Sunday, August 9, 2020

Walking on Water with the Eight LImbs of Yoga

Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the

crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When

evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from

the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on

the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a

ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is

I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said,

“Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But

when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord,

save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little

faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat

worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


Jesus walking on the water.  There are in this week’s lesson again many things I could talk about: Faith, Trust, Not being afraid.  I could talk about the Niyamas to complement last week, but this lesson has a physical parallel to yoga that cannot be denied and is extremely metaphorical as well.  Jesus physically walks on water. To do this requires balance and agility, a calmness of breath and mind all of which is practiced in yoga.  The eight limbs of yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali describe how the physical practice of yoga leads to a calm and clear mind.

The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two Limbs.  These are the yoga ethics or equivalent to the ten commandments. The third Limb is asana or poses this is the physical act of yoga.  Its direct translation though is seat.  Patanjali says that the asana is the way we prepare ourselves to sit in stillness.  It is actually a very small part of the yoga sutras. Jesus’ act of walking on water could be view both as an asana and as a walking meditation, this lesson end with a calming of the winds or stillness.  The fourth limb is pranayama or breathwork. Breathwork can be calming and stilling or invigorating at times where we are tired.  Jesus needed a still breath not just to walk on water but to calm the disciples who thought he was a ghost. The fifth Limb is Pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses with this limb we begin to move from the outside world inward.  Peter lost his sense of Pratyahara when he noticed the strong wind and lost his balance, he focused outward away from Jesus.  With the senses withdrawn we move inward to the sixth limb of Dharana or single pointed focus, until his loss of focus, for those few moments of walking, Peter was in dharana with Jesus. The seer and the seen are still present at this point. Over time the single point fades away and you are one with all. This is the seventh Limb or Dhyana “there is no longer a seer only the seen”.*  In Meditations From the Mat 326* Dharana and Dhyana are compared to working as a waitress at the beginning of a shift you are very aware of how many table your are serving, but as the shift moves one you become in flow with the work and the number looses it’s meaning.  Jesus was in flow with everything when he stopped the wind. When all of this happened and Peter and Jesus were back on board the boat all that witnessed this believed, their sense of self dropped away, and they became devoted to Jesus as the Son of God.  This lose of a sense of self or devotion to the object of meditation is the eight limb of yoga Samadhi.

This very physical story of a spiritual event encompasses all that the Eight Limbs of Yoga would like to teach us.  I may never walk on water, or levitate, but I will endeavor to keep my balance and devotion to Jesus through the practice of yoga.


*Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison

Image: Jesus saves Peter from sinking, from The story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, by Unknown – The story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, Public Domain,


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