"Soular Power"

by Pastor Heath Howe

For almost three months now I have taken exercise classes at The Dailey Method (TDM) on Green Bay Road. I had heard about it for a while, and I would at times see a line of people waiting to get into the building on any given morning. I wondered what in the world could be so good. In reading the website, I learned that TDM approach to exercise combines yoga, ballet barre, muscles and core strengthening, and orthopedic exercises to create a strong, toned, and lengthy look and feel to one's body. In every class there is a great deal of time spent on strengthening one's "core," the central part of the body. A strong core creates not only a great look but takes tension off the back. No matter what muscle group we might be focused on at any given moment (biceps, triceps, leg, etc.), we are always pulling in and strengthening our core. Core work, core work, core work.

So what is the core of spiritual health and fitness? I think it is our heart. Our heart seems to be the place where we hear God's voice, feel God's love, or sense God's presence. We might say our soul is our core. That's fine, but I think the soul sort of resides in the heart. Because our minds are busy with the work of the world (paying taxes on time, making a meeting, sorting through email, etc.) our hearts are about the work of the spiritual world. It is in the center of our bodies, just as our core is, and when our hearts are strong the rest of our spiritual health feels more in order.

I know that strengthening my core takes regular practice and discipline. The same is true in strengthening the heart. If we want our spiritual core to be stronger we have to develop the disciplines and practice to make it that way. These include: showing up regularly to listen and talk to God through meditation and prayer; confessing sins and asking for forgiveness; celebrating successes and giving thanks; praying with my family; giving to those in need; visiting those who are lonely and forgotten; respecting the dignity of every human being; and being a good steward of all God has given me. I have not perfected these disciplines any more than I have perfected my TDM exercises. I hear my TDM teacher saying, "It's a practice." And so the spiritual work is as well. We show up and we practice living from our core, our hearts. The place Jane Wolfe calls our "Soular Power."

TDM does not promise a pain-free or ill-free life. However, if my body is stronger I will better be able to handle illness. The same applies to strengthening the heart. I won't be free from sadness, anxiety, depression, fear, anger or doubt. But I will recover much more quickly from those demons if I strengthen my heart and live from my Soular Power.

Is TDM always a blast? No. There are classes when I am sore, tired, or simply bored. The same is true in my spiritual practice. Am I always glad I showed up and worked out my body? Yes. And the same is true with my spiritual practices.

It is true. I could take what I have learned from TDM and simply do all of it at home on my own. The teachers all encourage us to live a healthy strong life and think about our core beyond the classroom walls. But I won't do that. I will keep coming. I need to see the other people in the room. I need to hear others breathe through a pose or laugh at themselves, or ask a question that I was afraid to ask. I need to hear my teacher correct another's posture and take the learning into my own practice. I need the encouragement from other women whose bikini bodies have survived childbirth, and, for some, their children's teenage years. I need and want the community.

The same is true for my heart, my soul. I need the Body of Christ. I need to hear other people share their spiritual journeys and share their lives. I need to hear the sacred scriptures read by another and among others. I need to share holy food with holy people and see literally how we become one. I need another Christian to hold me accountable for what is true and celebrate with me what is beautiful. I need to be there for another to encourage, challenge, and love. I need the Church.

Don't we all?