Every now and again I bump up against the notion that my spiritual practice should not be for or about me. I bristle at this idea because I have been taught that self-care is essential and comes first. How can I help others if I don’t help myself?
I understand that when I take care of myself in mind, body, and spirit, when I stay connected to God, it has beneficial ripple effects that enable me to be more loving, present and responsive, and in turn inspire others to do the same.
But that is not what motivates me to get out of bed when it’s dark and I’m cozy. I don’t think, “I better get up and on the mat so the world will be a better place.” Or, “I better get up so I can praise God.” More often then I care to admit my thought is, “I better get up and move or my body will hurt, my mind will be all a jumble, my thighs will lose their muscle tone and I won’t prove to God – whatever that means – and the world that I’m sincere about this spirituality thing.”
I’m weary of my mind.
Upon reflection, however, I’ve noticed there are places where I do, perhaps, practice for reasons beyond my limiting self. First, I always do asana on days when I teach. It’s part of how I plan class and become available to you. I pray to get out of the way and allow class to be about God and you rather than my ego. I practice, to be present.
Second, I worry that Cole will grow up resenting yoga because when I’m on my mat I’m not playing with him. When he tries to climb on me or pull me away, I tell him I need to do this so I can be a better mommy. Which is true. I practice, to be present.
Last week my brother, Adam Thomas, preached a sermon called “Living Deep, Living Wide” in which he teaches that the symbolism of the cross is one of transformation. The vertical line drawing wisdom from a deep well – this is discipleship. The horizontal line widens our peripheral vision to encompass and serve the world around us (think of Jesus’s arms wide open on the cross) – this is apostleship. Transformation occurs in the relationship between committed study, and loving, inclusive action.
Relationship. Presence. Community. Words I find myself returning to over and over again.
As an experiment, I am taking this week to shift my motivation. When I peel myself out of bed and onto the mat I say, “May this benefit ____,” and name a friend, a loved, one, a group. Dedication is the only thing I can think to make my prayer and asana one of apostleship. To make it ever so slightly more like the cross – deep and wide.
Will you join me?
I’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts and experiences below.