Refine My Heart: (Yoga Birthdays) Part 3
Everyday I would wake up, open my shutters (ala Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”) and immediately feel myself flood with gratitude. I always thought of thankfulness as being attached to an event or an idea. Something that happened to you when you were deeply appreciative of something, but this was different. This was a deep gratitude for being. For being alive, for being able to share. It wasn't in my head, it wasn't something that I thought and then trickled down into my heart. It was an overflow of the heart that transcends my mind, my imagination, my understanding. Growing up I would sing along with Salty the Singing Somgbook “I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…. I've got that peace that passes understanding down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.” I was experiencing true joy. Not attached or linked to anything. I think it is the closest feeling to freedom I can imagine. It doesn't own me and I don't own it, it is FREE!
I knew coming into this trip that I would be spending my birthday in Italy. Filled with both excitement and dread (because I would be missing my family), I embraced it as an is and kept my expectations super low, especially after my last birthday. A year ago I was on the cusp of turning 33 years old and well aware that this was going to be my “Jesus Year”. Many have classified it as a year of deep revelation and growth and I was excited and ready for the challenge. I have always been disappointed on my birthday. Maybe too many expectation, but if I was to dig deeper I think it's that I never felt fully seen. I got the calls and the cards and the gifts but it was another year of feeling slightly invisible. Come to find out that the root of this was my inability to allow others to fully see me. I was determined to change that last year. I called up my dear friend and mentor (remember the solstice party), and asked her to host my birthday gathering with a few friends up at her gorgeous lake house upstate. I knew that I wanted to invite friends to a Christ-centered yoga class. You know someone gets you when you say this and they don't even bat an eye. “Got it!” She said. “Let's do it”.
I was raised in a non denominational Christian household. If I had to say one of the many gifts that have been passed down to me by my parents it would have to be spiritual discernment. “Never take anyones word at face value. Not even the pastor. Always ask God to reveal it to you”. I remember these words coming from my mother from a very young age. What my mother didn't know was that she had given me permission to unleash a lifelong path of questioning. It was a gift but like many giftings, it can come packaged in fear. I was scared of my voice so I drowned it with others. I found my parents being scared of my voice as well. I was always the “good girl” and up until that point my choices reflected that. After years of doing everything “right” in the eyes of the church and society, I found myself looking at my life, filled with worldly success and being deeply unhappy asking “is this it? I decided to take my parents advice and start to truly listen to how God spoke to me. “Im diving deeper into the practices of yoga and I feel that this is how God speaks to me!" I told my mom excitedly. “ What kind of God are you praying to?” She asked. "The same one that you are mom"
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Phillipians 4:7
I began to go inwards. I quieted external noise. I started to learn the art of meditation. Payer was something that I did, but it always seemed like a desperate plea. Something external. Meditation allowed me to enter in. To hear the small still voice. Through it all, I started to notice that the teachings of the bible started to illuminate in me. The metaphors made sense. The message of Christ was seeping in deeper than ever before, in a new way. I was getting it. Not just understanding in my head but a feeling. A peace that passed understanding. I was replacing fear with curiosity and willing to ask tough questions of myself AND of God. Many would see this act as blasphemy.” How could you question God? He’s omnipotent and never changing.” I remember my mom saying one day. “Yes mom, God is the same but I’m not so I need a new understanding.” I'm coming to find that God, the universe, that still small voice inside doesn't need defending of protecting. It is an is (SoHum). What it does need is to be engaged and held with a true sense of unfolding wonder.
The day of my birthday last year, we loaded up the car with food and friends and headed upstate. We flowed through a heart chakra centered class (the root of the soul) and meditated on the understanding that to be willing to die and be reborn again is the journey of Christ, the journey of love, the warrior's path. That is what I was committing myself to that day. Yes, it was deep, yes there were tears and yes, it was unapologetically me! Afterwards, the calls that I received seemed more genuine, the cards moved me and the gifts touched my heart. I don't know if they were any different than years past, but the difference was that in that moment I was open enough to be seen.
Fast forward a year later and our Italian family is busy preparing a birthday feast for me. “They have something up her sleeves” Jess told me the morning of my birthday. I woke up to a homemade breakfast from Jess and fresh cut sunflowers from my sweet sunflower bush by the stream. My heart was already overflowing. We spent the day in a neighboring town at the beach. Dined on local fresh seafood and then headed home for the party. When we arrived, the two twin girls greeted me at the door in party dresses. The whole family was there and even one of my new yoga friends from class was there to celebrate. We ate antipasto and pizza and wine and meat and even a homemade cake. I received hand written letters (in english) explaining how our friendship has moved them. It was truly a night to remember. I was ending this year of my life the same way it started. With deep friendships, love and an openness that only comes from true intimacy. I started to realize that in this Jesus Year, I had learned how to love with the love of Christ. It transcends any words to describe it. It was communion at it deepest level. At the end of the day yoga to me is connection. More than finding it physically, it's a beautiful meeting in the middle. A divine meeting at the heart center. In theory U it is described as the alignment of the head, the heart and the hand. Linking our will with the mind and will of God and allowing ourselves to serve from that marriage.