Full Body Listening: Reflections on Life, Healing and the Ecozoic

When the Old Becomes the New

Friday August 26, 2011

Old Man of the Mountain always faces East, from Lake Erwin, Colorado

On a recent visit to the beautiful mountain town of Asheville, a friend loaned me a book by Cynthia Bourgeault that she said “changed her life”. She and I share similar rural hometowns with roots in the Southern Baptist tradition, and we each have continued our lives with a quest to understand and appreciate the inner nature of things, so I took an immediate interest in her statement.

Off I went, with her book, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, in hand: but you know how it is with good intentions, so it wasn’t until a few weeks later, during a workshop that I was teaching called Full Body Presence, that I opened the book to an appealing title in the epilogue, The Way of the Heart.

Reading it opened into a moment of discovering a missing link between my childhood spiritual roots and my work as a Somatic Movement therapist in trusting the wisdom inherent in our bodies. It’s focus was allowing our will and breath to relax into trust by connecting, that is surrendering, to a felt sense of the Divine. Sounds simple, but have you tried it?

As I got excited and ordered another text by another Christian writer on the subject, I learned that centering prayer can get cumbersome when it moves from present moment awareness to a theology based discussion. But skimming the second book, I became strangely aware of interesting phenomena in my imagination.

It was an image of two parabolas intersecting in the middle. One parabola held this notion of Centering Prayer and the other contained the essence of a meditation from Eastern spirituality teacher, Ram Das, “I am loving awareness”. In the center, at the overlap of the parabolas, the intention was the same: to release our thoughts of self into a heartfelt awareness of the mystery of the Divine. My husband remarked that the image was similar to a Venn diagram, and if you are into education, you’d get it.

But as soon as I moved out from the center to where the parabolas expanded outwards, the streams of thought about who we really are as human beings seemed disparate. The Christian version was that we are essentially flawed and can only be restored to unity by the grace of God. The Eastern version from Ram Das’ s perspective was that we are essentially divine love, our unity flawed as we mostly operate from a confused, limited perspective resulting from a busy mind unconnected to the quiet center of our heart.

My internal images reverted to a teaching from Nishant Matthews, who spent several years coming to Chapel Hill offering his expertise in the field of light therapy. He taught: when you have polarities, like opposites in your thought or emotions, try holding them in the light of two colors that are opposites on the color wheel, orange and blue, red and green, purple and yellow, then look for the third thing that emerges.

When the old becomes the new . . . I’m entertaining those colors . . . watching for the third thing to emerge.

Comments

  1. Hey Joanna,
    I spent 10 years in the formative days of the current Centering Prayer movement under Father Thomas Keating. The core of the practice is simple and elegant, and blended easily with my prior Buddhist meditation. The theology can be divisive and heady, but the practice can be very different. Loved seeing your thoughts on this.

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