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A Life of Practice: Before Abraham was, I AM


The crash of #AntonSterling.

The undertow of #PhilandoCastile.

The pummeling of #DallasPolice.

Wave after wave are swallowed by our grief. After our salty tears have dried, our compassion is fatigued and we do not know how to change this reality.

Long ago Jesus met the breakers. Each 'I AM' statement he made was in the midst of questioning not just by the Pharisees but his disciples as well. In John 8:58 He said, "Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I AM." When he made this statement, there was a dispute going on between him and the Pharisees about whose children Jesus opponents were. He insisted that because of their stiff manipulation of the Law and their intent to have Him executed, their father was the devil and that if God was their Father, they would know who He was and that He was telling the truth.

Just as it was difficult for these Jews to wrap his mind around how Jesus was, has been and will always be present, it is difficult for us to do as well, especially in times where things feel destructive and uncertain. The corners of our lives haunt us and our world is polarized. We carry burdens of mournfulness. In the flesh of our mind space everything seems to come in waves. The yogis knew this when they based the practice on the first line of the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali:

yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ

Yoga is for the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

Rob Bell spoke about this in one of his podcasts:

"That's the thing about waves. They come and the pummel you if you are not riding them. Then they pass by you and they crash on the shore... When this happens, simply say to yourself, 'Waves come come and they go.'"

We have this practice of yoga that helps bring us to the place where we can know that these waves come... and they go. We have this practice of breath in which He's present, pranayama.

Yaweh Shammah: The Lord is Present.

Inhale: Yah

Exhale: Weh

When our hearts break over and over and our compassion is crushed in the deluge, He is there. And in the midst of those who say they are right, what should be right and how it has gone all wrong, Jesus is there simply saying with his presence, "I AM." His ubiquitous hand remains in all things.

There is a quality of living to which the waves can take us. These waves can take us through our pain, reactions and unsettledness into what's beyond — a deeper sense of purpose.

Five spiritual practices within yoga are called the niyamas. They create the second of the eight limbs of the practice (pranayama is the third). One of those five niyamas is ishvara pranidhana or surrender in the doing, in the practicing the presence of the Divine. Just as the air slips in and out of our being, our hearts can lean into this surrender to Him. When this surrender happens, we become more aware of the understanding that we doing everything for Him. We grieve with Him. We are angry with Him. We are crushed against the rocks with Him.

And we are Him in what we do. Jesus never gave up telling those whose He was and whom He was. When the Pharisees pressed in with they accusations, plotting and contempt, He continued to say, "I AM..." He moved forward to profess it again and agin until it He met His ultimate reality of giving his life on the cross.

Everything about Jesus was the solution. The Spirit compels us forward with every breath to be a co-conspirator in the practice of His presence in our everyday lives. The flow is in the following. We can pray of the solutions to the injustice, brutality and devaluing of human life or we can be the solution. Active prayer is being the solution as He was. It is to do everything as if for Him: ishvara pranidhana.

You have it there with you. Practice His presence by being the solution.

(When I was young, there was no greater influence of justice and equality in my life than the the work of the band U2. Many of their songs formed my opinions on the world and my place in it. This one, I Will Follow, takes me way back. How will you follow?)

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