There is an experience, common in some charismatic Christian circles, of being “slain in the spirt,” in which a person collapses under the mighty presence of God and literally falls to the floor. (Fortunately, there are helpers to catch the slayee.) Often, this occurs at a revival or other service of spiritual renewal, wherein a minister presses a hand to the forehead of the recipient in order to directly transfer a mega-jolt of God’s fullness. This phenomenon is also known as “resting in the spirit” or simply, “falling out.”
Recently during a yoga class focused on balancing poses, my teacher explained the benefits of allowing ourselves to go to the edge of our previous experiences, to get full, and that it was more than okay to let yourself physically fall out of the pose. In so doing, she said, you are allowing yourself to let go, to allow for greater possibilities in what you can physically do. But whether you go deeper into a pose, or whether you just fall on your ass, something shifts. Those are not her exact words, but you get the drift.
Alhough I identify as a (non-evangelical) Christian, I have in the past belonged to churches where the mystical practice of “falling out” occurred, but it has never happened to me. Frankly, such a control freak is unlikely to be slain in the spirit or to fall out of an asana, because, again frankly, I hold back. I hold back on what I can do in many respects, knowing down to my wide-spread toes that I possess yet-unmanifested gifts, talents, ideas, thoughts. If I were to go to the edge, what might happen? Would I merely fall on my sitting bones with a loud and painful thump?
By bringing up the charismatic experience of falling out, I do not mean to judge its validity or “realness.” I have not experienced it. I am simply drawing a parallel. Purna, the Sanskrit word for “fullness,” seems to me to be applicable to anyone who is reaching for God. If you’re pushing to the edge of a pose, doing as much as you can, and then breathing, relaxing into the spirit that supports us all, is the essence of that desire much different than those who stand in line at a camp meeting and ask for God’s touch? I am not talking about politics or theology here, but just the essence of the heart of the individual in both circumstances. Indeed, many people testify of physical and emotional healing at such times, just as Shakti is often awakened when someone goes deeper-than-ever into a backbend and arises in tears. Some writers, in derisively describing the Christian experience, compare it to a Kundalini awakening, attempting to invalidate and dismiss both experiences. To me, the comparison only serves to validate both.
Being slain in the spirit may sound like a frightening thing, and since I haven’t experienced it, I’m not sure. But really, when you go to the edge of your comfort level, isn’t there some fear? But once you’re past it, the fear seems ridiculous.
Falling out of a pose is perhaps the same. You know that moment when you think, here I am in Ardha Chandrasana, perfectly comfortable, in control, mind you, then your teacher tells you to curl back and something rises up in you and to heck with the physical age of your body and the fact that you really should be in the mixed levels class instead of the intermediate/advanced class, and you think – Hell yeah! – and you begin to curl back, but then -oops! – am I falling? Am I losing it? And you begin to think that you are out of the pose.
You’re only physically out of the pose, and even then, that’s only because you’re comparing yourself to the Really Bendy Person in the front row (and you know who you are.) But you’re not really out, you’re totally in.
I submit to you that the moment you fall out, whether you are slain in the spirit, if that’s your path, or whether you fall out of an asana, it’s because you are completely given over to spirit at that moment. Going deeper into a pose, to the very edge of your physical and mental comfort zone, does cause something to happen, doesn’t it? Whether you consider it a blast of Shakti, a touch of the Holy Spirit, or just taking your body to the edge of its ability, I offer that these are all the same experience. Different strokes for different folks, but one consciousness supporting all.
And, I submit to you that it’s not necessary to go to the edge every time. It’s not always necessary to be slain in the spirit to experience the fullness of God, and it’s not necessary to push yourself to the edge of exhaustion and/or back spasms every time you try the Wild Thing. Isn’t sitting quietly in prayer in a church pew fullness, also? And isn’t doing a simple decent downward-facing dog without trying to force your heels to the ground, also a prayer of sorts?
Brothers and sisters, fullness – purna – can certainly come when you fall out, but I wonder…can it also be manifested when you fall in?
An Irish girl blessing for you:
May you experience fullness of life in unexpected ways today.