Heaven and Earth converge in our bodies. The body is our teacher. It gives us messages and grounds us in the sacred present. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It longs and prays for our hospitality, to be seen, heard, integrated, and welcomed back into wholeness. One way to offer hospitality is through contemplative movement, a practice that has evolved over the course of my relationship with movement and spirituality.
Movement can be a vehicle for embodied contemplation and prayer. It is perhaps the first, most ancient expression of spirituality; a medium through which one enters into relationship with the divine. Contemplative Movement mirrors the three stages of hospitality. The first stage of Preparation follows in the Apophatic tradition, where the Divine is known by negation. Practitioners enter into interior silence, quieting the body, imagination, feelings, and rational faculties, while attending to the loving presence beyond image. Silence bears the wholeness before images take shape in consciousness. In stillness, one can enter more deeply into a receptive state that prepares the space for that which most wants to emerge and be engaged in the sacred moment.
After a period of silence, we enter the second stage of welcoming and sharing the table. As in the Cataphatic tradition, we engage with the imaginative process as a path to the sacred. Practitioners listen, wait, watch for, tune in to, and welcome whatever arises in their interior space - as a host to a guest - giving the images respect, acknowledgement, and reverence as they are birthed into consciousness and integration. In one’s own time and in one’s own way, an interior image is followed into a free association of moment-to-moment spontaneous movement. Movers are encouraged to remain present to and in relationship with what unfolds. As engagement deepens, people can have the experience of both moving and being moved as distinctions between mover/ host and image/guest dissolve and movement seems to arise from a deeper source. When we invite the other to the table, we can allow all that may have been lost, exiled, hurt, wandering aimlessly, deemed unworthy, presumed dead - to return, be found and welcomed back. If we can hold the engagement in a “long, loving look at the real,” we may find healing and transformation.
In the last stage, we say Farewell and Express Gratitude. Oftentimes when the engagement has reached its natural completion, practitioners move into a profound womb of stillness. After a period of time, all are invited to journal and/or draw then share with a partner, all of which can help to further integrate and illuminate the experience. In closing, we allow whatever has arisen during the practice to go in peace and with our blessing knowing that something real has taken place and will continue its work and its prayer in our lives.
Robin Gates facilitated classes in contemplative movement while living in the San Francisco/Bay Area. Robin has been a practitioner of Centering Prayer since attending a Living Flame Program twelve years ago. She recently relocated to Asheville, North Carolina.