Beyond the meat and potatoes … Er, sort of

I’ve been practicing yoga with a lot more regularity lately. This isn’t my tradition. I grew up in enough of a meat and potatoes kind of town to fully understand that some people, albeit less and less every day in our increasingly Cosmopolitan world, think yoga is a bunch of hooey. I pretty much get where they’re coming from—I grew up in a pretty traditional, Catholic environment. Spirituality to me growing up was sitting in a wooden pew smoothed over from a great many sits before me, staring up at saints in colorful robes catching the sunlight from behind them, listening to the priest drone incantations way up front, staring into the glow of candles lighting the altar, talking to God in my head, on my knees.

So I don’t think I started out thinking yoga would provide some sort of profound experience. The first time I tried it was in college, in a big aerobics classroom with bright neon lights and mirrors all around. It seemed to be mostly about exercise, and muscle toning. But after a class or two of getting over the seeming silliness of it all (things like planting all fours and sticking your backside in the air) I started to have a few moments of notable expansion in my head and heart. I don’t think I articulated it much then. Yet off and on over the years, I continued to practice, with different teachers, in different environments. And now for the past year and a half I have settled on one studio, with a gentle teacher, restful lights, and simple music. And something about doing this week after week, going to the same place, moving through the same poses … the experience has steadily deepened in meaning for me.

Growing up in a Catholic gradeschool, there was a lot more ritual and routine built into my days and weeks—more, I realize now, than I’m naturally apt to build into life on my own. Mass was always on Thursday mornings in the church, music preparation on Tuesday afternoons in the gym, lunch unerringly at noon. I guess by nature I’m more prone to flighty swings in one direction or another—I’ve learned this about myself when let loose into an adult life that I can shape however I choose. But perhaps more of that habit of ritual sunk into my bones than I realized. Even though the squirmy 12 year old in me—and the ardently independent 20 something, I suppose—are a bit surprised to say so, it seems my heart and spirit start to expand and see the bigness around me a bit better when I corral them into a space I have seen many times, into movements I have come to expect, in an environment where I have met serenity before and thus have some measure of trust I can find it there again.

Kate Lucas lives in Minneapolis, MN, where she writes grants and many other communications for an international NGO that supports communities in Guatemala. She served with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers several years ago and now scratches out poetry and knits in her free time.
Image used from: http://static.flickr.com/108/305169133_f9305a73c3.jpg

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One Response

  1. This reality is something of which I am much aware, from similar experience. As Kate’s sister, I can say that those years at John Ireland Catholic school and their routines were certainly comforting. And in some ways, they did expand me – as Kate suggests such routines might. But there was something missing then that I think is necessary to such growth, ultimately – something I later, like Kate, found in a more Eastern spiritual approach. My inner focus and growth through daily meditation within a mystical spiritual community taught me this: consciousness. Being ever more conscious of oneself and others seems the key to true growth and expansion – which is best advanced through the self-discipline to which Kate only somewhat indirectly refers (as routine). Both this self-discipline and growing consciousness are two key underpinnings of the Eastern approach (i.e. Yoga, meditation), ones which are so often missing in Western spirituality. To combine elements of the East and West seems to provide insight into a totality that can otherwise be somewhat elusive.

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