About five years ago I began to practice Yoga. I did not do it for any spiritual or social reason; I did it for the pure athleticism. Granted I cannot boast of ever being a great athlete, though there were many sports, I enjoyed, however, the one area I could always excel was flexibility.
Soon after starting with the practice of Yoga, I found that it was much more than just exercise. Coming from the Hindu tradition, there was a little reservation about the spirituality of the practice; however, my first instructor, a devoted Christian woman, would play soft hymns in the background while we worked through the poses. Towards the end of class each week, her iPod would play the Lord’s Prayer as a chant. For me, it was a neat experience and one that seemed to tap into a deeper, more concentrated spirituality.
Soon after that I began to use my Yoga time as centering time. If you have not noticed it is impossible for me to sit still, even when I do sit! What yoga does for me is to occupy my body, without the distraction of my fidgety body, phones, people, etc., I found that my yoga time was a special time where I could focus and reconnect with God and myself.
For the first few minutes after class, especially if it had been a good class, I feel like I am walking in an altered state, a little lighter on my feet, feeling full and refreshed. It is at that time when I have my greatest thoughts and ideas. Unfortunately, as I reenter the world, I realize just how quickly I become distracted by emails and buzzes from my iPhone. Don’t get me wrong; I love my iPhone and all that it allows me to do, but often it is another piece into a puzzle, a litany of distractions that keep me from connecting with God.
Many Pastors, Priests, Rabbis, Imams, and other clergy types talk about how hard it is to stay connected to God in this highly technological time. Nevertheless, the truth is that even back in the time of the Hebrew Testament, finding time to connect and focus on God was difficult. The problem is that when it comes to God, many do not see the immediate need, so we justify the distractions as needs and fall further away from the life God calls us into.
Just think of all the excuses people make when they skip church. How many of those are diversion? Now think about how you spend your day. In day-to-day life, how much of it is dedicated to God in prayer, service, or study? Now I am not advocating for an ascetic life or one that is removed from the world, but rather how do you involve God in your day-to-day life?
It is interesting: often when I do couples counseling I ask them when the last time they prayed together before being intimate. You can guess the answer. Interestingly, almost every time that they go home and practice prayer before their relations, the couples find that they are able to connect in a much stronger and intimate way. One couple swore that this prayer time saved their marriage!
By taking time to focus on God, we end up with the reward of clarity and understanding. We also allow ourselves the grace to feel connected to a God that is much greater and more powerful than we could ever imagine. Granted I know that many of you who are reading this article have a very full and active spiritual life and do everything I talked about and more. I know writing these articles is like preaching to the choir, but the reality of life is that life is always throwing us distractions that keep us from God.
One way that we overcome the distractions is to be cognizant of our spiritual life and give focused time, whether that is in nature, in relationships, in church or even in yoga.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen