My daughter traveled to Turkey last week. Yeah. Not exactly easy on a mother's nerves. However, I made an excellent connection between the workings of the physical body and the workings of the mind and spirit. I love finding correlations between the physical and the spiritual world.
Our body is amazing in the way it operates. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Opposing muscle groups work together to flex and extend our joints. For example, look at the knee joint. The quadricep muscles on the front of the thigh contract to straighten the knee. The hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh contract to bend the knee.
The physiological concept is called reciprocal inhibition. When one set of muscles contracts, the opposing muscles can relax and stretch. It's a bit more complicated than that, but let's go with the simple explanation.
Try this experiment with ardha uttanasana (half forward fold). Stand in tadasana facing the back of a chair. Place your hands on the chair back and step backward until your torso and legs form a right angle. (You can also use a wall or a counter top.) To straighten the legs, engage the quadriceps. Cues you may hear for this action are engage the quads, lift the thighs, draw the kneecaps up into the thigh, draw the femur bone up into the socket. Use the image that helps you to straighten the knees. (Be careful not to hyper extend if you are very flexible.) Notice what is happening in the hamstrings. Do you feel the stretch?
Bend the knees and notice that now the hamstrings are contracting. You may feel a slight stretch in the quadriceps at the front of the thighs. When the hamstrings work, the brain tells the quadriceps not to engage so that they can stretch.
Now that you understand the concept, how does it work in the spiritual realm?
Philippians 4:6-7 says: Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (The Message translation)
I had plenty of opportunities for worry to slip into my mind and unsettle my spirit last week. But I chose to engage the opposing muscle group. When I caught myself feeling anxious about my daughter's safety, I immediately began to find reasons to be thankful. I shaped those worries into prayers and thanks. I thanked God for this wonderful child who has blessed my life in so many ways. I thanked him that she had this amazing opportunity to travel. I thanked him for his angel armies and asked him to protect her. I often visualized God's spirit surrounding her. Then I came back to praise for his presence and his power in my life.
Where do you have an opportunity to choose the muscle group you will exercise? What can you find in that situation to give thanks for? How can you turn it into praise and petition? It really is wonderful when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life!