Summer of Awakening

On Monday I start teaching yoga classes at Genesis Yoga. I’m nervous (maybe more like terrified) and the closer it gets to Monday the more I know I should be on my mat preparing and yet the more I avoid it.

The theme and intention at Genesis Yoga for the summer is Awakening and this morning I’ve been laying in bed turning it over and over in my mind.

Awakening. What does that mean really? What do I have to say about it? I can abstractly understand so much that it means, but how do I explain experience in words? How do I lead people into an experience of awakening, of experiencing God’s presence?

The only answer I keep hearing as I turn the questions over in my mind is the same answer I always hear about writing: “share what you know.”

Write what you know.
Tell what you know.
Share what you know.

What I know is that I’m terrified about teaching this class. Terrified in a way that you can only feel about something that you really want, that hits at something deep in your heart and pulls at all your insecurities. I known it’s exactly what I should be doing. But this morning all I can think is, “Why the heck did I decide to do this? What was I thinking?” I’m irritable and angry and wishing I hadn’t decided to do this and I could just sleep away the summer instead.

But, I know that teaching yoga is holy ground for me, not because the classes I teach are holy, perfect, or life transforming moments for people (I’m quite sure that’s rarely the case), but because standing up and using my voice in that way is life transforming FOR ME. There’s something purifying in it for me. It’s ground on which I face my fears and insecurities and past wounds. It’s holy ground upon which I meet with the God who loves me, and made me exactly as I am.

What I know is that I have spent a lot of my life believing that my desires can’t be trusted, that they are only and utterly sinful. Friends, our desires can be broken, hurtful, and wrong, but not always. So often in scripture God listens to people and satisfies their desires for good things. In the Gospels we see Jesus asking people, “What do you want me to do for you?” Oh what a question, what an utterly beautiful question!

What do you want me to do for you? What do you really want?

God doesn’t want you to hide or stuff or kill those desires in your heart, the really deep ones, the really true ones, the really core ones, he wants you to bring them to Him.

The Spirit that made you also placed these desires in your heart. At the beginning of creation the Three-in-One called us very good, and that very goodness is still there, that belovedness, that core of who you are, it’s what God seeks after and is trying to restore. It’s still there.

Yes, our hearts are broken and they have enormous capacity for evil, yet at the core, at the center, the heart of who we are is still very good, full of God’s finger prints. God still speaks over his sons and daughters the words he spoke over Jesus, the first born, “This is my child in whom I am well pleased.”

Friends, for so much of my life I have believed that I can’t really trust my desires (even my desires for good things, even my desire to do this – to teach yoga) and that I don’t really have anything to offer the world.

I have listened to the voices that say,
“You aren’t good enough.”
“That person is better at this than you are, you should just let them do it.”
“You aren’t smart enough, you don’t know enough, you need to learn more first. Maybe someday, but you aren’t ready yet.”
“You will fail.”
“No one will want what you have to offer.”
“Your story doesn’t matter. Your voice doesn’t matter, at least not as much as that other persons does.”
“No one wants to hear what you have to say.”
“You’re too young (or at least people will think you’re too young since you look young) and they will dismiss what you have to say.”
“Your place is at home.”
“You have too many other things on your plate, you don’t have time to pursue desires, even if they are good ones.”

Friends, some of these are half-truths. But I believe them as full truths and the result of all of them is the same…I shrink back. I hide. I bury my desire, and along with it any potential talent I may have. I let someone else claim the land. I give up my power, my beauty, my goodness. I consider God a bad artist, a poor potter. I ignore the voice of the Spirit that asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I sleep.

We sleep in the dark, under covers, often curled up in a protective position. Those who hide belong to those who sleep, not to those who are awake.

What I know is that God has been waking me up. Slowly. Tenderly. And oh goodness I still fight it and often want to run head first back under the covers. But Spirit has been there softly asking me to come out of hiding and into vulnerability.

What I know is that God has been asking me to own my voice, my story, the power and beauty of who I am as He made me, the beloved child He calls me.

The book of Hebrews tells us: “We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

Over and over in scripture God tells us “be strong and courageous”.

But, friends, I can’t just quote scripture at myself and hope that will change what I believe. That is often the accepted Christian version of positive self-talk and it doesn’t really work – not fully.

Oh friends, this is hard work, slow work! It doesn’t happen over night or simply by effort. I can’t positive self-talk my way into believing I am beloved. All I can do is come to Jesus, pry open my heart, lay it all out in the open with him, and then wait in quiet and ask Him to speak. I need an experience of being the beloved, I need to hear him singing love over me; not once but over and over again. This is the work of the mystics, the contemplatives, and this is the work that transforms us into being the beloved. This is the work that wakes us up to the deep love of the Father.

Over and over again, when I show up openly and honestly before God and really listen, He speaks words of love over me.

We are valuable to him. He made us, not to hide, or shrink back into the shadows, but to be light and salt, life and love to those around us.

He wants to hear our desires, he doesn’t want us to shrink back, to hide, to disqualify our desires or our gifting, he wants us to come to him with all of it.

“Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14b

I think we’ll be talking about some aspect of all of this in Monday’s class. If you are in the Phoenix area and you’re interested in coming. Class will be at Genesis church (the south east corner of 32nd St. and Thunderbird) at 10am on Monday. There’s childcare available ($5 for the first kid and $2 for each child after that).
I’d love for you to join me!

Grace and peace,
Bethany

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

Sun Salutations and Self Doubt

“The older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity. If your work is authentic enough, believe me – it will feel original.” Elizabeth Gilbert (Thank you Mandy Reid for sharing this quote on IG this week)

Friends, today I’m sharing a very similar practice to one my beautiful friend Morgan shared a few weeks ago about doing Sun Salutations to the Lord’s Prayer.

And I’m facing all kinds of fear about sharing it. My first thoughts as I share this are thoughts of comparison. The quality of my video and the sound are not nearly as good as Morgan’s video. I’m too giddy and awake and awkward, and on and on. The angle of the video is weird. My posture isn’t great and I’m tucking my pelvis. And what was I thinking doing something that a friend did so recently. Lot’s of people do sun salutations to the Lord’s Prayer, it’s not original at all, and it’s just recently been done within my own extended community. Why would anyone want to do my silly video?

And then another voice rises above the noise, “Just do you. Just share where you are. And this is where you are.”

This is where I am friends. When I filmed this video there was so much freedom and space in my heart. I jumped out of bed eager and excited, because for once I truly believed that what I had to offer mattered, even if it was totally unoriginal, even if only one person ever saw it, even if no one liked it. Because for that moment I truly believed that God loved me, that I mattered to him, and mattered to his kingdom. I truly believed that my voice mattered.

Today, feels different.

Today I am in a different place, and fears and insecurities are rising up in conflict to that still center of grounded truth. So, today I make a choice to believe, not out of an outpouring of feeling, but from a conscious decision of faith. Today I chose to do my own video, to listen to my own voice, to trust that I am truly beloved and as such I have a place and purpose.

And to go a step beyond that…

To trust that it is not my responsibility to fabricate, create, or build my place or my purpose.

All this insecurity and fear come from a lack of trust. I want to secure approval. I want to secure my place. I want to ensure that my voice has weight, that my place is a particular place. I want to control my path and contrive a purpose for myself. That is not freedom!

It is the work of the Spirit to determine my place and purpose. It is my job to trust, to follow, to obey. One step at a time. And if all those steps led to hurt, and pain, and a dead end? Then trust again.

My work is to become so deeply engrossed in God that I become ever more forgetful of self.

I have been reading Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster and came across this beautiful section today which struck me right where I am:

“Our attention becomes more and more drawn to the divine Center. “It begins to consider God more often than it considers self, and insensibly it tends to forget self in order to become more concerned with God with a love devoid of self-interest.” … Do you know the wonderful new freedom this simplicity brings? No longer is there the stifling preoccupation with ourselves. Now there are new liberating graces to care deeply for the needs of others. And most wonderfully of all, we can lay down the crushing burden of the opinions of others. Fénelon witnessed, “With purity of heart, we are no longer troubled by what others think of us, except that in charity we avoid scandalizing them.” We do not have to be liked. We do not have to succeed. We can enjoy obscurity as easily as fame.
We have also a curious liberty to speak about ourselves, not excessively but naturally. I say “curious” because most people assume that those who are truly unself-conscious would never talk about themselves. That approach belongs to an earlier period in which, out of false modesty, we try to quell any rise of pride… it is a strained humility and contrary to simplicity. In time, however, we begin to relax, and are enabled to speak of ourselves with the same candor as we do of others. “Simplicity consists of not having any wrong shame, or false modesty,” writes Fénelon.
…Throughout history there have been various traditions which, in one form or another, have advised verbal debasement of ourselves in order to gain mastery over reigning pride. We can remember this tendency in some of the ascetic practices of the Middle Ages, but it is also in evidence today in what I have sometimes called “worm theology.” “Without God I am nothing, I am no good, I am a worm!” Whatever merit such statements have theologically, I honestly doubt that they have much value in increasing selflessness. Fénelon is, I think, far wiser when he says simply, “Self-love prefers injury to oblivion and silence.”

Friends, I am so far from simplicity. I am so far from the holy centeredness of one desire. I live continually in a duel-minded state of “wrong shame” and “false modesty.” I feel shame and hide. I shrink back and diminish. I am seeped in the kind of false modesty that constantly apologizes and defers. I minimize my contributions. I minimize my voice. I soften my language. I minimize myself, my gifting, and my place in the kingdom.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to live out of simplicity of heart, singleness of purpose, centered in the divine Love of God. I want to live out the freedom and power that comes from that kind of centering.

But, oh, this is a long journey. A continual spiral. Thankfully Foster ends this section of his book with encouraging words of hope for my heart.

“But it is not a spiritual roller coaster either, because through all the motion there is a sense of progress and growth. The feeling of intermittent communion begins to give way to more sustained fellowship… Slowly and certainly, howbeit with many reversals, knowing God moves from obligation to delight. Although many times we do not pay attention to the holy Whisper, increasingly we do… As much as we may flirt with double-minded living, our real love is singleness of purpose and increasingly it is capturing our heart.”

Lord, you are capturing my heart in new ways, deeper ways. My desire is to be centered in your presence. That you would be the still center of the spinning wheel that is my life. And that more and more you would hide me away with you in that center, even as I move about through my activity. So, that all my activity, my creations, my decisions, my conversations, would begin to stem from a place of grounded centeredness with you. I desire for my life to be so ordered that as things come my way I can accept them with trust, without shrinking back, without minimizing. And that as things go, I could accept their departing with equal grace of purpose and trust in your love. May I grow to trust that what is for me, will come by your hand, and what is not for me, will be kept at bay by your hand, all in the goodness of your sovereign love. May my focus become less on myself and more on You so that I can move freely into the places and purposes you have for me, trusting that all of them are good, for you are good. In Jesus name, Amen.

Friends, I want to go back to the space of freedom that I experienced as I made this video, but all I can do for now is pray, open my hands, take a deep breath, and keep taking steps forward in trust.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

So Deeply Beloved

Friends, today I have a little gift for you and it is from my heart.

This is the yoga practice I need right now, these are the words I need. This month I have come face-to-face with a lot of my own insecurity, my own false identities, my desires for approval and the fear it all produces in my life. It has been good hard work, and there’s so much more to be done, over and over again, so much more. Yet I’m realizing that I can’t go farther without first coming to a new starting point in my spiritual journey. This yoga video is that starting point.

I come from a tradition that determined the starting place for the spiritual journey, the starting place for conversion, the starting place for walking with God was recognizing your depravity. We started with sin. We started with darkness and our distance from God. We started with brokenness. And then added to that, “But, it’s ok, because God loves you anyway, despite all that.” Somehow it doesn’t feel much like love when someone adds “despite _____” does it?

But, that isn’t where God starts. He doesn’t start his letter of Love to us with the fall. He starts it with creation. He first establishes our identity as being created in the image of God, given us His own breath for life, and then he calls us “very good”. Not just good, very good.

The story goes on and says, “Yes, we disobeyed. We are broken.” BUT, even in that God is acting out love. It is as if he says, “Your value has not changed. My heart is broken over what you did, and what you do, and there have to be consequences, but you are still created in my image, enlivened with my breath, the most beloved of all creation, very good.”

What if we could start our spiritual journey there too? What if we could start from the belief that the very core of us, our deepest identity, is being the Beloved. God does not love us as an afterthought, his love is not despite our list of x, y, and z sins. He loves us, at our core, before any of our other identities were in place, before the creation of time He saw each one of us and loved us.

Can you see the outcome when we start with total depravity? When our theology has this starting place, when it starts with sin, and the utter depravity of man, the result is fear and shame. I’ve lived with these shackles for so long they feel like my own limbs. Shame and fear and guilt – these are not the fruits of the Spirit. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patiences, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Spirit fruit is freedom fruit. It is the fruit of knowing with confidence that you are loved by God. It is the fruit of open handed surrender to the work of Love.

Yes, we are broken, oh, but, friends, I see my brokenness every single day. I know how far I am from perfect. I know how far I am from obedience. I know how far I am from God. What I need to hear is Love. What I need to enter into is being the Beloved. Because until I do, no matter how much I feel I need Jesus, I have a terribly hard time letting him in.

Recognizing our brokenness helps us to recognize our need. And we are in need. We need Jesus. Not just as a good teacher, but as a savior. There is a place for speaking about brokenness and sin. But, perhaps we would be best served if we could start by first recognizing how much we are Loved.

You are Beloved.

I am Beloved.

Everything else changes when first viewed through that lens.

This video is my attempt to start at a new place, to start with love. To strip away everything else and start with an identity rooted in being the Beloved.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

A Long Hard Climb

Friends, I’m tired. I’m physically tired, but it’s so much more than that. I’m tired of everything being harder than it should be, or than it seems to be for other people.

I’m tired of a simple trip feeling like an insurmountable mountain. I’m tired of doctor’s appointments and therapists. I’m tired of equipment and feeding tubes. I’m tired of having to carry or push a 30+ pound 3 year old everywhere. I’m tired of guessing at what she’s trying to communicate.

I’m tired of cancer and cancer treatments for Bryan.

I’m tired of my own minor health problems that no one seems to fully be able to figure out and everyone keeps blaming on stress. I’m tired of stress.

I’m tired of feeling all these hard feelings for so long and I’m tired of these long uncertain roads.

Today, I showed up to yoga with Stephanie Moors and she talked about this mountain top experience and the abundant life God offers and the GOOD that comes from doing hard things. And tears crept from my eyes because I believe that, but I sure don’t feel it right now.

She told us to press into the deep places, to do the hard good things, in our practice and in our hearts.

Every ounce of me wanted to scream, “I’m tired of pressing in, of deep work, of hard things. I’m tired of climbing the mountain, I just want to be at the top already. I want that freedom and space already!”

There have been seasons since my husband was diagnosed with a terminal cancer and since my daughter was diagnosed with CP when I have stepped back, when I’ve said, “This is too hard.” There have been seasons I have numbed, avoided, placated, indulged.

This has not been one of those seasons. This spring and summer season have been a time of pressing in, or not letting how hard something will be keep me from doing it. This has been a season of feeling all the feels. This has been a season of tears. This has been a season of creative shifts.

But, it has been hard. Really hard.

I’m grateful that externally it has been a pretty mild season. Bryan’s doing pretty well right now. His body is slowly responding to this treatment. He isn’t terribly sick most of the time. He’s working and living. We just got back from a really nice trip. The kids are healthy and will both start school soon. Sage is learning new signs every day and communicating more all the time.

But, the constancy of these trials are hard. Three years of grief catching up to me is hard. Three years of stress weighing on me is hard. The fact that I don’t know how long Bryan will feel this well, or how long treatments will work weighs on me. The fact that Sage’s journey is only beginning, and the road ahead looks so unfamiliar and overwhelming is heavy.

It’s all just hard.

I wrestled my way through yoga class today. I struggled with my balance. I felt angry. I felt wildly unsettled. I felt resentment even. I wanted abundance. I wanted freedom and victory. I didn’t want to keep climbing this long, hard, super tall mountain.

I felt all of this as we laid down in Savasana at the end of class. Part of me wanted to cry, part of me wanted to throw something, part of me wanted to curl in a ball and hide. I pulled my arms over my face. I breathed fast and shallow and tried to hold back tears.

I knew in that moment. I could pull back. I could step away. There is grace for that.

I couldn’t change the circumstances, but I could make it slightly, momentarily, easier. “There is grace for that,” I heard. And I knew it was true, I had experienced it. I knew that in other seasons I wasn’t ready to enter in the way I have been recently, and that’s ok.

“You can step back, if you want. There’s grace for that. But you don’t have to…” The invitation came like a whisper. It was an invitation I didn’t want to answer. I pulled my arms a little tighter over my face.

It came again. “It’s your choice,” it said.

And I knew, I didn’t want it to be so hard. I wanted a path that was simple and clear, well lit, with big sign posts. I didn’t want this hard, steep, hot, climb. But, I knew right then I also didn’t want to stop or step back. I made my choice. I pulled my arms off of my face and laid them on the floor with my palms up. Opening my heart to the sky. “Ok, here I am. I don’t really like it, I’m not really comfortable, but I’m here.”

And that’s when Stephanie started to pray. Her prayer was general at first. I listened and took deep breaths and tried to fight back fear, anger, and tears. I chose openness in my body and fought to choose it in my heart.

Then Stephanie started to pray for me. Out loud, in front of the whole class. She prayed for Bryan. She prayed for our kids. She prayed for me.

Something shifted. The wrestling and battle stopped. The tears fell freely. I covered my face with my hands, this time not in hiding as I had covered my face before, but in humility. Her prayer felt like God’s personal response to my choice. It felt like God showing up and saying, “I’m here. I’m right here. I know it’s hard. I know you’re tired. I see. I see you fighting. I see you pressing in. I see you. Right here. Right now. I see you.”

My face was soaked in a bath of tears.

Two beautiful women I respect, who were in the class, came and placed their hands on me as Stephanie prayed. I wiped tears away constantly with one hand and with the other I reached out and squeezed the hand of one woman and then the next.

After class I gave Stephanie a long hug. There was so much I wanted to tell her, about the way God used her to speak to me, about the way she so often brings the truth I need to hear. But I just said, “Thank you.” There were doctor’s appointments to rush off to, kids to drop off places, errands to run.

As I left I felt a little lighter in my body and my heart, a little less tired.

I find now that I want to put a stake in this ground, to remember this choice. That moment. To remember that God doesn’t just offer an invitation to us, he shows up at the other end of it. To remember that when I am weary and tired and heavy burdened, the answer is always to look to him, to press in to Him, to trust and surrender, and open. That’s the way to get lighter.

And I want to remember that so often he gives us new lightness not in isolation, but through community, through others coming around us and holding up our arms, holding our openness, when we don’t have the strength to do it ourselves. This is what I believe. This is what I’ve experienced. This is the ground I’m claiming.

I’m putting a mile marker on this bit of the climb.

Because, tomorrow I will likely be tired again.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

O Emmanuel: An Advent Yoga Series

This is the last O Antiphon before the Christmas eve vigil. It’s a prayer that in many ways sums up all of the six others leading to it.

O Emmanuel
Our King
And lawgiver
The expected
Of the nations
And their savior
Come
And save us
O Lord
Our God

December 23rd – O EMMANUEL

 

Have you enjoyed these videos? I really hope so. They were a messy gift, my first attempt at offering yoga routines through video, but they were made in love and given freely. If you enjoyed them, if you found them helpful, would you consider letting me know by contributing a small amount through paypal? I would really appreciate it.

Also, I’m working on an idea for a local (Arizona) class for Lent. It will be seven weeks of preparing our hearts, minds, AND bodies, for Easter. I’m not completely sure of the details yet (where, when, etc.), but I am prayerfully stepping forward with plans for this and would love for any of you who are local to join me. It will be a great discipline to pick up for Lent and wonderful way to enter into the story of Easter more fully with your whole being. If you are interested would you send me a quick email and let me know?

If you are not local, and are interested in this, would you also send me a quick email and let me know? I’m trying to gauge interest and see if there’s enough interest to do a video along with the class. THANK YOU!

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)