Welcoming Life

“Remember what it is that makes yoga different than exercise ~ for it to truly be yoga, there must be the mindfulness, the awareness, the willingness to feel and explore everything in your body, without judgment.  It takes courage to stay with what you feel….  ”

These words came from Angela, my yoga teacher, upon my return to her marvelous class.  As I listened, I wished for a moment that I were still teaching, so that I could pass the wisdom on….  and then I let that go, and came into the sensations in my body, discovering impatience and resistance, along with the joy of mindful presence.

I was recently introduced to a practice that comes from the contemplative Christian tradition, as taught by Father Thomas Keating and the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault.  This practice, while coming from a Christian perspective echoes what I have learned over the years in yoga – that the willingness to feel exactly what is going on in your body without resisting it, and as Rumi says to “be grateful for whoever comes” – can lead you into a kind of surrender that allows for a deeper appreciation of life.

In this practice, called the Welcoming Prayer, you scan the body, noticing whatever is there …. pain, or numbness, or resistance…  any sensation.   If you find nothing to focus on, you simply become aware of the body itself, where it is in space, on the chair, etc.  Focus on the sensation, feeling it completely, sinking in to it,  and then say this word:


Welcome.  Welcome.  Welcome.

Then let go.  Let go of the need to change it, let go of the desire for this moment and this sensation to be anything other than what is.

What??  Welcome the pain?  Welcome the anger?  Welcome that annoying irritability?  OH NOOO!
But Yes…. perhaps I can welcome even the resistance to the welcoming…

This is what we work with all the time in yoga.  Feeling that edge of the pose that says “no more ” – feeling the impatience that comes up, or the wanting to quit, or the resistance to the practice itself….. and if we are truly doing yoga, we notice this, and notice how it plays out in our lives.  In practice, we learn to stay present with that anger until it moves into laughter, or not.  We learn to stay present with the uncomfortable sensations, feeling the freedom that comes when we let go of  resistance, noticing how we can use these tools in our life: in traffic, at work, with family.  We learn, if we are willing, compassion as well as mindfulness.

How many of us really want to feel our pain?  I’m not thrilled about welcoming the discomfort of being unable to breathe in an asthma attack after a hike up a mountain.  I don’t really want to welcome the irritability that comes up when reckoning with impatience as I struggle with a pose, or more practically learn how to live in a small space.  And I certainly don’t want to welcome the helplessness I feel when I see the pain my loved ones are in, and can do nothing.

Learning to stay present, however, opens us.  To stay present with pain can break open our hearts, deepen our understanding, teach us to be more compassionate, and grateful.  We can’t see with the bigger picture of All That Is. We can only know our own small piece of current being-ness. If we can stay with that little piece, maybe we will find that Rumi’s words are real… that whatever this is “may be clearing you out for some new delight.”

It does take courage. But then, living takes courage.  Whether we choose yoga as our path, or a Buddhist meditation practice, or the welcoming  and centering prayers found in the Christian contemplative tradition … or some other tradition….or no tradition at all…  it doesn’t matter.

What matters is our willingness to open, to welcome What Is in this life that we are living.  Call it the indwelling Christ, or the God I AM, or the Universal Presence, or simply Life….   Here we all are.  Can we live this moment, this now, as it is?    THIS is our experience.  And simply the fact of having this experience means that we are Here.

We are here, we are alive, this is good.

Today… Be in love with Life in all of its craziness.  Know that this is your experience, and because it is yours it is sacred and beautiful.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 08:50  Comments (2)  
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