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Meditative Movement and Imaging the Presence of God

photo credit: RelaxingMusic via photopin

photo credit: RelaxingMusic via photopin

Hello, lovely readers! I’m back to blogging after an unofficial month-ish off.  Did you miss me?

After some much needed rest and a break from productivity, I’m excited to get back to HBTB and share what has been coming up for me this summer.

Learning to rest and to allow myself to feel unproductive has been an ongoing challenge.  There is always that lingering guilt and pressure to perform and to do so that I’m not wasting my time or being lazy.

But I have found that if I can get to a place of allowing myself to become restful and to be, then I am able to experience so much needed restoration and rejuvenation that I could never access otherwise.  It is a constant choice toward balance, a journey to the middle.  I’m getting there.

In my own spiritual life, I have found such peace and life in pursuing contemplative forms of prayer.  One way that I am moving toward balance in my life is seeking out forms of meditative movement that provide the opportunity to release my mind from the rigors of left-brained living as well as engage my body in the overall spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of my whole self.

There are a number of forms of meditative movement around.  Some, like body prayer, can be very overtly Christian while others, like Yoga, are more accessible to a variety of faith traditions including those who claim none.  In my search for a gentle, meditative exercise that would be kind to my currently limited physical condition, I came across Qi Gong.  Similar to Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and other movements, Qi Gong is the practice of visualizing the healing flow of energy throughout the body using a series of stretches and motions designed to promote healing and health.

Here’s a description of Qi Gong that I really like:

If the language of “energy” is uncomfortable to you, you might like this meditation on The Lord’s Prayer using Qi Gong movements:

For me, talking about the healing flow of energy always makes me think of the active movement of the Holy Spirit, which is the presence of God within and around us.  I often visualize the Holy Spirit as a wisp of smoke like from an extinguished candle or a living ball of gentle light. Sometimes the light becomes a bright fireball in my mind’s eye!

What about you?

Do you have an image that represents the presence of God in your life? Maybe you like the scriptural images of wind, water, or a white dove.  Share your image in the comment box below. I always love hearing from you!

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And then, after Holy Week…

Originally posted April 5, 2012

Last week, we looked at the big picture of the history of God’s relationship to people up to the Day of Atonement.  Then, we looked at the entrance of Jesus into the story. On Good Friday, we considered the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Now that we’ve celebrated Easter Sunday, let’s look at the coming of the Holy Spirit and the implications of this story for body theology.

32. The disciples wait and pray until they experience the promised presence of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.

33. The disciples become apostles, who preach the good news (gospel) that Jesus came back to life to all who are gathered in the street.  Miraculously, each listener hears the words in his or her own language.

34. The apostles perform many other miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, and many who hear believe.  Thus the Church is born, and all who believe in the good news that Jesus came back to life are filled with the Holy Spirit…even the Gentiles!

When I was little, we used the phrase Holy Ghost.  Some people might have found that phrase a little scary.  To me, it was just a name, as incorporeal and intangible as today’s more common Holy Spirit.  Growing up Presbyterian, there was never much emphasis on the Holy Spirit at all.  We talked a lot about God as The Father and Jesus as The Son, but God as The Holy Ghost was just something we said as part of the Nicene Creed each week in the church service.

I’ve come a long way in my journey with the Holy Spirit.  That’s a post for another day.  What I want to share today is the continued trajectory of the story of God.

Last week, we looked at the beginning of the story of God when God was present with Adam and Eve, walking in the garden.  Through the entrance of sin and shame, a barrier went up that kept the people of God from God’s presence with them.  As we walk through the story of God, we see God living nearby, but there is always something keeping the people from direct contact with God–whether that’s shame, fear, or the belief that they are too unclean or unholy.

But God was determined to be with the people again.  On Wednesday and Friday, we looked at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus–God in human form.  God broke the barrier by making the ultimate blood sacrifice so the people would never again be too unclean or unholy to be present with God.  But Jesus’ physical existence on earth–like ours–was only temporary, even after death.

So God sent the Holy Spirit–the presence of God–to remain in the world with the people of God and to actually live within the people, making their physical bodies into temples.  Now, people don’t have to go anywhere to be present with God.  No one can keep us away from God or force us to stay at a distance from God’s presence because God is now present inside the human body!

If that’s not the most exciting thing ever, I don’t know what is! Our bodies house the presence of God.  God’s presence inside us is what changes us, makes us new, and makes us holy.  There is nowhere we can go where God is not present.  There is nowhere we can go that is not made holy by God’s presence there.  The curtain has been ripped open.  The Spirit of God has been released into the world and into the body of every person who believes.

That is what body theology is all about.  That is why our bodies matter to our faith.  That is why the physical reality of God in the world matters to our theology.

And that is what Holistic Body Theology Blog is all about.

 

Detour

I was asked about what the “detour” in last week’s traffic metaphor represented, so I thought I’d share a little more about my personal journey with you lovely readers.

When my friend and I decided to spend Ash Wednesday at a monastery a few years ago, we didn’t have smart phones yet.  We didn’t have GPS or navigation systems in our cars.  We were low-tech.  We pulled up Google Maps or Map Quest or some such website, located the monastery, and printed out the designated route.  We climbed in the car on the morning of our journey, complete with print-out directions in hand, and headed on our way…only to be stopped on our journey after the first 45 minutes by a police car blocking the route.

After about 20 minutes sitting in a line of cars waiting for the mountain passage to open, we finally got out to stretch our legs and trade pleasantries with the other drivers.  That’s when we found out that the route mapped out in our printed-out directions was outdated.  We were told that we couldn’t get to the monastery from the road we had chosen.  The road up ahead had been destroyed in a fire and never repaired.  We would have to back-track down the mountain and find a different route.

Sometimes in life, we experience road blocks.  Sometimes these are obstacles in our lives that need to be overcome.  For me, the road block was a kind of last-ditch effort to get me to realize I had been pursuing the wrong path.  The path of doing and achievement and busy-ness that had so filled up my every waking moment (and most of my sleeping ones) was heading me toward a cliff.  The road had washed out up ahead and if I didn’t stop now, I would crash over the edge.

I couldn’t get to where I wanted to go by the path I had chosen. I had to back-track down the mountain and find a different route. I had to take the detour.

My detour looks a lot like back-tracking.  It looks a lot like stalling out.  It looks a lot like having run out of gas, again.  It looks a lot like taking the surface streets when the highway would be faster.  It looks a lot like taking the scenic route.  It looks a lot like taking the “long-cut” instead of the shortcut.

My detour looks a lot like the wrong way.

My detour is the path to contemplative prayer, to the compassionate way of life, to the spiritual practice of —, to the life of love.  My detour is the path of counter-cultural living. It’s the path to slowing down and learning to rest.  It’s the path to listening and watching before daring to speak.  It’s the path to finding my voice by listening to the Voice of Love.  It’s the path to being brave. It’s the path to everything my heart desires.  It’s the path to God.

My detour is not the shortest distance between to points. It’s anything but.  Yet my detour is not really a detour at all.  It isn’t a temporary way around the dangerous construction until I can safely be on my hurried way again.  It is in fact the road through a junkyard where I can leave my car and continue the way on foot, hiking a narrow, unmarked path into the wilderness with nothing but a compass and the promise of manna.

My detour is not a temporary displacement. It is a permanent re-routing. It is a change in perspective, a paradigm shift. It is the opportunity to slow down, open my eyes and ears, and become attentive to the movement and activity of the Divine Presence in my life.

Attentiveness means respecting, attending to, waiting on, looking at and listening to the other — the persons and things that we encounter — for what they are in themselves, not what we can make of them….[Attentiveness] involves a letting go of our usual need to control, an opening of ourselves to what we are being told or shown….[This attentiveness] frees and transforms. – Leighton Ford, The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things

I am becoming a listenerI am on the detour that is the only path to the rest of my life.

Come hiking with me.

 

And then, after Holy Week…

Monday, we looked at the big picture of the history of God’s relationship to people up to the Day of AtonementTuesday, we looked at the entrance of Jesus into the story. Yesterday, we considered the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  Today, let’s look at the coming of the Holy Spirit and the implications of this story for body theology.

32. The disciples wait and pray until they experience the promised presence of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.

33. The disciples become apostles, who preach the good news (gospel) that Jesus came back to life to all who are gathered in the street.  Miraculously, each listener hears the words in his or her own language.

34. The apostles perform many other miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, and many who hear believe.  Thus the Church is born, and all who believe in the good news that Jesus came back to life are filled with the Holy Spirit…even the Gentiles!

When I was little, we used the phrase Holy Ghost.  Some people might have found that phrase a little scary.  To me, it was just a name, as incorporeal and intangible as today’s more common Holy Spirit.  Growing up Presbyterian, there was never much emphasis on the Holy Spirit at all.  We talked a lot about God as The Father and Jesus as The Son, but God as The Holy Ghost was just something we said as part of the Nicene Creed each week in the church service.

I’ve come a long way in my journey with the Holy Spirit.  That’s a post for another day.  What I want to share today is the continued trajectory of the story of God.

On Monday, we looked at the beginning of the story of God when God was present with Adam and Eve, walking in the garden.  Through the entrance of sin and shame, a barrier went up that kept the people of God from God’s presence with them.  As we walk through the story of God, we see God living nearby, but there is always something keeping the people from direct contact with God–whether that’s shame, fear, or the belief that they are too unclean or unholy.

But God was determined to be with the people again.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, we looked at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus–God in human form.  God broke the barrier by making the ultimate blood sacrifice so the people would never again be too unclean or unholy to be present with God.  But Jesus’ physical existence on earth–like ours–was only temporary, even after death.

So God sent the Holy Spirit–the presence of God–to remain in the world with the people of God and to actually live within the people, making their physical bodies into temples.  Now, people don’t have to go anywhere to be present with God.  No one can keep us away from God or force us to stay at a distance from God’s presence because God is now present inside the human body!

If that’s not the most exciting thing ever, I don’t know what is! Our bodies house the presence of God.  God’s presence inside us is what changes us, makes us new, and makes us holy.  There is nowhere we can go where God is not present.  There is nowhere we can go that is not made holy by God’s presence there.  The curtain has been ripped open.  The Spirit of God has been released into the world and into the body of every person who believes.

That is what body theology is all about.  That is why our bodies matter to our faith.  That is why the physical reality of God in the world matters to our theology.

So get ready for Easter, people.  The curtain gets ripped tomorrow.  The body of Jesus gets buried and the spirit of Jesus enters the place of eternal damnation on Saturday.  And then Sunday–oh glory!–we get to celebrate the living-breathing-walking-talking-eating-drinking-teaching-healing-actual-physical-human/divine-Jesus for defeating death, ending forever the need for blood sacrifice, forgiving sin, and making possible the presence of God in the world and in the body of every believer everywhere until the kingdom of God returns to us again one day soon.

People, get ‘a ready.  Jesus is ‘a comin’!

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