“Wisdom of the Body: An Experiential Program of Healing” Part III
FOR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN SOUTH CAROLINA DIOCESAN CONVENTION
In November of 2017, Bill answered the call of his former Bishop and friend, Bishop Skip Adams to present at the Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Bishop Adams believed Bill could respond to the potential for healing in a time of pain and separation; he had participated in Bill’s Wisdom work in Syracuse NY and was willing to embrace whatever risk Bill was willing to take. This is a picture of Wisdom in action. It is here to inspire your own relationship with Wisdom; perhaps something will quicken and connect to your personal inner work or to your work in the world. If so, it continues to serve, as it did in South Carolina.
In Part I of this series, posted February 16, 2018 on the Northeast Wisdom website home page blog, Bill shares his foreword to this series. In Part II, posted February 21, 2018 on the Breaking Ground page on this website, Bill introduced the first part of his presentation: Wisdom of the Body: Wisdom of Our Physical Bodies. In it he laid the groundwork for this, Part III, of this series. Here Bill takes the next step; from the innate Wisdom of the physical body, he now turns to the current situation and introduces the first exercise of his presentation:
In preparation for this work, I want to speak directly to you and address what it is that you in this diocese have gone through. Again, I have heard general descriptions of the main developments of this ongoing story. But right now, in this moment, I am much more interested in addressing what specifically has happened for you and to you. For the next few moments, I want you to bring to your own inner-directed attention some of the situations and conversations that have affected you.
Now, I know this is dicey business. Usually we want to push these kinds of remembrances out of our minds, because the recollection of them causes a resurgence of pain and distress. But, again, pushing them out of our minds hardly ever really works, does it? They seem to stay there and continue to loop. While we may have tried to distract ourselves from this recurring loop by throwing ourselves into other activities and thinking about other things, they remain there circulating around in our minds—grabbing us in the middle of the night or unexpectedly when something triggers the painful recollection.
But, just as the body has an effective immune system to defend itself against germs and toxins, the body also has the capacity to heal these emotional wounds that become stored in our bodies—but only if we can give our bodies half a chance to do this work. And that’s what we’re going to do together right now.
Here I am going right for the pain. But I’m not interested in general descriptions of what has gone on in the diocese; I am interested in each person’s own personal experience of these difficult experiences and their resulting feelings. But rather than spin it around our mental minds, I am inviting them to find the expression of that pain in their bodies.
Much like the mechanism of the Welcome Practice, I am assisting these folks to locate the feelings in their bodies, and, and then to direct them to touch these feeling sensations in their bodies with love and compassion instead of fear or self-pity.
This paradoxical instruction redirects the movements of these feelings in our being and allows us to hold them a little lighter and a little looser. The way I think about it is that the body knows how to carry this trauma and these difficult emotions more than the mental mind does. While I was confident in this dynamic process, the question would be whether or not this large group of people, in this rather formal setting, would have the gumption to actually get on board and engage in this work.
The question might be asked, “How would this be accomplished in such a setting?” Wisdom work conceptualizes a different configuration than the teacher (the presenter) having the information that is passed one-directionally on to the student or the audience. Rather, in Wisdom’s self-understanding, the leader or presenter is simply holding that post in that moment. When the post-holder’s circuit and the circuits of the participants start to heat up and fire together, Wisdom emerges from the center of the group. It will be experienced and expressed by any or all involved—not just the teacher or leader.
My job as post-holder, then, was to energetically set the stage for this to happen. All I could do was to bring as much of the fullness of my own presence and being as I could to meet the willing presence of those assembled.
This meant my letting go of any “identification” concerns and any preoccupation with praise or acclaim. While the trajectory of this path of Wisdom was being expressed in the language exchange that was taking place, it was also happening on the more elemental level of physical exchange. This deeper teaching of Wisdom of the Body had begun before I ever opened my mouth.
But this is going to require something of you. This is not the kind of thing that we usually talk about in public, nor is this the kind of personally sensitive thing we would do in a large group. So, again, I’m asking you to take a significant risk here. But I am not just asking you to take a risk for what may well be your own benefit. I am asking you to take a risk for the sake of the other people in this room and the rest of your diocese. What we are moving toward together is not just a personal and private healing. We are taking aim at the healing of the entire Episcopal Church in South Carolina and beyond. I hope for this greater purpose you willing to get on board with me.
Of course, I wanted to meet them where they were and make clear the risk before them. But I also wanted them to know that this risk was not just for their own healing; it was for the whole diocese and beyond. Besides being seemingly very individual and personal, there was also something in this work that touched the whole community. Just as the smallest piece of skin bears the DNA of the body from which it comes, so each person here was an integral part of the whole body of the faithful. In this sense, then, the diocese is like an intricate mosaic, with each person representing an essential piece.
This work, then, was immediately experiential and at the same time deeply and symbolically representational beyond just those who were present. It would, then, have tangible repercussions beyond what was happening in that church. It would be like ripples flowing outward from a single pebble.
[Softly begin: “The Grandeur of a Modest Moment” by Slow Meadow.]
Let me give you a few moments to yourself to think about how you have been hurt by the affairs that have taken place in the diocese over the past couple of years. Maybe you will recall a heated discussion with someone… Maybe you will think about the loss or the threat of loss of your particular church building… Or maybe you haven’t been personally affected in any particular way yourself, but you’ve heard stories from others. And as you listened to them, the pain you have heard has become your pain. And now it may well reside in you…
So, closing your eyes and directing your attention inward, take a few minutes and allow these difficult recollections to float up to the surface of your awareness. And usually, where we would push them away or distract ourselves, let’s bid them to come forward. Allow them to fill your awareness. Think back and bring up the details around these memories. If this fills you up with emotion, allow these feelings to arise. And let’s all agree to hold loosely whatever self-consciousness arises. I’ve put some music on here to assist in this internal process…
Now, rather than just allow these emotional remembrances to loop in your head, I invite you to try to find where they reside in your body. For example, you might discern that your anger settles into your gut, making you feel clenched and even slightly nauseous. Or you might find that your sadness and disappointment are residing in your heart, giving your heart a heaviness or a dull ache. Whatever these remembrances are and whatever emotions might be attached to them—locate them, if you can, in your body…
Allow them to fill whatever particular area of the body they are in with whatever felt sense they have. Let these bodily sensations fill awareness. Feel them fully. Experience them from the inside. And, please, don’t get discouraged if this seems difficult or beyond your capacity. If you can’t at first locate these feelings in your body, just imagine where they may be residing. After a while, you will get the hang of this.
[Softly begin, “Not and Not Yet” by Hammock.]
This next instruction may at first seem absolutely counter-intuitive. While usually we would move our attention away from these kinds of uncomfortable felt senses in the body, I invite you to welcome them. Instead of pushing them away, embrace them by letting them be what they are and where they are. In this process, trust that your body can hold them just as they need to be held. And in holding them as they need to be held, a healing process will be initiated…
Usually we interfere and interrupt this healing process by believing that we shouldn’t be feeling this way, or we just get too scared and try to push these felt senses away. But right now—right now in this supportive environment in which we are all engaged in this process together—
—maybe we can risk handling this in this other way. Trust your body to hold this emotional energy… Let this trust allow you to actually welcome these emotions as felt senses wherever in your body they may be residing.
This reverses the usual flow and allows a process of healing be facilitated and quickened…
Now instead of touching all of this with fear, anxiety, or self-pity—I invite you in the next few moments to touch all of this with love and compassion. Maybe you might want to literally reach out and touch this area of your body with self-compassion. Maybe you can direct healing love to that precise area of your body where you have located the spot where these feelings are held. The wholeness of yourself—which includes your body—when directed by your intention—has the capacity to do this.
Take a few minutes to do this. And, please, if self-consciousness or embarrassment arises, just hold it loosely. This is the honest work of healing, and it takes sincerity, authenticity, and self-awareness. Also, please don’t get discouraged if it seems difficult. Hold that loosely, too. It will come…
No, these feelings will not immediately go away. But in a process like this you are creating a very different relationship with these feelings. And this will begin to change everything.
And, again, by employing your body, you are using the whole of yourself in this work. You are specifically including your body in this work. This is Wisdom of the Body.
This is Wisdom of the Body.
Now please open your eyes as we continue.
So far, I had asked them to attempt a rather sophisticated piece of body work. And while I could not ascertain specifically how deeply each person had taken this work, it was clear from the energy in the room that most of the folks were truly engaged in this process. My deepest hope was that, in experiencing the usefulness of this process, these people would return themselves to a form of this practice. But now it was time to press on…
You are invited to Part IV of Wisdom of the Body: An Experiential Program of Healing, soon to follow on Breaking Ground. In Part IV Bill looks at how the ripples of Wisdom of the Body are reflected in different dimensions, introducing his Wisdom of the Body as the Faithful, and presenting further exercise with Wisdom of the Body of the Gathered Faithful.
posted March 27, 2018 by Bill Redfield
The Rev. William C. Redfield prepared this material for a presentation at The Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, Hilton Head, South Carolina, Saturday, November 11, 2017. You may read more about Bill on the Our Teachers page of this website.
[all other photos courtesy of maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com]