I detest pigeons. But more than actual pigeons, I really detest the pigeon pose in yoga. It involves folding one leg under you in such a way that stretches your hip, while the other leg stretches behind you and your arms and head rest on the mat. Ideally that’s what it involves. When I fold into pigeon, there is nothing ideal about it. Without fail, my leg goes to sleep, the numbness disintegrates into pins-and-needles, and I begin wondering whether I will lose my leg altogether from a lack of blood flow; by the time I exit this pose, will I look more like the one-legged maimed pigeons of cities than a stretched and rested human?
With such manifestations of yogic skill and grace, you may wonder why in the world I continue to attend the Monday yoga class offered in my town. It’s twofold, an intertwining of personal spirituality and corporate kingdom spreading. Engaging with me can be a hyper experience, as I frequently bounce between ideas and exhibit a rather deplorable lack of focus. Too often my thoughts are racing ahead to the next minute, hour, or week instead of being focused in the task or moment at hand. It isn’t conducive to really good thinking or praying; it doesn’t foster listening to others or to God- or even to myself. So along with reading on the topic, I have chosen to take up yoga to practice mindfulness.
To a degree, it is working. Depending on the pose, I can focus on my breathing better than in the past; I can sometimes translate that skill beyond the studio into the ‘real world.’ But that’s not the sole reason I’m at the yoga class. Last summer at Holy Trinity, we began exploring our identity and adjusting our programs and worship to live into that identity. As a congregation, we developed our core values, penned them, refined them, and hung them on the wall; they guide us in all decision-making. We decided to ‘go public’ about being a congregation that embraces all people and began reimaging and rewriting worship services to include the musical talents of several parishioners and to reflect language we use in everyday life. Formation activities moved outside our walls, to an arts café and a bar/restaurant; we have embraced learning as a key element of who we are. Additionally, we began teaming up with local organizations to sponsor events that outsiders may not think churches sponsor, chief among them Blues and Brews with the arts group, but also concerts and our animal blessing.
Great as all that may be for our life together, it is not about us. It is all aimed at reentering the conversation happening in our town, a conversation about economics and politics, loss and hope, drugs and alcohol, football and wrestling, bike trails and beer, questions and longings and spirituality. Is this new or different? No, it is not. But it is a new orientation for us, one that is exciting and challenging. Much of it is about listening to people, putting ourselves in different places so we hear many stories and better understand what God is doing here so we can partner with God in that work. That’s why I torture myself with the pigeon pose: to meet new people, learn about their lives, and listen to their spirituality. And that is happening, slowly. Investing in a community and others takes time, more time than I would like. But hopefully I’ll learn a little patience through the yoga and learn to listen more deeply to the people I meet and to God. And together with the others at Holy Trinity, we can be part of the conversation happening in our community.
The Rev. Melinda Hall is vicar of Holy Trinity, Brookville.