Scripture “The devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.” 1 Timothy 6:6, Translation: The Message
Spiritual Focus “But the thing is, um, what I’m trying to say, very inarticulately, is that, um, in fact, perhaps despite appearances, I like you, very much. Just as you are.”
Dialogue from the film, Bridget Jones’s Diary
Exhale: just as I am
In our media-soaked culture, we are constantly bombarded with images and messaging of what we should look like, what we should strive for, and what we should believe in. And it has an impact. How many of us wish we were smarter, prettier, stronger, or more lovable, feeling “less than” the ideal images that run nonstop through our screens? Complicating all the external messaging is our inherent tendency to “norm match”, to conform to our peers. An example of norm matching is when we order a salad for lunch at a restaurant, following the lead of those in our party who ordered first, when what we really want is a burger and fries. Not surprisingly, many journal articles describing norm matching, are directed at marketers.
There is nothing wrong with norm matching or social/cultural messaging per se, but when it pushes us towards dualistic thinking, “us versus them”, or heightens our feelings of being “less than”, or interferes with our ability to be open and honest, to be ourselves, then we’ve got a problem.
The practice of pratyahara, one of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, can help. Sometimes described as mind or sensory withdrawal, pratyahara practices help us create boundaries, create space, that foster our ability to be open, honest, and present—in other words, to be our authentic self. A very simple example of pratyahara is to simply turn off technology: your phone, tablet, radio, or TV, thereby creating a boundary that controls the input of external messaging. The most common pratyahara yoga practice is perhaps savasana, the creation of space set aside to rest. Looking through our faith lens, we find this wisdom echoed in the observance of Sabbath, placing boundaries on our activities, in order to set aside time, create space, for God.
Using boundaries wisely, to create sacred space, is the first step to stripping off the layers that prevent us from being open, honest, and fully present, to our neighbor and before God. In doing so, we are reminded that our wealth, our true riches, as described in this week’s scripture from Timothy, are found in being our self, beloved just as we are, a child of God.