Posts

Opening the Door with Yoga

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Rev. Michael McNamara is curating a series that will explore the theme of Christian contemplative practice, which has been central to the formation and development of Christianity. We will learn from writers exploring spirituality from both the secular and the religious, embracing the paradox within that — a paradox essential to contemplative practice itself. How can this Christian or secular tradition impact today’s church? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

by Sarah Pfeil

Yoga, like grace, arrived in my life when I needed it the most. I had gone through an arduous cancer journey and my spirit seemed broken. After my first yoga class, I knew I had found a way to regain a new sense of being, of wholeness.

The yoga path I am speaking of is a spiritual toolbox which includes all practices of yoga; ethics, breathing techniques, postures, mindfulness, and meditation. Through my practice of yoga, I integrated all aspects of myself into a personal relationship with God. However, the actual practice of yoga can take each person in a different direction. It is not necessary to subscribe to any particular religious beliefs in order to follow the yoga path. The yoga path can lead to a deeper understanding of God, to greater contentment, or to a stronger and healthier body. This is completely a personal matter and how a practitioner chooses to use yoga is up to them.

The heart of yoga is the cultivation of equanimity in mind and body, so the spiritual heart center can wake to the present moment of being alive and sink into the deep and sustaining relationship with God. We integrate all aspects of ourselves into relationship with God. The foundation of yoga, the 5 yamas and 5 niyamas, are the ethical precepts or core values of yoga. These ethics are about avoiding behaviors that produce suffering and difficulty and embracing those behaviors that promote love. The practice of the yamas and niyamas guides us into right relationship with ourselves, our neighbors, creation, and the Divine Spirit.

The practice of the physical postures strengthens our bodies. As physically embodied beings this vessel/body is where God has chosen to call home. Through yoga we appreciate and listen to our bodies. We release tension in our bodies and create openings for the Holy Spirit to move within us.

In every major religious tradition, the Spirit of God is the source of our life-giving breath. In yoga the focus is on mindful breathing. Yoga recognizes the breath as our life force. When we breath mindfully we remember that the breath of life that God breaths into us is the same breath that we share with all living creatures. We notice that with mindful breathing, our bodies relax, energy is flowing within us and we begin to feel a sense of peace on the inside. Our spiritual heart center softens and opens. The peace on the inside flows out to others as radiance and joyful light.

The practice of yoga is designed to move us into stillness and surrender. We develop awareness to notice thoughts as they arise and let them dissipate before we get entangled in them. As we witness our thoughts, the tight control of the ego-mind loosens. We create space in our minds to slip behind thoughts and surrender into the stillness. In this stillness we meet God.

The practice of yoga healed me…. physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I became a Kripalu yoga teacher and had my own yoga studio. The biggest blessing of my studio was watching students allow their Divine within to radiate out. Minds quiet, the heart opens, change happens, and grace flows. Yoga is a contemplative practice and is an opportunity to remember lost aspects of our own Christian tradition. Namaste.


Sarah Pfeil is currently taking part in an 18-month spiritual formation program with the Shalem Institute in Washington, D.C. The program teaches leadership of contemplative prayer groups and retreat leadership. Sarah is a Kripalu Certified yoga teacher and a former Yoga Studio Owner. Sarah has a master’s degree in finance and spent 30 years as an executive in Health care Management and Consulting.

The Power of Coaching

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. The majority of blog posts this month will share stories from church leaders who participated in a pilot coaching cohort in 2017. They will share the challenges they face, the movements they’ve made, and what they are learning along the way. We hope they will connect with your “me too” moments and give you a glimmer of a way forward, and the knowledge that you are not alone. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter

by Tara Spuhler McCabe

Way way back, there was a skit on SNL with a character looking into the mirror with the mantra: I am good enough, I am smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.

I laughed so hard because it was silly AND it was true! Today, we have an updated version of the truth we can laugh about and recognize in our faith: You are creative, resourceful, and whole! We all are. Creative Resourceful and Whole, CRW, is the foundational mantra for the coaching practice.

CRW is one of the many ways I recognize we are powered through the Spirit. Remember your baptism? Or someone telling you about your baptism? God claims you and blesses you! Yet we constantly wrestle with remembering our baptism — our creativeness, our resourcefulness, our wholeness. No surprise that when we wrestle in life and in faith, the root of the wrestling tends be in forgetting, ignoring, or just not believing in our God-given CRW anymore. An example of this brokenness is when any one of us may feel stuck in our discernment and decisions and we stop or spin in our own growth opportunity. We recognize this as self-sabotaging. You deserve to connect with a coach who can support you in getting out of that cycle.

We coaches stand alongside people and support them in their work to connect with their own creativeness, resourcefulness, and wholeness. A coach is another teammate in the journey along with pastors, therapists, friends, teachers, mentors — you name it. We work with a person’s opportunity and powerful questions towards their own goal. We celebrate the work and the self awareness as the person in engaging with the power of the Spirit within them.

The power in coaching is participating in the building up of God’s kingdom with others by working and living out of our CRW(ness). The power in coaching is being a helpmate with another while someone is in threshold moments of decisions and opportunities. There is accountability in coaching through support in holding up the mirror of what one says is most important to them. Accountability and celebration is the work with your coach. That is the fun part! When the person connects with their own CRW through our coaching work together, there is automatic celebration.

During a series of sessions, one of my clients shared that she was surprised by all of the laughter. I asked, what surprises you about your laughter? She reflected on how often she is laughing because she continues to be so surprised by herself. Say it with me: “I am creative, resourceful, and whole.” This self-celebration is so vital. This is not about shaming one another in the work but supporting one another to recognize the power of the Spirit within them. Her response was about how she is surprised with her awareness that comes from the inside of her. The awareness seems so simple since it is within her, and yet the spontaneous joy at connecting to it is that sacred place of healing and wholeness. What I appreciate in her reflection is the joy and celebration (a little of not taking ourselves too seriously) and the absence of self shaming.

That is the work and the joy of being a coach (and a minister): knowing that our brokenness is not the end, modeling how to be in relationship with all of who we are, and living into the unlimited Grace that is affirmed in our baptism because we are creative, resourceful, and whole!


Tara Spuhler McCabe is a Presbyterian minister currently serving as the Coordinator for the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer program in Washington, DC, as a parish associate at Faith Presbyterian Church, a life and leadership coach, and as a “concierge” pastor who spends most of her time bringing pastoral presence and skill in response to the needs and opportunities in her neighborhood and community.