Category Archives: Spiritual Wellness

Where has God been in your life?

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Today’s guest blog comes all the way from Connecticut, from Miriam Samuelson. Read on to hear about her journey at Divinity school and what unfolds in her spiritual formation group. For those of you who haven’t taken a moment to breathe this week, it’s a good reminder to stop, reflect, and see what arises. 

During my first semester of seminary this past fall, I joined a spiritual formation group.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I knew it was open to all incoming students, and that we would work on spiritual issues together, so I signed up with little knowledge about how this hour and a half would be spent each week.

When I entered the small meditation room with a cluster of large chairs and six other students, the spiritual director leading our group introduced herself, and we offered our names and degree programs to one another timidly, all a bit shy about not knowing exactly why we were there.  After a brief reading, prayer, and silence, our leader asked us where God had been in our lives the last week.

Where has God been in my life? I hadn’t really thought about it, especially not this past week.  I had just moved a U-Haul 1200 miles, said goodbye to my friends and family for three years, embarked on a long distance relationship, and had suddenly started meeting new people everywhere I turned.  My head was fuzzy from trying to get back into the mode of classes and reading and paper-writing, and I had spent the morning running from class to class, trying to learn the layout of the buildings and trying to figure out who I’d already met and who I was meeting for the first time.  Taking time to think about where God was in all this transition hadn’t really crossed my mind.

candleBut as I closed my eyes in this candle-lit room, surrounded by my peers who were feeling shaky and hectic like me, I saw clearly the places where God had been in my life over the past week.  God had been present in my friends at home, who came over to my house unannounced and moved all my things into the moving truck before I could open my mouth to say they didn’t have to.  God was present in a long stretch of highway in Pennsylvania where every turn revealed fog-covered trees pierced by a red-orange sunset.  God was present in my travel companions—my dear friend and seminary roommate, his parents, and my boyfriend—all happy to share this time together and listen to one another’s stories and laughter.

Each week, this spiritual formation group would gather, and our leader asked us the same question: Where has God been in your life this week?  Some weeks we didn’t know.  Some weeks we were filled to the brim with life and spirit and experiences of God.  Other weeks we had to learn how to see God in places that we might otherwise not want to go.  Yes, God was certainly present in sunsets and laughter and friendship.  But God was also present in the death of our friends and relatives, in the quiet moment after something vulnerable was spoken, in painful memories and changing relationships.  God was present as the leaves died and crunched beneath our feet, as we talked about the fragility of our own human lives.

Where has God been in our lives? God is present in our most effervescent joy, God is present in our deepest anguish.  And how do we know this?  Because we are living incarnations of this ever-present God for one another.  And what a gift to be able to open our hearts to this and to one another as we journey together.

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Miriam is a first year in the Master of Divinity program at Yale Divinity School. One day she hopes to be a Lutheran paster in the ELCA. She loves people, the natural world, and learning new things.

 

Be the change

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Most of us have heard the quote “be the change you wish to see in the world.” We get it, right? Or do we?

Have you actually stopped your busy life and really thought about what it means? I don’t think I really got- got it until today, when I heard a story. Because the story moved me, I wanted to share it with you. Maybe some of you have already heard it. Either way it’s definitely a nice, short, and “sweet” tale to keep handy.
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A mother from India was very worried about her overweight son’s addiction to sweets. No matter what she did, she could not keep him away from sugary treats. Running out of ideas and absolutely desperate, she decided to bring her son to the well-respected, Mahatma Gandhi. Because Gandhi was so well-known and wise, she thought if only she could get Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating sweets, maybe then, her son would listen.

So mother and son made the trip and waited in line and waited some more. When it was their turn, the mother explained her son’s story to Gandhi. She then asked him to please tell her son to stop eating sweets as they were harming his health. She knew that her son would stop if Gandhi said so. Gandhi listened to her request and thanked the woman and son for coming. He then said, “Please come back in a week.”

The mother didn’t understand but left with her son. She was at least pleased that Gandhi agreed to see them again. After a week passed, she and her son made the trip again. They waited in line. The second time, not so patiently.

Once they could see Gandhi, the mother’s worries went away and hope filled her heart. As they approached him, he remembered them right away and thanked them for coming back. He then said firmly to the little boy, “Son, you must cease eating sweets.” The boy nodded, and the mother had a confused look on her face.

She asked, “Why, sir, did you ask us to come back a week later? Why couldn’t you tell him that last week?” 

Gandhi replied, “Because dear miss, I did not know if I, myself, could accomplish what you asked me to ask your son. I needed a week to try it myself before I could say anything. For if I could not do the task myself, how could I ask him to do it? We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

*  *  *

This story is a great reminder for all of us in our work and in our lives, especially those of us who are in positions related to well-being. Discipline and knowledge can be communicated most effectively through messengers who practice what they pass along. We all know this. We see it in our everyday lives. Most of us can spot the teacher who is the fake, and we all feel beauty and grace in the presence of someone who is doing the work.

As I begin my wellness coach training and will soon be coaching people for a living* (I already have 21 people signed up for the month of March!), there is no better time than now to recommit myself to being the change I wish to see in the world. Lately, my own readiness to follow the principles I believe in is apparent, and I am doing it. While discomfort sometimes arises with that reality, I have made the choice to not step down, and I am starting to feel the health benefits that occur from not turning away from the hard stuff.

The most effective way we can help others around us is truly to model the behavior we wish to see. Thank you Mahatma Gandhi for this lesson. I am deeply humbled and nervous and excited all at the same time to embark on such a journey in my own life.

To those reading, I hope that you, too, can create moments in your life where you feel like you can embody your vision of well-being and make your life principles into a reality.

Or if anything else, next time you want to ask someone to do something, take a minute to stop and think if you, yourself, are able to do it.

*First, wellness coaching has little to do with telling people what to do. Second, I do not necessarily believe that Mahatma telling the boy to stop eating sweets would do the boy any good, in reality. However, I do greatly appreciate the wisdom that Gandhi highlights with the importance of “practicing what you preach.”

The definition of modern day yoga

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“The Inner Tradition of Yoga” by Michael Stone (shared by fellow yoga teacher training classmate, T. Nordlund – thank you!)

I think this video compliments nicely or provides the right counterpose to follow yesterday’s blog.

Yogis/yoginis out there feel free to watch the entire video. It’s worth a look for sure.

Otherwise, if you need the shorter version or are considering skipping out on the video, please reconsider! Check out the 3 minute version by moving your cursor to the 11:28 mark and hear the crux of his message. You don’t want to miss it!

Michael gets to the bottom of what yoga is all about (at least for me): “The intimate connection to all things, that I feel when I am still.” The falling away from the little self into the Self. Bringing us all back together, where we belong.

Just watch 🙂