“Wisdom of the Body: An Experiential Program of Healing” Part VI

FOR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN SOUTH CAROLINA DIOCESAN CONVENTION

Bill Redfield shares Part VI of the program he presented in his ongoing work in Wisdom of the Body to address the healing process of an ongoing experience of pain and separation within the Episcopalian community in South Carolina. You will find Bill’s Introduction to this work in Part I of this series on the home page blog, and each of the links to Parts II-V on the Breaking Ground page of Growing! on this website. In this series Bill introduces Wisdom of the Body in a number of forms, each exercise building upon the one before, ever deepening into both individual and group experience through exercises as well as conversation.

Bill continues in Part VI to lead the group deeper into an experience of themselves as part of the whole, and to feel “the embodied sense of (the) reality” that they are part and parcel of the Gathered Body of the Faithful.


IV. Wisdom of the Body: Wisdom of the Body of the Gathered Faithful—
Entering the Great Dance of Life

Next, I wanted them to experience themselves as integral parts of the Body of the Gathered Faithful. Leading into this with an introduction about “exchange,” I then invite them to configure themselves in a large circle that turned out to be a huge ring around the entire large church. It is one thing to say in so many words that they are the Gathered Body of the Faithful; it is different thing entirely for them to be able to actually see themselves in this configuration. I wanted them to experience this as an embodied sense of reality. And I wanted them to linger in this seeing in order to take it in more fully.

We belong to something greater than ourselves. We belong to the Body of the Gathered Faithful. Often, because we are so busy protecting and trying to enhance our own lives and because we are the victims of the mental thoughts looping in our minds, we lose sight of this. But we are not going to lose sight of this today.

We are fully alive when our lives are lived in exchange. We are constantly giving and receiving on all kinds of levels with each other and with our environment. We often, however, think of ourselves as isolated beings intent in “getting,” “protecting,” and “defending.” We think of ourselves as particles, as utterly distinct and separate beings. But we are also waves, not just particles, and Jesus invites us to this deeper sense of reality in our understanding of ourselves. Here we are connected to each other and to the whole. Indeed, the substance of our existence is lived in exchange with others, with the earth, and with the Whole, and with God.

waves

This perspective alone can free us from the isolation and sense of separateness from which our ordinary mind suffers. Our journey is not a hero’s journey that separates us from others and elevates us above them. Our journey on the path that Jesus bids us is a journey with and for others. We are invited to join the great dance of life in which our lives are lived fully in exchange. That is why in the Parable of the Talents the first two of the landowner’s servants got praised for investing their talents. They got into the dance of exchange. But the third was chastised not because he was dishonest, but because his fear kept him from getting into the dance. Something essential needs to be transacted from these lives of ours.

So, we are now going to configure ourselves to demonstrate this reality of connection and exchange. Despite the physical challenges of this space, I would like everyone to stand and join in forming one large circle…

[They are given time to do this…]

Now, please join hands. The way we usually do this is to first put both hands out, palms facing down. Now, turn your left hand over, so that both hands are pointing to the left. Now clasp hands with the person on either side. If anyone prefers not to grasp hands with others, just hold your hands a small ways apart. The energy flows just fine either way.

Now I would like you to look around at this circle. Take a good long and hard look…. Here is the Body of the Gathered Faithful. Here is the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Well, not the whole of it, but a pretty good representation. As a representation, then, you stand for the entire diocese. And let us join as a single whole and integrated body and breathe as one collective body.

The first part of this section aimed at giving them the opportunity to actually see themselves as a circle. It is one thing to assume or know this intellectually or theoretically; it is another to actually see and experience it. I therefore gave them the opportunity to linger here for a couple of moments. I wanted this to register in their bodies.

But I also figured that there was another aspect of experiencing themselves as the Body of the Gathered Faithful, and this has to do with the reality of prayer. Again, more than a mental or theological assumption, I wanted them to taste an aspect of their gathered self-understanding as it is intentionally expressed in prayer. But because our usual understanding of prayer is so distorted by our more traditional substance theology, I decided to use the Meditation of Lovingkindness from the Buddhist tradition.

“As the Body Faithful, we express our deepest and most authentic identity as we send our love and healing out through concentric circles—from ourselves, to our own communities, to those with whom we are in conflict, and finally to the uttermost reaches of our world to include all people near and far and to the Earth, our fragile island home.”  

One might think of this kind of prayer as something we do; but even more deeply, it expresses who we are. I thought that the truth of this deeper identity might be reinforced if we could be looking directly at each other as we sent these waves of compassion out to wider and wider circles.

gathering
Courtesy of Holly Votaw

In being so joined, we represent the Wisdom of the Gathered Body of the Faithful. We stand together, connected to one another through faith and intention. And as the Body Faithful, we express our deepest and most authentic identity as we send our love and healing out through concentric circles—from ourselves, to our own communities, to those with whom we are in conflict, and finally to the uttermost reaches of our world to include all people near and far and to the Earth, our fragile island home. While this prayerful expression has its source in Buddhism as the Meditation of Lovingkindness, it fits quite nicely into a reasonable configuration of our Prayers of the People.

This prayerful expansion and expression of this outward flow of love actually reminds us who we are—we are Christ’s own and our prayers are for all and exclude no one. The openness of our hearts and the inclusiveness of our prayers reveal Christ’s path we are on. Imagine an energetic ring of love and compassion as it flows outward to wider and wider circles…

We breathe in and out—inhaling and exhaling—as one united and integrated Body—the Body of the Gathered Faithful. We begin this prayerful expression by directing our compassion first to ourselves—to ourselves as individuals, as souls and bodies, and to ourselves as a united Body of the Faithful and the Prayerful:

            May we be filled with lovingkindness.

            May we be safe from inner and outer dangers.

            May we be well in body and mind.

            May we be at ease and happy.

Now let us direct our prayerful and compassionate intentions to our communities, to the entire Church faithful, and to other communities throughout our land:

            May they be filled with lovingkindness.

            May they be safe from inner and outer dangers.

            May they be well in body and mind.

            May they be at ease and happy.

Next, we direct our prayerful intentions to those with whom we are in disagreement, conflict, or enmity of any kind. Specifically, we direct compassion to those who, in dispute, left this diocese. Even though we may continue to bear the marks and wounds and hurts of their leaving, we commend them, nevertheless, to God’s love.

            May they be filled with lovingkindness.

            May they be safe from inner and outer dangers.

            May they be well in body and mind.

            May they be at ease and happy.

Finally, we direct our prayerful and compassionate intentions to the all the peoples of our planet Earth, no matter what their color, their culture, or their spiritual tradition. This inclusive expression manifests the contours of Jesus’ open heart, the heart that is loving and accepting of all others.

            May they be filled with lovingkindness.

            May they be safe from inner and outer dangers.

            May they be well in body and mind.

            May they be at ease and happy.          

Let our prayers issue forth from the deepest parts of our joined hearts. Let them spread outward as our breath. And let us know deep in our hearts that these prayerful intentions continue to form and deepen us as a Body. This is Wisdom of our Body. This is Wisdom of the Body of the Gathered Faithful.

For most of us, this is a very different way of praying. Not only it is more energetically based, but also, as it gets connected with our breathing, it becomes as much a body prayer as a mental prayer. This was the point of using the Meditation of Loving Kindness and in engaging in that prayer in the configuration of a great circle so that everyone’s experience could be grounded in the reality that that circle represented.

I thought it especially important that we express this deeper identity of being the Prayerful Body of the Gathered Faithful through our genuine loving concern for those who had left the diocese. Yes, these are the very ones who had contributed to the wounds and scars of many of these people. But if anything can accurately characterize the Body of the Faithful, it is the intention to transcend animosities and enmities. This doesn’t mean pretending they never happened, and it doesn’t mean rushing to a quick but superficial forgiveness. It is the intention, for our own sake and for the sake of others, to not allow these kinds of feelings to be the defining feature of who we are at our deepest operative level. This manner of praying for others seemed to me to be a reasonable way for us to express this together.

One clergyperson after the session confessed to me that that was the first time in his recollection that the diocese had intentionally prayed for those who had left. And while I know that Skip himself has been clear that that is part of his prayer, it seemed significant that we all at this time did this together—as we were looking into one another’s eyes. Might this not give the participants an experiential sense that they are followers of Christ…?

You are invited to Part VII, the last and final post in this series, entitled “Wisdom of the Body: The Body and Blood of Christ” which will follow shortly on Breaking Ground. At the close of their work together the group shared a closing Eucharist. Bill introduces us to the experience saying, “The final expression of our work together was to express that, by virtue of our sacrament of the Eucharist, we uncover our deepest identity.” Check back with Breaking Ground for the conclusion to this exploration of the group healing potential of the Wisdom of the Body, coming soon!   

For your convenience, here are the links to:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

 posted August 20, 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.

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.