There are many ways to “experience God,” said local yoga instructor and spiritual teacher, Matthew Gibbons. He wouldn’t call himself a teacher, as he rejects most labels, even during his seven years as a Pentecostal minister. While he, personally, still “experiences God” through Jesus Christ, he now accepts and respects many forms of religion and spirituality, and has expanded his own understanding of spirituality, acceptance, and ultimately, what/who God is.
“My grandmother was a minister back in the 50’s and she appeared to me after she passed away in my bedroom and said ‘There is more in the spirit realm than the church has taught us.’ So, I began to search it out,” Gibbons said. “I believe and feel as if God has saved me from the church. There is so much more than what we’ve been taught and that the Lord that I believe in is the overwhelming unconditional love for humanity, no matter what.”
When Gibbons was a minister he traveled with other church leaders performing healing rituals, calling on their followers to feel the power of God within themselves. Back then, and even now, he didn’t know exactly how it worked or why he was given the gift, but he did know he had a calling to help heal.
“I used to travel all over the U.S. and minister in charismatic churches and we saw miracles all over the place. People who couldn’t walk without walkers throw them and run…,” he said.
Then in 2000, after seven years of traveling, healing and preaching to eager followers, Gibbons was kicked out of his church, followed by what he knows now to be a nervous breakdown.
“It was either leave or be kicked out because of my sexuality. I went through a really dark time. I felt like my entire world was over,” he explained. “I was angry at God, and felt like it was just over for me.”
Over the course of 10 years, Gibbons went through an intense healing process. He finally found self-love through the full acceptance and love he knew God held for him — and everyone — and took that into his new interest and healing practice: yoga.
Today, Gibbons has acquired his yoga instructor’s license from the Yoga Alliance and teaches sometimes more than 18 classes a week, in his home, at studios and at World Gym in Fayetteville. Classes at his home are a $5 – $10 donation and the first Saturday of every class he asks his students to bring a donation item for the nonprofit chosen as that month’s recipient.
In addition to his yoga practice, Gibbons holds a monthly event he now refers to as “Experiencing God.” When it first began it was called “Nights of Healing,” but it’s much more than that, he said. Through yoga and his strong sense of spirituality, Gibbons said he finally found an outlet for his gift to heal and bring about the presence of God.
“My (yoga certification) instructor wanted to see videos of me ministering back in ’87. He paused it and said, ‘Matthew, do you realize this is your life calling…?” He says ‘OK, here’s what’s going to happen: During the night you receive your certification we’re going to have a call and response chanting and I’m going to have you lay your hands on people and bless them. I was terrified because I still had a little bit of the mentality that God is not pleased with me,” Gibbons explained.
But he went on to do as his instructor asked. He started at 9 p.m. and by 10:30 the line was still long, and talk had already spread about the first people in line.
“I went up to this girl who had said a few days before she had gurus attempt to bless her and she’s never felt anything,” he said. “I told her ‘I feel like your power has been taken, so I’m just going to touch your stomach to give you your power back.’ As I touch her, she takes a deep gasp and begins to stumble backwards. It blew her away. She started saying, ‘Did you feel that? Did you feel that?’”
That’s how the Nights of Healing, now Experiencing God, began. Gibbons said he only prepares a short speech or lesson to give at the event, but everything else is unplanned and that’s part of the experience. The purpose is to allow attendees to feel the total acceptance and love that can allow them to heal or accept their “wholeness.”
The next Experiencing God events will take place on May 3, 6:30 p.m. at the Unity of Fayetteville, May 17 at 8:30 p.m. at Be Love Studio in Tulsa, Okla., and June 1 at 1:30 p.m. at the Center for Spiritual Living in Fayetteville. All denominations are welcome, and there is a $15 suggested donation. Learn more about his workshops at www.spiritlifeyoga.com/-A_Night_Of_Healing_.html. Find Gibbon’s yoga schedule at www.spiritlifeyoga.com/Schedule.html.
Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher Training on Donation Basis
Friday, June 13 – 26, 5 p.m.
This is a Yoga Alliance certified 200-hour program offered in two weeks. The program will be on a donation basis, keeping in mind that the instructors, Gibbons and his Florida-based colleague with over 35,000 hours of yoga experience, must pay rent, eat and travel. What is not paid in cash, can be donated through time and labor. “We only ask that you donate as much as you think the program is worth. We also will require you to put in a few hours of service in the community, and in the house. These hours will count towards your certification if you wish to be certified; they will be a love offering if you are already certified. We also require that you make one $25 micro-loan to the individual of your choice at http://www.kiva.org. This money will be paid back to you, and you will get to see how one generous act can have ripples in a life, in a community, in the world.” —Jamie Shane, owner of Bija Yoga in Naples, Fla. To get more information or to sign up, visit aquarianyogatraining.wordpress.com/fayetteville-ar.