The 8th Discipline of Yoga: Knowing God


Before I found yoga, I believed in God when life was good, and doubted His existence when life was hard. Everyone from my minister to George Michael told me, “you gotta have faith”…so I tried, but my faith often failed me.

I was disciplined about attending church. I could cite scripture. Knew all the words to the hymns. But try as I might, I didn’t feel like I knew God. Something was missing.

Until one day, on my yoga mat, in Sean Tebor’s class at Peachtree Yoga Center in February 2003, I felt Him. I felt God with me there, in Warrior 1, telling me that I was on the right path. It was so empowering. I’ll never, ever forget it.

Does that sound crazy? It seems a little strange to put it in writing, that God speaks to me on my yoga mat, but it’s true. That’s exactly what happened that night, and what has happened countless times since. The more I practice yoga, the more I feel like I know God, and He is present in my life. And that makes me really, really happy.

This knowing of God is the eighth and final discipline of yoga. It happens when our mind, body and spirit are aligned, and we are open and available to what is happening in the present moment, without ego or judgement. This is where we find God.

Patanjali tells us that we can access samadhi anywhere, at any time. This might be true, but in my experience, samadhi takes practice. It’s the reason I meet my mat every day. Because the knowing of God is worth fighting for. And the harder I work to access samadhi, the more frequently I notice God’s presence in my life.

These days, I still go to church, read my Bible, and pray. These disciplines are the framework for my faith, and samadhi is the glue that holds it all together. The more I practice yoga–from the first discipline to the last–the easier it becomes to keep the faith. The something that was missing in my youth was yoga, and now that I have it, I’ll never let it go.

Namaste, and happy last day of National Yoga Month!

Amber

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Photo: blogs.blueletterbible.org

The 7th Discipline of Yoga: Just Be

When I was in yoga teacher training, one of my classsmates, Charlie, became the Yoda to my Luke Skywalker.

At the time, he had been practicing yoga and veganism for 25 years, and I was still relatively new to yoga. We ate lunch together at Whole Foods, every other Saturday for five months. He saw potential in me, and I enjoyed his company.

We talked about his wife, my husband, our new dog, yoga, meditation, and food. Charlie was mild-mannered, and easy to tallk to. Most of the time. Every now and then, Charlie would ask a question that totally rocked my world. Forever.

Like the time he casually looked up from his salad, and asked me, “What is your life?”

My mind fumbled for an answer. I told him that my life was working at my marketing job, spending time with my husband, walking the dog, and practicing yoga.

Without flinching, Charlie said, “That’s your history. What is is your life?”

I could feel my face getting warmer, as I squirmed in my seat. I considered the question again, and finally told him that my life was about helping people heal, and becoming the best person I can be.

He looked at me through his soft gaze, and said, “No, Amber. Your life is not what you did yesterday, or what you hope to do tomorrow. Your life is what is happening now. Right here, at this table. Eating this food, talking to me, this is your life. You can’t change what happened yesterday, and you can’t control what will happen tomorrow. But you can command how you live in each moment. This is you living, right here, right now.”

It took me a couple of days to process what that meant, but once I did, it changed everything I believed about who I was. I realized that I had been clinging to the traumas of my past, and letting them define me.

Charlie’s question taught me that we are not really living, if we are preoccupied with what was, and what might be. It helped me cultivate awareness, and inspired me to seek that feeling of just being in my yoga practice. And the more I learned how to just be on my mat, the sweeter life became off my mat.

This is what the seventh limb of yoga, dhyana, is all about. Practicing the art of living in the moment. It is what happens in meditation, when we are no longer forcing our attention to a single point, and we are being without doing. Our minds are aware of what is happening, but we are not reacting to any of it. We are living in the now, and there is room for God to fill our mind, body and spirit.

The discipline of dhyana helps us live a more full life. It teaches us awareness, and cultivates gratitude. We learn to value stillness. It’s finally ok to just be. And we notice things we have not noticed in the past. The sky is bluer, the flowers smell sweeter, and we feel grateful for the day we have been given.

It is the most peaceful feeling we can experience, to be in the moment, but not of the moment. Thankfully, it doesn’t just have to happen on our yoga mat. We can practice dhyana all day long, by paying attention, and not reacting, to the world around us.

I’ll never forget Charlie’s face, and what a relief it was to realize that I had the power to change my story. By practicing dhayana on my mat, I learned what it means to really live.

What’s your story? Could dhyana make it different?

Namaste,

Amber

Caribbean yoga woman

photo: peacefulpose.com

God’s Hour

This is not a blog about religion. At least I never intended it to be.

But the more I have written, the more I have realized that it is impossible to separate my faith from what I know to be true about this crazy healthy life.

When I began my quest to get healthy, I was mostly focused on external appearances. I wanted to lose weight and look great in a bathing suit. It was a self-centered approach to fitness that ebbed and flowed–a constant struggle that left me feeling like I could never quite measure up. No matter how hard I tried, I could not sustain pursuits that were all about me.

After I had kids, however, I found new reasons to get healthy, that were more focused on serving God’s purposes for my life. My focus shifted from pursuing my needs, to the meeting the needs of my children. I wanted to be able to pick them up and carry them, when they grew tired of walking to the zoo. I wanted to have enough energy to play games with them after school. I hoped to be someone they admired. And I especially wanted to live long enough to meet their children.

Ten years later, I still feel all of these things, and I am keenly aware of the tremendous responsibility that has been entrusted to me. I want to be a great Mom to them, so I have to put the oxygen mask on myself first. In order to do this, I have to get right with God spiritually, as well as physically and emotionally.

To do that, I spend at least 60 minutes each day investing in the body that He created for me. It doesn’t have to happen all at once–it can be broken into smaller time commitments–but an hour each day is what He needs from me, to help me fulfill my purpose in life.

God’s Hour

Here are the daily disciplines that have helped me sustain a healthy lifestyle, while juggling family and a career:

1. Exercise (30 minutes)

Corinthians reminds us that we are not our own, and we are to “Glorify God in your body.” Our bodies are gifts from God, and should be treated as such. Just as diamonds are created through heat and pressure, we must also use resistance to become the treasure that God wants us to be. Thirty minutes of vigorous, resistance-based exercise each day is necessary, for us to be our best for God. For me, this means yoga, but it might mean something different for you. I don’t think it matters what we call it, as long as we intentionally connect with our physical body, for the purpose of building strength and overcoming resistance, every single day.

2. Nourish (20 minutes)

God gave us everything we need to fuel our bodies when He created the earth, yet we eat more packaged foods, than the kinds that come straight from the farm to the table. The foods God created are rich in phytonutrients, amino acids, and minerals that our bodies need to remain in good health, and should be the foundation of our diet. These foods also take more time to prepare, but this is the sacrifice we must make, to be in good health. Taking time to prepare and enjoy food from the earth glorifies God.

3. Meditate (5 minutes)

Psalm 46 tells us “Be still and know that I am God.” It is essential to put ourselves in “time out” once a day, so that we can reconcile with who God is, what He has done, and what He is capable of. Meditation is the act of surrendering our mind, body and spirit, so He can fill us up with His purposes. This can be as simple as closing our eyes, and quieting our mind, or we can meditate on specific concepts from scripture (heaven, love, or peace, for example). This practice is best done sitting on the floor, but can also be practiced laying on the ground, with our arms at our sides, and palms facing up (as long as you don’t let it turn into a Scooby Nap).

4. Pray (5 minutes)

Pray throughout the day, with the intention of seeking His guidance. Get in the habit of praying upon waking, before meals, and at bedtime, as well as any other times that you want to connect with Him. Simple prayers work just as well as complex prayers…God knows our hearts, and does not need fancy words or explanations. This practice is supported in Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We renew our minds by considering what God needs from us, asking Him for support, and practicing gratitude, in the form of prayer, throughout the day.

5. Practice discernment (takes no time at all)

Erma Bombeck once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I have not a single bit of talent left, and I could say, I used everything You gave me.”  We must ask ourselves every day, “What is happening around me, and what does God want me to do with it?” When we practice awareness, we create more opportunities to use our talents for God’s purposes, and draw closer to Him in the process.

What do you think? We can talk about it, if you’d like. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or send me a private message through the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life.

Namaste,

Amber

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