This blog post was written for the London Centre for Spiritual Direction, where I trained and now work as a tutor on the Encounter course (for spiritual director training). www.lcsd.org.uk
Soda bread, made with almond flour, shown with Iris's apricot jam and good old lurpak.
I was reminded this morning once again, actually on a secular radio show, that I become fully alive only when I accept myself as I am. When I live out of that beloved place in honest simplicity, I can fulfill my calling as human being. For me (for us all?), a huge, huge challenge. And a glorious invitation!
One way that I have been recently exploring this call to integrated, all-of-me authenticity is in an incarnated spirituality. The Hebrew scriptures affirm that God’s fingerprint is on everything that is, and God’s image in us; the Gospels celebrate the revelation of God-in-a-body, in Jesus, the Christ. My new spiritual practices relate to the manifestation of God in me as I live in and celebrate the physical world. Including in my own body, that is.
How do I apply this in spiritual direction? I recognise that all I can offer is the only thing that I actually have, which is myself - not qualification or experience, nor ‘expertise’ (or any other label). And I remind myself that I come as a whole human being, spirit-soul-body. As well as welcoming the ideas and images that I ‘think’, for example, I also open my awareness to the sensations I feel in my body. Might the tense stomach or breathless throat that I feel relate to the directee’s own experience?
And when the door shuts behind the directee, how might I seek to bring closure to the session with a whole-of-me response to her joyful presence with me, or his shared vulnerabilities? Continuing to hold my directee in the presence of God, some recent body-prayer practices have included singing, lying quietly on the grass, doodling colours around a name, and planting an acorn. And the energetic physicality of making bread:
Stretch and pound and pull, stretch and pull and squeeze, stretch and roll, and stretch some more. Let every impression that remains from all that was said, and from all that was unsaid but sensed, let every shared joy or sorrow, light or darkness, insight or confusion, gladness or disappointment, be given in this act back to God who brought me into relationship with this beloved directee, and to God who made bread to be the symbol and the substance of embodied presence and of remembrance, of provision and of salvation, of self-sacrifice and of belonging.
Then the rise, the wait, the bake: the gift of a new loaf. The grace of God in my life and my directee’s life, re(-)presented in this food. Bread of life, which will be relished by others’ God-made and God-delighting mouths and bodies.
This is how have I practised praying with heart, soul, mind and strength.
God’s kingdom is like yeast that a woman mixes into a big bowl of flour to make bread (Matt 13:33)
How do you welcome God in your body?