Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rewriting Rumi

I've been reflecting on the poem Zero Circle by Rumi this week. It feels like a beautiful puzzle, a sculpture that I can appreciate but not understand. As I began to interact with it I found myself trying to put into my own words what the translator of Rumi wrote. So here is a reflection/rephrasing of a translation of poem by a Persian Mystic.

Does true honesty demand uncertainty?
The eternal maybe?
Once we admit we are unsure, grace becomes our guide
But we cannot see where grace leads...

...we cannot even see grace.
Those who demand 'This way' or 'Over here' are only fooling themselves
And if we believe them we are fooled out of grace.

Therefore be certain of nothing,
Not even yourself
Only know you need grace.

We spin, but do not advance,
Cry, but make no sound,
Until, half dead, we collapse and let grace guide.
All of us so wrapped in beauty that there is no external commentary from our souls...

..and we become the grace we follow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lessons from the Gym

(Random thoughts for the Contemplative Service)

I've been working out 5 days a week and watching what I eat for 5 months now and so I've spent a lot of time at the gym. All this exercise means I've become more aware of my body, and especially when my body is in pain. There is the bad pain from when I've pushed my body too hard or performed an exercise incorrectly. The pain that means it hurts to climb stairs.
There is also the good pain, the ache of muscles growing and stretching. The moment when the encouragement of the trainer helps me do 5 more reps than I though possible...and even that can lead to the pain that means it hurts to climb stairs.

I'm slowly learning to distinguish between bad and good pain.

On the treadmill I have a lot of time to think. This week I felt God nudging me, telling me to look at any emotional pain I'm feeling in the same way. To realize that there is both good and bad pain. The ache of grief, the struggle of resisting temptation, the anguish of surrender to God, the pain of fractured relationships. The disillusionment of betrayal. As I am developing a greater awareness physically, I am trying to develop a greater awareness mentally, to not just experience my pain, but to ask it questions about its causes and cures.... is easy to philosophize. I am also aware however that I talk about pain very differently when I am in it. I can speculate about the growth that comes, and the different types of pain that exist, but when I'm experiencing pain, all of that gets discarded, and all I know is that I am hurting and I want it to stop!

Like most gyms, mine has mirrors everywhere. I find them distracting. When I'm straining away with weights in both hands, unable to to remember even the simplest exercise because of the burn in my muscles and the sweat pouring off my bald head, the last thing I want to do is see the reflection of my contorted face staring back at me. The first thought that usually springs to mind is - Wow! I look like an idiot.....

...this of course is not true. I look like everyone else at my gym who is straining to build muscle and lose fat. The truth is, it's not the mirror that is distracting, it is my interpretation of what the mirror reflects. It is as if I have replaced the mirrors in the gym with Fun House mirrors that distort.

We all see the world reflected in distorted mirrors. Much of the pain we experience in life comes from us trying to hold together our false views of the World, Self, God, Others. A person or an event comes along that doesn't fit in our well ordered (but incomplete) worldview and rather than allow our views to be reshaped our mirrors shatter and we cut ourselves on the shards of broken glass unwilling to let go of the pieces. When I was young I thought my parents were invincible, that they would live forever. In my teens I was convinced that the correct bible verse properly applied would solve any problem. In my twenties I thought that if I could just hate parts of myself enough I could change them. In my thirties...well you get the idea.

We move from one carnival mirror to another leaving behind a trail of broken glass.

The Apostle Paul wrote For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

And it's not just us...

We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now.  And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience ~ Romans 8: 22-25

Pain is not just confined to us, it's all around us - even our planet is longing for release from it.

We are constantly bombarded with messages on how to avoid pain. instead I'm slowly learning to sit in it and ask it what it has to teach me.

Maybe, just for a minute each day, we could all try to do the same.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The 27 Rules of Conquering the Gym!

Originally published by the Wall Street Journal here

Sweating is a good way to begin 2012. Exercise, like dark chocolate and office meetings that suddenly get canceled, is a proven pathway to nirvana. But if you're going to join a gym—or returning to the gym after a long hibernation—consider the following:

1. A gym is not designed to make you feel instantly better about yourself. If a gym wanted to make you feel instantly better about yourself, it would be a bar.

2. Give yourself a goal. Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds. Maybe you want to quarterback the New York Jets into the playoffs. But be warned: Losing 10 pounds is hard.

3. Develop a gym routine. Try to go at least three times a week. Do a mix of strength training and cardiovascular conditioning. After the third week, stop carrying around that satchel of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.

4. No one in the history of gyms has ever lost a pound while reading "The New Yorker" and slowly pedaling a recumbent bicycle. No one.

5. Bring your iPod. Don't borrow the disgusting gym headphones, or use the sad plastic radio attachment on the treadmill, which always sounds like it's playing Kenny Loggins from a sewer.

6. Don't fall for gimmicks. The only tried-and-true method to lose 10 pounds in 48 hours is food poisoning.

7. Yes, every gym has an overenthusiastic spinning instructor who hasn't bought a record since "Walking on Sunshine."

8. There's also the Strange Guy Who is Always at the Gym. Just when you think he isn't here today...there he is, lurking by the barbells.

9. "Great job!" is trainer-speak for "It's not polite for me to laugh at you."

10. Beware a hip gym with a Wilco step class.

11. Gyms have two types of members: Members who wipe down the machines after using them, and the worst people in the universe.

12. Nope, that's not a "recovery energy bar with antioxidant dark chocolate." That's a chocolate bar.

13. Avoid Unsolicited Advice Guy, who, for the small fee of boring you to death, will explain the proper method for any exercise in 45 minutes or longer.

14. You can take 10 Minute Abs, 20 Minute Abs, and 30 Minute Abs. There is also Stop Eating Pizza and Eating Sheet Cake Abs—but that's super tough!

15. If you're motivated to buy an expensive home exercise machine, consider a "wooden coat rack." It costs $40, uses no electricity and does the exact same thing.

16. There's the yoga instructor everyone loves, and the yoga instructor everyone hates. Memorize who they are.

17. If you see an indoor rock climbing wall, you're either in a really cool gym or a romantic comedy starring Kate Hudson.

18. Be cautious about any class with the words "sunrise," "hell," or "Moby."

19. If a gym class is going to be effective, it's hard. If you're relaxed and enjoying yourself, you're at brunch.

20. If you need to bring your children, just let them loose in the silent meditation class. Nobody minds, and kids love candles.

21. Don't buy $150 sneakers, $100 yoga pants, and $4 water. Muscle shirts are for people with muscles, and rhythm guitarists.

22. Fancy gyms can be seductive, but once you get past the modern couches and fresh flowers and the water with lemon slices, you're basically paying for a boutique hotel with B.O.

23. Everyone sees you secretly racing the old people in the pool.

24. If you're at the point where you've bought biking shoes for the spinning class, you may as well go ahead and buy an actual bike. It's way more fun and it doesn't make you listen to C+C Music Factory.

25. Fact: Thinking about going to the gym burns between 0 and 0 calories.

26. A successful gym membership is like a marriage: If it's good, you show up committed and ready for hard work. If it's not good, you show up in sweatpants and watch a lot of bad TV.

27. There is no secret. Exercise and lay off the fries. The end.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The number Ones :)

There is a facebook meme going round at the moment where people post the number one song from the day they were born.

Here is the Number 1 song in the U.K. on the auspicious day of my birth.

And here is the song number one from the U.S.

Wow! I was born under 2 great tunes :)

Oh...and I share a birthday with the composer Cole Porter. I was obviously destined to be a musican!