Grace Has Your Back - So Rise to New Ways

Easter morning was magnificent, as I crossed the Potomac River, on my way to teach a friend's yoga classes, hours before I would meet my family for Easter Sunday Mass. The sky was a beautiful blue, but a slight carpet of foggy mist hovered over verdant fields, though it was thicker where it hung over the river.

Halfway into my trip, something told me to flip on the radio, and I caught the Krista Tippett interview with Vigen Guroian, an Armenian priest and college professor, who writes about the joys of gardening in his book, The Fragrance of God. He says that it reveals the grandeur of God to him, more than anything else, for nowhere is the union of God with the whole cosmos made more evident than in a garden.

In fact, Guroian affirms, that for him, gardening is nearer to godliness than theology. And having been a theologian for more than half of my life, that gave me pause for thought!

During my drive, I was captivated by the many different variety of trees in bloom - especially white and pink dogwoods everywhere. I realized, that for some, the verdant greening of valleys and meadows, and explosion of blossoms and leaves unfurling everywhere, was about as real as God gets to be experienced.

I was especially taken with Guroian's observation that the sense of smell is the most mystical of all the senses. It has a way of connecting us deeply to memories and drawing us in. I made a mental note to myself to explore the ways in which the different senses are mystical.

After teaching two wonderful classes, I made my way across town to Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, and got there early enough to save some seats for my guys.

While I waited, I read the bulletin and was touched by one particular essay, that referenced the book, Inner Compass, by Margaret Silf, a Protestant, who is asked by a retreat master to meditate on the risen Jesus appearing to his mother after the Resurrection, which of course is not described in the scriptures. Still, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, believed that Jesus would have most certainly appeared to his mother.

Silf balks at this suggestion and resists it, but eventually she makes her way into a garden and finds herself spontaneously connecting to Mary in a meditation.

In her meditation, Silf could sense the pain and sadness of this mother who lost her son in such a horrific way, and wondered what the point of everything was. But, at some point, Silf notices a change in Mary. Her face literally lights up as if she has seen her risen son.

And now I excerpt from the passage where Silf writes:

"'Mary,' I whispered, 'Is he there?'

'My child,' she told me, her voice breathless with joy, 'he is standing behind you. you are leaning into him.'

I didn't need to turn around. I could feel the power of his holding. But she had met him in her reaching out to me. 'Go and do the same,' she told me, 'and you will meet him risen and alive, standing always behind those who reach out to you in their need.'"

Wow! I was moved beyond belief!

This reminded me of how in Anusara Yoga, we emphasize coming into the back body. When we do, we connect to something greater than ourselves, to the Universal, to the Divine, which always has our backs. I remember watching John Friend once, assist a reluctant yogini into Scorpion Pose, instructing her to trust that the Divine was behind her, holding her. Only when she surrendered to that realization, was she able to do the pose beautifully.

Yes, Grace always has our backs. The Divine always supports us - and when we tap into that - in our practices, we can serve others...

In this one moment, a confluence of two streams that feed my soul merged within me, and I was able to deeply appreciate the oneness and beauty of all spiritual practices and traditions...

Later in the evening, I enjoyed watching "60 Minutes" do a lengthy segment on the monks, monasteries, and fabled icons at Mount Athos, a remote place that has fascinated me for decades. But, it is not a place where women are allowed to visit, and nothing has changed there in centuries. But I was captivated by how the monks pray unceasingly, even while engaged in their active duties, or even during an interview. This is simply made possible by linking the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus, have mercy," to every breath taken...

And so my day ended, with the presence of the Divine shining forth in beauty of a morning drive, as I marveled at the surrounding landscape, when I taught wonderful students, attended Mass, and finally as I watched TV in the evening.

God's presence is everywhere, if we are willing to see and notice it. It supports us - and thus, during this wonderful Easter Season - imparts a most important message: to rise always, to new ways of being...

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