Tag Archives: transformation

Doing Handstands

Lent 2012
Path of Restoration


by Tracy Donley 

I have been struggling for some time now in my yoga practice to do a handstand. To do one with any grace while avoiding breaking a wrist — or a neck — requires lots of strength and balance, but someone who has been practicing yoga as long as I have should easily be able to pull it off. I’ve worked at strengthening the necessary muscles, I’ve read the instructions, attended the classes, watched the DVDs, but still can’t quite do it. 

But a few days ago, I was driving past an elementary school playground, where a large group of second and third graders were running around, laughing, and taking turns doing handstands in the grass. Effortless, giggling handstands. Sometimes, they’d fall over — which only led them to pop up and try again. Sometimes, they’d achieve that brief moment of lightness, of grace, before folding back down to their feet. 

Please. Do these children work out in their spare time? Do they take classes to learn to balance like that? 

That was, of course, when it occurred to me that children can do handstands, headstands, cartwheels, and the like because they hold the real secret without even realizing it: they are light. And they are light because they’re not afraid.

Aha moment! So that’s the reason I haven’t been able to do handstand. It was never something that was missing from my equation. It was something that I had mistakenly added to it. Strength plus balance is a good start. But throw in a healthy dose of fear and all bets are off. 

While we’re on the subject of fitness, I’ll tell another story. This morning, as I was huffing and puffing my way along on a morning run, checking my watch to see how much time was left, I turned to glance at my front yard as I passed my house. There, dancing between trees and morning rays of sunlight was my daughter — and she was running.  

We’re talking here about a 12-year old who isn’t interested in organized sports, but who probably runs for more than an hour a day, simply because she thinks it’s fun. She leaps and bounds and smiles to herself about some daydream she’s playing out in her mind. There is strength and grace in every movement. But mostly, there’s joy. If I popped the earbuds of my iPod out long enough, I am sure I would hear her singing.  

In that moment, I realized what Jesus was talking about when he told us we would have to be like children. Full of faith that life is good, and people are good, and God is good. When did I load myself up with doubt about that? And why? 

As we prepare for the joy and lightness of Easter, Lent is a time for experiencing transformation. And where my old self would think you’d need a reading list and tickets to a lecture series in order to be transformed, these children — with their running and their handstands — have taught me that maybe there is less to it than all of that. Maybe transformation is about unlearning. Maybe God set me down here with a kiss on the forehead and a clear understanding which I have somehow piled high with bags of disappointment, doubt, fear, routine, and all the rest. 

Maybe Easter transformation isn’t about becoming something new, but about going back to what I was meant to be in the first place. Maybe it’s all about setting down the fear, planting your hands on the ground, and kicking off. Maybe it’s about grabbing onto that moment of lightness and remembering who you are. 

Tracy Donley is a member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Seguin TX. Reach her at tracydon4@aol.com or leave a comment below.

The boys at the bus stop

The restless soul wants more.

by Marjorie George 

A whole passel of kids are standing at the corner in my neighborhood, waiting for the school bus – maybe 10 or 12 of them, middle school kids, newly entered into the rebellion years of teenagers.

There’s lots of good-natured teasing and shoving and boys against girls and doing what 13- and 14-year-olds do. Most of them are dressed in the required “uniform” of their middle school – dark Docker-style pants and white polo shirts – the school’s attempt to civilize them. One boy, the smallest of them, actually, needs to show off this morning. He strolls out to the middle of the street, daring the oncoming cars to run over him, scooting back to the curb at the last minute. The drivers honk disapprovingly at him as they slow down and pass. He loves it.

The kids are doing what they are supposed to be doing at this point in their maturing process. It’s maddening for parents and teachers, and sometimes – too often – it ends up in horrible tragedy. But most of them will turn out to be responsible adults 10 or 15 years from now.  Right now, they are challenging authority, pushing against the rules to the almost-break-point. They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing; but, oh, Lord, don’t tell them that.

Just so, sometimes the soul has to push against its confines in order to grow. Sometimes it has to question what it has always assumed to be true. Sometimes the God we think we know turns out not to be that God at all. How often, after spending time with a person we had known only as an acquaintance but who is now becoming a friend, do we find that we did not know that person very well at all?  

Writer Ken Wilbur, in the article Translation versus Transformation from his book One Taste, laments that the spirituality of the West, particularly in America, often takes the mystical traditions from the East into the American idiom where “their profound depth is flattened out, their radical demand is diluted, and their potential for revolutionary transformation is squelched.”  The deep transformation that Christ calls us to, the roaring passion of inquiry and investigation, translates instead into something “resembling the soothing burble of a California hot tub.” No risk there, no need to disturb (pass the wine, please).

The restless soul wants more. The Spirit calls to our spirit, “Come out. See it from a new perspective. Consider some broader possibilities. Risk, relying on God’s tether to hold you tight when you venture too far.”

Lest you think I am fomenting revolution (which I might do if I could get it funded), the movement here is not away from God but toward God. We move away from those things that separate us from God, away from an existence that crowds God out of our lives. We move toward relying on God more than we rely on our money, our possessions, our need to be seen as successful in the eyes of the world. Revolutionary, indeed. The Fall/winter 2011 issue of Reflections magazine (read it here) considers things such as retreating, taking Sabbath, learning to slow down as ways to begin to make this happen.

This is new stuff for most of us. This is the “revolutionary transformation” of which Wilbur speaks. Dare we?

Pray for me, and I will pray for you, and we will all pray for the kids at the bus stop, that we have the courage to risk and the wisdom to know how far.

Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org or leave your comments below.