by Peter Blood
This is a simple exercise for helping you experience God’s love as covering and infusing a particular part of your body, perhaps a part that is either experiencing pain, illness, loss of function, or holding shame. It can be practiced either alone or in a group.
(Note: I will use the language of “God” as it is very comfortable for me, but please translate my words into whatever works well for you – e.g. Light, Spirit, Jesus, Lord, Ground of Life, Great Heart.)
You can do this body prayer anywhere, anytime. The ideal is a quiet place where nothing else is “happening”, but I’ve entered into it riding on a crowded train. So you can be anywhere as long as you’re not “engaged” with what’s happening other than sensory awareness (open ears, smell, touch). It can be done alone or with others (e.g. during a meeting for healing). I do it mainly in bed at night when I’m having trouble sleeping.
The two “classic” receptive positions are:
- Sit in a comfortable but straight-backed chair with hands loosely at your side and feet flat on the floor or
- Lie on your back (Is the word “supine” related to “supplication”?) on a firm bed or floor with your hands at your side.
Close your eyes—or allow them to be half-open and somewhat out of focus if you’re used to meditating that way. I find it useful to remove the hand brace that I wear at night for carpal tunnel syndrome before doing this.
- Try to quiet your mind and body.
- Try to open your heart.
- Try to let go of busy thoughts, worries, plans, distractions around you, fears, embarrassment, shame, guilt, and especially assumptions about your body and whatever it is dealing with at this moment in time.
1. Ground yourself. Feel the chair/bed/floor holding your body. Feel your connection to the earth. You may want to gently notice any sensory experiences around you (e.g. sounds, smells, temperature).
2. Breathe. Take some quiet, moderately deep breaths.
3. Relax / let go. Go through whatever process will help you to let go of physical and emotional tension. Some people find it helpful to progressively tense parts of their body and then let them go beginning with their feet and moving upwards to their face. Try to postpone/set aside worries/task concerns.
4. Place yourself in God’s hands. Open yourself to God’s care for you. Offer yourself into that Love.
5. Choose a part of your body to focus on. Do a gentle physical inventory. Notice your body without judgment. Where are you in pain, tense, carrying or storing burdens? Is there a limb or organ that is experiencing some sort of distress or disease process that you wish to offer up to God? There may be many places but choose one to focus on for now.
6. Place this part of your body into God’s hands. Imagine this part of you being held, caressed, cared for, cherished. Try to open this limb or organ or these cells to being completely infused by God’s love. Try to let the pain or tension go. If it’s comfortable, you may wish to put a hand on this part of your body. You can say things to yourself such as “I offer my elbow to you, Lord” as you breathe.
7. Don’t “push”. There are no agendas here. Try not to be attached to what “needs” to happen, such as “Please free me from this pain”, “Please take away this illness” or “Relax already!” You may well be longing for some kind of healing or freedom, but the point is to experience God being with you rather than trying to make something happen by this activity. Open yourself to love without expectation.
8. Notice gently what’s happening or has happened in you as you do this, but try not to evaluate how well it went. It’s better to just be with whatever happened. You can move on to other parts of your body if it feels right.
Prayer for Another
You can also do this same exercise focusing on a part of someone else’s body. This can happen if you are physically with them or not. If you are with them, you can either touch them, or not. If I’m not touching the person I’m offering into God’s hands but I am in the room with them, I may find it helpful to open my hands and direct my open palms towards them.
This exercise of body prayer is something you can practice during a Meeting for Healing.
Peter Blood is a member of Mt Toby Meeting in New England YM. This practice was developed as part of a leading that led to helping to organize the 2006 annual conference of Quakers in Pastoral Care and Counseling, held in Richmond, Indiana on the subject: We Are All Held: Experiencing God’s Love through Health Changes.