You’ve probably heard people say “your body has wisdom.” Maybe you’ve wondered how to tap into that wisdom before the body gets cranky and pitches a pain fit. Let’s try focusing.
Focusing prayer is a great way to step back from holiday stress this Advent. This prayer allows your body to show you what optimal health feels like.
The practice of focusing comes from the work of psychologist and philosophy professor Eugene Gendlin and has been popularized in Christian spirituality circles by Reverends Edwin McMahon and Peter Campbell, who write extensively about bio-spirituality.
- Find a comfortable place to be still and quiet for 20-40 minutes. Begin by asking God to be present to you in your body and your “felt senses.”
- You will be asking yourself a series of questions. You may write your responses down, but if writing feels like a distraction do not interrupt the exercise to write.
- Focusing steps:
- Close your eyes and breathe. Let your awareness settle to the center of your body. What do you feel there?
- What location or part of your body wants your awareness right now? Spend time allowing this to emerge. Is there an important feeling in your body that needs listening to right now?
- Communicate with this felt sense in your body. Tell it, “I’m here. I’m listening.” Ask this bodily feeling if it’s alright to go further.
- What is the best way to describe this felt sense or sensation in your body? Is there an image that emerges? If it helps, give it a name, such as “tight neck” or “lump in the throat.”
- Sit with this body awareness without judgment. Simply observe.
- Does this bodily sense have an emotional quality? What is it?
- Ask “What gets it so _____________ (name the emotion)?”
- Ask the sensation what it needs.
- Ask your body to show you how healing would feel.
- You may want to put your hand on that part of the body and send it warmth. Also, if you feel so moved, ask Jesus, God or the Holy Spirit to help you care for this part of yourself.
- Gently end your conversation with the felt sense. Thank your body and its senses for being with you in this prayer.
- End by journaling about what this bodily sense has to say to you about your life. Where do you feel God’s healing touch most deeply? How is it to pray in this way? How is it to listen to your body?
- Thank God for being present in this prayer. If you learn something about yourself that needs to be applied in your life, commit yourself to an action that honors the prayer.
For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.