lessons learned: creation care and body prayer

Prayer has been an integral spiritual practice in my life for the past several years.  I have spent many hours out in nature, on my couch, in my bathtub or in a sanctuary lifting up thoughts, asking questions, and listening for guidance.  But honestly, last week I had simply had enough.

I was tired of reflecting and discerning and just wanted to get out of my head.  I know it sounds counter intuitive, but the more I spent time praying, the more it was wearing me out.

And so, I shared all of this with my counselor.  In the midst of my tears and frustration, she suggested I let go of all of it.  Right now, I needed to focus on body prayer.

She went on to explain that when our plates are emotionally full (I fondly refer to that as “struggling or juggling”), sometimes, we just need to put the thinking on hold and live into the moment through our bodies.

I reflected on that a bit then gave myself permission to just let go–clean out my head and my heart and just focus on my body as a living prayer in response to what the journey brings these days.

It has been liberating.

In spite of a very activity-filled week last week, I committed to taking care of my body and living only in the day, or even in the moment, when I felt pulled to “struggle or juggle.”  Engaging in body prayer didn’t take away my responsibilities or prevent unexpected changes in plans, but it did offer me a piece of peace during that time.

So how can we engage in body prayer?  I’m sure it is probably different for everyone, but here are a few things I’ve been trying:

  • Deep breathing throughout the day--Make an intentional commitment to stop and breathe deeply every hour so that it creates a habit.  Shallow breathing leads to shallow living.
  • Yoga and stretching every morning and evening–Before you roll your eyes about the amount of extra time you think I have, let me tell you, even if I only engage in yoga for 5-10 minutes, it counts.  Most people equate yoga practice with taking an hour class 30 minutes from home. I just unfold a special blanket and begin.  And if I can do it on plywood subflooring in the middle of a house under construction, I think you might be able to find a comfy space in your home too.  As for the time issue, do you check email or facebook in the am or pm?  Think how much better your body would feel if you stretched and breathed for those same few minutes every day.
  • Water, lots and lots of water–It’s true–it helps your body feel better and washes out toxins; I start every morning and end every day with a glass of water with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar or juice of half lemon.
  • Nutrition that supports healthful living–Eat fewer foods that create acid (animal based proteins, gluten, dairy, sugar) and more fruits and vegetables.  Try removing some foods that give you heartburn and see how much better you’ll feel–not only eliminating acid reflux but more than likely, increasing energy and lifting spirit.
  • Rest–The most challenging one for this night owl, and yet in the past two weeks, I’ve found that my body has created a routine of sleeping/rising that leaves me refreshed, even when I have to get up at the crack of dawn on a cold, autumn school morning.  Going to bed earlier has made all the difference–even though I may not fall asleep until 11 or so, just getting in bed by 10-10:30 starts to relax my body for a good night’s sleep.
  • Body self-awareness and acceptance–There is something to be said about the person who actually finds peace in his/her own skin.  Most of us have body issues stemming from emotional roots, and our behaviors either exacerbate or heal them.  Let go of others’ perceptions about what is attractive and focus on what is healthy for you.  You just might find that taking care of yourself and getting in touch with your own physical being creates positive changes inside and out.

While there are days that I struggle to let go of old habits and negative patterns, I find that I feel less overwhelmed by them.  Engaging in body prayer has reconnected me with who the Maker created me to be, bringing with it a new form of peace that I’m learning to value.

Most importantly, I have been reminded that when I talk about “creation care,” it doesn’t just apply to all the plants and animals around me–I am part of God’s creation as well, and I am worthy of the grace, love and light that I share with others.

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