Monday, March 28, 2011

A Yogi's Aches, Pains & Lessons

I am a yoga practitioner. (I guess that makes me a yogi--though whenever I hear that I think of a bear from Jellystone Park .) Whatever the case, I usually take time each day to roll out my mat and engage in a variety of asanas (poses) with names like Downward Dog and Half Moon.

Recently though, I've been caught up in all the hustle and bustle of "the season"--that time of year here on Sanibel when we have more things to do than can possibly be accomplished! Our population swells to five times more than usual and things like class sizes for adult education and worship attendance follow suit. The height of season is February and March. And I've been really busy. Which brings me back to yoga.

I hadn't engaged in my daily practice for about three weeks when last Friday I decided I needed to get back to my mat. And so I did. And it felt good. Until the next morning! I woke up with a bit of stiffness here, and a measure of discomfort there. My body was telling me that I'd twisted and bent it in some ways that it wasn't used to anymore. And it had only been three weeks! The good news is that now that I'm back in the swing of it, the stiffness has disappeared. I'm readjusting. But still, there's an obvious lesson here about the need for regularity in yoga.

But I think there is another lesson as well. For I am not the first person to let go of a healthy and necessary discipline because I was "too busy". I suspect it happens often! But when are we ever truly "too busy" to take care of ourselves? The sad truth is it catches up with us pretty quickly if we don't. And getting back in the habit of good self-care can take much more time and effort than maintaining it! Let's hope that I'm smart enough to put my own theory into practice (literally!)

Or, in the words of that other Yogi (as in Berra): "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

Monday, March 21, 2011

I had the good fortune to go boating twice this past weekend. Once with parishioners, and once with friends visiting from Germany. Both times we experienced wonderful weather, minimal chop and numerous wildlife sightings ranging from a variety of birds to manatees and dolphins. We came back a bit more tanned and feeling grateful for such friendships!

Both of the boats that we went out on were equipped with GPS units. But that didn't preclude the usefulness and importance of channel markers. We spent time navigating parts of the Calossahatchee River, San Carlos Bay and the canals of Cape Coral and Sanibel Island. The channel markers in their bright greens and reds, clearly show where you can safely travel, and where you need to steer clear of shallow waters, sand bars and rocks. Our two pilots were careful to pay heed to the guidance they offered--and we arrived back home safe and sound both times!

Of course, in most of the rest of life we don't have GPS units that provide us with directions--nor do we have brightly colored channel markers. In the realms of ethics and morality, in the arena of personal relationships, we can really feel adrift, wondering what course we should steer as we are confronted with the difficult choices life offers up.

Psychology reminds us of the importance of establishing personal boundaries, and religion provides moral strictures and guidelines. And such things can serve as our own personal channel markers. But just like the red and green signs that line the waters off the Florida coast, our own channel markers won't keep us safe unless we pay attention to their guidance. In the end, GPS units, channel markers, personal boundaries and moral guidelines are only helpful if we use them.

(Photo Credit: Linda Bradbury-Danner)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Have you filled up your gas tank lately? I did just the other day, and despite having a small car with a small tank, I pumped almost fifty dollars worth of gas. It seemed patently absurd to spend so much for fuel! Yet most experts agree that it is the wave of the future. Ever increasing demands on an ever diminishing supply can't help but lead to more expensive energy--not just at the pump, but everywhere.

I thought about all this earlier today as I listened to a report about the precarious situation in Japan where folks are anxiously watching nuclear power plants that have been damaged by the earthquake there this past weekend. Clearly, as we exhaust the supply of fossil fuels we will need to find new sources of energy. But just as clearly, atomic power may not be the panacea we once thought it to be. While it fell from favor for a good stretch of time, it has been making a comeback in the last few years. As one news commentator mentioned this morning, it even made the State of the Union address this year. But now many will rethink it once again.

Some have suggested that wind power has the potential of being a major part of the solution. But it seems any time someone suggests putting up a wind farm somewhere, lots of people complain. The old "not in my backyard" problem. I don't know what the answer is.

Ultimately all environmental issues hit close to home. But while I don't like paying so much for gas, the price hasn't slowed down my rate of consumption. I don't do a lot of wasteful driving. When I go off island, my wife and I try to combine errands and accomplish more than one task on each trip. I own a car that gets fairly decent mileage (about 29 miles to the gallon). I try to watch my carbon footprint. But I'm not about to give up my car! And that doesn't even take into account the many ways I use energy at home, at work and when I play. I want to be a good steward of the environment, but I'm not sure how much I want to sacrifice.

So what are we to do? I'm not the only person who feels this tug, this pull. What will finally cause us to change our ways? Or will we?

Monday, March 7, 2011

I debated whether to write this week about the Red Sox spring training game I attended on Saturday or the recent Supreme Court decision involving Westboro Baptist Church. Neither was a very happy affair. The Red Sox lost by a huge margin as one of their starting pitchers really got shellacked! And Westboro Baptist won, retaining the right to protest at funerals of soldiers killed in battle waving signs that read "God hates fags," and "Thank God for dead soldiers."

The Red Sox, of course, will go on to play other games--games that ultimately will count in the season yet to come. And so, I'm not overly concerned about their poor showing on Saturday. But the victory of Westboro Baptist leaves me feeling a great measure of anxiety. I agree with the majority of justices who saw it as a matter of free speech. The 8-1 decision was, I believe, the right decision. The First Amendment must be upheld--even when the speech involved is so noxious. But even though it is a victory for the little church pastored by Fred Phelps in Topeka, it is in the end a real loss for the Church Universal.

You see, there are those whose opinion of Christianity as a whole is shaped by the likes of Fred Phelps. There are those who point to such behaviour and say, "See, Christians are intolerant. They preach hate. They don't even show respect for the dead." But that's not the Christianity that I know. For the God I worship is a God of love. The God I worship weeps for every fallen soldier. The God I worship embraces all people, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, black, white, English speaking or not . . . . The God I worship, and the God most Christians worship, is a God of compassion, forgiveness and above all else patience. And I wouldn't want people to think otherwise because of Westboro Baptist Church.

Saturday, right before the game started at City of Palms Park, a young woman sang the national anthem. She did a very credible job. But as I stood there with my hand over my heart, I couldn't help but think of Westboro Baptist, and the Supreme Court, and the simple fact that I live in a country where I am free to worship as I wish, where I can voice my opinion about public matters without fear of retribution. And while I vehemently disagree with Fred Phelps, on most all counts, I realize that if I really want to combat the view of Christianity he and his followers have splashed across the airwaves, the best thing I can do, is demonstrate in my own words and actions that not all Christians think like Fred Phelps. In fact, most of us don't.

Maybe Westboro Baptist has had its turn at bat, but now the rest of us are standing at the plate of public opinion. And its time to play ball!
(Photo Credit: Linda Bradbury-Danner)