Yoga in Christianity

Hearing God through Peace (a course of small workshops)

[Story “The blind men and the elephant”]

Can any two people have the same perception of God? Can anybody perceive the whole of God? God

comes to us in all shapes and forms and means. But, do we notice?

 How do we hear God speaking to us?

 What is in our minds when we pray?

 How can we stay focussed on God?

Our minds are full and cluttered. When we are born, our minds are free and empty. The bible says that

babies are pure in the eyes of God. As the years pass, we fill our mind with experiences, worries,

memories and hopes, we focus on all sorts of pains in our lives, we suffer discomforts often unnecessarily.

All of these things distract us from being able to hear God. The more we are listening to ourselves and our

own minds, the more difficult it is for us to hear God.

Think about your prayer:

 When you pray, do you strive to think of the right words?

 Do you try hard to imagine the right things to pray about?

 Do you tell yourself to do something to make a difference?

 Do you sometimes start thinking about something else?

There is nothing wrong with trying hard to pray with words, but where in any of this are we listening to

God? If it is so difficult to stay focussed for the short few moment of prayer that we undertake on a Sunday

morning, then how much more difficult is it to hear God and know God throughout the whole day, every

day. Surely, this is the ideal. And, yes it is idealistic, but as with most idealisms it is worth striving towards.

How do we go about this?

There are a number of paths, and we each have our own, but the formula is the same. Before we can truly

know God and hear God, we must eliminate the clutter from our minds. We do this by eliminating

distraction. We do this by training our bodies and minds to develop and recognise an inner peace. To be

at peace with ourselves, we must also love and take care of ourselves. The bible says that our bodies are

temple for the spirit and that we must take care of that temple so it is fitting for the spirit.

How does one take care of one’s temple?

There are two key elements to this. The first is through lifestyle and behaviour. If we cultivate a sense of

peace within ourselves then our minds will also find peace more easily. Consider the aspects of lifestyle:

exercise, food (and other consumption), social networks, stimulus (excitement, fun, etc.), entertainment,

environment, sleep. These can all be adjusted in some way to help us feel better in body, mind and spirit. A

change in these areas can help fulfil the ten commandments in ways that are very accessible and practical.

For example, “Thou shalt not steal” can be practised when we reconsider the resources that we consume

in our day to day activities.

The second element in taking care of one’s temple is to build a pattern for peace that your body, mind and

spirit recognise with minimum effort. Just as we breathe all the time without thinking about it, we also have

the ability to maintain a deep inner peace with little effort. It just takes practice.

Practising for Peace

One practice is to associate body, mind and spirit with peace. By creating physical and mental forms and

associating them with a sense of peace, one can soon learn to switch on that inner peace by just recreating

the form in the body or in the mind. We already do this to some extent in our prayers by closing our eyes,

by holding our hands in a familiar pose and by kneeling. In contrast, try clenching your fists as tight as you

can and you cannot find a mental or spiritual peace. We also do this with familiar sayings and words such

as “Amen”. We find these things special because there is a hidden power in the physical forms and in the

sounds.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking for a few minutes each Sunday at ways that we can enhance

our inner peace and, each in our own way, hear from the God that is in us and all around us.

Topic areas:

1) Breathing: What is the relationship between breath and peace? Can one control the other?

2) Worries: how can we eliminate worries? Are we struggling against an unnecessary ideal? Do we

overly judge ourselves?

3) Lifestyle choices: Making guilt-free decisions. Be good to yourself. Taking care of yourself.

4) Meditation: What is it really? How is meditation good for us? Who meditates?

5) Body at Rest: balance, comfort, no physical needs, shapes that encourage peace.

6) Time: finding time, making time, living in the now, time of the day.

7) Place: a sacred place, a familiar place, making your own place.

8) Senses: familiar smells, sounds, temperature.

9) Sounds: The power of sound on the mind and body. Silent reading can make you

hoarse!Associating sounds and vibrations with peace to create sound memories. The feelings that

you get when you hear a song from your childhood. The power of “Amen”. Silent sounds.

10) Hearing from God: How does meditation help? What to expect. Where to go from here.

Each week, after a brief talk covering one or two of these topic areas and moment of reflection, we will

spend some minutes in silent meditation, benefiting from all the areas we have considered.

Hearing God through Peace – Session 1

Breathing

Breathing is something that we have control over, and it is something that we do every second of our entire

lives. Our breath is our constant companion and the way we breathe reflects our state of mind and body.

 When we run, we breath faster and deeper.

 When we are excited, we breathe shallow and rapid.

 When we are calm we breather slower and deeper with long exhales.

 When there is a tense moment, we even hold our breath.

In fact, the reverse is also true. We can influence and change the state of our body and mind by the way

we breathe. A child is told “breathe!” to calm down. We might go outside and take a deep breath of fresh

air and feel calmer. Similarly, if you breathe rapidly it raises your heartbeat and can set your mind racing.

So, the way we breathe is clearly very important, and because we have to breathe always, it is a very good

place to start when looking to maintain one’s ‘temple’. Breath is the monitor of how we are feeling, and also

the controller to change how we are feeling and behaving.

If we are looking for peace in our minds and bodies then breathing is a good place to start. Think for a

moment, “how am I breathing now?” Is it short, tense. Perhaps anxious about what ‘crazy’ thing I might

suggest that we do today? Well, let’s have a simple go at what I like to call ‘baby breathing’. When a baby

first starts breathing, they do it ‘correctly’. As we go through life, many of us learn bad habits, so let’s try

and go back to the way we all breathed when we were first born.

Most noticeably, a baby breathes with its abdomen instead of its chest. This means that each breath brings

in more oxygen and removes more stale air, and allows breathing to be slower and deeper.

Think about your breathing now. Which bit of your body is expanding when you inhale? Feel the air

coming in your nostrils and follow it into your lungs. What we are aiming for is to get this feeling of

expansion in the stomach and abdomen. Follow these steps:

1. Place your hand on your stomach so you can feel what is happening.

2. First exhale.

3. Then, while holding your breath, suck in your stomach.

4. Then do the opposite of sucking in your stomach – make your stomach stick forward while

inhaling.

5. Then, push your stomach back in with your hand – suck in your stomach while exhaling slowly.

This is the movement of the stomach (perhaps a little exaggerated here) that we are aiming for. In practice,

the breathing becomes much deeper and you will find that you can breathe much more slowly. Also, try to

breathe through your nose as this helps achieve calm.

After a little practice, this can become quite easy to do at will and helps at any time when you need a

moment of peace. After just a few days, it can become habitual and you will find yourself doing it

automatically. If you do this regularly when you are at peace then in a time of anxiety you can bring that

same tranquillity back in an instant by simply repeating the breathing. This is one of the easiest ways of

bring a constant sense of more peace into your life and also makes use of a principle we’ll come across a

few times during these talks. That principle is one of emotional memory association whereby repeating

something at times when you feel peaceful creates a strong link between that thing and the emotion. In

effect, you can bind an emotion to a body or mind shape and return to that emotional state by recreating

the shape, just like pretending to laugh can actually make you happier.

Proper breathing, of course also helps with the control of oxygen and blood flow to the mind and body,

helps to regulate the heart, and actually massages your internal organs to help with their processes. All

these benefits to the body and mind lead towards a greater sense of calm.

This first step towards a more peaceful you is one of the most important, and actually very easy to

maintain. With a little initial practice, peace and calm can be enjoyed at almost any time throughout the day,

whether it’s during prayers, or waiting in a checkout queue. You never know when or how God will try to

communicate with you, but by maintaining a sense of peace you will be ready to receive.

Remember…

1. Follow the breath sensation from the tip of your nose to the bottom of your stomach.

2. Breath into your abdomen first, and then further into your lungs.

3. Make your out-breath longer than your in-breath.

4. Consciously practice this when you are at peace.

5. Recall this peace at times of anxiety by repeating the breathing.

by Matthew Dixon

Lay Preacher in Anglican Church