Body Prayer: A Vehicle of God’s Spirit
By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of theirLeading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page.
In this blog we are all about contemplative living, inviting and recognizing God’s presence in every aspect of life. We’ve talked about being spiritual while working, saying no, recognizing thin places. So we’ve looked at all kinds of “doing,” but what about being?
I am enrolled in Shalem’s School of Contemplative Prayer, which is a 6-week online course that invites you to deepen your prayer life by nurturing and supporting you through the week via email, journaling, contemplative quotes and images, videos, recordings, and more. A spiritual deepening course conveniently in your inbox! A few weeks ago the concentration was on body awareness. Carole Crumley, who leads us, reminded us “our bodies are special vehicles of God’s spirit, an instrument from God with spiritual dimensions that can draw us closer to God.”
As I’m sure many of you have experienced, Western religions tend to not pay much attention to the body, sometimes even totally discounting or giving it negative connotations. Thankfully there has been growth away from this, and a realization that
Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…therefore, glorify God in your body.
(1 Corinthians 6: 19,20)
There is wisdom in our bodies. As Celeste Snowber Schroeder says in her book, Embodied Prayer, “What is felt in the soul and heart is expressed in the body.” She explains that our bodies can be an honest expression of our inner, truest selves.
She goes on to say, “Many of our experiences, through the sometimes mountainous and even torturous trek in life, are buried within us, even stored in our bodies: deep hurts, losses, disappointments, and traumas waiting to find release in our lives. It is these deepest of feelings that must find voice.”
One way to recognize the holiness of your body and reunite body and soul is through body prayer. This form of prayer allows us to be more present to God and gets us out of our heads.
In 2010 Matthew Fox was the Gerald May Seminar speaker. It was the same year my dad died. At one point in the talk Matthew had the entire audience get down on our hands and knees and do a grief exercise. You can probably imagine how this hit me. I felt like I released grief so far down in my body it was my ancestors’!
But body prayer is not just for the hard feelings. Yoga, dance, breathing, stretching, walking can all be body prayers. Body prayers are just another opening for God to live through us, incarnate.
What has been your experience?