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Of course yoga is spiritual. That’s the point!

A couple of friends sent me an article today called “Yoga – A Catholic Perspective,” and as soon as I saw the graphic and the one-line synopsis, I knew I wasn’t going to like it. But after getting through about three paragraphs, I realized I was wrong. I didn’t dislike the story; I HATED it. I have to say that this is one of the most insulting pieces — and that’s being really kind — I’ve ever seen written on the topic, and that’s saying something. I mean, I don’t know what this priest’s experience with yoga is personally, but there is almost nothing about this story that holds water for most of us who are intimately involved in the two aspects of his topic: Catholicism and yoga. Read more

Remembering Thomas Merton

Ever since I first came in contact with the writings of Thomas Merton about 28 years ago, he has spoken to me. I know I’m not alone there. Countless people of every faith and persuasion have found meaning in his writings and his life. Of course, others will counter that with claims that he was too flawed to be held up as a role model, or, dare I say, saint, but that’s precisely why he’s a great example. Read more

Creating Calm Amid Life’s Chaos

Well, I didn’t plan for this confluence of events, but, as is often the case, the Spirit took care of that for me. Today I’ll be out in Canandaigua, New York, talking to 70 Catholic prison chaplains about “Creating Calm Amid Life’s Chaos.” Couldn’t have come at a better time, what with this week getting off to a somewhat chaotic start here at Not Strictly Spiritual. Read more

Convergence, coincidence, and cosmic connections

If you go on silent retreat, or spend any serious amount of time in deep and quiet prayer, you’re likely to find that some new synapses are firing. Suddenly it’s as if you’ve discovered a previously dormant channel in your brain. Read more

Sacred spaces, liminal places

When I first arrived at Pyramid Life Center, I carted my sleep bag and backpack up to my room in the main lodge, and, I have to admit, felt a flutter of disappointment when I realized my little room did not have a view of the lake. The last time I was at Pyramid I had a corner room with a lake view from both windows. I even slept with my head at the foot of the bed so the lake would be the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I saw in the morning. So I had to fight the urge to let disappointment be the first feeling I felt on my weekend retreat, especially since I wasn’t planning on spending that much time in my room and this might actually encourage me to spend more time sitting right next to the lake rather than looking at it from afar. Read more

Lessons from Brother Sun

So much happens on silent retreat, even though nothing at all seems to be happening. No talking, no reading, no writing, no casual eye contact. Doesn’t sound like much could be happening, does it? But, let me tell you, there is so much energy and movement and chatter going on under the surface, it’s hard to contain it. At one point on the first day, as I let go of everything that was going on in my head and heart, my interior was actually shaking, almost like I was shivering, but I wasn’t cold. Just a flood of feelings and emotions and questions that came rising up to the surface after being pushed down day after day by the normal events of life. Read more

Into great silence, Adirondack-style

I am so honored and humbled by the many, many prayer requests that have come pouring in from friends on Facebook. I asked people to send me their special intentions so I can carry them with me on silent retreat this weekend, and I now have three full pages — and I’ll be adding to the list right up until I leave at 3 p.m. in case you want to email me or leave an intention in the comment section before then. What a beautiful thing, to have people trust me with their worries and needs. I promise I’ll honor all of them. Although I’m not supposed to read on this silent retreat, I will make an exception for my prayer list so I don’t forget or miss anyone. Read more

A little honesty from the back row of yoga class

I returned to yoga class this week after a long hiatus, and while it was sooooo good to be back on my mat, it wasn’t without its challenges. But probably not the challenges you would expect. When it comes to my Y-based yoga classes, my struggles have less to do with balancing and strength poses and more to do with other people. I know, that’s probably not something I’m supposed to admit when I’m trying to reach some higher level of spiritual development, but I think a little honesty is a more direct route to that spiritual place than total denial and the inner wailing and gnashing of teeth. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, I guarantee you know what I mean. Hear me out… Read more

Solitude and small-town friendliness in Manhattan

When I visited Manhattan a few weeks ago, I emerged from Penn Station, stepped out onto the street, took a big, deep breath of bus fumes mixed with subway steam mixed with street-cart hot dogs, and immediately texted Dennis this message: “I love New York.” And I do. Whenever I go back, I remember why and just how much, so much that Dennis and I have said more than once that if we had the money — and the ability to retire ever, which isn’t going to happen — Manhattan would be our retirement destination of choice. Read more