I love food! I mean my stomach growls thinking about all the delicious, exquisite foods there are in this world. Steak, hamburgers, tacos, hummus, ravioli, dark chocolate, blueberry pie, shrimp, brownies, caesar salad, ribs, and cheese are just a few of them coming to my mind. However for thousands of years denying our body's basic need for food has been a spiritual practice. Many religions have practiced this and still do today.
In ancient times many people believed physically fasting was a way for the body to heal and prepare it to prevent other illnesses. It also came to be known as a method to assist in spiritual renewal. For more information about the history of fasting please ready "The Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting" by Brett & Kate McKay.
Today we know that people can fast from various things in their life not just food. The practice of fasting is denying yourself or abstaining from something for a limited amount of time in hopes to bring awareness to your relationship with the divine. Fasting is often associated with Lent when people give up something until Easter as part of a spiritual journey to Christ.
Community of Christ had an informal practice of fasting the morning of taking the Lord's Supper (1st Sunday of the month). This is a practice some still hold but it is merely a personal choice.
Let's look further at the other aspects of fasting
Aspects of Spiritual Fasting
Traditional Fasting - Traditional fasting usually meant abstaining from all physical food and caloric intake. Most people allow water to be used while some also abstain from it. The practice is used mostly as a spiritual discipline in means of stopping the physical motion in our lives to focus on the spiritual. As the article cited above from the Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting states, "The hunger of the stomach is designed to put us in touch with the hunger of soul."
Lent - Lent is a season of reflection and preparation for Easter. Fasting or giving up something during this time is a practice of sacrifice as we think of Christ who drew away for 40 days. It helps us come closer to temptations and while we strengthen our will power to carry on toward the cross and goal of love. Catholics are known to not eat meat on Fridays during the Lenten season however many others give up an earthly possession during this time. This is sometime called a partial fast. Some people give up social media, entertainment, or from other life comforts. For further information about fasting during the lent season and fasting in general check out "How to Fast for Lent" by Gravity Leadership.
Health - Some people fast for health purposes. It stops caloric intake so that the body can be cleansed. There have been some proven benefits to fasting for your health. According to healthline, It improves blood sugar control, heart health, prevents aging, and may enhance brain functioning.
Awareness of Self, Others, and the World - Fasting allows people the opportunity to focus their thoughts. It raises their awareness of their own thought patterns, what is happening around them, and how the world is receiving them. Because through fasting you are intentionally taking time to control your worldly intake, the act in itself brings are attention to everything else that is going on.
Faith Renewal/ Spiritual Insight - Often this is the main purpose for many fasts. People want to receive spiritual insight in their lives and how best to move forward. Fasting focuses the person on their relationship with the divine as they discern that still small voice for their life. The act of praying each time hunger approaches disciplines the soul to hear the voice of God speak. It is through this discipline we find ourselves, our spiritual path, and what it is we need to know for the journey ahead.
There are many other aspects of spiritual fasting other than what I have listed. Please feel free to research it more and give it a try yourself to determine if its a spiritual practice fit for you. Many people fast for 24 hrs from food only drinking water. Others have a specific objective and purpose they are seeking when engaging in the practice. It really depends on your comfort level and what it is you are seeking. Sometimes people find fasting isn’t about denying yourself but reorienting your life to what is important. Before engaging in this spiritual practice please be aware of your own health and if this practice would cause health concerns for them. Check with your doctor if you are unaware. All in all spiritual fasting can be a tremendous spiritual discipline to partake in.
Thank you to all those still following the blog! I hope you are able to receive God’s blessings in your life.
This week give fasting a try and see what spiritual insights you may discern.
Just like many practices Yoga has changed and evolved over the years. Yoga was first written about over 5,000 years ago in sacred texts known as the Rig Veda. According to the artofliving.org, "The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means union of the individual and universal consciousness."
The history of yoga is very complex and contains various traditions, texts, and philosophies. The philosophies and practices are a creative merging of thousands of years from various religions. Sometimes these rules of thought compliment each other while others contradict. It is of note that around 500 B.C the Bhagavad-Gita was written which is the most renowned writings on yoga. If you want to read and learn more about the this vast history go to this article "A Short History of Yoga" by Georg Feuerstein.
Driving across the city you may see signs saying "Hot Yoga", "Lava Yoga", "Power Yoga", "Healing Yoga", etc. Most of these are creative ways to get people in the door. Yoga has boomed as way to stay physically fit but it also has many added benefits. Harvard Medical School reports in their research that yoga practices enhance peoples body images, boosts weight loss, lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars, creates mindful eating habits, and helps people manage depression and anxiety. Yoga has also been linked to improving sleep, reducing stress, and increasing emotional health reported by the National Center for Complimentary and Integrated Health.
One important thing to learn about yoga is that not all yoga is the same. In fact there are many different kinds. To expand your knowledge and identify what works for you check out this extensive guide "Types of Yoga: A Guide to Different Styles" by yogamedicine.com. It goes into detail about the background of the 13 different styles they mention and why you may like it.
For those just starting out or exploring how yoga may be beneficial for you I have attached this short 10 minute video by SarahBethYoga. Give it a try and see if this may be a practice that works for you. Also its important to note that its about doing your best and not pushing your body further than what it can do. Just do what you can and focus on being mindful of your body, mind, and spirit.
Yoga has the ability to connect us with our spiritual selfs. We become aware of our body, take time to examine the inner parts of our soul, and eliminate distractions and busyness. It is in this practice were we connect with ourselves and the divine in a deeper manner. Through the practice we can answer the questions that we all seek.
Who am I?
What is my purpose?
Where do I find meaning?
How do I allow God to be a fuller part of my life?
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This week take time for a spiritual practice and if you get the chance try yoga out!
Until recently our world has been filled with noise and busyness. Passing street cars, horns honking, banging from the nearby construction and many other sounds that take our attention. Our thoughts focus on these distractions and other things throughout the day causing us to drown out the small sweet sounds like the wind rustling the nearby leaves or the birds tweeting their beautiful song. When we actually stop and listen, I mean truly listen, and minimize our inner dialogue we just may notice the rest of the amazing world. It is in this silencing of ourselves were our awareness is heightened and we see our deeper self.
Be Still and Know I Am God
- Psalm 46:10
Silence has a way of creating space within for us to seek the sacred. Its a practice that has been going on for centuries and is still commonly used for renewal and discovery along the spiritual journey. It allows us to let go of the burdens and stresses before us and recenter our perspective to what matters most.
Silence can be scary and intimidating. Some people are scared of silence because silence causes us to examine who we are and just maybe we are unsure if that is who we really want to be. This running away from our true self causes us to make choices that do not correspond to our values or desires. It can ultimately cause us to be overwhelmed and stressed.
Another reason why silence is intimidating is it takes away our most valuable commodity, time. Our lives are busy and to think about sitting silently doesn't seem productive. However the research speaks for itself indicating when we sit silently we are able to tap into our minds, thoughts, emotions, and creativity so that we can be more productive. It also allows us time to assess our mental and emotional states so we can keep good balance and mental health.
Benefits of Silence:
A 2013 study showed when mice were exposed to two hours of silence every day their hippocampus areas developed new cells which become integrated neurons. The hippocampus is a part of the temporal lobe of the brain primarily responsible for memory. It is also suggested that it plays a major role in spatial processing and navigation.
One study looked at various music styles to determine relaxation on the brain. What they found was the 2 minute silent breaks between whatever music styles chosen actually had greater relaxation benefits on the brain than the music.
According to an article on the Huffington Post, higher noise levels have been linked to increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and disruptions in sleep patterns based on an environmental psychologist in 2004. So too much noise can cause health problems. Creating quiet time and space can help fight against some of these health issues that may arise.
This sounds so simple! Yet creating moments to be in a quiet location and silencing our minds at the same time is difficult. Here are some tips for practicing silence.
1. Schedule it - Make silence a part of your routine that is built into your schedule. Give yourself a certain time each day for this moment to happen. Remember the benefits of it and the importance of creating good health of mind and body.
2. Start small - Start with just a few minutes and work your way up to more. As with most things we want to build on success so decide an amount of time you can be successful at being silent and go from there.
3. Turn off Screens - Screens are major distractions for us. Turn off the screens around you and place your phone in a different room. This eliminates the urge to check any vibration or notification that may come. Remember phones are training your brain, so instead let silence do that and forget about what else is going on except this present moment.
4. Go outside - Nature is a perfect place to be for silence. We can clear our minds by connecting to the creation around us. Find your place where its quiet, serene, and connects with you. Truly listen to nature and what speaks to your soul.
5. Focus on your breathe - Silencing our mind can be difficult. Focusing on your breathe brings you back to the moment and yourself. Use deep breathing as a means for structure in your silence.
Wherever you find yourself during the day, take a few moments of silence for yourself to relax, renew, and reconnect with the divine.
Thank you to everyone who is still following along and figuring out what spiritual practice works for you.
This week find a time to bask in silence and see what you experience.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
The mission of the Seventy
“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” Luke 10:1-3 NRSV
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting.
They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation.
They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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