Updated: Sep 15, 2020
The year was...2016.
I was working three part-time jobs: cramming my feet into high heels on the way to hospice chaplain visits and spiritual direction sessions by day and tripping over my master's degree to the closing shift at Caribou Coffee by night. While chain coffee bar backing is certainly one of the easier food service professions, anyone who has worked in such a position knows that the job is 0.05% espresso, 20% colorful customer personalities, and 79.95% cleaning up fluids you desperately hope are coffee.
After one such closing shift, I returned to my apartment where my best friend greeted me with a smile and smooth jazz. I walked through the threshold and promptly pressed myself face-first into the floor.
Fortunately we had just vacuumed.
As I lay there in carpeted euphoria, I started unclenching every muscle that I had been contracting more or less consistently for the last 14 hours. Starting with my toes, I sent deep exhalations to every part of my body up through the top of my head in a practice called body scan meditation. I tend to hold stress in my chest (no alarming ER-inspiring pains there!), so when I reached that part of the scan I felt especially grateful. I spent a few extra succulent moments luxuriating in the healing capabilities of my mortal coil.
Once the scan was complete, I found myself in a state of complete surrender—physically, mentally, and spiritually. To my surprise and to my delight, I then found that I felt especially capable of communing with the divine. I thought of God, and they just felt closer. It was as if their presence was physically closer than my breath. Closer than my next thought.
In that sacred, still space, my entire being was quiet, and there was nothing separating me from the steady, equally quiet voice of God. I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude not only because I had found some respite from a busy week, but because in that moment I experientially felt the relationship between the body and soul. The body and spirit are meant to work in sync—not in spite of one another. Earlier in the day, my spirit had a difficult time connecting with God, because my body was having a difficult time connecting with God. The answer wasn't to shut the body up so that the soul could speak, but rather to allow both the body and soul to speak with God. God didn't peel away my layer of bodily mass in order to reside with my soul; they invited my body to sit beside them and then invited my soul to do the same. God's design for my being incorporates both.
Body-conscious meditation prepares us to fall effortlessly into the arms of the divine, from whom we received a body that is capable to do so.
For this very reason, I strongly prioritize body scan meditation at the beginning of every spiritual direction session. Before we begin the gratifying work of spiritual exploration, we have to make sure that the body is on board. We have to make sure that the body is aware of and comfortable with physically being in the sacred space. Once the body is settled, rooted, and responsive to the physical setting provided by the divine, the soul may then reach out to the immaterial Spirit of the divine from a sturdy foundation.
I find that when the material part of the human person is connected to the divine, the immaterial parts—the parts more commonly associated with spiritual practice—are able to connect, grow, and thrive.
January 28, 2019 | Denver, Colorado