Archive for February, 2015

REFLECTION: Connection…

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Last night, as I hacked away with a horrid coughing fit, I connected with God.  Although it was in the wee hours of the morning, an earnest and fervent plea went up to our Father, asking for help and perseverance.  Although the cough persisted for a while, through the promptings and grace of the Holy Spirit, my thoughts moved from myself to others who were struggling with another ailment or another.  The focus was no longer on my own discomfort, but as I lifted my struggle on behalf of others, my temporary agony became meaningful and prayerful for another.  Eventually, I fell back to sleep… in deep peace.

What does prayer mean to you?  A few of the definitions given by Webster’s Dictionary is “to entreat; to implore; to make a request in a humble manner.”  In truth, prayer goes deeper than that.  To many, prayer is connecting and receiving the love of the One who created us.  “But how is that possible?” some may ask.  Some have gotten into the habit of very quickly reciting one prayer after another which were penned by another.  There isn’t anything wrong with learning how to pray through the prayer of another, but if the prayer is recited very quickly without sincerity or comprehension, then the prayer is merely a babble… doing nothing for the person who is praying.  Some feel they need to fulfill their daily religious duty, but has this activity benefited them in any way aside from lifting the guilt of duty?

Praying is an encounter with God.  Words aren’t necessary.  Often times, God calls us to merely “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10  Fr. Owen Scott teaches that you can’t know God unless you are still.  What brilliant insight!  If we continue to run on the treadmill of life, busy doing our own things, in our own strength, we fail to know God, let alone ourselves.  Perhaps many hop on the treadmill, preferring not to know themselves?

God doesn’t benefit from our prayers, but it is the one who is willing to sit before the feet of God that does.  Every prayer is an encounter with God and every encounter is life transforming.  It may not be visible in the physical world, but something happens in the spiritual realm.  “God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” John 4:24    We can be comforted by His promise… “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18 

I am both intrigued and saddened to learn that there are some who attempt to connect with God through many other means, aside from the Christian faith.  Mike Shreves (http://thetruelight.net/myspiritualjourney.htm) writes “the idea that Christianity was the only way to God, to the exclusion of all other religions, just seemed too narrow-minded, too unreasonable. Besides, I decided I could no longer embrace something just because it was part of my cultural or family ‘belief system.’ I purposed to ‘wipe the slate clean’ and start from a pure and unbiased beginning point.”

I fail to grasp his logic, if there is any.  Didn’t Jesus teach “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”?  John 14:6 Jesus definitely proclaimed that He is the only way to the Father and yet, in spite of wanting to experience God, Mike’s search began in Far Eastern religions.  As always, God never forces Himself on anyone and He allows each to search for Him in his/her own free-willed way.

It took Shreves a longer time to find God, but thankfully, he found Him back in the Christian faith.  It never fails to amaze me that “…in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Shreve’s round-about manner of searching for God intrigued me.  He writes… ”Dismissing Christianity without fully exploring its claims would be unfair – unfair to me and unfair to the One who claimed to be the Savior of the world. I realized I had never really given Jesus an opportunity to prove himself. So I concluded, “If he really was who he claimed to be, and if I don’t test his teachings, I might miss the very thing I’ve been searching for. Besides, if Jesus allowed himself to be crucified for the salvation of the human race, I owe it to him to at least open my heart to the possibility of his claims being true.”  So one morning, though it involved an inward struggle, instead of following my usual yoga routine, I decided to dedicate one day to the Lord Jesus Christ!”  One day!?!  I shake my head.  This fellow definitely has an extremely radical and convoluted approach in life and yet… Jesus met him that day!

Father, thank you for promising that when we call on You and come and pray to You, You will listen.  Thank you for promising that when we seek You, we will find You  when we search for You with all our heartJeremiah 29:12-13  Teach us to search for You, not because we want something of You, but because we want to know you intimately from our heart.  Father, knowing you from our mind is no longer enough.  Teach us to search for You with all our heart and thank You that when we do, You will be there.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – February 26, 2015

REFLECTION: In search of understanding… Part 2

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Is ignorance bliss?  Perhaps it was in the innocent, simpler days of the past.   Unfortunately, in today’s world, it could be extremely dangerous.

During our travel to the east coast of the United States, a road trip from Rhode Island to NYC brought us unexpectedly to the Bronx.  The GPS was on, but as often is the case, directions got a tad screwed up when the voice said “turn” when there was no open road to turn into.  Well aware of where we had landed, my husband very quickly attempted to drive us out of the area.  It was only when we were back on the freeway that he had revealed we had just “visited” the Bronx.  Ignorant of the potential danger, I excitedly commented that I had always wanted to visit the Bronx, however, a simple google search reveals that getting lost in the Bronx could be extremely dangerous as the law does not apply in certain places.  Oops!

Let’s get back to yoga.  My goal in writing this reflection is not to attack those practising yoga, but to shed some light on what actually takes place so that each can make an educated decision.  Ignorance is not bliss.   One may attain a beautiful and healthy body as a result of a good workout, but has anyone considered the hidden cost?  How many, among the multitudes who have been swayed by the invigorating hype of the yoga trend, have considered the long term emotional and spiritual effect of the practise?  Is it actually what they claim it to be, or is the hype just a temporary guise, hiding the wolf beneath the sheep skin?

Have you heard of any who has been hurt along the way?  I have and that one had asked for an exorcist.  But if they spoke, would anyone stop to listen?  They would probably be brushed off and be considered the odd one out.  Nevertheless, through fervent prayer, perhaps one or more who have had an uncomfortable brush with some paranormal activity would rethink their involvement in the practise.

Perhaps it is the extra-sensitive ones who get hurt.  Although it wasn’t yoga, I was one who had been hurt in the midst of taking a self-enhancement seminar.  The course had boasted “to prepare you to take your next step in life, with excellence”.   Unfortunately, I didn’t take the next step in life with excellence;  Instead, I took the next step into deep depression.  Ignorance is NOT bliss.

“What could be wrong with stretching, twisting, bending, breathing, sweating it out and getting the body in shape, regardless of the method used?” asks Mike Shreves in his article, Five Main Reasons Why I No Longer Practice Hatha Yoga!  (http://thetruelight.net/booksections/articles/nohathayoga.htm.)  Having taught Kundalini Yoga at four universities in Florida, he continues, “Absolutely nothing if that’s all there was to it. However, there are some definite negatives that are almost always, to one degree or another, attached to a yoga experience. Usually, this makes it, not only unwise, but ill-advised for Christians to participate.”

In her article Yoga 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Practice, Meditation, and the Sutras (http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/yoga-questions-answered/) Cyndi Lee introduces yoga… “The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline.”  Had I not been warned that there are potential dangers in the practise, I would have ignored the other definitions and would have immediately accepted that it was simply a method of discipline.  However, isn’t the word defined as yoke or bound?  Should anyone be concerned?  Did she clarify what one would eventually be yoked or bound to?  I am of the impression that mankind has been fighting  to break free from the shackles and ways of the world.  Why would one, then, want to be yoked or bound once again?

She expands, “The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga.”  She continues by explaining each.  The pratyahara and the Samadhi limbs, in particular, disturb me.  Pratyahara is defined as “withdrawal of senses” while Samadhi is defined as “absorption”.  I believe that not only has God given us our senses to enable us to enjoy the beauty of this world, but they are also given so we can discern the danger around us.  Have any of the yoginis (those who practise yoga) considered the dangers caused by withdrawing their senses?

Leprosy is a disease which diminishes the sense of touch.  Those who are infected are well aware of the potential dangers they now face because their sense of touch can no longer warn them of the proximity of fire or a hot liquid nor can they feel when they have injured or cut themselves.  As to the Samadhi (absorption)limb, I would be very careful about this as one should be very clear about what one is absorbing.  Subliminal messages come to mind.  Lee further mentions that the Sutra is a collection of 195 statements which serves as yoga’s philosophical guidebook.  Are the yoginis aware of what these statements are?   Ignorance IS dangerous…

“The word hatha means willful or forceful.  Hatha yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas or postures), and sequences of asanas, designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones. The postures are also designed to open the many channels of the body—especially the main channel, the spine—so that energy can flow freely.”  Lee fails to expand that the energy released is the Kundalini force cautioned about in Part 1 of this reflection.

“Hatha is also translated as ha meaning “sun” and tha meaning “moon.” This refers to the balance of masculine aspects—active, hot, sun—and feminine aspects—receptive, cool, moon—within all of us. Hatha yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites. In our physical bodies we develop a balance of strength and flexibility. We also learn to balance our effort and surrender in each pose.”  Surrender to whom or what?

I believe, by now, the reader has gotten the gist of my concern.  The word gullible comes to mind, but I do not like that terminology.  It makes me feel as if I have been conned into something or that I have not exercised caution.

There is no doubt many have benefited tremendously from yoga.  The great influx and passion for yoga boasts that.  Nevertheless, I am of the impression that many Christian teachers and yoginis have become aware of the dangers involved and so they alter the program to an extent so that they are able to put the stamp of Christianity on it and hence the term Christian Yoga. But is it possible to blend yoga and Christianity together?  Is that not watering down Jesus’ Gospel?  I may be wrong, but is that not similar to blending Hinduism and Christianity into one?  I ask for God’s wisdom…

God bless,

Melissa – March 3, 2015

p.s. – the reader is encouraged to read http://thetruelight.net/booksections/articles/nohathayoga.htm to familiarize himself/herself to the 5 Reasons Christians are advised not to practice yoga.

 

REFLECTION: In search of understanding… Part 1

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

 

As if it was time to immerse myself, once again, into study, a friend had sent new links to yoga.  Unlike what I had encountered before, these were first-hand accounts of those who had personally delved heavily into the practise… a new perspective which I would not have been able to experience myself.

Kundalini yoga…  the term didn’t register then, but this time, after listening to two testimonies, I began to search deeper.   Although I can’t find it now, perhaps a blessing in disguise, I had come across a clip that was supposed to teach the viewer how to awaken his/her kundalini in a short period of time.  Thankfully, before he began, the speaker had given a word of caution.  He clearly stated that once you went forward, there was no turning back.  That was my signal to disconnect IMMEDIATELY!

http://www.kundaliniyoga.org/index.html, a site that is supposed to be “the world’s most popular site for Kundalini Yoga” opens with…

Shakti the Serpent bids you “Sat Nam!” and welcome to Kundalini Yoga, the mother of all yogas and the most powerful yoga known. As brought to the West in 1969 by Yogi Bhajan, it produces results 16 times faster than ordinary yoga.

Its power comes from the Kundalini, an enormous reserve of untapped potential within each of us. It is normally depicted as a coiled or sleeping serpent, located in an area towards the base of the spine.

By gradually and safely awakening this serpent and employing its power, you will benefit greatly from an elevation in consciousness, promotion of physical well-being and an expansion of awareness. You will feel more relaxed and at ease with yourself. Your life will be transformed into one which is happy, healthy & harmonious.”

I’m not sure about you, but I find it eerie to be greeted by a serpent.  “By gradually and safely awakening this serpent and employing its power, you will benefit greatly from an elevation in consciousness, promotion of physical well-being and an expansion of awareness.”   An elevation in consciousness and expansion of awareness…  Where have we heard this before?  My mind immediately goes to Genesis 3 where the serpent tempts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die.  For God knows that when you eat of it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Genesis 3:4-5 

Are you sensing what I’m sensing?  I’m beginning to get an inkling that this isn’t going to be good…

From its site http://www.lululemon.com/education/yoga/kundalini-yoga, Lululemon summarizes kundalini yoga as such…

“Relatively new to the Western Hemisphere, Kundalini, “the yoga of awareness,” opens your heart, builds strength and releases the energy located at the base of your spine. Each teacher will bring their own experience to the practice — some much more traditional than others — but Kundalini is without a doubt one of the more spiritual styles of yoga. Kundalini yoga focuses on breath and movement and challenges its students both physically and mentally.

origins

Kundalini is one of the oldest forms of yoga – it has been practiced by the Upanishads in India since 500 B.C. Mastering the practice at sixteen, Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini to the West in 1969. Initially, it was never taught publicly until Bhajan challenged its secrecy and taught Kundalini openly to the public and consequently established the 3HO, which stands for “Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization.”

benefits

Kundalini literally means “coiled” and is represented by a metaphorical coiled snake at the base of your spine. The purpose of Kundalini practice is to uncoil your snake and release that energy within. Health, strength, fitness and overall happiness benefits are included.

good for beginners?

There might be a bit of shock factor: no doubt, Kundalini is much different than other forms of yoga. Expect to dance, jump, hold long poses, and breathe deeply and repeatedly – no two classes are the same! It is great for beginners as it has the flexibility to push past your comfort zone as well as offering the ability to go at your own pace.”

As depicted by Lululemon, there doesn’t seem to be anything harmful, although the phrase  “There might be a bit of  shock factor” could be regarded as a pre-cautionary warning for those who are insightful.  But what about those who fail to grasp this insight?

The article “Is a Kundalini Awakening Safe?” (http://www.yogajournal.com/article/history-of-yoga/safe-awaken-snake/) reveals much more…

“According to Tantra, kundalini energy rests like a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. When this dormant energy flows freely upward through the seven chakras (energy centers) and leads to an expanded state of consciousness, it’s known as a kundalini awakening.

For some, the experience can be blissful and filled with feelings of love and a sense of the interconnectedness of all things. For others, it can feel more like a bad drug trip, or even a psychotic break, where practitioners go through altered sleep cycles, changes in identity, or depression. This discrepancy has led many Westerners to fear the coiled serpent resting in their spine, ready to strike.

Meditation teacher Sally Kempton had such an awakening in her late 20s, and while she acknowledges that the experience may be scary for those who are without an experienced teacher to guide them, she believes that awakenings are a gift from the universe. “In our tradition, we honor and respect kundalini,” she says. “Her energy is trying to awaken you, expand you, and put you in touch with your own deep energy, which is a fundamentally benign process.”

However, according to Kempton and Stuart Sovatsky, a psychotherapist specializing in spiritual work, kundalini awakenings are rare in Western students because hatha yoga is practiced in a less spontaneous way today. “People are trying to hold the poses in a certain way, as opposed to doing poses that release energy blocks specific to their body,” says Sovatsky.

Still, many teachers caution against attempts to induce an awakening through intense Pranayama or other methods. Instead, it should occur spontaneously, when the body is ready. In Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy, yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein explains why: “If you don’t first open the central channels of the nervous system, raising the serpent power along the axial pathway is not only impossible but also very dangerous to attempt, for instead of entering the central channel (sushumna nadi) it is likely to force itself in to the ida or the pingala nadi, on either side of the central channel, causing immense havoc in the body and mind.”

Kundalini reminds us that consciousness is far vaster than most of us have ever imagined, which can seem overwhelming and disorienting. But Sovatsky says that people who have a psychotic break from an awakening usually come from a troubled family background, face high levels of stress, and don’t have enough emotional support. Still, both Sovatsky and Kempton recommend that anyone who is fearful in the midst of such an awakening should seek support from a therapist (such as a transpersonal psychologist) or a teacher who has gone through it herself.”

Does Lululemon’s summary of Kundali Yoga suffice to warn its clients of its potential dangers?  I don’t think so.  Should a client experience a psychotic break, does the blame then go to the individual’s troubled family background, high level of stress and lack of emotional support?  I shouldn’t think so, and yet what is a troubled client to do?

During the summer, as I walked towards the gathering place for our weekly Prayer Meeting, an acquaintance had approached me after attending Mass.  She enquired if I knew of an exorcist here in Vancouver.  An exorcist?  An exorcist!  She knew of one who had begun to see the devil regularly at night.  I asked if the individual knew the source and the answer was plain and simple… “she thinks it was yoga.”

My cry of agony and plea to God to save and release this young one bombarded Heaven.  My previous circulations warning about the dangers of yoga didn’t reach this one.  The mom was on my mailing list, but the message was not received.  And so, this time I write in hopes of exposing more of the dangers involved.

God bless,

Melissa

p.s.-

Wikepedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kundalini) sites the following physical and psychological effects as a result of awakening Kundalini…

 “Physical effects are believed to be a sign of Kundalini awakening by some,[32] but described as unwanted side effects pointing to a problem rather than progress by others.[30]The following are either common signs of an awakened Kundalini or symptoms of a problem associated with an awakening Kundalini (commonly referred to as Kundalini syndrome):

  • Involuntary jerks, tremors, shaking, itching, tingling, and crawling sensations, especially in the arms and legs
  • Energy rushes or feelings of electricity circulating the body
  • Intense heat (sweating) or cold, especially as energy is experienced passing through the chakras
  • Spontaneous pranayamaasanasmudras and bandhas
  • Visions or sounds at times associated with a particular chakra
  • Diminished or conversely extreme sexual desire sometimes leading to a state of constant or whole-body orgasm
  • Emotional upheavals or surfacing of unwanted and repressed feelings or thoughts with certain repressed emotions becoming dominant in the conscious mind for short or long periods of time.[25]
  • Headache, migraine, or pressure inside the skull
  • Increased blood pressure and irregular heartbeat
  • Emotional numbness
  • Antisocial tendencies
  • Mood swings with periods of depression or mania
  • Pains in different areas of the body, especially back and neck
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Trance-like and altered states of consciousness
  • Disrupted sleep pattern (periods of insomnia or oversleeping)
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Bliss, feelings of infinite love and universal connectivity, transcendent awareness

Reports about the Sahaja Yoga technique of Kundalini awakening state that the practice can result in a cool breeze felt on the fingertips as well as on the fontanel bone area.[20][33] One study has measured a drop in temperature on the palms of the hands resulting from this technique.[32]