LVUC in The Global Canadian
- Thursday, January 4, 2018
- By Shauna Grinke
In December, 2017, Marion Kirk and I were eached asked to write a piece for the Dec 15 - 31 edition of the Global Canadian Newspaper on the topic of Hope and Faith. I thought I'd share my story here, for those who didn't see our articles in the newspaper. I feel so blessed to be part of the Lynn Valley United community, and know others in this community have their own stories of faith and hope!
A journey to hope and faith
I don’t remember most of my adult life. Although I tried not to let on to people around me, there were few experiences in my 20s and 30s that I recall with positive emotion, much less happiness. Everything felt like a chore, and I felt like I was coming up short on all expectations in my life. Even thought I was blessed with a loving husband and two beautiful children, I continuously felt hopeless, and a victim of circumstances. I felt like everything was a struggle – my relationships, my health, my finances. Everything was difficult. I felt I was in a fog most days, and I know there are weeks, months, even years, I don’t remember at all. This experience of being an actor in my own life, but not really present to the experience, culminated in 2009, when my job was eliminated as a result of the global economic crash. I was out of work, with a family to support, with little chance of finding work in my field in the worst economic recession of my lifetime. Somehow, I just knew that I needed to turn inward to find strength, or I would descend into despair. Despair was simply not an option. I decided to focus on the only thing that I felt I could control – my own actions, behaviours and mindset. I decided to start a regular yoga practice, as part of my way to build my strength and resilience. I know this first step onto my spiritual journey saved my life, and was the first step into the best years of my life.
I began my yoga practice at a beautiful, heart-centred studio, Yogapod. Although it is no longer in business, I’m grateful for the teachers who supported me on the beginning steps of my spiritual journey. At that time, I did not have a faith practice, and so had no real ‘true north’ in my life. I recall the classes early in my yoga journey. Teachers would ask us to ‘set an intention for the practice’, or to ‘thank yourself for committing to practice today’, or to contemplate ‘that for which you are grateful.’ All of those encouraging thoughts were foreign to me at that stage of my life. They didn’t even make sense, as I was in such a dark place, and I did not have a context around ‘gratitude’ or the energetic interconnectedness of all beings. However, I believed that if I persevered, that I would benefit in some way. I couldn’t see what that was at the time, but I knew I needed to do ‘something’, and this felt like ‘something’ I could do. My daily practice helped me experience the metaphors of a physical yoga practice – the asanas – to teach important spiritual lessons. Gradually, these lessons enabled me to begin to intellectually apply the learnings to my life: the teachings of struggling less, surrendering more, compassion, and gratitude all helped me begin to retrain my brain to a place where hope was possible, and deep sadness not part of my daily existence.
I had been practicing yoga regularly for about 2 years, when I went for the first time to Lynn Valley United Church. In his welcoming words on a Sunday service in July 2011, the minister, Blair, said these words: ‘whoever you are, wherever you are at on your journey, you are welcome here.’ Simple words. Heartfelt. Until that time, I had never thought about myself as ‘enough’ just as I was. I was always struggling, coming up short. Yoga had paved a path for me, and had taken me to the place where I could hear these words; the words that created the space for the next phase of my journey. So, in this community, I continued my spiritual journey, learning about the teaching of the counter-culture, courageous, compassionate and selfless ministry of Jesus, and experiencing being a beloved child of God. The messages and experiences of Sunday worship resonated with me, and provided hope. This practice supported the ‘blind faith’ I clung to beginning in 2009, that ‘all manner of things shall be well.’ On a fall day in 2013, I had the most remarkable experience. I was driving to go no where in particular; perhaps on an inconsequential errand, and I felt ….. happy. It was so remarkable, since it was such an unusual sensation, and the moment was so random – and significant. I know that experience of happiness came from a culmination of a practice of faith and hope. I could not have ‘forced’ that. I couldn’t ‘imagine’ it. It took my breath away.
Now, I live with deep gratitude for my life. Every day. Every breath. I know that I benefited from my darkness, as it has helped me truly live with gratitude. My faith and hope have served me well. I have been formed by the teachers and lessons I have had along the way. All is well. My hope is that all beings know they are the beloved. May it be so.