Hope & Heart.
That was the name of the very first event I ever hosted when I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training back in 2018.
It was a Christmas Holy Yoga Experience and it combined all my favourite aspects of what I had been learning through yoga teacher training into one experience. I looked into venues to host (which, at the time, the workshop business was seemingly booming with many rental spaces to choose from), booked one, planned the class, anxiously rehearsed it over and over as I prayed that tickets would sell and then, on the date, 18 lovely humans joined me for my first class. I felt supported. I felt encouraged. I felt like this dream God had given me, this sparkle and shimmer of an insight to an event, was something worth following and exploring. I left that event glowing. It was so special.
It’s amazing how much can change in a year…
By the time 2019 came around, this event I had been looking forward to all year was dimmed by the outside voices of others. The very thing I felt invited into by Spirit now filled my heart with discomfort, dis-ease, and the feeling of life draining out from my heart through my fingers and toes escaping from me and leaving me like a hollow shell of what could be. A ghost of what was meant to be is all I was. The event, while still held that year, was held in the spot of a regular class I had been teaching and ended off a rocky season. No Instagram posts were shared. I barely spoke of it except to those who I knew I could trust with my shaky self and hidden voice.
When 2020 hit and the pandemic led us all to venture indoors and online for most of our activities, it seemed like, in a funny way, an opportunity for redemption of what could have been… just reimagined…
Love & Light.
The theme of the 2020 Christmas Holy Yoga Experience took place online and was a time of movement, meditation, journaling and reflecting on how Jesus is both Love and Light in our world. As I reflect now, I realize how much I was the one who needed that theme; that Love and Light felt like my own personal redemption after a year of continual growth and intentional connection with God through all that was unfolding around me. As much as it felt like time of sharing what was most profound to me, it was also a time where I was drifting slower and slower into the ocean of burn out, desperate to reach the shore that felt just out of my grasp a little more at every reach. A small handful of people showed up and we had a lovely time together but there was still something that felt missing…
In 2021 I skipped the event.
The advent themed session of online classes was a lovely experience and, learning from my past experiences of burnout, and remembering what it was like to still feel that caving inwards of my voice, it was time to rest. The rest was a delight. No pressure. No more being reminded of the years of shrinking. Just an expansive break which allowed me to fully enjoy the season without trying to turn everything into something that could be an event.
The rest was just what I needed.
During this time, I was in school for Spiritual Direction and was loving the draw towards the contemplative practices and spiritual disciplines I was learning and was noting just how beautifully everything works together. The synchronicity of spiritual practices is, well, Divine. How embodied movement can encourage us to soften and listen directly impacts how well we can listen to ourselves and to notice God moving within and around us. The embodied practice of breath prayer can facilitate such a deep connection to God that we can’t help but be more present to his presence around us. The practice of the Examen, of the Prayer of Repetition, of all the other varied expressions of connection to God that resonate with me because of my own unique spiritual temperament felt like unwrapping gift after gift that addressed a spark inside and ignited a tender flame.
While at school, we would consider ways to put our newly gained skills as fresh spiritual directors to practice. Event ideas flooded my mind and I could picture myself combining the love of movement with the practices I’ve been engaging in and the art of spiritual direction. Event ideas from half day retreats to evenings under the stars all flooded my imagination with images that felt like looking at picture books and I knew God was inviting me into something here– something we could co-create together– something, I would even dare to say, would be special.
I was reminded this past week in my own session of spiritual direction with my director of my inclination to compare when I see someone doing ‘something cool’ and my director lovingly affirmed in me that people might be doing things but ‘no one is Aelea doing that thing’. I was reminded of something from schooling, ‘what would Jesus as Aelea do?’– what would Jesus do if he were me in this world? Created by God with drawings to certain things, passions, skills… what would be done? Perhaps, it’s events like this…
For 2022, Peace on Earth: a Christmas Contemplative Experience, is a coming together of things I love, have been learning, growing and trained in, into one holistic experience. It’s movement and meditation, but also breath prayer, journaling, imaginative prayer, group and 1:1 sharing and all the beautiful practices that have been foundational to my own spiritual growth, depth and formation over the years.
During advent, we light a candle for Peace and it was only during advent series as a yoga teacher I dove into what peace really is. Biblical peace is about wholeness or completeness. Shalom, in the old testament, means an inward sense of completeness or wholeness. In the new testament, the word is Eirene. As a verb, it means to ‘make complete’ or ‘restore’. True peace requires taking what’s broken and restoring it to wholeness. When Jesus came as Prince of Peace, and when He gave us his peace (John 14:27), we became peacemakers where the peace within us overflows into how we restore peace in the world. [Learn more about Peace here]
Peace is so much more than a sense of calm.
When I learned this, I was captivated. It re-oriented my understanding of peace. It changed how I imagined peace to be lived out. It informed how I would pray for peace and how I saw those prayers come to life (which will perhaps be in another blog coming soon!). And, really, it drew me closer to the Divine who is wholeness, who is completeness as the wild mystery of 3 in 1, and how we as humans are created in the image of the Divine and are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), making us whole and agents of wholeness in this world (whoa, again, right?)
As we dive into the theme of Peace on Earth, we’ll look at how we currently understand peace personally and within our communities, what we think of when we think of ‘peace’, what it means to us that Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, and so much more. It will be less a ‘me teaching you’ event, and much more an invitation to exploration of peace under the lens of your own lived experience, your faith, and with God right there with you as you explore. We’ll share thoughts and ideas, we’ll rest, we’ll move, we’ll reflect, and we’ll leave hopefully feeling rested, encouraged and perhaps motivated to be a peacemaker and continue the legacy Jesus left by continuing to bring Peace on Earth.