5 Ways to Practice Embodied Spirituality
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: “I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.” We may not be in autumn, but I think we can all resonate with Hawthorne’s sentiment. With an average of only 160 days of sunshine each year, residents of Grand Rapids eagerly anticipate the sunshine that sprouts in spring and grows into the long days of summer.
Yet, as the weather warms and the days grow brighter, the spirituality of your heart may be experiencing a winter hibernation. Zoom fatigue has set in. The novelty of online worship is wearing off. The puzzle is complete, and Netflix has lost its allure. We long for a vibrant and healthy spiritual life, but without bodily involvement, our spirit grows weary.
This past Sunday, I sat on my couch bracing for yet another online worship service. Instead of savoring the moment of silence that comes between the prelude and the opening liturgy, I was wondering, “How am I going to make sure my dog doesn’t bark throughout this service?” Instead of enjoying a warm embrace from our friends, we type the words “the peace of Christ” in a chat box along with 175 other users.
And that’s just it. As I engage in online worship, I feel like a user, when normally I feel like a member. Users have nothing to lose because there is no exchange. A user tunes in and tunes out at will. A user takes what he needs and leaves, whereas a member of a community contributes, is known, and is missed. When she doesn’t show up, she gets a call from the family who always sits behind her. If he doesn’t read his part of the liturgy, then the service is incomplete. When the baby is born, the members know where to send the casseroles. To be known in these ways usually requires bodily presence. Yet, we’re living in a time when bodily presence puts our bodies and the bodies of those we love at risk.
The truth is, nothing can replace bodily connection with other human beings. We don’t need another sermon video; we need another hand to hold. We don’t need another TV show to watch; we need another person to hug. We don’t need gifts in the mail; we need each other.
So, if you are feeling like your spiritual life is in hibernation—like it’s missing something vital—remember, it really is. It’s missing each person who put their hand on your shoulder to remind you they’re praying for you. It’s missing the feeling you get when you hear the music ring and the people sing. It’s even missing that homily or sermon that seems to hit home in a deeper way when the preacher can look you in the eye.
As you continue to care for yourself spiritually in this pandemic, I want to offer five practices that engage your five senses, so that you can keep your body engaged in your spiritual journey.
- We are craving human touch. If you live with a partner, hold their hand each time you pray. If you live alone, then find a cross, rosary, or some other object to hold on to while you pray.
- What are you listening to? What do you hear? You may be experiencing more silence for longer periods of time than you ever have before. So, read aloud. Silence may be the tune of many days but reading Scriptures, poetry, and books out loud provides an opportunity to bring sound to silence.
- Attending worship through a screen is not ideal, but as you prepare to worship online, set up a few pictures of families and friends so that you can see you are not alone. The room may be empty, but we are all connected to each other, no matter the distance.
- What foods are part of your spiritual life? Is it a certain kind of bread, soup, meat, or veggie? Whatever it is, take time to enjoy the taste of it while you are staying at home.
- As you cook, savor the smells, but also find that candle or incense that brings you back to a place of peace.
- Vibrant spirituality often leads to a voice of song. Be bold and sing! Turn your favorite hymn or spiritual song up loud, close your eyes, and sing as loud as you can. Don’t worry, your neighbors won’t hear you! 😊
Your spiritual life is vital to healthy self-care, and embodying spirituality will only increase your overall well-being. Be creative! Find a way to engage your five-senses in your spiritual life today!
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson