February 24, 2015

Yoga Back (Warning: Gratuitous Selfie)

I've been a member of my local studio since June now. My membership got off to a rocky start; a few days after I joined, I carried something too heavy and threw my back out. I couldn't even get an emergency massage because I'd dropped my massage plan in order to afford the yoga membership. Then, eager to get back to the mat and prove that I hadn't made a terrible decision by joining the studio, I took a class before I was sufficiently healed. I ended up having one of the longer and more terrifying back pain extravaganzas in a life that has had its fair share of back pain extravaganzas. (Incidentally, I wrote the first draft of this essay for the Christian Century while on strong painkillers. This made for a rather convoluted first draft that took forever and a day to fix. Lesson learned.)

But the acute crisis healed, with rest and a course of chiropractic care. I went back, chastened, with a renewed awareness that yoga was not going to heal my back problems in a day, a week, a month. I went back humbled and ginger, and afraid of what could happen if I upward-facing-dogged the wrong way. But I went back, and I went back, and I went back.

And now this is my back.

I have spent roughly two decades hating my back, so forgive the gratuitous selfie, okay?

It's changed. I can see it. I can feel it. My problematically weak core is getting stronger. Things that I thought I could never do - chaturanga without dropping to my knees, side plank, bird of paradise - I can do. I'm still cautious about pushing myself. As I continue to practice I continue to build not only my muscles, but also my awareness about what I should and should not attempt. With my particular spine, I'll likely never do a handstand or wheel pose or any other deep back bend. But I am tentatively beginning to hope that if I keep this up, I might not end up in anguish for days on end, frantically counting down to my next dose of painkillers and muscle relaxants.

Yoga has had an immeasurable effect on my spiritual life; I'll get to writing about that sooner or later. But just as we live and move and have our being within God, we also live and move and have our being within bodies. And I cannot adequately express how exhilarating it is to consider the possibility that I might actually have found something that will deliver me from this particular pain that has been a part of my life for so very long.

Knock on wood.

February 11, 2015

Winter Makes Neighbors Out of People

I grew up just beyond the reach of the Lake Erie snow belt. I dreaded winter so much that I could make myself shiver just thinking about it - a handy trick on long, muggy August afternoons. I dreaded winter so much I wouldn’t even let myself enjoy the glories of autumn. Instead of seeing beauty in the red and golden leaves, I braced myself for the slow descent into chilly misery. My family barely dabbled in winter sports, so I didn’t even have the thrill of sledding to buoy me through until springtime. I stayed in-state for college, torn between wanting a warmer climate and wanting to be close to my parents. After four years of scraping ice from my windshield and scheduling my classes according to how far I’d have to venture out onto the frigid campus, my graduate school discernment process was a breeze.

So it was that a few weeks after our July wedding, my husband and I set westward for sunny Southern California. I’d visited the seminary in February, and been transfixed by the novelty of gazing up at the mountain snowpack while wearing a light jacket. I was thrilled to be out of the grinding Midwestern cold for good. But when we pulled up to campus, exhausted from our cross-country road trip, the mountain range wasn’t there. Granted, I hadn’t grown up around mountains and was therefore unaccustomed to their nuances, but I was relatively sure that mountains did not pick up and move. Had someone at this seminary put their mustard-sized faith to the test, and triumphed? As I squinted at the blank, hazy sky where I knew they’d been, I could make out a faint outline of Mount Baldy, all but obscured behind a veil of thick smog.

February 5, 2015

Remembering Marcus Borg

I learned of Marcus Borg’s passing on Facebook, from Diana Butler Bass. The news spread as news does these days, from person to person, fanning out across the social media feeds of liberal Christians everywhere. As one friend noted, “A lot of people do not know the name Marcus Borg. Those who do know that name seem to really know it.”

I lost count of how many friends and acquaintances posted appreciative reflections of Borg and his work (and, incidentally, his taste in footwear; more than one person fondly remembered his tendency to wear colorful socks). A distinct theme emerged from this chorus of eulogies: many progressive Christians identify Borg as the person who made space for them to return to—or remain in—the Christian faith.

... continue reading my remembrance of Marcus Borg at the Christian Century.

January 21, 2015

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