I recently started a new yoga class. Over the years I have learned that every yoga teacher has their own language and philosophy about the practice. I had a teacher who used to tell us that when we are feeling discomfort, we shouldn’t label it as “pain” but “awareness.” We had tons of fun talking about how much awareness I was having as I labored with my first child. I had another teacher who was also a priest. Instead of saying that he honored the “light” in each of us, he would say, “I honor the Christ in each of you.” Anytime a teacher talks about honoring the light in me now, my brain automatically translates it to “Christ.”
This new teacher has added another phrase to my list of favorites – an image, actually. Like many other teachers, when we practice “tree” pose she has us imagine our legs as having roots that extend deeply into the earth, grounding us. But she added another element to that image. As we stood there – young, old, black, white, small, and large – she asked us to imagine our roots intermingling with one another’s roots. She went on to explain how we are stronger with our interwoven roots than we are on our own. I immediately regarded the people in that room differently – wondering what their stories were, what brought them to that room, and what about our differences and similarities might make us stronger – what might make our community stronger.
I left that room feeling a sense of embrace and comradery. I felt the power of all the students in the class carrying me through the day. But in the weeks since then, and especially in light of our current political climate, I have found myself wondering what it might mean that my roots are interwoven with those who are not like me at all. What if my roots are tied in with those who disagree with me, who marginalize those I support, and who seem to be working against what I stand for?
The realization reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the weeds (Matthew 13.24-30). A man sows good seed in his field, but in the night, an enemy sows weeds among the good seed. The man’s workers want to know if they should pull the weeds, but the farmer knows pulling the weeds will destroy the wheat. So they must wait until the harvest time to separate the good from the evil. Now, before you go too far, thinking you know who are the wheat and the weeds, two things. First, it is God who makes those judgments in the parable. But second, the wheat cannot survive without the weeds among it. You might imagine the wheat tolerates the weeds, but I wonder if the weeds make the wheat better – challenge the wheat to be wise, discerning, and strong. And perhaps the wheat encourages the weeds to do likewise. I think my yogi’s description of intertwining roots applies. We are stronger tied together than trying to remove ourselves or ignore the roots around us. My prayer for us this week is that we start looking at the diversity of our intertwined roots and work toward engagement, discernment, and relationship – instead of hacking away at roots that might be our own.