A yoga student recently sent me an email describing comments made during class by the yoga teacher.

The comments started as a reflection on “success” but then morphed into a description of the most effective way to share the gift of yoga. The email describes the class:

The theme of my yoga class was how we define success for ourselves. My teacher said that for him success in yoga is  less about the poses on the mat and more about how he can bring the spiritual attitudes of yoga into his day to day life. He asked us if we had ever encountered a person and thought they would really benefit from yoga — and then he said it never goes well when you tell people out in the world that they should try yoga — instead just try to be open about the fact that you practice yoga, and then behave in a way that is in line with the spiritual practices of yoga.

I thought it was so funny because it just totally reminded me of what you would say about bringing people to the church — you can’t tell them to come, but you can behave in way that is in line with the principles of Christianity, and hopefully that will make people curious about the church and what it offers. 

Those of us who might feel inclined to want to draw people into church need to listen carefully to the wisdom of this yoga teacher: “it never goes well when you tell people out in the world that they should try”… church…. being a vegetarian…. anything.

The problem for those of us tempted to tell people what we believe is good for them, is of course that telling is cheap. It is much easier to tell than to show.

Behaving “in a way that is in line with the spiritual practices” of our faith and then responding to the questions our lives may raise for the people we encounter outside the church or yoga studio is a far more challenging strategy than just sending a news flash expressing our brilliant insights. The “showing” strategy assumes we are committed to and engaged in the “spiritual practices” that make it possible for us to live our faith.

In a Christian context “behaving  in a way that is in line with the principles of Christianity” means surrendering to the presence and action of love at work in our lives and affirming the presence of love wherever we discern that love may be at work. It means finding ways we can respond to life without drama, reactivity, violence, self-interest, or manipulation. To live “in line with the principles of Christianity” requires a willingness to encounter the world in the way Jesus encountered the world, with compassion, respect, and even reverence.

People may become “curious” when they see us responding to the challenges of life with relaxation rather than rigidity. Their interest may be tweaked when they perceive us practicing graciousness and generosity instead of  grasping and manipulation. Where people see gentleness and softening instead of demands and self-interest, they may pause to wonder what it is that causes to adopt these counter-intuitive responses.

But, whether or not our lives generate questions for others, if we try to demonstrate by our attitudes, words, and actions, the qualities we believe are central to a life of faith, we will certainly  live in a way that is more healthy and more conducive to our own well-being. This seems a pretty successful strategy no matter what the outcome may be in the lives of those we encounter on a daily basis.