It Can’t Be Summer All Year-Long (A Season for Everything)

I take a picture of Laguna Beach from this angle every time I visit!

I love the summers in Southern California.  Even though I love Texas and have been a Texan for over 11 years combined (2005-2015, and 2010-present), I will always choose summers in California.  There’s something magical about driving along Pacific Coast Highway, passing a beautiful beach after another beautiful beach… My favorite beach by far is Laguna Beach.  Whenever I’m there, I stare out into the ocean wishing that the moment, the day and the summer would last forever… 

BUT IT ALWAYS COME TO AN END.

In Ecclesiastes 3, the author (most commonly believed to be King Solomon) states that there’s a season for everything under the sun:

“For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”


Now getting into my personal life… 

In 2016, God put on my heart to write a book and to start a podcast to encourage and inspire Christians in an “outside-the-box” type of way.  After doubting myself — so ultimately, doubting God — for three years, I finally obeyed his command to write a book on Biblical Meditation.  I rode the high of being a published author by doing a book tour from October 2019 to March of last year… until COVID-19 shut everything down.  Since then, I’ve been trying to write a new book, but God kept on telling me that my next “thing” was to be a podcast.  I told God that I didn’t think I was the one to do that.  The thought of launching a podcast terrified me; but because it terrified me, I knew I needed to do it for God’s glory.  So I started getting really excited about taking that leap of faith and entering the world of podcasting.  I got myself on a schedule and a plan to launch on March 2 of this year… AND THEN EVERYTHING CAME TO A SCREECHING HALT.

Let’s rewind a bit:  I have homeschooled my daughter since she was in 2nd grade (she’s now a high school junior), and this year, we joined a homeschool co-op where one of the parents from each homeschool family is required to either teach, assist, set up or clean up.  This semester, I’m teaching a Print Journalism class to 7th-12th graders, and I’m creating the weekly homeschool newsletter.  Last week was our first week back from break, and it was one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a while!  To make the long story short, I realized that until this semester of homeschool co-op is over, my life is going to be mostly about homeschooling and a little bit about teaching my virtual classes… which means NO PODCAST LAUNCH ON MARCH 2.  Initially, I fought the inevitable.  I tried to re-evaluated my schedule to see what I can move around to make room for the podcast prep work.  I looked everywhere to see if God snuck in a couple of extra hours (in addition to the 24 hours that He’s given me), but I couldn’t find the 25th and 26th hours. 😭  So after many failed attempts at resistance and trying to make it happen, I surrendered to God’s new podcast launch date for me: May 4th.  Once I “let go and let God,” I felt a sense of peace come over me, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the week without feeling overwhelmed.

The season I’m currently in is a homeschool educator who teaches virtual classes.  And just like any season, it won’t last forever… so I better enjoy the beauty of this season, and then I will enjoy the beauty of the next season in my life.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Samadhi

Today marks the final blog on “Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Eight Limbs of Yoga.”  Since August, I have written about all the limbs of Yoga according to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

  1. Yama – “Moral Code/Guidelines” toward external environment
    • Ahimsa – Non-violence
    • Satya – Truthfulness
    • Asteya – Non-stealing
    • Brahmacharya – Non-excess/Moderation
    • Aparigraha – Non-Possessiveness
  2. Niyama – “Personal Code/Guidelines” toward oneself
    • Saucha – Purity
    • Santosha – Contentment
    • Tapas – Self-Discipline
    • Svadhyaya – Self-Study/Introspection
    • Ishvara Pradnihana – Surrender to God
  3. Asana – Physical postures
  4. Pranayama – Breath Control
  5. Pratyahara – Sense Withdrawal
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation

The eighth limb of Yoga is Samadhi, which means union with God or complete integration.  Samadhi is also interpreted as spiritual absorption.  As a Christian, experiencing samadhi is becoming one with God; Not that I am God, but samadhi allows me to be completely unified with God and experience being completely in sync and being on the same page with God and His will for me.  One of my most favorite scriptures has been Psalm 37:4 which reads, Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  When I was a young Christian, I thought this meant if I have my quiet times, share my faith with people, and help others become disciples of Christ, then He will give me what my heart desires.  After about 15 years in the faith, I started to have a different understanding of this scripture:  If I delight in the Lord, my desires will transform into the desires He has for me.  Now almost 27 years of walking with God, I believe that if I delight in the Lord (being completely consumed by Him and His love), He will give me the authentic desires of my heart.

Let me explain: I grew up as a performer.  I performed in musical theatres, choir concerts, plays and dance concerts since I was a kid.  I even performed in a community theatre production of GREASE as Frenchy in my 30’s.  As much as I loved singing, dancing and acting, the feeling that came with being recognized as a talented performer was — if I’m being honest — the true driving force behind it.  So my desire and passion may have seemed like it was performing; but I believe that my true, authentic desire was TO BE SEEN.

According to my Enneagram Type (I’m Type 4), my basic fear is that I have no identity or personal significance, and my greatest desire is to find my significance and identity.  As a Christian, my deepest desire to be seen and to matter were filled by God.  Knowing and fully experiencing that I am SEEN by God, the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator of all things, I can breathe a sigh of relief and peace as I surrender completely in His love, His power, His protection, His grace, His mercy… His goodness.  And all of this — samadhi — can be experienced while sitting still, practicing pratyahara, dharana and dhyana.

May you delight in the Lord and receive the authentic desires of your heart.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Dhyana

In last week’s blog, I talked about Dharana, the practice of concentration which precedes the practice of meditation which is what today’s blog is about.  To enter the practice of meditation, the two previous stages (sense withdrawal and a single-pointed concentration) must be practiced.  The stage of meditation, called Dhyana, is simply being part of the experience that comes after concentration.  One of my teachers once said, “While you’re in dhyana, you become aware of the fact that you’re meditating, then you have come out of the meditation.”  The experience of dhyana is not a constant state; you come in and out of this stage during your practice of meditation.  Just like asanas (or anything else in life), constant practice improves one’s ability to stay in dhyana for longer periods of time. So as a Christian, how can dhyana be practiced; and is there even a difference between biblical meditation and an non-biblical meditation?  Here’s an excerpt from my book, “BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation”:

My book can be purchase on: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/jheni-solis/be-still-the-power-of-biblical-meditation/paperback/product-1dgmrmzm.html

“Shortly after moving to Charlotte, NC in 2015, I invited a college-aged girl to church as I was leaving Panera Bread. She said she was a student at a Bible College and was very involved in the church that was affiliated with the school, and after a brief but pleasant chat about God and the Bible, I gave her my business card to keep in touch.
Later that evening, I received a message from her where she was expressing her deep concern for my salvation because she read on my website that I’m a meditation coach. She advised me to pray to God and not engage in meditation that she believed was not righteous. She referred to a scripture about how you can invite evil spirits to enter you (Matthew 12:44-45). She told me that I was on dangerous ground and that I needed to repent.
I must admit, my initial reaction was to get prideful and defensive (which is really the same thing). Instead, I took a step back and thanked God for her in prayer for her heart of boldness to stand for what she believed was for God’s glory. I replied to her with a humbler heart than I otherwise would have before praying, and I thanked her for her concern. I also explained to her that meditation is absolutely biblical and that not all meditation is a “paganistic practice.”
Just like anything in life, we can take something God created and make it not of God (i.e. – corruption in politics, religious organizations, corporations, etc.). The meditation she was referring to was not the meditation that I practice. The biblical meditation that I practice is to practice stillness in heart, mind, soul and strength as stated in Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-2; Psalm 104:34.”

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
Joshua 1:8
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.”
Psalm 1:1-2
“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.”
Psalm 104:34

As a Christian, my intention for meditation should be to keep His Words close to my heart, for it to always be on my lips, and to rejoice in the Him so that I can please the Lord, the God of the Universe.  To set myself up for success, I read a scripture and pray.  I pray for God to allow the Spirit to intercede and make our time together glorifying to Him.  I then move on to pranayama, followed by pratyahara, and then dharanaWhile I’m experiencing dhyana (going into and coming out of dhyana throughout the practice), God reveals many things to me.  Experiencing this intimate communion with God is not an unattainable practice; it simply requires us to take the first step so that He can carry us through the remainder of the way.

If you would like to purchase and/or read about my book, “BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation,” click here.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Dharana

Meditation.  I can’t recall the first time I heard this word, but nowadays, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t think or mention this word at least once.  According to CDC, the use of Yoga and Meditation tripled from 2014 to 2017.  With Yoga gaining popularity each year, it is common to find articles online and in magazines that instructs the reader on how to meditate.  I’m all for more people meditating, but the word meditation is actually misused more often than not.  Most people — when talking about meditation — are actually talking about concentration, which is called Dharana in Sanskrit.

Dharana is a single-pointed concentration on an object, place or a thought.  This is the precursory step before meditation (Dhyana) which will be next week’s blog.  Solomon is the son of King David who became king at age 12.  He was known for his wisdom (and wealth), and this is what he said in Proverbs:

“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
Proverbs 4:20-27 (ESV)

In verse 25 (bolded and underlined above), King Solomon gives the advice to look directly forward, gazing straight ahead.  To carry out this instruction requires dharana.  Dharana weeds out the distractions that take us away from whatever we’re trying to accomplish.

This is one of my besties, Lisa Washington. She is a chef, yoga teacher, life coach, an entrepreneur. Check her out on https://setthetablewithlove.com/

When I was learning about meditation while going through my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training, I would often go into my walk-in closet and practice meditation behind closed doors.  I was serious about my meditation practice:  I would close the master bedroom door, walk into the bathroom and close the bathroom door, walk into my closet and close the closet door, and then I would put earplugs in so that I wouldn’t be disrupted, disturbed or distracted.  I sat still and started practicing pranayama for about 10 minutes; during this time, I also practiced pratyahara (sense withdrawal) and dharana by counting my breaths (“Breathe in 54, breathe out 54.  Breathe in 53, breathe out 53…” all the way down to zero) which allowed me to experience true meditation.  Meditation is one of those things where the moment you’re aware that you’re meditating, you are now out of meditation.  During this time of COVID-19 quarantining and social distancing, it is so helpful to the mind, body and spirit to practice dharana.  Here’s a dharana practice you can try at home:

  1. Place a lit candle in front of you, ideally at eye level.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position.  If sitting/kneeling on the floor isn’t comfortable, feel free to sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground without your back touching the back of the chair.
  3. As you softly gaze at the candle light, allow your breaths to become even (inhales are the same length as the exhales)
  4. Continue this practice as you allow your gaze to go through the candle light, passively looking through the candlelight.
  5. Increase the length of the practice by 30 seconds or a minute each time you practice.

By practicing dharana regularly, you will be well on your way to experiencing meditation!

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Pranayama

“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Genesis 2:7

From the moment you woke up to the seconds before you started reading the scripture above, how many breaths have you taken?  If your answer is, “I don’t know,” then you and I are on the same boat!  In fact, we take take  on average approximately 20,000 breaths per day, so it makes sense that we’re not aware of every breath we take and the number of breaths we have taken since our eyes opened this morning.  God has breathed the breath of life in our nostrils the moment we took our very first breath at birth, and we have been continuing the tradition of breathing everyday for the most part (with the exception of traumatic events that you may have experienced that temporarily paused the breath of life — which in that case, I celebrate that you were able to resume breathing again).  God made breathing an essential part of sustaining life in our earthly bodies.  We experience various types of breathing in life: Deep breaths, shallow breaths, slow breaths, short breaths, erratic breaths (thanks to hiccups, sneezes, coughs, etc.), held breaths, and forced breaths.  The fourth limb in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Pranayama is sanskrit for controlling the breath/regulating the life force.

The state of the body changes depending on the way we breathe. Just with breath alone, we can induce and reduce anxiety, stress, aggression, and any other unfavorable emotion.  Believe it or not, you can actually increase and decrease your blood pressure by changing the way you breathe.  During one of my annual check-ups, my blood pressure was 130/80 which was higher than my normal.  Granted, I had just come from taking a cycling class 10 minutes ago, it was really hot outside, and I speed-walked across the parking lot because I thought I was going to be late for my appointment.  I asked her if she could take my blood pressure again at the end of my appointment “just for the fun of it.”  She looked puzzled but agreed to do so.  At the end of my check-up, I began taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths while I took longer exhales than I did inhales.  My blood pressure changed to 120/73 (which was still higher than my usual 115/68).  She was surprised at my new blood pressure reading until I told her I simply activated my parasympathetic nervous system through deep, slow breathing.

Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is our nervous system that is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” response to homeostasis.  Unfortunately, most of us live with our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) — our “fight or flight” response to health — active.  When our SNS is active, our muscles and organs tighten up, stress hormones are released, and our digestion & elimination slows down.  This is a needed response if we’re in danger and need to get out of harm quickly, but if we live with an overabundance of SNS active, our bodies will not be able to relax, balance and heal.  One of the greatest ways we can balance and heal our bodies is through controlled breathing, aka Pranayama.

God has created our bodies to heal itself.  One of the ways our bodies heal itself is through the breath.  When the breath is balanced, the body, mind and soul become balanced.  Here is a pranayama called Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) that I like to practice to create balance between my masculine and feminine qualities (we all have both), moving and stillness, self-control and surrender… faith and deeds:

  • Close your eyes and begin breathing in and out through your nose, moving toward matching the length of your inhales with your exhales (i.e. – if you’re inhaling for 4 counts, the exhale for 4 counts).
  • Bring your right hand up to your face and fold your index and middle fingers down.
  • Plug your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril; hold your breath as you plug your left nostril with your right ring finger (simultaneously, unplug the right nostril).  Continue, imagining that each breath you’re taking in is coming from the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4):

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Job 33:4
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”
Ezekiel 37:5

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Asana

Asana is Sanskrit for physical postures. Most people wouldn’t think of postures as something that would be significant as a Christian, and you may be curious to see how I’m going to relate yoga asanas — yoga poses — to Christianity… but postures are indeed significant in the Bible:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”  Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.”
Genesis 17:1-3
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
Psalm 95:6
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:13-15
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:6-7
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1–2
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven and said: “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.
I Kings 8:22–23

Asanas in the Bible were more than just symbolic for one’s feelings; they were expressions of love, reverence, respect, humility, surrender, awe, security… It’s actually the way God created us.  He created us to be expressive beings with the ability to glorify Him heart, mind, soul, spirit… and body.  When we use postures to experience who God created us to be, we’re practicing yoga asanas.  Being that there are Christians who believe that Yoga is not of God, I would like to address the biggest misconceptions specifically when it comes to yoga asanas:

MISCONCEPTION: YOGA POSTURES ARE NAMED AFTER ANIMALS AND HINDU GODS, SO PRACTICING YOGA ASANAS IS LIKE WORSHIPPING ANIMALS AND GODS THAT THE POSES ARE NAMED AFTER.

It is true that some of the poses are named after Hindu gods and animals, but using these poses in your yoga practice does not mean you’re worshipping a Hindu deity.  According to Mark 7: 15, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”  For me, when I practice yoga asanas, I focus on my breathing, being present in each moment and acknowledging the presence of the Holy Spirit.  But, if practicing yoga asanas causes you to go against your conscience, you should not practice it because, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” (Romans 14:14)

I’m sure there are more misconceptions about yoga asanas, but the above misconception is the one I’ve been told numerous times.  So how should we practice the yoga asanas to glorify God?

1.  Start with a word of prayer.
Sit comfortably and relax your shoulders.  Take deep, diaphragmatic breaths, focusing only on your breath.  Once you feel settled physically and mentally, let God know that you are dedicating this practice to Him (or anything else you would like to tell him before you start).

 


2.  Warm Up
Do some gentle poses to warm up the spine and joints as well as to gently stretch any tight muscles.  Some great warm-up poses are Cat/Cow, Child’s Pose, and Downward Dog Pose.


3.  Salutation Flow

This is typically known as a Sun Salutation, but if this term bothers you, then you can use a different term such as “God Praise Flow,” or just simply, “Salutation” which is what I generally call it.  It can be the traditional Sun Salutations or a set of poses to flow in and out of.  Connecting each movement with breath, it will begin to energize your soul while increasing heat in your body.

 


4.  Standing Poses
Standing poses such as Tree and Mountain create stillness, balance, and connection to earth.  It reminds us that “being still” (Psalm 46:10 and Exodus 14:14) takes work.  We call yoga practice a “PRACTICE” because it really is that: A practice in being still.  A practice in balance.  A practice in strength.  A practice in being completely present.

 

 

 


5.  Seated/Kneeling/Arm Balancing/Prone/Supine Poses
This includes non-standing poses where you’re inverting (upside down) or creating backbends, twists, laterals (side bends), extensions (lengthening the spine), and forward bends.  Inversions include handstands and shoulder stands; Arm-balancing poses include Crow pose and Firefly pose; Kneeling poses include Gate pose and Camel Pose.  I generally keep prone (lying on belly) and supine (lying on back) poses towards the end for flowing easily (as opposed to standing up, lying down, sitting up, kneeling, lying down again, etc.).

Each pose has a different effect on the body, mind and soul, with backbends being extremely energizing and forward bends being very calming.


 

6.  Supine Cool-Downs
There is no strict rule about lying down on your back for cool-downs, but I personally prefer to cool down lying down on my back because it’s a peaceful transition to Savasana.  Any gentle movements that will release any leftover tension in the body is appropriate.


7.  Savasana
This is the final pose in an asanas practice.  This is where you lie still and surrender your body, mind and soul to God.  Completely.  Savasana is known to be the most challenging pose in yoga because you’re not only disciplining the body to be still but your mind as well.  Savasana can be in the form of a guided relaxation or complete silence.


I always like to finish my asana practice with a breathing exercise… which I will discuss next week!

 

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas, Pt. 5: Ishvara Pradihana

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”  This is the beginning of the well-known Serenity Prayer which is used by many 12-Step Recovery programs.  Ishvara Pradnihana is sanskrit for surrender.

In March 2019, I completed a 3-day leadership workshop called Y12SR (Yoga of 12-Step Recovery) in Charlotte, NC.  I went into the training expecting to learn how to lead this program that’s available as a supplement to any 12-step recoveries in existence; however, what I quickly realized is that we’re all addicts to something because addiction is any urge that’s hard to control or stop.  One of the topics we discussed that weekend was the concept of co-dependency.  I would’ve never considered myself a co-dependent person, but my teacher Nikki Myers, explained that co-dependency is the most common addiction which is a belief of looking outside of ourselves – people, places, things, behaviors or experiences – to bring fulfillment and joy. This is also the base out of where all other addictions and compulsions begin.

When we become addicted to anything/anyone, we become unwilling to let go of the source of our addiction; What’s ironic is that we think this gives us more control, when in reality, our addictions end up consuming us.  The only way to let go of this destructive cycle is to practice Ishvara Pradnihana.  When we surrender our lives to God, we are waving our white flag and asking for Him to take complete control of our lives.  In the scripture below, the king with ten thousand army of men represents me and the one with twenty thousand represents God:

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”
Luke 14:31-32

Personally, I think control is overrated.  Before I became a Christian, I tried to control everything in my life: I tried to control how close my best friends were to each other so that I can make sure none of them were closer to each other than they were to me.  I tried to control my weight by starving myself and then purging out any amount of food I ate as well as exercising for 3 hours almost everyday.  I so badly wanted to control every aspect of my life only to be sobered to the truth that I had no one to guide, direct or mentor me towards the life that I was meant to live.  I lived a very fast life until I became a Christian at age 19.  When I became a Christian, I felt so relieved that I could let God not only fix my life but take control of what my life was going to look like from that point on.  Carrie Underwood sang it best when she sang:

Jesus, take the wheel.  Take it from my hands,
‘Cause I can’t do this on my own.
I’m letting go, so give me one more chance.
And save me from this road I’m on…
Jesus, take the wheel.

There’s a sense of relief when we don’t have to be the Controller of everything.  Surrender doesn’t mean that you do nothing; it means that you control only the things you can based on God’s Word — The Bible — and anything outside of your circle of control, you give it to God.

I live by three things when it comes to surrender:  Resolve, Dissolve and Release.  If I can resolve an issue biblically, I do it.  Second, whether or not I was able to resolve it, I move on to dissolving it out of my heart through prayer and meditation so that I don’t hold onto to the stress and the toxic energy of bitterness.  Finally, I release it by giving it to God.  I say, “God, take it please.  It’s now yours.”

I would like to leave you with the full version of the Serenity Prayer written by the Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas, Pt. 3: Tapas

When I was a freshman in college, I spent many nights cramming for tests.  I have (unsuccessfully) attempted to pull all-nighters before mid-term and final exams.  Even as an adult (many years out of college), I have procrastinated getting things done because I “just didn’t feel like” doing them right away.  Tapas — which is sanskrit for “self-discipline” — is something none of us excel at 100% of the time.  We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm, and we favor rest and relaxation over hard work.  It seems that it’s becoming more and more challenging to make self-discipline the normal expectation.

As Christians, God expects to go against the norm.  It’s impossible to be a biblical definition of a Christian (more commonly referred to as a disciple in the Bible) and not practice tapas.

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
Proverbs 25:28
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Tapas applies to every part of our lives, but today, I’m going to talk about physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual aspects.

TAPAS AND THE BODY

I hate exercising.  I love how I feel after I exercise, but the part that I usually struggle with is actually getting myself started with exercising.  I’m sure this sounds very odd, coming from a fitness instructor and a yoga teacher.  I guess for me, I love being active but I don’t like to exercise for the sake of burning calories/losing weight/toning up/etc… which is why I teach fitness and yoga classes.  I used to be a member of a boutique fitness studio where everyone did 60 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).  The workouts varied from day to day, but we always did cardio on the treadmill and the rowing machine combined with various weight training and TRX work.  One of the reasons why I joined was for the discipline aspect.  I knew that each time I went, I was getting out of my comfort zone and pushing my practice of discipline which was great for my character.  The more I practiced tapas in regards to exercise, the more I found myself relating to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (second passage above) and enjoying a healthier and stronger body.

TAPAS AND THE MIND/HEART

There’s a reason why I put both mind and heart in one category:  When we’re not disciplining our emotions, our minds begin to believe the emotion to be the absolute truth.  Since 1994, I have helped lead youth and family ministries in California, Texas and North Carolina.  It was such a blessing and a privilege to have the opportunity to impact teenagers in a positive and spiritual way, but one of the constant challenges were helping them to gain a conviction that what they feel at the moment are not necessarily godly nor the reality.  I’ve seen many teenagers fall in love with the wrong person and get their hearts broken.  One thing I would hear often is, “I was convinced that he/she was the one.”  Some of them would learn from this and not just rely on their feelings; unfortunately, some would go on to make the same mistakes which ends up in one heartbreak after another, and each time, destroying their self-esteem and outlook of positive relationships.  Adults are not immune to making this same mistake.  If it’s not a romantic relationship, it could be friendships, work situations, encounters with strangers, etc.  My husband once broke up a loud, verbal altercation at our community gym which started because one guy was trying to use two workout equipment at the “same time” (going back and forth between the two).  Another guy quietly confronted him on it, so the guy (the “reserver”) apparently started yelling at him (the “confronter”) and getting really close to his face like he was going to beat the guy up.  My husband approached them calmly and gently talked some logic into the situation (“We’re all just trying to work out.  We all live in this community.  We’re all neighbors.  Let’s all back up and cool off.”)  Apparently, that’s all it took for them to back up  and calm down.  Before my husband left, he witnessed apologies being exchanged between the two guys.  Our emotions have the power to change our minds about what’s real and what’s not.  The good news is that we have even a greater power to determine what our minds believe as the truth.  And when we discipline our minds, our heart will follow suit.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9
TAPAS AND THE SPIRIT

I’ve been a Christian for 26 years, and it is still a challenge to practice self-discipline when it comes to my spiritual life.  I’m not talking about having my daily times with God; I pray and read my Bible daily, but what I struggle with is disciplining myself to practice godly characters (fruits of the Spirit) daily.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-22

I’m pretty good at practicing all of these when it’s easy for me (I’m sure that’s the case for everyone), but when I’m trying to be loving, joyful, peaceful, forgiving, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled toward people that seem to know how to push my buttons, this list becomes quite the challenge for me to live out.

And I suppose that’s why I need to rely on the Holy Spirit to practice Tapas everyday.

Come back next week as we talk about the 4th Niyama: Svadhyaya (self-study).

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas Pt. 1: Saucha

Today, we start a 5-part series on Niyamas which is sanskrit for “observances.”  The five Niyamas are qualities to practice in our personal lives for not just the betterment of ourselves, but it also serves as a way to get closer to experiencing our authentic selves.  The first Niyama is Saucha (pronounced “sowcha”) which means “purity.”  I’ve heard people also define saucha as “cleanliness,” but I feel that purity is a much more accurate definition.  Cleanliness generally refers to our outer bodies, decluttering our living spaces and anything on the outer parts of an object.  Purity on the other hand, refers to cleanliness as well as something deeper.  Purity can refer to one’s mind, one’s internal body systems, emotions, and even one’s soul.

“Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish,
and then the outside also will be clean.”

Matthew 23:26

The scriptures are clear on the importance of having a pure heart:

“The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright.”
Proverbs 21:8
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Matthew 5:8
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 1:5
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,”
1 Peter 1:22

So how does one practically practice Saucha?


PURITY OF THE BODY

Purity of the body includes cleansing techniques such as Jala Neti (also known as nasal irrigation), a short-term detox diet and fasting to get rid of any toxins that you have accumulated throughout a span of time.  I think it goes without saying, that keeping the outside of your body (your skin) clean is also important, but without purifying the inside of your body from time to time, the toxin-buildup will start to come out through the pores of your body by creating odors and skin issues.

I started a modified intermittent fasting about a month ago.  I eat for 8 hours, and for 16 hours, I fast.  I also fast from solid foods once a month, but that’s more for spiritual reasons (which I will talk about towards the end of this blog).  One of the reasons I started intermittent fasting is because I noticed that as a woman in her mid-40’s, I’ve been experiencing a change in my body composition.  It is much easier to accumulate fat in my midsection, and I was finding myself feeling bloated more often than I wanted to admit.  I have gotten a food allergy test before, and other than being lactose-sensitive, I don’t have any food allergies.  I eat a plant-based diet, and for the past 5-6 months, I’ve been eating more of a vegan diet.  I generally don’t eat a lot of junk food, but ever since I started my intermittent fasting, I don’t have junk food cravings.  I feel a lot cleaner on the inside with less bloating, so it helps my mind to be more onboard with observing Saucha of the heart and mind.


PURITY OF THE HEART AND MIND

There are so many layers to the purity of the heart and mind, but for today, I will only focus on one aspect:  Seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

Children are awesome.  They laugh unapologetically when something is funny, they don’t hold back tears when something makes them sad, and they forgive quickly and literally forget what they were mad about.  They’re able to live this way because they haven’t yet been tainted by the toxins of life.  When they play, they are fully in that moment.

How great would our lives be if we were willing to let go of insecurities, bitterness and anything else which are preventing us from living a life of freedom to be in the moment without any cares and worries of the next minute?  I know this is so much easier said than done, but God has blessed us with many ways of chipping off these layers that we build around ourselves that prevent our hearts and minds from experiencing complete purity.  Some of the ways that I’ve personally utilized for heart and mind purification are counseling, yoga, (biblical) meditation, life coaching, and of course, reading the Bible and praying.

“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom to cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”
1 Peter 2:16

PURITY OF THE SPIRIT

Purity of the Spirit can not be achieved by human effort.  There is nothing we can physically do to obtain a pure spirit.  This is only possible with Christ.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

We don’t achieve purity from obeying the Word of God (as in, we can’t make ourselves pure); We become pure by the God’s grace and mercy.  He purifies our spirit; however, in order to stay on the path of purity, we must live in obedience to God’s word (the Bible).

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.”
Psalm 119:9

Of course, there are so many other facets of Saucha that I did not cover in this blog because that could literally take an entire book to write about… but I hope you were able to at least get a glimpse of Saucha from a Christian Yogi’s perspective.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 5: Aparigraha

As we finish up the last of the 5 Yamas in Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs of Yoga,” let’s do this quick breathing exercise together:

Keep your shoulders relaxed, sitting with spine in neutral.
Take a deep breath in.
Let the breath out.

Now, breathe in again; but this time,
notice how the breath feels as you fill up your lungs with air.
Then breathe out, letting that breath go.


How did that feel?  Pretty good, I’m sure.  🙂

Aparigraha is sanskrit for Non-Possessiveness.  This covers everything from materialism, hoarding, unhealthy habits… basically, anything that causes attachments outside of God.  Why is practicing Aparigraha so important?  I will break my response into two parts: During and After.

 

During the Practice of Aparigraha

One of the greatest challenges of practicing non-possessiveness during this COVID-19 Pandemic is all the online shopping that is practically being shoved in front of our faces. When I checked my e-mail yesterday afternoon, I had 73 Unread messages, and almost all of them were e-mails from retailers notifying me of a sale, a coupon code, or a new promotional item.  I think I’ve only shopped from maybe 7-8 of those retailers, and I generally delete those e-mails; but once in a while, an e-mail subject line will catch my eye if it mentions a 50%-75% off sale.  I will click on the e-mail and start browsing on their online store, feeling the temptation to buy the leggings or the eyeshadow palette just because they’re on sale.  I may even add them to my cart, but in the end, I delete them out of the cart because I know that I don’t really need another pair of leggings or another palette of eyeshadow.  Part of what helps me is going back to what the logic part of my brain — the frontal lobe — is telling me.

When we’re practicing non-possessiveness, we allow ourselves to receive the enjoyment and the nourishment of the object/people/situations but we don’t become attached and/or addicted to it.  We begin to understand that we can not look at tangible things the same way that we look at non-tangible things.  Tangible things are temporary, whereas non-tangible things are eternal.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthian 4:18

After the Practice of Aparigraha

Another thing I’ve been seeing a lot online is ads for weight-loss and fitness programs.  Most of these ads show the “Before” and “After” photos of people that have successfully lost weight or gained muscle-definition using their program.  Just like how the “After” photos show the benefits of the program, you see the benefits of practicing non-possessiveness after you actually practice it.  By not buying things that you don’t really need, you will have money in your bank account, you won’t have a credit card bill at the end of the month (which would included a monthly interest rate that you will have to pay), you will actually enjoy the things that you already have, and you won’t have to worry about somehow making more room in your home for the things you just bought.  You may even notice that you feel happier from not being ruled by a life of excess.  You’re able to make space in your heart and your soul for more experiences, more freedom, and more joy.  This brings about a sense of empowerment to move forward without dragging a big, heavy load of things that will only slow you down from your ultimate, divine purpose in your life.

In the beginning this blog, I invited you to do a breathing exercise.  The air that you breathed in nourished your body and kept you alive; but what would’ve happened if you held on to that breath and not let it out?   That very breath which was meant to nourish you would have become toxic to your body.  Just like the breath, the tangible things in this world are not necessarily bad; but if we don’t learn to enjoy them and then let them go, they will end up become toxic to our spiritual growths.

Each of the five Yamas that I have spoken in these past five weeks — Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-Stealing), Brahmachaya (Non-Excess), and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness) — make up the restraints and moral codes that build on the previous Yama.  Next week, I will begin the topic of the second limb of Yoga which is Niyamas.

With Gratitude,
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