Editor’s Note: DCSC volunteer Emily Dold shares her experience with learning yoga and the meaning of “peace” within movement.
I would like to begin this blog by saying how wonderfully sneaky the Lord is in how He has led me to reflect on movement and has helped me connect it to His Divine plan.
I used to be really bad at yoga. And I mean really bad. Like, the-yoga-instructors-would-have-to-come-over-and-help-me-in-every-class-I-took bad. My ineptitude chopped up the flow of the instructors’ voices, forcing other class goers to rustle about in anticipation of the next instruction while I, with hands-on help, tried to figure out the previous one.
That was embarrassing. As someone who considers herself an athletic person (*cough cough* I was voted “Most Athletic” in my 5th grade class), my body became more stressed in these classes that were supposed to help it do exactly the opposite. I was so fed up with my inabilities that I put yoga to the side. Though its trendiness had made me aware of its many benefits –injury prevention, better circulation, reduction of inflammation, etc. – I figured that I was just not made for yoga and was better off without it.
Oh, how many times have we thrown our hands in a giving-up frustration?
About four years later, I decided to try some yoga classes again. At this time in my life, athleticism was a defining characteristic of mine. So, I was able to enter into these classes with a bit more of a happy-go-lucky attitude.
Lo and behold, I enjoyed it. Fast forward to COVID-19 Stay-At-Home orders and I was taking advantage of online yoga classes through my alma mater and newly free courses on different phone apps. If you have lived in the Casa with me, you’ve definitely seen me do a Downward Dog or two.
Early this November I took advantage of some free time by rolling out my yoga mat, opening my training app, and plopping my phone on the floor as I pressed “Begin” to yet another yoga class. I had not recently reflected on my transition from despising yoga to loving it; instead, I was just enjoying the aforementioned benefits of the practice. Then, the instructor said, “It’s not about the quality of the movement; rather, it is about the quality of the mind within the movement.”
I remembered my yoga beginnings and how I let frustration and embarrassment take over as I fumbled to hold myself in a pose. I remembered the scar on my elbow from a wounding attempt at a more difficult pose, thinking it was a sign that yoga and I were not meant to be. In contrast, I remembered to trust in the goodness of my yoga practice and my willingness to grow within it, no matter how slow that growth was. I saw that in shedding my anxieties and expectations, I was able to grasp more fully the benefits of my movement.
And in my moment of eureka I remembered Mary, Joseph, and their baby-to-be. All on their way to Egypt, fleeing King Herod. Their faith unwavering as they made their journey. Had they not been put in an immediately stressful and hurried situation? Their bodies may have been stressed and tired, yet their faith in God did not waver. Nor did the Magi’s or shepherds’ faith waver as they paused and shifted to move toward their guiding light.
Not to say that all of those in that story were always perfect; if you remember, Joseph was at one point ready to divorce Mary. But, God reminded him and us of what we are called to: a peace of mind. A peace that never should be lost. Because God’s goodness transcends our emotions – both good and bad. No matter what we are experiencing, we are called to a peace by looking to God and knowing that He is with us.
This thought about having a peace of mind also allowed me to reimagine “Let there be Peace on Earth.” Normally, I experience this song as a concluding hoorah to Christmastime Masses. As if it is calling all of us to go out and bring peace to the world, whatever that means. When I was younger, I would think, “Yes! Peace will begin with me!” and I would continue to put “Peace on Earth” at the top of my Christmas list.
But, peace is in Christ. And “with every step [we] take” or stretch or pause, He is calling us to rest in our faith in Him.
As most of us sing along to “Let there be Peace on Earth” during our respective Mass broadcasts, I hope you also get to reflect on your calling to peace with God. In moments of joyful connection, the rush of last minute preparations, beginning or ending a work day, or tech issues we have trying to digitally connect to our loved ones, may we know our heartbeats – whether or not they quickening with frustration – to be like Francis’, beating in gratitude for every moment. May you find your movements to be transformed by your faith in God and His goodness. And as with yoga, doing so is going to take some practice.
I wish you all peace in your minds and hearts as you continue to prepare for the coming of our Lord. It’s a “peace that was meant to be” for each and every one of us, knowing that God is with all of us.
Reflection Question: How can we reframe our minds and hearts in gratitude towards our movements this Advent season?