Be Christ! (How-To)

Father, if you are willing,
take this cup from me;
yet not my will,
but yours be done.
-Luke 22

It is easy being Christ in pleasant situations, when everything is going according to plan and expectations. When all is well as far as we can sense.

But how do you practice being Christ in trying situations? I was given what I think is the beginning of an answer last night when I went for a Chinese foot massage. You know, the kind that makes you wince because of the pressure. The guy who massaged me was incredibly strong (or knew how to position his body to exert the right amount of pressure) and he was hitting the right spots in the soles of my feet. At the time it was happening, I resorted to focusing on my exhales. I consciously relaxed my whole body from my facial muscles and my shoulder muscles, my back muscles, all my joints, and especially the muscles he was working on.

Only now in retrospect did I realize that I surrendered to the pressure he was applying to me. By surrender, I meant, the embodiment of, Into Thy hands, I commit my spirit. I softened my muscles, but that starts from the mind and the heart. The space of receptivity opens up, expands, and welcomes the pressure. Metaphorically, welcoming the stranger, the "least of these," the visitors in Rumi's 'guest house.'

For that is when our Christ-consciousness is tried and manifested. Those are the times when I am asked to grow and mature in my Love, my Faith in the Beloved. Those are graced times, when God truly has her loving hands on me. She is somehow saying, I Am here. Feel me. I Am with you. Do not be afraid.

How about you? Can you visualize the hand of the Divine Massage Therapist working on your 'spiritual muscles' when it feels you are in the valley of death? Can you treat those times detoxifying you, cleansing you, like a deep-tissue massage would?

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And put a new spirit within me.

The sacrifice acceptable to God
is a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

-Psalm 51


Be Christ!

Who is my mother and who are my brothers?
Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven
is my brother, and sister and mother.

Mt 12:48-50

Next week I am in the Bay Area with my nuclear family. From Monday to Friday, my wife and I will be with my 80-year old mom, 5 siblings, and numerous nephews and nieces. Being with my family has its joys, and its challenges. So I decided to have a spiritual direction session, well, for spiritual direction.

At the end of my session, my spiritual director said, Be Christ. Use words only when necessary. I lighted up when she said that. Now that's a challenge I will gladly face. The benefits will go way beyond next week. And why not Be Christ in every moment, in every place?

Isn't that why Jesus came to be? For Jesus to show us God's Will and how to fulfill it? For us to be God's Love no matter what, where, and when?

How about you? Where or when do you find it challenging to be Christ and where or when do you find it so easy it feels like you can walk on water?

Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell
in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
-Psalm 23


Return of the Soul

I thank you, O God
Who lives now and forever,

that You have restored to me my soul with mercy;
great is your faithfulness

The above is the Jewish tradition's Modeh Ani prayed as soon as one wakes up. Before one gets out of bed, before the toes touch the floor. Ever since I came across this prayer from the excellent book about traditional Jewish prayer, movement, and meditation Minding the Temple of the Soul, I have been praying it as prescribed.

According to this book, the
Code of Jewish Law explains "when a person is asleep, the holy soul departs from his body." I have always asked myself what the soul does when I am asleep. Does God take it to be cleansed, repaired, schooled, taken on field trips complete with roller coaster rides and cotton candies just like a granddad would?

And yesterday, after teaching a Practicing Yoga with Sacred Poetry (by Rumi, Hafiz, and Gibran), I learned another prayer from another book while climbing stairs (
Yoga Barn, where I led the workshop, has a flight of stairs): O God, may every step I make take me closer to you. I am confident that it is possible to pray unceasingly. All the time. In all ways.

How about you? How else can you fill your day with prayer in relation to your activities?

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.

-from Psalm 104


O God, Where art Thou?

Do not disdain your body
for the soul is just as safe
in its body as in the
kingdom of God.

-Mechtilde of Magdeburg

But what do you do if you were violated, abused, raped? Trampled on, reduced to trash, betrayed, emotionally and psychologically murdered?

Such is the challenge of this children's hospital chaplain who bought my book and wrote me for help with her 'kids'? Her clientele are adolescents, mostly girls, who were abused. She wanted body prayer poses for her kids but with some warning. She said her kids can not and will not do poses that exposes the chest, that pushes the pelvis forward, that sticks the tail out, that makes them squat, that asks them to lay down either on their backs or on their tummies.

Just imagine moving within that prison cell. If you can call that movement. It is an emotional and psychological straight jacket. It is like being held back by an invisible electric fence. Venture out, and it will be hell. Stay inside, and it is hell. Imagine living like that.

How about you? What are you afraid of? What past experience holds you back from freedom, from dancing out of sync, from singing out of tune? What makes you cry?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
And by night, but find no rest.
But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
- from Psalm 22 (NRSV)