From the Newsletter: “Learning to Breathe…and Pray”

meditation

When I was in high school, I became a serious student of meditation.

I know…it some respects, that hardly seems like me.  Actually, it seems even more amazing, in retrospect, that a school as thoroughly buttoned-down as mine was would have a weekly meditation group in the Academy Chapel.

Other rules that were rigorously enforced at that time included lights out by 10 p.m. for freshmen and sophomores, no “hot-pots” for in-room cooking, and, in the rare event that a girl visited your room during the literally three hours a week that “intervisitation” was permitted, the door was to be open between 60 and 90 degrees, lights on, and (most famously) “three feet on the floor at all times.”

Doesn’t sound like a place that would offer Zen Meditation on Friday nights, does it? But it did.

The practice became important to me. Maybe part of the appeal was precisely because it was so very different from the rhythms and the pressures of the school community and its ways.

In a place where people prided themselves on pulling all-nighters as a sign of dedication, it was so very different to be told to relax. To breathe. To let your mind wander.

The evening when Andrew Nugent came in, sat down, and promptly fell asleep, our teacher told us to not to wake him, because we needed to “honor his resting”—this was a very different way of thinking for me.

It was in my senior year that I came to see what I was doing as prayer. It was a sudden realization, in the middle of one of our Friday night meetings, and to be honest, I was not well prepared for it.

I had not started this whole thing with a religious quest particularly in mind, so I was bewildered to find myself in the middle of one. I was even more surprised to find myself connecting to the church language of my childhood—to Creation and its Creator, to the Holy Spirit, and, as it unfolded more fully in the following weeks, even to the teachings of Jesus. Church as I knew it had been more about blue blazers and penny loafers and making sure I wasn’t late for youth choir, and not so much about relaxing. The exotic words of Buddhist practice—sangha, dharma, zazen—were all much easier to drop in casual dining hall conversation at school than any Christian ones seemed likely to be.

But I knew in my heart that, in some way, at least, it was the Christian ones that were supposed to be mine. I knew also that, in my learning to breathe, in my wandering, and in my seeking for a way to live differently within a school community I loved, it was God’s vision for my life that I was after.

Later this month, we will begin offering Saturday morning Yoga in Fletcher Hall, in the hope that members of our church and the wider community might learn new ways to breathe, to relax, even to honor their own resting, here in this busy and ambitious place we call home. I don’t know that I am quite ready to grab my mat and get started—I think I’d need to do some remedial work first. But I am delighted to know that we are reaching out in this way, and I hope you will come, and that you will pass the word to anyone who might be interested.

Most of all, I love the thought of what might happen in the life of that first-time visitor, who comes to our church just for a little Saturday break, a little stretching, a little quiet time, a little deep breathing—who suddenly looks up one morning and realizes that she is seeking something else entirely, and that what she needs most is a way to connect to the God who is seeking her and each of us at every moment. And who realizes in the very next moment that she’s come to the right place to undertake that search.

However it is that you search, may you find, and find abundantly. Make sure you share it when you do.

See you in church,

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