Interviewing Barry Schoedel
I interviewed Barry Schoedel, the Associate Director of Evangelization & Catechesis at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge. Buddhism interested him while in his early twenties. He had no knowledge of religion as a young adult after growing up in Seattle. He wondered what the material world and social statuses had to play in the purpose of life. He attended many 30-day silent retreats and spent three months in India at the Tibetan Works and Archives. He studied meditation practices such as napisana shomata (single-pointed meditation), vadra (engaged imagination), and zogchin (natural awareness or object less meditation).
Although he was awaken to the gift of life, he felt a need to be connected to moral purification. He believes that God led him to Tibetan Buddhism so that he could find Christ. His conversion strictly involved God’s intercession and divine intervention. His heart instantly opened at the depiction of the gospels on stained glass. He knew this was communicating something deeper, and the mustard seed was planted.
His take on meditation
Methods of Christian meditation and Buddhist meditation are not different, yet the object is different. Usually the object of Christian meditation is the Blessed Trinity. In Buddhism, it is a philosophical concept. This form of meditation is an advanced school of classical philosophy.
A natural meditation can be done without reference to sacred theology. It is only about physical and material reality without revealed faith. A few examples of natural meditation are taking deep breaths when you are anxious, a mechanism encouraged in the practice of yoga. This is holy and good because God’s grace builds on the nature of the human person. The more present you can be to people and reality, the better you can be present to God and meditate on His heart and the Holy Spirit. This interior and mental prayer is a relational, focused on personal reality.
Meditation for Christians is communicating with God as He is communicating with us. We are naturally good. We are recovering from the effects of sin, and we do not need to escape from this reality. Our total gift of self is the interior reality of God.
Benefits of Christians practicing Yoga
One aspect present between all religions is the sense that purification needs to take place in the human being. Individuals believe in an absolute moral law and a path to divine union that includes discipline of spirit over the body. This body is not in control as much as the spirit. Any physical discipline has to be united to the faith and to the life of worship. Anyone who takes a discipline with a deep spiritual potential can create positively effective level of health and well being. There is a great foundation for the spiritual well being through the lens of faith.
Why Christians are hesitant to begin a yoga practice
Christians are hesitant to begin a yoga practice for two reasons: inexperience and association. With facing something foreign, fear is always there. People are afraid of what they don’t know. Likewise, some people may have gone down that road and had a bad experience. This experience is rooted in rational fear, but no one should be paralyzed by it. We have to be open to the glimmers of God in the darkness of a shallow world.
Influencing a yoga practice
Meditation is ultimately a conversation between God and your true self created by God. This meditation, performed by sitting still or engaging in activity, enhances the experience of the human person’s relationship with God physically and spiritually. We can further our knowledge of God physically through exploring and honoring the body he has given us. Practicing meditation in a yoga practice illuminates awareness of the body being intricately connected to the soul, seeing our body as a product of God’s creation and glory.
Peace and Namaste,