The Shepherd takes a person on a walk, a real walk.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
(Psalm 23)

I'm back on this psalm today. In fact, I think I'm "on" it for a while because every morning, I find myself sucked into its gravitational pull. And that's because by evening, I am usually sucked out of it and into the gravitational force of a dirty kitchen, pre-algebra conversations, and teeth-brushing supervision.  

That's how life goes, isn't it? No matter what we do to get grounded and centered, no matter how many Brene Brown Ted Talks or episodes of Oprah's SuperSoul Sunday or Tidying Up with Marie Kondo that we consume, no matter how many "quiet" times (for you Evangelicals) or "centering prayer" times (for you liturgists), we get kicked off-kilter again and again, don't we?

I've been off my kilter for months at a time. Years even. There were whole decades I didn't even know how to get on my kilter. Is it just me? 

The first time I dabbled in Silence-as-Centering and Prayer-as-Centering, I set a timer for five minutes because I didn't think I could sit with myself much longer than that. The beginning was soul-itching and stifling. Maybe I was allergic.

But then, by minute five, something had started to dislodge on the inside. I tried it again a day later. And some day after that. Soon, five minutes wasn't long enough for the loosening I wanted to make room for.  Ten minutes. Twenty. Voices, fears, frustrations began to noodle out with my exhales; each inhale was a gulp of something like--I don't know--peace? Comfort? Presence?

But back to Psalm 23. He makes me lie down in green pastures. The Shepherd nudges a person into a physical position of rest. He leads me beside still waters. The Shepherd takes a person on a walk, a real walk, on a grassy bank, next to a muddy stream. And by means of these physical, bodily, exercises, he restores my soul. 

I used to be a fanatical exerciser. As I mellowed out over the years, I became a religious and conscientious exerciser. Oh, but it wasn't because I liked exercising. Rather, I was full of self-rejection and the perpetual notion that my physical appearance was never good enough, never right. I'm sure it will not surprise you to know that this fear easily drowned out any messages my body was sending me about whether it was actually up to the task of a cycling class at 5:30 a.m. or whether it really wanted to do 30 minutes, five days a week of aerobic activity, combined with weight training (which made me hurt, but not in the you-have-to-get-sore-before-you-get-stronger sort of way). 

Fourteen months ago, after about five months of being in another one of these truth-denying patterns, I flatlined. Fear and ambition and competition (all subconscious, of course) drowned out the fact that, in that season, I was not wired for a level of such intense movement. In that season of busyness and stress and a chronic shoulder issue, the exercise plan was Not. A Match. A cycling class was the straw that broke me. I all but collapsed afterward and could move far for days; I sat around the house, unshowered, in yoga pants, and watched my family do their lives. My body was screaming at me, insisting I. Was. Done. 

(Obligatory PSA: If you love exercising in the early morning, God bless you. If you love to run and cycle for miles, God love you. Exercise is beautiful when you're in your sweet spot doing what you need to do and it can be very, very, very good for you.)

Not only was what I doing physically hurting me, it was soul killing, joy sucking. So I stopped.

And the next week, I found Adriene.

Adriene is a woman with a YouTube channel, a photogenic dog and a friend who is good with a videocamera and marketing. She started making free yoga videos for people who needed to learn how to enjoy movement and be kind to their bodies. She eschews six-pack abs. Find What Feels Good is her mantra.

Before Adriene, whether exercise "felt" good was never a criterion I applied for whether or not I exercised.  I did it because I should, even if I hated it. Can I get a witness?

If our minds/souls/psyches can get back on our kilter by lying flat on our backs in a grassy meadow or taking deep breaths in Mountain Pose beside a quiet stream, then wouldn't it be true those very same minds/souls/psyches can unravel, fray, wear, thin as our 5:30 a.m. eyes squint under the bright bulbs of the Body Pump studio, as every muscle in our bodies tense and strain with every press of the bar, every pump of the legs?

For me, yes. 

I'm finding my body can't be compartmentalized as something so entirely other, so entirely separate from my soul. That my soul health is informed by my body's and vice versa. It's ancient wisdom: a shepherd who knew a Shepherd who knew that we needed to find what feels good in the body--the blades of grass tickling our necks, the surrender of our tired limbs against the pulsating earth, the unfocused gaze on a still pond--so that our souls might be restored, evened out, calmed and soothed.

And so, I'm trying, as always, to be led by this Shepherd, who's had me, among many other things, following the cue of a YouTube yoga instructor for the last 14 months. Almost every day, I hear her echo the Shepherd's voice: be kind, go easy, rest, rejoice, balance, discern, observe, celebrate.