outside of myself a little bit, I am taking the next few months to dedicate my practice to someone.  I have spent a lot of yoga sessions thinking about what I want to bring to myself and my life.  It's time for me to think about someone else for a little while.

I started last week.  In many ways, this is very similar to one of Richard Foster's methods in the exemplary "Celebration of Discipline."  He writes this about holding people in prayer prior to corporate worship:

"When people begin to enter the room, glance around until you see someone who needs your intercessory work.  Perhaps their shoulders are drooped, or they seem a bit sad.  Lift them into the glorious, refreshing light of his Presence.  See the burden tumbling from their shoulders as it did from Pilgrim's in Bunyan's allegory.  Hold them as a special intention throughout the service."

I try to imagine the person to whom I am dedicating my practice being bathed in a gentle, golden light.  I see this light being cast on them from above.  Anytime my thoughts begin to wonder, I take the mental image of the marauding thought and place it into a mason jar and put the lid on and put it off to the side of my mat.  I focus back on my dedicatee.  If I know they are suffering a lot, I imagine myself holding them tightly against my chest as they sob and let all their feelings out into the world.  I envision myself holding them like I hold one of my children when their emotions are beyond them:  I don't shush them, I don't try to talk.  I just hold them close and gently rock them and give them a safe place to exhaust themselves.  I try to offer them very pure compassion.

I have been the recipient of some exceptional compassion in the last few months, from all my friends and loved ones.  They have been patient and kind and yielding with me.  They have allowed me to greedily take from their emotional reservoirs.  Sometimes I still wonder why anyone would want a friend like me, so self-centered and thoughtless.  But I can't think about that too much.  I just need to accept the gift.

And then I need to give the gift.  I hope that each of you can feel me directing this warmth and care at you as I try to offer this gift into the world.

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