People spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen, for everything to be perfect, before they get busy living. Yoga calls us to live in the moment, to create now, to live now.
I am currently reading The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. The author Shane Claiborne is a founder of The Simple Way, a non-profit Christian community, that serves Philadelphia and throughout the world. The book is a memoir of Shane’s journey as a Christian, from church in childhood to the streets of Philadelphia and Calcutta through the founding of the Simple Way. It is also an invitation to change the world through radical love. I am excited that I will be seeing Shane speak this weekend at The Justice Conference in Philadelphia. If you are in the area, check it out and sign up! Otherwise, you can join through simulcast!
Chapter 5, “Another Way of Doing Life” questions whether Christians must really live a life apart, a life that looks different than those of non-Christians. It begins:
We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else; they just sprinkle a little Jesus in along the way. And doctrine is not very attractive, even if it’s true. Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.
…And yet I am convinced that Jesus came not just to prepare us to die but to teach us how to live. Otherwise, much of Jesus’ wisdom would prove quite unnecessary for the afterlife. After all, how hard could it be to love our enemies in heaven.“
This might upset you. It is meant to. The path takes a turn, the world flips upside down, and you are left wondering, what now?
I believe Shane’s message here is two-fold:
1) We must stop waiting for tomorrow to start living. I have heard it many times and many places, don’t put your life on hold until the until. In high school religion class (I went to Catholic school) we read a poem about waiting at a train station, and when the train finally comes you switch your wait for the destination. It is the message of the song “Cat’s in the Cradle”.
In yoga we are constantly asked to “stay present” or “be in the moment”. We focus on the breath and stay with each pose. Or we worry what the other people will think and stop ourselves from progressing until our hamstrings are looser or our arms are stronger. In truth, the only way they will become different is to work on changing them. Not through wishing and hoping but through the actual practice.
In life, everyone seems to be waiting for that perfect job, the right amount of money, the perfect city, the kids to leave the house, graduation, retirement… Waiting for that paradise, whether it be here on earth or it be in the afterlife, waiting. When really, the paradise we are looking for is something we can create right here, right now (cue the music). We are here to use this life we were given to help create the world that the ancients envisioned. Jesus, Buddha, Patanjali and many others, along with their followers, all left instructions to live life in the moment. They also left instructions on how to live that life.
2) That brings us to the second message. It is not easy to live life according to the Bible or the Yoga Sutras or whatever precepts by which you lead your life. Even when they are self-made precepts, they are difficult to follow one-hundred percent of the time. No one is immune to hypocrisy. It takes discipline and vulnerability to follow a spiritual path. It also takes complete honesty with oneself.
These precepts were not meant to be easy to follow. If they were easy, we would have all reached enlightenment already. However, many of us want to get enlightened first and then live by the precepts of Yoga. We want to wait to get to heaven to love our brother.
There really is no little nugget I can give you that will spring you into a life lived in the present. There are no neat way to wrap this up. But I can say,
Be present and live fierce.
I realize that some people may find my marriage of Christianity and Yoga unappealing. I know that there are some who see yoga as something Christians should not engage in too deeply. There are some yogis who might find the use of Christian language off-putting. I was raised in America (a culture very heavily influenced by Christian symbolism) as an Episcopalian, went to Catholic school and started yoga in the midst of it all. Christian doctrine and stories hold a lot of meaning for me and I believe in the fundamental teachings. I do not find them entirely different from the fundamental teachings of Yoga. And when they are conflicting, I get to ask why and delve deeper into my faith.
I remember reading a quote from a prominent Buddhist once, admonishing many Christians for jumping into Buddhism because they were unhappy with their own religion. This is like eating hard-boiled eggs when you are tired of scrambled. Different form, still an egg. We must understand what it is that is making us discontent with what we already know. I get that this will not be popular with everyone.