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Conversion of Heart: You Can Make a Spiritual U-Turn

Updated on August 2, 2020
LilianeNajm profile image

Certified to teach Yoga, Meditation, Reiki, Pilates; ongoing YogaU Online Yoga & Wellness Educator professional training. I love to write.

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In 2009, I took a brief course with the Consolata Fathers Toronto on Forming a Christian Conscience. This was part of their Christian Living course.

In my article on How to Reach or Regain a Higher State of Consciousness, I spoke about the role of the Christian faith in my life, and how I find it reasonable to live both my Christian faith and my yoga practice.

Christian Conscience

I appeal to my Christian conscience each time I face a situation that requires a moral decision, such as for example resisting the temptation to react after losing my job and my only source of income.

One of the assumptions of living a Christian life, is to look for a life of meaning and growth rather than an easy life. I still struggle with the tug between wanting it easy and trying to find meaning in suffering.

The traditional Catholic faith says that conscience is a witness in people that disapproves their own transgressions. This means we are aware of what is good and right and our relationship to it. In this sense, conscience is a spiritual predisposition for self-protection that comes from our need for unity and harmony.

Primitive cultures and ancient civilizations did not have the notion of ‘conscience’. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament do not have a proper term for conscience. The Gospels place emphasis on a drastic internal change of the person; external actions come from a person’s changed heart.

It is St. Paul who was the first theological writer to use the word ‘conscience’. For him, conscience had a three-fold meaning: the natural law written in man’s nature, the moral judgement based on faith, and the center of the Christian moral life.

As a result, Christian believers are bound to the law of God as it is made known through creation or natural law. They must act according to their conscience and to the Christian faith that informs their conscience. Their conscience is educated by faith and enhanced by love.

According to the Catechism of the Christian Church, conscience is a rational judgment where people are aware of the moral quality of an act that they have done or are going to do. Christians are bound to follow faithfully what they know to be just and right. They recognize the recommendations of the divine law by the judgment of their conscience.

Conversion of the heart is a constant growing and becoming. It is a spiritual U-Turn when we find ourselves heading in the opposite direction from where we can find God.

Conversion of Heart

There are two sides to the Christian conscience: the conscience-heart and the conscience-judgement.

The conscience-heart is a pre-requisite for the existence of the conscience-judgement.

Conversion is the central moral message of Jesus. When we read about the life of Jesus, we see a direct, candid, and simple person. He did not put emphasis on a specific action or a mode of conduct, but called for a change of heart, a drastic internal change of the person. External actions will follow from a person’s changed heart.

Conversion and faith are interlinked. They both stand for a change that occurs in the person who believes in the message of Jesus. It is a profound transformation of the whole person.

Conversion of the heart is a constant growing and becoming. It is a spiritual U-Turn when we find ourselves heading in the opposite direction from where we can find God.

My favorite understanding of ‘sin’ specifies that it is not only doing something wrong. The true meaning of sinning is in breaking our relationship with God and seeking happiness elsewhere. So, if I want to stop living a life of sin, I start by turning my gaze toward God and away from whatever takes me away from Him/Her.

Years ago, my niece gave me a synthetic sunflower that I still have hanging in my bedroom. Sunflowers turn toward the sun so they can directly receive the gaze of the sun. They are considered spiritual flowers because they symbolize faithfulness to what is bigger than themselves.

We usually associate punishment with sin. In fact, punishment is the logical consequence of the action performed; it is inherent to the nature of the act itself. We are misguided when we think or say that God punishes. According to the Christian faith, God only saves; we punish ourselves. Heaven and hell are not physical locations; they are logical consequences of living and doing in this world.

However, we cannot put too much emphasis on good actions alone. It is through an open heart that we can understand the mercy of forgiveness, love, and grace. Once Christians have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God, they are bound to act the same toward others, especially those in need.

Conversion of the heart is an ongoing and never-ending growth during our lives. A Christian life is far from being static; it is dynamic and fundamentally vital.

“Conscience is a judgement of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act.”

When a person or group of people act according to a correct conscience, they turn away from blind choices and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.

Yoga’s Ethical Guide of Living

Yoga emphasizes consciousness rather than conscience. The Yoga Sutras text attributed to Patanjali, emphasizes cosmic consciousness. According to yoga, problems stem from a non-understanding of the simple truth that there is an indivisible whole and that human suffering comes from being disconnected from this cosmic being by an ego sense. Our life may seem complicated in the eyes of others, but within ourselves we are so peaceful and alert that in our own intelligence there is no problem.[i]

In yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas are truths to be understood and lived. The Yamas are ethical rules; the Niyamas represent discipline, a ‘do these’ list of compliances.

The five Yamas are:

  1. Ahimsa —non-harming or non-violence in thought, word and deed
  2. Satya —truthfulness
  3. Asteya —non-stealing
  4. Brahmacharya —celibacy or the right use of energy
  5. Aparigraha —non-greed or non-hoarding

The five Niyamas are:

  1. Saucha —purity
  2. Santosa —contentment, acceptance
  3. Tapas —self-discipline, persistence
  4. Svadhyaya —self-study, study of sacred scriptures
  5. Īśvara Pranidhāna —surrender to a higher source, surrender to god.

[i] The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, with commentary by Swami Venkatesananda.

Difference Between Catholic Faith and Yoga

The importance of moral conduct is apparent in both the Catholic faith and yoga. The main difference is in the god or deities that are worshiped.

The Christian faith believes in one God and his son Jesus Christ. Yoga derives from Hinduism the worship of gods, and those that we frequently come across in the modern yoga world are Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Kali, Lakshmi and Sarasvati.

The concept of witness exists in both the Catholic faith and Yoga. In Christianity, our conscience is our witness that disapproves our own transgressions. In yoga, the witness is the ability of our awareness to stop identifying with thoughts while observing them to free us from feeling alienated

Millions of people from around the world practice yoga but follow their own faith. They use yoga for its health-enhancing benefits but keep to their own faith when it comes to worship.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

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    • LilianeNajm profile imageAUTHOR

      Liliane Najm 

      4 weeks ago from Toronto, Canada

      Language of love; how beautiful.

    • Danny Fernandes profile image

      Danny 

      4 weeks ago from India

      Nice article Lilian, There is a spiritual haven in heart, and its language is love

    • LilianeNajm profile imageAUTHOR

      Liliane Najm 

      4 weeks ago from Toronto, Canada

      Thank you Manatita44 for your kind comment.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      4 weeks ago from london

      Well written article. Nice take on both Patanjali and Christianity. There are subtle differences in our approach, but they are tiny and I have to give you credit for presenting us with a most wonderful piece of writing. Much Love.

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