Friday, July 15, 2011

Yoga

About a year or so ago, a friend of mine persuaded me and Göran to take a yoga class with her.

It was actually this amazing (and kind of emotional) experience for me. At the time, I almost published a blog post about it but ended up not publishing it because of a lot of conflicted thoughts and emotions I had about it.

A key point in the experience was where the instructor told us to clear our minds of everything in the past and everything in the future, and to just be present, here, in the now. In the moment he told us that, however, I was very aware of how important, as a believing Mormon, the interrelated concepts of memory, history and the past are. What flashed through my mind was an awareness of all the times in scriptures where the Lord admonishes the faithful to "remember": remember their covenants, remember their history, remember who they are. Everything that I am, everything that matters to me, I thought, depends on my ability to stay grounded in memory. So I wasn't sure I could allow myself to do what the instructor was asking me to do. It was an emotional moment. I think I started to cry.

Despite my emotional issues, the experience was amazing. It definitely pushed me to my physical as well as emotional limits. In fact, I'm sure the fact that I was being pushed to the edge physically had something to do with the emotions I was feeling. I did as many of the exercises as I could. I spent a fair amount of time in the "child's pose," the position we were instructed to take if we were too tired or felt unable to try some of the more advanced positions. The instructor was really incredible. He was great about creating an environment in which it was OK to try and fail. His whole approach was, Maybe you won't be able to do this position, or hold it very long, but there's nothing lost in trying. Occasionally, he would come by and gently reassure me by placing his hand on my back, or helping me with a particular posture. And always reminding us to focus on our breathing... Really important in yoga.

It was definitely this intense experience that I had a longing to repeat, even though I wondered if the "philosophy" that was being presented in class was compatible with my faith as a Latter-day Saint. I've given it a lot of thought on and off in the intervening year.

That was my one and only experience with yoga until yesterday. A member of my gay Family Home Evening group was encouraged by a friend from his ward to take a yoga class with her, and he became hooked. So he's been pestering me to try yoga again with him. We took a "sculpt" class yesterday -- very physically rigorous.

This time, there was no talk from the instructor of letting go the past or the future. Just a work out. She was basically just telling us what to do, what physical postures, what moves, etc. It was kind of a combination of yoga and an aerobics class. Still, there came a point -- especially as I was beginning to reach my physical limits -- where I found my thoughts naturally gravitating toward my life, and big questions about who I am, and what I really desire in life. A funny thought came into my head, mostly focused on how exhausted I was starting to feel, and how some of my muscles were started to feel fatigued or achy. I thought, "This is sort of what it's like being a gay Mormon." I mentioned it to J., on the mat beside me, and he sort of smirked, we both sort of laughed a bit. But at the same time, the thought triggered deeper emotions. I was aware of everything I am, and everything I desire deeply, including full acceptance and inclusion in the Church. And I started to cry again.

I do think, however, I've found a kind of resolution to the whole issue of being "fully present" versus the importance of "remembrance." I think there is a way in which memory is only necessary within the realm of the temporal. Memory is important to us now. Memory is important because there is a now that is somehow separate from past and future. But, as best I understand, the scriptures also make clear that God inhabits a realm in which there is neither past, present, nor future; in which all things are present. And as I have come to understand it (partly through the experience I had yesterday), this is the realm we were being invited to enter by my yoga instructor a year ago. I was being invited to be present with the me that just is; the me I have become; and not the me that is filtered through my intellect. In the day-lit conscious mind, there is an ego constantly trying to living up to some expectation of myself, there is an ego holding on to certain ideals of how I see myself and how I would like others to see me. And this ego, for the most part, is far too limited; our conscious will and desires too often hold us back from our full potential. As far as I can tell, much of God's involvement in history has been to try to break down human ego. (That's what the whole concept of repentance is about.) So I understand how it is necessary to try to free ourselves from that, from ego. And one way to do that is to spend time grounding ourselves not in a mundane now, but in a transcendent now that is the totality of everything we were, everything we are (in the mundane now) and everything we will be in the future; in the same transcendent Now that is present always to God. Spending time reflecting on that wholeness, and reflecting on the ways I already abide in it is a powerful thing, something I've decided I really need to do more often.

Remembrance is important. It has to do with the fact that we are related -- connected -- to God, to all our brothers and sisters, to every living soul, to all creation -- which the concept of covenant holds. Yes, we must remember our covenants in the time-bound realm. But in the eternal realm, we are our covenants. When we enter into the realm of completion, where we have become, there's no more need to remember.

There was a point, yesterday, at the end, where the instructor invited us to pray. And I did, freely and joyfully. This yoga class was this amazing experience, and something I've decided I want to participate in regularly.

I'm going again this afternoon!

2 comments:

Gay LDS Actor said...

Your experience actually reminded me of an experience I posted about when I began my own blog.

I took yoga in grad school for a year. I really wanted to like it and went into it with an open mind. We even had a great teacher, but I found it just wasn't my bag. I'm glad you had a good experience with it.

It wasn't even that I didn't get much out of it; I just found it more uncomfortable than helpful, and there were even times when I dreaded going. Sometimes doing yoga made me frustrated and angry, which I think is totally contrary to what it's designed for; so it just wasn't my cup of tea, though I certainly value what I did get out of it.

Anyway, glad to hear you like it.

J G-W said...

I think part of the challenge initially for me was dealing with the fact that I felt more in touch with my physical side in ways that I hadn't felt before. I had a whole bunch of conflicted emotions about some of the stuff I was feeling physically, as well as emotionally... I'm in a different space now, and I'm realizing now that this is really, really good for me.