Spiritual Journey Thursday: Lost Balance

Spiritual Journey Thursday has landed with dexterity and balance here at my yoga blog this month. As balance is my OLW for the year, I find myself thinking of it often these days.

bal·ance /ˈbaləns/ noun

  1. 1.  an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

    "She lost her balance before falling."

    synonyms:stability, equilibrium, steadiness, footing"

Yes, that’s exactly what she did. She meaning me. One misstep on a slippery floor and down she went. This week as I am on vacation at the beautiful Lake Lure, NC, I find myself sitting more than I had hoped. Walking less than I had hoped. But on the up side, I read an entire book for the pure joy of reading. Not trying to learn anything, not trying to analyze any structure or writing style or yoga style. Just simply enjoying a good old fashioned whodunnit. It was lovely. And I did figure it out before the end, but only slightly before the reveal.

Finding balance in all that we do means finding an even distribution of weight. Time to rest. Time to work. Time to play. Time to study. Time to pray. Time to laugh. Like a three-legged stool, the distribution of weight must be more deliberate than one with four legs. So I’m trying to be deliberate. It’s a delicate, sometimes difficult task.

I received a beautiful gift today from my son. A book called Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey (Rabbit Room Press, 2017). It’s a celebration of everything ordinary. The illustrations are prints by Ned Bustard are full of meaning, too.

This illustration is from the “Lament Upon the Finishing of a Beloved Book.”


Here’s an except from “A Liturgy for a Sick Day.”

A day such as this, in which I endure

a measure of sickness or unease,

is a reminder that the redemption of all

things is not yet complete. It is a reminder

that this body will decline and one day fail,

and so it is also a reminder that the ways

I spend my days matter—for my hours,

revealed like veins of gold beneath a rushing

stream, are a limited resource to be

purposefully mined or forever lost.

Doesn’t that sound like balance? Yes, I think so, too.

If you’d like to read some others’ reflections on balance or link your own reflections, click below.

Spiritual Journey Thursday: At Home in the Body

Spiritual Journey Thursday is a collection of bloggers who post on the first Thursday of each month. This month the topic we’re focusing on is home and our host is Donna at Mainely Write, if you’d like to read more posts about home.

I’ve had multiple conversations in the last week about what it means to be at home in the body. Are we comfortable with ourselves? How do we inhabit this body well? In preparing for my yoga teacher training this weekend, I was reading about one of the niyamas, the spiritual and moral underpinning of yoga that deal with how we relate to ourselves. Santosha is the practice of contentment with ourselves and our lives at the present moment. It means accepting and appreciating what we have and what we are, then moving forward from there. 

There is a tremendous amount of contentment for me in being at home. I love our little space, my rocking chair on the sun porch, the pictures on my walls, the chevrolet green tile in my 1950s bathroom, the flowers on the bookshelf that my husband brings me every week. Together we have worked at making home a sanctuary. We both spend a lot of time each day with people, so when we come home, it’s important that our space is a peaceful, restful place to be.

So, how do we take these same thoughts and transfer them to being at home in our bodies? How can we accept and appreciate what we have, what we are in this moment and then move forward from there? I can offer three suggestions for you to practice.

First, I think we must identify our self talk. What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror in the morning. Can you be at home, comfortable, accepting of what you see? Can you place you hand on your heart and tell yourself that you are loved? Try it and see what happens.

Second, we must remember that the foundation of our self-acceptance is God’s acceptance of us. I love this translation from the Message of Ephesians 1:4. “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.”

Third, learn to inhabit all the rooms of your body with a yoga nidra practice. That basically means walking through all the parts of your body, allowing your attention to rest for a moment on each part, giving the brain a moment to sense its connection to that part of the body. Sometimes we get disconnected from parts of our physical body. Almost like living in a house where we shut the doors to some of the rooms and never go in them. We forget what’s there, forget what the view looks like from the windows of those closed off room, forget what a lovely, little space that room could be.

Try this practice with me.

Welcome home!

Cycle of Grace

If you’ve been in the studio in the last few weeks, you will have seen these two giant post-it notes hanging on the wall explaining the Cycle of Grace. The information comes from Dr. Frank Lake in his book Clinical Theology.


This quote from Dr. Lake was part of our work on foundations in my last Yoga Teacher Training in September.

God's order for family is meant to set us firmly and securely in our identity as individuals. 

It is the mother’s self-giving and secure nurturing in the first years of life that imparts an all-important sense of being or of well-being. The father’s vital role is in affirming the child's identity and calling that child into strength of character.

This is not to say that the love and affirmation of both parents aren't vitally important all along. It is simply to say that in the developmental steps the child takes, the parents do not have the same function.

--Leanne Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer  

If these roles are fulfilled, then in adolescence when we fully separate our identities from our parents, we should easily be able to transfer the ability to receive nurture from mother to encounter the nurturing heart of God. We should easily be able to transfer the ability to hear affirmation from our father to hear the affirming voice of our Father God. 

A mother’s voice reflects our Heavenly Father's nurturing heart and says: You have a place in the world. You belong. It's a good thing you are alive. You are loved.

A father’s voice reflects our Heavenly Father's affirming voice and says: You are a good man/woman. You can do this. I'm proud of you. I'm pleased with you.

With these foundations in place, we go on to build a life. We come to Jesus, hear His words, and do the things that He has spoken to us.

Unsteady Foundations

Few of us came through childhood with our foundations intact. Often our parents didn't know how to parent. They suffered from their own lack of being. They sinned. External circumstances may have compromised their ability to care for us. They did their best, but sometimes it wasn't enough. When this is the case, we come to that critical point of adolescence and are unable to make the transfer to receive satisfying nurturing and confident affirming in our Father God. It is so hard to stand up straight and tall and look to Him to tell us who we are, that we are loved, that we have a place in the world, that it's a good thing we are alive. 

Consequently we find ourselves in a "bent" position, as C. S. Lewis calls it. We are bent toward something or someone, desperately seeking to know who we are. 

Life is intended to work this way:

We are to experience acceptance, simply for being who we are. 

If that is a regular part of our life, we experience sustenance because we are valued. 

This gives us our significance, because we matter to others and to God. 

Out of that grows our ability to make valued achievements in life. 

In our bentness, we often turn things the other way around:

We try to achieve things, 

so that they will give us significance

which will sustain us

 and enable us to accept ourselves. 

I have used this understanding of the way grace flows as the meditation for my classes in recent weeks, and I’ve found myself looking at my own life, asking where I might be functioning in that upside down model. It’s a good question, a good exploration for me.

This verse from Isaiah 28:16 says, “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.”

A huge part of that foundation in Christ is knowing that I am loved, that I have a place, that my voice matters. These statements reflect the foundations of my personhood affirmed and blessed by a holy, loving God.

Various translations render those last words as need never be shaken, will not be in haste, will not be disturbed, will be unshakable, will never be disappointed. How often do you find yourself stricken with panic, in haste, disturbed, shaken up, or disappointed?

I’ve been looking at where those emotions rise up in me and realizing they signal a place where I am not living in the foundation of being that is mine to stand in.

Sometimes in a yoga class, we sit with a sensation. We learn to identify what it is, what our response to it needs to be, whether to yield to it or to back away from it. I think we can do the same thing with places of upside down grace. We identify them, we sit with them in God’s presence, and listen for what our response should be. Then we move gently into that response, standing where we need to stand, yielding where we need to yield, resting where we need to rest, and letting the truth of who we are resonate through our body, our mind, and our spirit.

It’s a good practice.

I’ll be sending out the affirmations we have used as meditations in my next newsletter. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Goats on the Roof

I traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last weekend. Highway 441 North meanders through north Georgia into North Carolina and on to the Great Smoky Mountains. Just south of the Georgia/North Carolina state line, there is a funny little place called Goats on the Roof. We've passed it many times on our trips. Hubs and I both love the majestic scenery of the mountains. (Downtown Gatlinburg--not so much, but the mountains are gorgeous.)

Back to Goats on the Roof. We laugh each time we pass the place, but I don't remember ever stopping there before. Coming home last weekend from a getaway with a friend, we needed a pit stop and pulled in, bypassed the parking spots for "old goats," and made our way to the cafe for some lunch. Turns out the place is a good little pit stop, especially if you have children or grandchildren. The cafe serves grass-fed burgers and makes instant homemade ice cream with liquid nitrogen. You can buy Amish crafted outdoor furniture and let your kids ride the stationary bike attached to a pulley that carries food in a can up to the goats on the roof!

Goats on the Roof.png

I don't know a lot about goats, but these guys definitely preferred the rocky places and the rooftops to the mucky ground. I can't say that I blame them. I have the same preference. Most of us do, don't we? We'd rather be standing on a rock than stuck in the mud. But sometimes mud is part of life. We have difficult life situations, places of suffering, and responsibilities that keep us mired in the everyday details of life. 

I know this verse from Habakkuk is talking about deer, not goats, but the image is similar. 

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!    Habakkuk 3:19 Amplified Version

Habakkuk was a prophet living in ancient Hebrew history. Things were a mess in his nation. His people had turned away from God and sin and violence were rampant. He was stuck with his feet in the muck of this chaos, but he made a choice. He chose to be thankful despite what he saw around him. He chose to praise God regardless of his circumstances. Even when he didn't understand what was going on, he chose to find joy in God's presence.

Whatever your circumstances, stand on the rock of God's faithfulness. Trust his love as you walk through whatever trouble, suffering, or responsibility presents itself to you today. Breathe. Hold these things before God and let him make your feet like the feet of a deer and enable you to stand on the heights. (Psalm 18:33)

An Extra Sensitive Alarm System

An extra sensitive alarm system can create havoc in your life.

Before you had pain, you had plenty of room for movement and activities before you felt pain. Maybe you could clean your entire house in a single afternoon. Perhaps you could easily hike seven miles in to a picnic spot, enjoy your lunch, and hike back out. Maybe a three-mile walk or a five-mile run was part of your normal workout. 

But since, you've had pain, it takes two or three days to get the house clean, a two-mile hike leaves you with muscle spasms, your daily walk has diminished to ten or fifteen minutes around your neighborhood and your back is screaming at you. It seems to take far less movement before you start feeling pain. These limitations are not necessarily due to injury or tissue damage, but to an overly active alarm system. 


Think of the alarm system at your home. It's set to go off if someone tries to break in through a window. It's there to warn you of danger. But what happens if the alarm goes off every time a leaf blows by that window. Is there really danger present? No, the alarm is just too sensitive. Your body's alarm system, your nervous system, works the same way.

Next week we will look at some reasons why this can happen. 



Graphing Your Alarm System

 You stepped on a nail! Ouch! 

The alarm in your foot goes off. It sends a danger message to your brain. The brain produces pain to get your attention, so you take care of the problem. If you could graph it, it would look a little like this. Mind you, I'm no artist.

You take care of the foot. Clean it, bandage it, get a tetanus shot. It's sore for a few days, but the pain goes away, the alarm goes down, ready for the next adventure.

In one out of four people, however, the alarm doesn't go down. It remains extra sensitive. 

If pain persists longer than the normal healing time for a tissue, it's considered chronic pain. If you cut your finger (or go back to the nail in your foot), you expect it to be sore for a few days, but if you're still hurting weeks later, it's considered chronic pain. Those tissues should heal in a few days. 

When pain persists beyond the normal time it takes for tissues to heal, the pain is probably the result of an extra sensitive alarm system. Tissues heal, but the alarm can stay overly sensitive. 

So take this to a more pertinent issue--say neck pain or back pain or shoulder pain. When you initially hurt yourself, there was very likely some kind of tissue damage. But we know tissues heal. The body is extremely resilient. Someone with more medical knowledge than me can tell you how long those things take to heal, but somewhere in the range of three to nine months. 

When pain persists longer, sometimes years longer, the problem is very likely an extra sensitive alarm system. That sensitive alarm can cause sensitivity in the tissues, pain, and limited movement. 


When You Step on a Nail

In the last post, we talked about our body's alarm system. We want that alarm to go off when we step on a rusty nail, so that we know something is wrong and we can take care of it. The alarm system sends a message up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain assesses the danger and produces pain so that we do something about the problem. You might want to read that sentence again, just to be sure your got it. 

We said there are miles and miles of nerves in our bodies that are crackling with electricity. Just goes to show we're alive. Do you remember how many miles of nerves? Check the last post for the answer.

                      Photo by  Nicole Klesy

                      Photo by Nicole Klesy

Have you ever stepped on a nail? I remember when I was a kid, about third grade, my mother and dad literally built a house out in the country. My dad would get off work around 4pm. He'd come home. We'd eat a quick supper and head to the country where he and my mother worked until midnight on the new house. My brother and I played in the yard, made see-saws from bricks and lumber, and explored the woods. I never remember falling asleep, but I always woke up back in my bed in our little house in town. 

The day I stepped on the nail, I was walking around what would be the carport. The nail pierced the bottom of  my tennis shoe into the fleshy part of my foot just below the toe base. I still remember the rush of electricity that shot through my body.

Do you remember your own adventure with a nail or a needle or a thumbtack? Leave me a comment below and tell me about it. 

The point to all of this is that our alarm system goes off when there is danger. Did the alarm system calm down immediately when I got the nail out of my foot? No, it hurt for about three or four days. Normal healing time for those tissues. Do you remember how long it took yours to calm down? But once the tissues were on their way to healing, the alarm system settled down, ready for the next emergency. That's how the alarm is supposed to work.

Here's the problem. In about 1 out of 4 people, the alarm system doesn't go down. It stays revved up, even after the tissues have healed. That's called chronic pain. In the next post, we'll explore this issue. 



Our Body's Alarm System

I recently took a pain science course through a physical therapy clinic. I was fascinated by some of the newest research in pain science and am still trying to process much of the information. I know some things about myself, having done some self study over the years. One of the best ways I learn is to teach someone else the concept. So, as a means of grasping this new information, I've decided to begin a (reasonably) regular post here where I'll share some of these really interesting, and very useful, ideas. 

So let's start with our body's alarm system. In science class, we studied it as the nervous system. Personally, I think looking at it like an alarm system is much more effective. I mean, what does an alarm system in your house or your car or your business do? If someone tries to break in, it blares loud enough to jerk your body out of bed in an instant, wakes the neighbors, and sometimes phones the police.  I know I'm dating myself, but as a kid I watched Lost in Space. The robot (maybe an early precursor to C-P30) warned the boy, Will Robinson, whenever danger was near. 

The body's alarm system is much more sophisticated than the most advanced alarm system on the market today. It contains 45 miles of nerves, each one energized by a little bit of electricity.

If you step on a rusty nail, the alarm in your foot goes off. It sends a message to your brain saying:

                              "Danger! Danger!" 

If the alarm didn't go off, you'd be walking around with a nail in your foot and never know it. Infection would set in and bad things would happen in your body. The alarm goes off, it gets your attention, you do something about the problem. 

Once you take the nail out, clean the wound, and get a tetanus shot, the alarm can calm down, get back to normal and be ready for the next emergency. 

Pretty cool, huh? So maybe you already knew all that, but we're laying the ground work what else is coming. 

Spring Yoga Retreat

Healing Heart
Immersion Retreat

Sacred Heart Monastery
May 8-13, 2017

A heart at peace gives life to the body...  Prov. 14:30

  • Appreciate the beauty of your own gentle, redeemed heart and share the experience with like-minded women.
  • Practice yoga, meditation, chant, and breath awareness daily.
  • Attend workshops on the mind/body connection, on the energy of your heart, and on the talent of loving yourself just as you are.
  • Capture the moment with contemplative photography and a sacred walk of the hours.
  • Worship God with all of your heart.

Sacred Heart Monastery
Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center    
916 Convent Road NE, Cullman, AL 35055

$1005 pays for private room and bath, all meals, yoga classes & workshops

Retreat Director:   Dayna Gelinas, E-RYT 500


Meditation: To Feel God's Pleasure

I believe God made me for a purpose. For China. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.
— Eric Liddell

Recently a friend asked me how I meditate. There are many tools, tips, and techniques out there that can be helpful, but here is what works for me.

For many years I have cultivated the ability to know God's presence with me and within me as objective truth whether I have any sensory/emotional experience of that presence or not. Although I may not be thinking about it all the time, I have developed the ability to stop at any given moment and know this truth as reality. God's presence is with me.

Did you see the movie years ago ”Chariots of Fire"? Eric Liddell was a runner and a Christian deeply devoted to God, planning to be a missionary to China. His sister was a bit more religious than he was and did not understand his love for running.  She thought it would draw him away from his love of God. One day they had a conversation about this and Eric said to her, “When I run, I feel his pleasure." I've always loved that line. So when I come to meditation, I intentionally try to still my mind. I focus on my breathing. Sometimes I use a repeated word or phrase. But mostly I try to just be and "feel His pleasure."  I focus on an image of myself sitting within his smile, knowing his pleasure in me, and listening with the "ears of my heart” (because it’s not exactly listening with your ears) for anything else that he might say to me.

For me, that's the best form of meditation.