“We are pressured from within to become more. The Spirit invites us to evolve; to respond graciously to the changes that God may be asking us to embrace. In other words to be open to the transforming power of God in our lives.” Karl Rahner, SJ
After years of spiritual practice, study and reflection, I have come to believe that “becoming” is the highest purpose of this life. The process of “becoming” is most obvious in the years from childhood to young adulthood when we are still students whose very job it is to learn and stretch ourselves, or new professionals exploring various skills, talents and roles.
Sadly, we often leave the act of “becoming” behind as we settle into adulthood. As “grown-ups,” our roles tend to shift and change less frequently. As we climb professional ladders, we are expected to be experts (or at least very, very good) at what we do. Sadly, being acclaimed as good at something can make us complacent. Whether what we do is teach a class, preach a sermon, sell widgets, hit a golf ball or drive a delivery van, we start thinking that our way is the best or only way of doing what we do. We get so busy showing people how it’s done that we forget to watch for other ways that it could be done.
When this happens, when we allow life to box us in, we will become stagnant. This is decidedly “not good.” In fact, I would go so far as to say that stagnation is an intellectual, physical and spiritual death knell.
The highly acclaimed Jesuit priest, Karl Rahner (quoted above), would agree. If we are not becoming, evolving, changing and transforming, we are ignoring or stifling our deepest (he would say God-given) urge. To flip this, when we openly embrace the power of change and the process of becoming more than what we are, we are living into the true reason for our existence.
Resisting stagnation and embracing growth takes some mindfulness and some practice. Embracing change is a choice that we must make consciously. When we choose between being an expert and being a student, we are choosing the more difficult of two paths. But, as with so much else in life, this difficulty is not a bad thing. In fact, challenge can keep us energized, inspired and passionate.
Maintaining a perpetual state of transformation also takes practice. Yoga is a fabulous way to do this. Yoga is truly a practice of transformation and change. We are different – body, mind and spirit – each and every time we come to our mats.
The changes we experience on our yoga mats can be forward-moving – increased flexibility, developing technique, heightened endurance and greater strength. We also change “backward” within our practice. Injuries and illnesses can set us back. Postures – often the ones we have worked hardest to achieve – have an annoying habit of disappearing. Additionally, we often experience long periods of plateau where our physical practice seems stuck. These plateaus often force us to look a little deeper to notice inner changes that are occurring in our mindset and emotional landscape.
Whether we practice a couple of times a week or every day, regularly coming face to face with the inevitability of change (forgive me the repetition) changes us. It changes us deeply. Where once change may have unsettled us, our practice helps us to develop a fundamental comfort with it. We become less reactive both to “good” and “bad” changes. We develop a trust that nothing is constant or “forever.” We build a lasting faith that “this too shall pass” – which allows us to hold our successes and failures lightly.
Best yet, this transformational practice of yoga helps us to tune into the deepest part of who we are. As we do, we begin to understand that our inner process of changing, growing and becoming is even more dramatic and exciting than what we’re seeing physically. We begin to sense and stretch toward the pull of change the way a little seedling senses and stretches toward the light of the sun. As we stretch, grow, learn, develop and become, our hard edges of knowing and of being certain soften. We begin to live and function in a way that feels as soft, pliable, flexible and willing to open as the tender, baby green shoots of a plant. We root into the process of perpetual becoming.
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Max Dupree