from the January, 2012 Rupertsland News article by Nancy Phillips
So here we are at the beginning of another calendar year. We face that time of the winter when the long, cold darkness spreads out before us without even a hint that Spring will show its face again one day. This new beginning provides us with an opportunity to reflect and re-think the way we engage with life. Our New Year’s resolutions may involve a re-directing of our intentions in prayer or spiritual development.
The beginning of a new year provides a good opportunity to reflect on the different ways we engage with our inner selves. We may have fed our souls by trying some new styles of prayer, fed our minds by trying a different way of studying scripture, such as lectio divina, or tapped into a new way of uncovering our inner spaces through techniques such as journaling. But we may not have thought of our bodies as an important source of information which may assist in our transformation.
To be a “whole” person, we need to be “healed” in all dimensions of our being – body, mind, heart and spirit.
Our bodies are an incredible storehouse of information about our past history and this information can either aid or hinder our inner growth. The experience of psychological or physical trauma can deeply affect our ability to live freely as our authentic selves and result in our living a shame-based life. Maureen Conroy, a Roman Catholic religious and Spiritual Director, explains that we are created in wholeness and for wholeness. Our journey through life is to reconnect with our original wholeness, our authentic self, our child-like innocence. To be a “whole” person, we need to be “healed” in all dimensions of our being – body, mind, heart and spirit. Every life issue and experience, positive and negative, Conroy teaches, lives in our body – our issues are in our tissues. Our body is our closest companion in life – the part of ourselves that we may experience as being the most “real”. Conroy says our bodies – our tissues, fluids, cells, nervous system and brain – absorb emotional, psychological and physical trauma and pain that is too overwhelming for our psyche to carry on its own.
Suffering can make us bitter and close us down or it can make us wise, compassionate and utterly open.
Richard Rohr, in his book, The Naked Now says that the two universal and prime paths of transformation , great love and great suffering, are the primary spiritual teachers. Great suffering occurs when things happen against our will. Over time we can learn to give up our defended state, although, Rohr says, we will inevitably go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, resignation and (hopefully) on to acceptance. Rohr explains that our suffering might feel wrong, terminal, absurd, unjust, impossible, physically painful, or just outside of our comfort zone. But if we don’t have a proper attitude toward suffering, we can’t transform our pain. If we don’t transform our pain, we can transmit it to those around us and even to the next generation. Suffering can make us bitter and close us down or it can make us wise, compassionate and utterly open. Rohr says we should pray for the grace of this path of softening and opening to God. Our experiences of struggling with our shadow self, facing interior conflicts and moral failures, undergoing rejection and abandonment, daily humiliations, experiencing abuse or any form of limitation are all gateways into deeper consciousness and the flowering of the soul.
The long cold days of winter invite us to look inward. You may want to spend some time focussed on prayer that engages with your body. The following exercise may be helpful in bringing about awareness of your body and areas that may be in need of God’s healing grace.
As you pray, experience healing from God that brings freedom from suffering and leaves you feeling empowered and healthy.
- Enter into a quiet space and become aware of your breath – exhale fears and anxieties and inhale God’s loving spirit
- Be aware of sensations in your body by slowly scanning various parts of your body from your skull to your feet. Allow your awareness and your breath to soften tight muscles and anxious thoughts.
- See yourself in your truest and deepest essence – whole, free, joyful, living life to the fullest. Savour and experience yourself in your divine essence, your wholeness
- Visualize yourself at a certain period in your life. Invite God’s healing light to flow gently into that period of your life, healing traumatic experiences, any form of abuse, emotional neglect, painful encounters with another and so on.
- Place one of your palms on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Feel yourself grounded in your body. Intend for God’s healing light to flow into your body, your mind, your heart and your spirit.
- Be aware of and feel divine healing energy flowing into painful feelings and attitudes toward yourself that may have developed such as shame, self-hatred or low self-esteem
- Place your healing hands on other parts of your body and being as you feel drawn to do so, allowing God’s love and light to flow.
- Visualize Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit, surrounding you with love and light. Feel God’s unconditional love seeping into your core.
You may wish to enter into this prayer experience for inner healing daily for several consecutive days or on a weekly basis for several months. As you pray, experience healing from God that brings freedom from suffering and leaves you feeling empowered and healthy. May God’s love surround you always.
Interested in learning more? Please join us tomorrow night for Tools for Responding to God’s Presence: Reaching In, session 4 of the Growing towards God series, Introduction to Spirituality. We will explore the differences between guilt and shame and introduce the Welcoming Prayer as a tool for deepening our awareness of God’s presence dwelling within us. An opportunity will be provided to engage with Body Prayer as a tool for healing.