Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hope = Insight?

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne.                                                      Revelation 4:1-2

I was speaking with a friend recently and I asked what might be useful as a theme for my yoga classes for this week. Her reply was that "hope" would be good. I thought about that for a while and concluded that hope really is not something that is part of the yogic tradition. Hope is the Christian belief that despite present current circumstances, Jesus' victory over death means that suffering is not the end. Sometimes hope is presented to the believer as, "Don't worry, one day you'll be in Heaven." This kind of thought overlooks the fact that Christian hope is not only about a better future, the present is also affected when things are seen from God's perspective.

In yoga, we see ignorance or avidya as the source of pain and suffering. Ignorance is not meant to be negative or a simple lack of knowledge. Avidya means an inability to see the big picture. So when we find ourselves in a situation where the next step is unclear or we are fearful, pain comes because we fear what might happen. The fear often causes us to make rapid decisions that are not helpful. This is not entirely our fault though. From what we know, humans evolved on the plains of Africa. Deeply embedded in the human brain is the fight or flight reflex. Early human survival was based on the ability to fend off or escape from an attacker. The problem is there is a big difference in fending off a marauding lion and dealing with a relationship issue, but our brains still process it the same.

Hope a seen from a biblical perspective is much like overcoming avidya. The Revelation to John is one of the most challenging books in our Bible. It is also one of the most misused. The premise of the book is simple; John is granted this vision as one undergoing persecution, so that he may see things from God's perspective, moving beyond ignorance. Even though our earthly vision is clouded, the vision allows us to peer into the ultimate future of Jesus' victory over death. The removal of the blinders of ignorance help us to look differently at the present in light of our future.

So how then can we develop insight on the mat? First and foremost is a regular practice. With a regular diet of back and forward bends, twists, inversion, balance poses and breath work we can learn to recognize our animal instincts and subdue them when they are not necessarily helpful in a given instance. This deep insight allows us to live gracefully without always being victims of our reflexes. A fearful situation does not have to leave us without hope; Through practice we can learn to penetrate to new, deeper understandings of what it means to live in the present with our eyes on the future.

Let me know what you think, I always appreciate feedback.


1 comment:

  1. Hey Doug. Thanks for writing. Enjoyed the message. I can relate. It also is helpful, I think, to spend time alone in prayer and reflection. I've been doing some of that lately. :)