“Life means ‘getting our feet dirty’ from the dust-filled roads of life and history” – Pope Francis
Last Tuesday, I had no intention of going to yoga. I was tired, a little moody, sore from the previous day’s practice, and convinced my evening should include nothing more than a glass of wine and sitting on the couch. I already told a friend I didn’t want to play tennis. My anxieties about a work project were building. I was shutting down.
I got in my car and drove south, headed out of Boulder, on my way home. The day’s meetings and digital distractions replayed in my head as I drove those first few miles. I knew I would drive right past my yoga studio – it’s on my way home. I had the right clothes and my mat in the back of my car, as I usually do.
I glanced at the clock – 5:40 p.m. – ten minutes to get to the studio, ten minutes to change clothes before class. Plenty of time to settle in on my mat and into my practice. Maybe it would feel good to stretch. Maybe it would help clear my head. Maybe I just need to show up.
To start and close the class, the instructor thanked everyone for committing to show up on their mats. I showed up. That’s all it took.
The creative process can be quite similar. I haven’t written in awhile. I felt stuck – writer’s block settled in. The well ran dry. I didn’t want to write.
There were plenty of other activities I could distract myself with – sports, errands, cleaning my house, playing around on the internet, work projects, and so on. But it’s often in these moments, perhaps more than any other time, that I need to show up in a notebook, with a pen and a piece of paper.
Busyness is often my way of bailing out of telling stories that are waiting to be told. It is just as important for me to commit to showing up in writing as it is for me to show up on my yoga mat.
Let’s take it one step further. Last Sunday, I did a bunch of things around the house, ran errands, had coffee with a friend. My opportunities to go to church decreased with each activity as the day went on until only a couple mass times remained. What’s the harm in skipping a week? Do I really need to go? I could go for a run, hang out at home, watch a movie, prep meals for the week, get a jump start on work – I battle these thoughts every single week.
What if I just showed up?
Down to the wire, I threw on some church-appropriate clothes, drove down the street and walked into mass with a few minutes to pray before it began. Father Faustina talked that night about tolerance, openness and our church as a global church. He reflected on the words and actions of Pope Francis’ recent visit to the U.S. He invited us to dive into our own intolerances and areas where we can grow based on what Pope Francis said.
What is it about setting aside time for ourselves to grow – physically, mentally and spiritually – that is met with such resistance? How would our lives be different – strengthened perhaps – if we committed to showing up on our mats, in our notebooks and in the pews?
The human condition is a condition of freedom. There is nothing that demands we do one thing over another. Rather, we decide. We choose which path to journey along. We choose which elements make up that path. We choose who we take that journey with. We choose how and where we are going to show up.
To grow, we have to commit to learning, to setting aside time and to diving into regular practice in the areas we want to develop. Just as we commit to growing physically through exercise, rest and replenishment, so also must we exercise our prayer life, rest in God’s presence and feed our souls with the words and experiences of faith.
I am not going to get any better at yoga by not showing up on my mat. I am not going to get any better at praying by not practicing prayer.
Sometimes, I think we experience the most resistance to showing up in the areas that are most in need of healing. Those are the areas where our hearts and our souls are begging for light, begging for growth. We can grow through the anxieties, the pain and the discomforts, but, in order to do so, we must actively pursue growth in physical, emotional and spiritual ways.
We cannot begin to heal if we do not show up in the places that need healing.
Just as we can ignore the needs of our physical being to move and breathe and be present, we can also ignore the needs of our mental and spiritual capacities. It is much easier – though not nearly as fulfilling – to numb, ignore or deny the wounded areas, than it is to show up in those very places, committed to seeing through the healing process.
Every experience of pain – no matter the magnitude – has the potential to become a rich source of growth, both growth through and growth beyond. When we choose to show up, we choose to sit with, to pray with and to grow through our most difficult moments. In doing so, we invite hope, healing and light into those places.
What would happen if you showed up on your mat, in a notebook, in prayer and in the areas of your heart that need healing?