Day 2 of my 30-day writing challenge
When I was around 5-years old, someone bought me a pair of Wonder Woman Underoos. I have a picture of myself wearing them. I have a little pot belly, a bowl haircut, and an underbite, but I’m five, so all of those things add up to cute.
I loved my underoos, and I loved Wonder Woman, but I was disappointed that my top didn’t look exactly like the one Wonder Woman wore on tv. I did not yet comprehend the architecture of the spangled bustier, which gave Lynda Carter’s cleavage its own gravity-defying superpower. I think I thought her costume was held up by magic.
Physically, I have always been the polar opposite of an Amazon. I was a tiny kid, and I haven’t grown much since then. In (purely hypothetical) three-inch heels, I barely break five feet. Add my natural shortness to my chronic slouch, and I pretty much walk around infringing on hobbit airspace.
In my teens and twenties, I had a ferocious longing to spend just one day inhabiting the body of tall, statuesque woman. I didn’t want to be Wonder Woman or Xena on a permanent basis, I just wanted a few hours to tower above the crowd, kicking butt and taking names. Then I could go back to my ordinary life of needing step stools to reach everything.
When I was in graduate school, I took up yoga. When I started, I didn’t know vinyasa from a red vine, but within weeks, I found myself so much more aware of my body: how I moved, how I carried myself, the native strength of my muscles and bones. I didn’t magically transform into a warrior princess, but I remembered to straighten my spine. I stood taller. I held my head high. And doing so made me feel more confident – physically stronger, but also more of a presence in the world.
(I remember watching a Ted Talk about this. Posture is power. Women who take a minute to manspread before a meeting, whether sitting down with legs apart, or standing up with shoulders squared and a wide stance, feel more confident and are perceived as more dominant. They channel their inner superhero, and others respond accordingly.)
A similar thing has happened to me since I’ve been practicing spiritual disciplines as part of my training to be a spiritual director. Just as yoga encourages you to make space within your body for your own breath – to stand taller and more deliberately, with strong core muscles and a quiet mind, the spiritual disciplines – approaches to regular prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading that have developed over centuries of Christianity – encourage you to make space for God by exercising your soul.
Spiritual disciplines invite you to pay attention to your emotions, your imaginings, your conversations with God: the daily experience of God with and within you. They shape and strengthen your soul as surely as yoga shapes and strengthens your body. While they don’t give you spiritual superpowers (whatever those might be), they help you to become more centered, to breathe deeply and live freely, and to turn your face toward God.
I’ll take that over magic underwear any day of the week.