The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 31: Be Not Afraid
Well, hi friends, if you were born and raised Catholic, you may have inherited a kind of wariness or even outright fear about some practices which, though there is no teaching in the Catechism or the Scriptures, may have been considered by some to be outside the box of traditional Catholicism. Things like yoga, meditation, the enneagram, even the Harry Potter books – maybe the mere mention of these words just now provoked a fearful response in you and if that’s the case, I’m sorry about that, friend. But on my spiritual journey, I have gained a richness in my faith from some of this ‘not traditionally Catholic stuff’ that has brought real color and depth to the practice of my Catholic faith, so I thought today I’d share my personal experience with you.
When I came back to the weekly practice of yoga around ten years ago, it was for health reasons. I was physically weak after a long period of raising kids and putting myself last. Maybe some of that is familiar to some of you. I had terrible, recurring knots in my shoulders and upper back that required brutal massage to work out. And I remember entering a yoga studio kind of tired and looking for relief and when I saw a picture of Ganesh on the wall, I will admit, at that time, it did give me pause. It was then that I decided to invite Jesus and Mary into every yoga class with me, and I’m so glad I did. With each weekly class, my body got stronger and surprisingly, so did my faith. While my body became more flexible speck-by-speck as I moved through uncomfortable poses, I came to know and understand the connection between strength, flexibility, and time, and this has real spiritual ramifications, too. I came to feel and appreciate my body as a gift from God, and to accept myself the way I am. But the biggest spiritual gain has been in the clarity and the pictures God has given me in savasana. Savasana is that time at the end of a yoga class when your body is still after a whole lot of movement and for me, it’s a very spiritual experience. In savasana, God will often show me a vivid story or symbols in my mind’s eye that help me make sense of my life and particularly, my life of faith. He’s giving me wisdom, insight and understanding, and also, He’s also helping me let some things go. Often, I’ll cry on the mat with the insight and beauty He shares with me there, and according to my yoga teachers, I am definitely not alone in my tears.
When it comes to yoga teachers, I rely on the Holy Spirit to help me discern and to choose teachers whose practice resonates with my spirituality and with whom I feel comfortable, and I’d encourage you to do the same. We close a yoga practice with a bow of the head, hands at our heart and the word ‘namaste’ which simply means ‘the light in me recognizes and honors the light in you.’ Well, noticing and acknowledging the Holy Spirit living in each other – that’s something we all could be doing more of these days, don’t you think? Anyway, when it comes to yoga and Catholicism, I’d say for sure: be not afraid.
Meditation is a practice that should be like breathing for any person who professes faith, but it can be challenging. The idea is to slow down and focus, often on your breath, being grounded and present in the one moment you’re given. And Jesus frequently went to the mountaintop or away by himself to pray and connect with His Father, and I imagine that often looked like what we would consider meditation today. Meditation can take many forms and it can happen anywhere. You can use an app on your phone, practice with a teacher, get guidance from a book, or simply breathe with a focus on a word or a phrase along with your breath. I heard Christian musician Tim Timmons in a podcast say that he uses a breathing practice to help him remember that God is always with him. On the in-breath he thinks, ‘Jesus’ and then on the outbreath he thinks, ‘You have my attention.’ Isn’t that beautiful? I have added to that somewhat, like when I need to remember that God is in control, I say ‘Jesus, King of the Universe you have my attention’ or when I need to remember that He loves me, I say ‘Jesus, my friend and brother, you have my attention.’ You could make up your own mantra or breath work that works for you but regardless, in these quiet moments, God can come in and whisper to our souls. He can comfort and restore us, and He does. Meditation in front of the Blessed Sacrament is called Adoration, and I’ve sat in meditation there many times, but I’ve also done it on my porch sitting in the sun or looking into the eyes of my sweet pup, Bailey.
The enneagram is a personality typing system that has its modern Christian roots in Jesuit spiritual direction. Fr. Richard Rohr was instrumental in bringing the enneagram back into the public consciousness a few decades ago and now there are tons of books, podcasts, courses, and workshops all designed to help you know your enneagram number, and what that could mean for your one beautiful life. The nine types are like lenses on how we view the world, and each number has unique core fears, motivations, and strengths. Since discovering my number, which is four – the individualist, and the numbers of my family members, I’ve gained not just self-knowledge but I’ve learned how to understand my people better while working toward progressing past my core fears – growing into the person God has created me to be. There are Christians who dismiss the enneagram in part because the symbol for the nine types unfortunately looks to them like a pentagram, but I promise you, friend, it’s not a pentagram. Or maybe they fear what may have been Islamic roots to the beginnings of the understanding of the enneagram, but I’m taking Jesus’s lead from Matthew chapter seven where He encourages us to judge something by its fruit. The fruit of the enneagram for me has been greater understanding, growth, and wisdom about myself and my sisters and brothers as I move through this world so I can tell you, friend: it’s good fruit, and I’ll include some ways for you to learn more about the enneagram for yourself, plus lots of other resources in today’s show notes.
When it comes to ‘out of the box’ practices like yoga, meditation, the enneagram, visiting other churches or places of worship, or reading from authors that are not of your faith – and even those Harry Potter books – I guess I’d recommend two guiding thoughts. The first is that discernment is something you are very capable of so pray, do your research, ask questions, choose your teachers with discernment and you may find an open door to a new practice that will bring more life and color to your traditional practice of faith. I am a better Catholic Christian because of these practices and the exposure that I’ve had to other faiths and other people of faith. None of that has been a danger to me, but it has helped me with more clarity and wonder to see the big plan that God has for us. And that brings me to my second guiding thought for you today, friend: God is big. There’s nowhere you can go where God is not, literally nowhere.
As it says in Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
God shows up in ways we’re not accustomed to sometimes, friends, but which give us an angle or a color or a shade of a great big mosaic that we couldn’t begin to fully comprehend today. Maybe the best thing we can do as we explore our one precious life is to remember the most repeated command in the whole Bible. Do you know what it is? Be not afraid.
Thanks so much for listening today, friends. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. I have lots of resources in today’s show notes for you to check out and I really appreciate you rating, reviewing, leaving comments, and especially sharing this podcast with your circle, so thanks in advance for all of that! Okay friend, before we close today, let us pray:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Dear God, you have made a great big world and so many ways for us to encounter you in it. Give us wise discernment, and an open heart and mind to recognize you wherever you are. Bless our paths and bless our dear ones too in the name of Jesus, we pray, amen.
Okay friends, thanks again for listening and I’ll see you next time.