Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Inside and Outside

I've been thinking a lot lately about where to put my energy: focusing inward on my inner spiritual self or focusing outwards on my community. Of course it doesn't need to be one or the other, but I feel like one is bound to become a higher priority for me.

I've spent the past 5 months focusing almost entirely inwardly. I've been struggling with getting my act together so that I could take care of myself again. I love yoga, and it immediately became my sanctuary where I could let go of the anxious and destructive thoughts in my head. I was so inwardly focused that it wasn't until about mid-January that I even had a conversation or gave anything more than a short greeting to anyone I practiced with.

But since then, I've started opening up again. While I'm still a little broken inside (who isn't?) my focus has begun to move outwards again. I have a strong desire to begin working with an organisation that is working to fight homelessness in Edmonton, and I want to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle. I want to surround myself with interesting people and share good conversation and meaningful experiences with them.

During yoga practice a couple of weeks ago, the instructor read a passage from a book as we were coming to the end of svasana. I forget the details, but the main idea was that our bodies are our temples, and we must treat them as such by respecting them and focusing on nourishing them. While I agree that those things are necessary for a health lifestyle, I wouldn't go so far as to say my body is my temple. I prefer to think of my community as a kind of temple, and that I serve my community as a channel for God's love.

Now, I know that's an odd-sounding thing for me to say. I'm still not really sure what I believe. I narrowed it down a little while back, and I think that I believe in the idea of God. I love the idea of a heavenly father, but I don't really believe he's there in the sky or anywhere in particular. I love the ideas of heaven, of resurrection, of redemption, of forgiveness for sins, of eternal love. But I don't really believe in a person who grants those things. I savour the ideas of them, and I often live as though I believe them. But I savour the feeling that I'm comfortable with not believing in them. Or at least with not knowing if they exist. I suppose that makes me agnostic, or something or other.

A colleague of mine told me the most wonderful story the other night. He was chatting with a gospel singer about why he sings. They talked about ministry, about the feeling of singing, about history and tradition. My colleague asked, "how does music help you attain redemption?" The man replied, "We don't sing for redemption--the singing is our redemption!"

We raise our voices together and sing our redemption. How perfectly right and beautiful.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Tonight I went to my first evensong service at St. Luke's. We closed with this prayer, which moved me deeply: "O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in thy mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

I've only just recently started going to church services again, but so far it's only been a positive experience. During the past year I've begun exploring my spirituality on a variety of levels, and while I don't have any answers yet as to what I believe, I'm deeply enjoying this journey.

The service this evening was quite lovely. The congregation was quite small, perhaps 12 people and another 7 in the choir. I enjoyed the intimacy of the gathering, the quiet and calm atmosphere. Normally at St. Luke's we use the Book of Alternative Services, but tonight we returned to old Book of Common Prayer. I really enjoyed the language of the text and the highly interactive quality; it was far more responsorial than our regular service. I also like that there was a great deal of scripture cited right in the service in addition to the readings.

Pastor Dan gave a particularly good sermon on the importance of living humbly and being grateful for the blessings we have. He talked about how we often envy the lucky few who have so much, but that their position is perilous and fraught, and it's a long fall from that peak.

One of the hymns we sang was "Abide with Me." I remember that was Aaron's favourite hymn, or so he told me. I can't remember if we sang it at his funeral, but we should have if we didn't. Whenever I sing it I think of him.

It was strange, and more than a little sad, to realise that I was the youngest member of the congregation by a full generation. I wonder sometimes what will happen to St. Luke's as their congregation shrinks over the next 15 or 20 years. I suppose it will probably be subsumed by another similarly shrinking church in the neighbourhood. When that happens it will be a hard thing for me. I have so many memories in that church--in the building and with the people.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blog? what blog?

We're already a quarter of the way through 2009, and it feels simultaneously like days and years since I last posted here. Lots has happened:

I finished my internship in DC on Oct 31, 2008 and moved back to Edmonton
I started working for the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology again
I discovered a dormant love for photography
I became addicted to ashtanga yoga
I moved out of my parents' house for the second time
I was reunited with my wonderful kitten
I returned to an annual singing for the first time

Throughout all of this and more, I've been battling in an ongoing fight with mental health issues--which I finally seem to be winning. One of the main reasons I haven't posted here in so long is that when I'm struggling so hard with myself, I just don't know what write. I'm not interested in sharing the deep, dark, inner workings of my crazy here, and I doubt anyone would want to read that anyways. No, this blog is place for me to share the joyful things in my life, of which there are many. And now that I've remembered that, I'm ready to begin writing again.

The three greatest joys in my life right now are music, photography, and yoga. And I try to mix these things together as often as possible. I'm playing and singing fairly regularly, and I'm participating in a daily self-portrait challenge on flickr. I practice yoga at The Yoga Loft at least 3 times a week, and the difference in my strength and flexibility since I've started is astounding.

Now I'm getting ready to move again into an exciting new home with awesome roommates, start a new project at work, and set out on my first large-scale collaborative photography project. Things are looking pretty exciting in Edmonton for the first time in a while.