Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dialoguing With Discomfort

A lot of people hate trying new things. But I really really really hate them. You can ask my parents. I bet my dad could still tell you what I ordered at subway as a child because it was the exact same for years on end. I've read the same books, watched the same movies and series, over and over dozens of times because I like them and don't want to try to invest in a new one. I had to be dragged to track in high school and refused to pole vault until the intimidating men's coach pulled me out of a workout one day and told me I was going to. Every time I've been about to begin a new journey - most memorably my internship after my freshman year of college, studying abroad - I've spent the week leading up to it figuring out how to get out of it at the last minute. Most social situations are extraordinarily uncomfortable for me. I've been thinking about visiting a new church for the last several months, but have bailed the last three weeks I said I was going to. (I am absolutely going to tomorrow.

I feel like I've made some progress over the last few years, but there are still moments. I can get physically sick from it, as though I have the flu. I get anxious every time I go to a new yoga studio, even when I know the teacher. My chest can get unbearably tight at the thought of change or something new.

I can't even really pinpoint what causes my severe aversion. I like being comfortable, but so do most people. And not everyone has such a hard time.

My schedule changed at work this week, and even though it's good and I like it, I still need time to process the change. Talking about my anxiety made me anxious. And there's a pending new church visit tomorrow. So even when people I like asked me to do something I really like, I still turned them down. I couldn't possibly be social today because I need today to feel normal and easy.

 I walked to yoga this morning and I laid on a block with my heart open and I started crying. These things really do manifest in your body.

Speaking of reading the same books over and over again, every time I re-read Hellbent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga by Benjamin Lorr,  I find something new to ponder. While these quotes are references to the physical pain and discomfort in extreme postures, I find them applicable to the emotional trauma that reveals itself in movement. 

"When you do a posture, you must choose to remain in it. You must choose to ignore the pain, choose to continue to explore your body. The pain is a phantom; ignoring it is a choice. Yoga makes us confront that choice. It makes us free to choose" 

"To really backbend, you have to become intimate with pain, not as an informational entity that raises awareness, not as a warning, but as a phenomenon, a presence you can dialogue with. You have to engage the phenomenon every time it comes up, and ultimately move through it while it screams in you face" 

This is the only pose I can think of that I am actually afraid of. It makes me so uncomfortable, not because I'm not strong or flexible enough, but because it feels unstable, unsafe.  Letting myself be in it, and stay in it, is how I open up that conversation with discomfort.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Beginner's Mindset

(Written 7/5 in my journal)

Today, Tina and I went to her first yoga class. She told me on the way in that seven months ago, when she mentioned to her therapist that she wanted to start yoga, her therapist was all on board. Better late than never.

We chose a studio near her house with a wide range of classes, times, heat levels, and a solid intro special. I'm glad we got to do this together, and it turns our one of her friends was also there and will be a good buddy once I'm gone.

For Christina, the class was difficult but not unreasonable. For me, it was really easy and I added in as I went. But it was also an opportunity to remember what it was like to experience the practice for the first time, to find something new in the familiar. I found myself paying more attention - my fingers connecting in a bind, the knife edge of my foot pressing into the mat.

It's fun to keep pushing forward into new discoveries, but this too has value: going back, back to the beginning.

Quotes from the novel, The Yoga of Max's Discontent  by Karan Baja

Man's soul cries for the infinite in a finite world

Anything which makes you forget your small self and become one with the infinite is yoga 


I had so much time to breathe and relax while I was on vacation visiting Christina. We have a friendship that grew out of vulnerability - from the beginning, we've trusted each other with our whole selves, the silly, the juvenile, the sad, the ugly, the serious. It's given us a sincere ease with each other. We don't feel pressured or judged, we don't feel like we have to impress or pretend. We just are.

So I read 5 books while I was traveling, some on the plane, but a lot laying on her couch while she edited photos (she is so talented and constantly amazes me! She owns her own business and is a year younger than me! Oh and she's going to be a substitute math teacher this fall). Mostly novels, but I did read one theological gem, Shipwrecked by Jonathan Martin.

Shipwrecked is all about what happens when life doesn't go as planned, and although the author says he brought his shipwreck about himself, most of what he writes is applicable to storms that come about on their own.

This book reminds me a little of Coming Clean by Seth Haines, in which he chronicles his journey to sobriety, and how he has to sink his own ship day after day to recognize his dependence on God. Whether you're sinking your own ship, or have it turned out from under you, the end result is the same: when Jesus is all you have, you may find that Jesus is all you need.

I'm just going to share some quotes.

Almost nobody who survives a shipwreck would ever sign up to do it all over again, a second time. Nobody can exactly say they were glad it happened. And yet repeatedly, I hear people say the same thing - that they also under no circumstances would choose to go back and be the person they were before. 

In you is the capacity to love and to live without needing the world to work out a certain way in order for you to be okay. 

If death is not the final word, and chaos produces creation rather than destroys it, then many of the stories of the life you thought were long over are far from over yet. 

If there is no other evidence in your life that God loves you, is there for you, or provides for you, consider the evidence of your own breath - each inhale and each exhale carrying with it the message that God is choosing you all over again, now, in this moment - in this breath. 

Returning to our breath is a way of returning to reality. 

When we breathe, slowly, intentionally, mindful of the source of life that fills our lungs now - we return to who we really are. 

God is at home in the chaos - it is the place from which he started the universe. 

God is not the cosmic enforcer of karma, making sure we get what we deserve. God is the one who interrupts the cycle with grace.

Christian hope is ultimately not that the sea can be survived but that the sea will one day be eliminated - in the time when time as we know it is no more. 

The world that is coming will not be marked by ambiguity, angst, and chaos. Instead, the Spirit who brooded over the waters from the beginning brings the creation project to its final end - where the seeds of the dark void finally give way to endless flowers. 

Death, in the end, is not an ally God cooperates with to bring about his good purposes for the world, but an enemy he will overthrow. 

I believe God has exactly one plan - and it is to bring the reign of heaven into the depths of the earth, eliminating the sea of our shipwrecks once and for all. 


Thursday, July 7, 2016

By It I See

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. C.S. Lewis

Some people like to say that religion is a crutch, just something to hold onto when life gets hard or confusing. And maybe, for some, there's truth in that. But I honestly don't know how you can look at this world and think it's easy to believe in a sovereign God who upholds the universe by the word of his power.

118 black lives have been stolen THIS YEAR by police brutality

Donald Trump is an actual presidential candidate

There are so many displaced people that they formed a refugee team for the Olympics

Mass shootings devastate entire communities

A privileged young man RAPES a young woman, is found guilty and has his six-month sentence published along with his swimming times instead of his mug shot

Sometimes I have to wonder if it would be easier to believe in chaos theory or existentialism or really any number of things. Because believing in a ruling and reigning Christ can be hard to handle in a world that looks like it's falling to pieces.

Really, God?

But this is where we are. This is what happens when every person decides he is the one who knows best. The serpent in the garden is still very much at work, whispering in our ears, "Did God really say?" We are the creation groaning for, limping towards full redemption. This in between is not pretty. But I believe the God who created light still controls it, that He is working to bring that light into all places, and carry all of His creation out of darkness. This is the light by which I see: the Light of the world, the Light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome by it.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 
2 Corinthians 4:6 

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:20-25 


I spent this week in Atlanta, with the one and only Christina. It was a simple trip - we'd made some plans, but there was a lot of rain and not everything went as expected. And it was still perfect.

Because our friendship started with a lot of Big Feelings and we've had a lot of Major Life Events to work through together. And when all you know are those Big Feelings and Major Life Events, the most beautiful things in the world can be laying on the couch cuddling with a cat, getting caught in a Georgia rain and eating giant bowls of noodles at nine o clock at night.

It's "a lot like Wisconsin: a series of repetitive ups and downs, the natural rise and fall of the road that stretches before you. Boring. Beautiful. Ridiculous"
Addie Zierman, When We Were on Fire