Quit Staring At Your Muffin Tops

Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? It’s New Year’s Eve, and I suspect, by the new muffin tops spilling over the edge of my yoga pants, I may have eaten too much again this year.

Shocking!

Last night, I made my yoga students hold Warrior II foreverrrrrrrr, while telling them to leave the self-loathing over holiday gluttony on the mat. “It’s a waste of our time, ladies! You’re strong and beautiful, and you’re here getting stronger and more beautiful. So good! Three more breaths.”

Warrior II. Photo Credit Tim Cigleske

Warrior II. Photo Credit Tim Cigleske

A teacher of mine is fond of saying: You cannot be selfish and happy, and that’s why I think New Year’s resolutions, particularly those surrounding weight loss, slip off us like soap in the shower.

We want to get in shape, because we think it will make us happy, and to a degree it’s does, but I’ve been at my “goal weight” and seen all the muscles in my arms, and guess what? I just found something else that needed fixing. Relentless discontent dogs me when it’s all about me. In other words:

I OBSESS ABOUT MY MUFFIN TOPS WHEN I STARE AT MYSELF IN THE MIRROR.

So in 2014, I’m going to quit staring at myself and stare at somebody else instead.

Like the couple in church who, despite having at least three, sometimes five, kids, just swooped into CPS-land and got four more. It is a proven fact that helping them makes me happier than losing ten pounds.

Or perhaps I will stare at another family I know that’s a little short right now, and run to Sam’s Club for them. That plan bubbled up at Love Dinner Saturday night because there is a need, we know what it is and we can meet it – simple.

The Love Dinner gals have been cooking this in their own kitchens for months now. One of them used a Macy’s gift card she got for her birthday to buy new clothes for a Hispanic woman living with her three kids at the crisis center. Another helped an older woman clean up her child’s vomit in Taco Bell. Another gave a young mother pushing a stroller in the dark, a ride to the grocery store and back home.

See, the LD gals know that the Love of God must be attached to hands and feet. This country is drowning in theology while the world dies of hunger. How can that be when the Bible says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:26

Muffin Tops Cannot Survive this Pose! Photo Credit: Flashflood

BTW – Muffin Tops Cannot Survive this Pose! Photo Credit: Flashflood

The good news about love and service is that it feels good. When somebody’s life is demonstrably better because you showed up, it’s exhilarating and holy because you sense there’s something larger at work. Though you can’t see it yet, you are building great amphitheaters and skyways and rose gardens in the eternal Kingdom of God.

And it’s easy. Look around.

Does some kid in your neighborhood need a trusted adult? Is there an elderly widow who needs a cup of tea? AIDS orphans surely need a sponsor, and Mercy Ships needs a lot more doctors, nurses and dollars for the new ship.

So go ahead lose the ten pounds here’s a tool I like, and come to yoga in Mineola; then unhand the muffin tops and go get happy helping someone else. Let me know how it goes.

Happy 2014!

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Four Great Things About Bikram Yoga

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

You think you can stir the pot by blogging about the The Bible? Try blogging about 26 yoga poses done in 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees – the practice known as Bikram Yoga.

Most people either love Bikram yoga or hate it. Until last week, I was firmly in the latter category. In fact, all the way through my first class at Bikram Yoga Tyler, I still hated it. But then I got home, dumped my soggy yoga clothes in the washer and noticed I felt like a buzzing, jacked up rock star.

Here are a few things that surprised me:

1. My mind didn’t wander, possibly because it was so heavily focused on survival. The postures are so strong and the room is so hot, your mind teeters on the verge of panic, which forces it into very narrow focus.

2. Afterward I craved blueberries and water and other really nourishing food. It was like my body said, ok you just demanded a lot of me, here are my demands. The idea of eating a Big Mac, fries and a coke after a Bikram class (or any yoga class) feels like an affront.

3. I had to open my mind and trust somebody else. I’ve been practicing yoga for a long time, so hearing an instructor say “make your back hurt” “pull harder until the joint hurts” seemed like total crazy talk. I’m not weighing in on the wisdom of Bikram’s system, which is very different from classical yoga, I’m merely pointing out that the yoga snob in me got to be still for a few minutes and learn something new. Not surprisingly, it exposed how closed my mind had been.

4. It reminded me how genuine accomplishment feels. Yes, it’s hard. It’s meant to be. Yoga practice should occur outside our mental comfort zones, but this one does it on steroids. But there’s something heartening about looking in a mirror 20 feet away and seeing the shape of your 40-year old deltoids as you hold your body in full locust pose. I often tell my students there are no trophies in yoga, except the ones you give yourself.

Whether you love Bikram or not is hardly the point of this post; chipping away at limiting belief is. Bikram Yoga made me wonder what else my cozy, little opinions have prevented me from trying.

Struggles with Loneliness.

Lying in bed with the flu this week, I was reminded that I am a lonely girl. That may be news to some of you who know me because I’m fairly gregarious, but two moves in four years to opposite sides of Texas has exposed a familiar condition.

I do a lot of stuff alone, always have. There are consequences.

Thank God for Sam. As he loaded up my sick-bed with books, kleenex, Emergen-C and soup, I wondered out loud, if he weren’t there, who would I call to help me?

“Of course, there are people I could call,” I said.

“Yah but you wouldn’t,” he replied.

He’s right. I’m an independent girl and I occasionally overuse it, maybe to hide some native shyness. Sometimes it’s easier to be separate and aloof, but the perils of that approach come into sharp focus when you’re lying in bed with nothing to do but ache.

Though my bible sat next to me on my bed, I just was too sick and cranky to read it. It felt like a chore, so I did easier things. I watched Sex In the City reruns. I read Vanity Fair’s comedy issue. I painted my toenails and finished a novel that was mostly a trashy waste of time.

Here were the mental results of that approach:

“Damn, I need to move to a big city, develop a snazzy writing career and find girlfriends who are perennially available for cocktails, maybe then I’d quit being lonely and scared that my life is meaningless. But what if Sartre is right, and I’m looking for meaning where there is none and making a fool of myself to the secular world by writing about it?”

Yikes. Can you believe I think things like that, and then say them out loud? Me either.

This morning, still feeling sorry, I tried a different approach. I went into my office, shut the door and waited for the God I say I believe, to weigh in. I know from experience that praying over my fears can lift the fog and yet, I still look to Sex in the City first.

So I sat in virasana – a yoga pose that looks a lot like kneeling, and said, “God Help. I’m lonely”.

“You know, I will never leave you nor forsake you. That I’m always with you until the end of the age. I know every hair on your head and your steps are ordered by Me.”

Did I “hear” God saying that?

Well, those are scriptures, four to be exact, pertinent to my concerns, that I have read dozens of times, and they whistled to mind like bottle rockets. So is that God talking?  I think so, and as if to back it up, I felt my heart steady and peace begin to fill my body. It’s hard to describe but it’s the kind of feeling I imagine hens have when they finally settle down in their nests.

Why didn’t I do that yesterday?

Waterfall

Photo credit: enor

What is the point of suffering the irrational leaps required to believe in an unseen God, if it doesn’t help you manage your daily life? My traditional methods of dealing with loneliness – eating junior mints, reading magazines and watching silly tv – didn’t work. Praying did.

Those are the broad and narrow paths between which I constantly choose. I write about stumbling around because, unlike a some Christians, I’m short on certainty and I only want to serve you what I’ve eaten myself.

I know following Jesus makes no rational sense and today it’s one of the least fashionable choices one can make, but when I do it with heart, I feel whole and calm. Maybe even ready to go join the quilting club.

I offer this experience for your consideration.