Walking by faith and not by sight is one of the hardest challenges we experience as human beings as we have these ideas of what our day, our months, our years and even our life might look like. It’s easy to become disappointed when something along our path doesn’t go as we had hoped. But that doesn’t mean we lose hope. In fact, that’s the moment when “hope skills” should turn on. But if we haven’t done the work in gaining those skills, we will no doubt fall into the trap of succumbing to that voice that starts to characterize our thoughts as good, bad or indifferent. You know the voice I’m talking about: the annoying one that can be dangerous if we have not empowered ourselves with good mental nutrition to battle that insistent conversation which is certain to drown out any whispers of faith we had in the first place.
What is faith? Using each letter of the word itself, let me suggest: Full Acceptance of Invisible Truth. And for the “H”, I feel two meanings are needed because they are both so important: Humbling and Honoring. Faith is blind with awkward moments that make us stumble, but also have us fall to our knees in reverence. Without it, what are we? With it, we are each the manifestation of a great plan!
Listening to inspiring music, reading thought provoking books, attending events that touch the soul and spirit, and performing acts of prayer and meditation to call in a power greater than ourselves, are all useful and important to kindling and sustaining faith. We need these tools to diffuse the entanglements our minds can put us in as we move through just an average, ordinary day. My belief is that these “settings” are bookmarks we use to bring us back to the page where we prioritized and fed our mind/body/spirit with good mental nutrition, and that enables us to keep faith alive!
I recently shared in class one of Bikram’s very common sayings, “use it or lose it.” He may have been referring to the body, as our 90 minute class is comprehensive in “using” every cell by means of stretching, which generates usage and circulation as opposed to atrophy and its resulting complications. But I’m certain Bikram – in his clever and wise ways – meant something more. “Having means nothing unless you know how to use it,” is another great Bikram phrase that I feel is cousin to “use it or lose it.” It’s evident that Bikram related both of these to the body, but I suspect Bikram meant the mind too.
You might recall hearing our teachers say before we start our one-legged balancing sequence that in our hatha (physical) yoga challenge we open to a raja (mental) yoga experience. In our Standing Head to Knee, Standing Bow Pulling Pose and in our Balancing Stick postures, yes, we have to satisfy form and stamina with breath and all things physical, but it will all fall apart if you are not determined, can’t demonstrate concentration, don’t practice with self-control, have no patience, AND impart any faith. If yoga means union between the mind and the body – well, then this is that page in the book to really read and comprehend. The gift in this bookmark however is that YOU have to do the work! It’s not a setting, but an application. An application beautifully designed to not only feed you with good mental nutrition, but also because of the very action YOU must take, further enabling you to absorb and metabolize all that good food, fortifying you against those nasty creatures that can sabotage your way of thinking.
In other words, its “faith muscle fuel”, keeping your thoughts empowered instead of discouraged. You’re all familiar with those all too common deliberations that can steer us away from faith: self-doubt, pity, victim or vain commentary, and worse yet mediocrity, as you allow yourself to settle for something average. So as Bikram says, “use it or lose it,” or “having means nothing if you don’t know how to use it,” indicating to me that you better use your mind or lose your mind. From my perspective, it’s the hot room, the warm up poses, the lack of clothes, the demanding breath work, and the commanding dialog that all help to create a neutral mental void, enabling you to then fill it with rich soil that begins to grow those seeds that serve you best. It’s way too easy to fall prey to self-defeating thoughts that lead to self-defeating behaviors. So use your hatha yoga and your raja yoga to counteract that way of being with a potency and consistency so genuine and strong that over time this false commentary that can often be so overwhelming becomes amusing and faint!
It’s a challenge worth taking – engaging in that journey that ignites a faith that assists you in moving along your destined course! Watch how you will then fully appreciate and savor the moments you are in, as you realize that you can trust that where you are going is better than anything you might see today! It can be the very cornerstone of turning what you think you are into what you know yourself to be – a confident contributor to something great in your lifetime.