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Practice Circle

Forum > Spiritual Practices > Practices to Honor the Body

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Posted on Jan. 30, 2007 - 4:06 PM
More Practices
I've enjoyed reading the contributions so far, and thought that I could add a bit more. Thank you also to Barbara for the resources on "focusing," which is something that I think would be beneficial to me.

Creative movement or dance is something that I've been doing the past few years, mostly in women's groups and retreats that I've attended since we moved to northeast PA five years ago. For someone who often gets caught in the head, dance is a wonderful way to move and celebrate the body. It's simple: put on some music and move in any way the body would like. It's freeing! Mostly, I've done this in a group, less frequently alone. A few years ago, a local university sponsored a weekend workshop on "Creativity and Spirituality" that I attended. At one point, a woman who was demonstrating African dance to drum beats had audience participation (including me!) and several of us danced around a sculpture that was carved by one of the art professors. It was a great experience! One of my favorite teachers, John O'Donohue, was also present at the workshop (he was the keynote speaker), and he got up and joined the group, dancing his own Irish jig of sorts. Celebrating the body through dance of any type, especially with others, is a marvelous way of appreciating the body, feeling a sense of community, and freeing the mind. It's restorative and fun, and not just for women! Thanks for helping me to remember and allowing me to share.

Posted on Jan. 29, 2007 - 6:08 PM
Prayers with your fingers
I just read this posting from Frederic, and it brought to mind an experience I had as a hospice nurse. I was sitting at the bedside of a woman who was 100 years old, and it was my privilege to be there along with one of her caregivers at the moment of her death. What a profound experience to watch as this amazing body that had worked continuously for so many years slowed and stopped. An extraordinary transformation occurs at the moment of our physical death; after 10 years as a hospice nurse I am no closer to understanding it, but I remain awed by it.

Posted on Jan. 29, 2007 - 3:46 PM
Prayers with Your Fingers
Here is another one of Ed Hays' prayer practices. I like that it builds a practice on a famous passage in the Koran, Islam's holy book.

"The Koran says that God is closer than the vein in your neck. What a beautiful invitation to pray. In fact, it suggests a new way to pray. Begin by placing your first and second fingers on your throat's jugular vein. Linger there as your feel the vigorous throbbing of life within you. Praying with your fingers on your jugular vein can be a sensual affirmation that God is not distant or remote but is pulsating within you. . . Besides being an excellent preface to any prayer, this tactile throat prayer gesture is useful whenever you are in need of God's presence.
-- Edward Hays in Prayer Notes to a Friend

Posted on Jan. 29, 2007 - 3:43 PM
A Disarmament Body Practice
We quoted this one in Spiritual Literacy. Ed Hays, one of our Living Spiritual Teachers, is one of the most creative practice creators we know!

"Your fingernails and toenails are composed of hardened skin cells. It is the same material that makes up the claws of animals and birds. Each time you trim your fingernails you are involved in primitive arms-limitation, the earliest and most basic of all disarmament."
-- Edward Hays in Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim

Posted on Jan. 29, 2007 - 3:40 PM
It's a Miracle Prayer
Hello Everybody! Thanks for reading my tributes to my "good flesh" and for sharing your own body practices. Mary Ann and I are excited about this kind of sharing.

I thought I'd add to the mix by including some practices I've discovered in my reading (so if you don't have an original one, a quoted one will be welcome, as long as you cite your source.) I call this one The Miracle Prayer:

"The next time you look in the mirror, just look at the way the ears rest next to the head; look at the way the hairline grows; think of all the little bones in your wrist. It is a miracle."
-- Martha Graham in Embodied Prayer by Celeste Snowber Schroeder

Posted on Jan. 29, 2007 - 3:18 PM
The following is a meditation that appears in my book, The Tao of Hogwarts, the full text of which can be found at

Look within yourself, and feel: there is an active, working relationship among the parts of the self that we abnormally imagine as disjointed or even opposing organs and functions. The heart sits at the top of the thoracic cavity, sounding the rhythm of Nature, sending nourishment throughout the body, and sharing information along electrochemical pathways with the brain and the rest of the central nervous system.

The heart is the primary feeling organ of the self: like a woman breathing into her lover's ear, it feeds inspiration to the brain, which then transforms that inspiration into the expression of insight and invention. When you let this happen, it is bliss beyond comparison—something like sex on warm, moonlit sand, moistened by an evening ebb tide.

So visualize, if you will, a continuous current of energy that begins in the heart, rises and flows upward, emanating like light from a windblown candle along the upper spinal column and into the brainstem. From there it glows onward, diffusing across the seemingly infinite neural pathways of the midbrain and forebrain, awakening and inspiring everything in its luminous path. It curls, like jasmine smoke, over the forebrain, along the face downward, through the mouth and the throat, back toward the origin and destination of this infinite loop of perception and expression, the heart.

Now consider the shape made by this pathway: it is the symbol for infinity. That is who you are; it is the simple essence, the core of your uniqueness. Discover it.

Posted on Jan. 29, 2007 - 1:51 PM
Moving the body
As I get older, I find that simple movements are as effective as the high impact, strenuous practices I found harmful even when young.

Living in the Monterey Bay area for the last year has drawn me more often to the recreation trails that go for miles along the coast. The beauty of nature never fails to move my mind and heart into the spiritual realm. During the rainy season, or when there's some pain or injury, I simply stretch, move, walk down stairs and back, like that.

Whenever something inside nags at me I stretch and then go into a focusing practice which has sustained me for years. (see or for more information. I bring my attention into the body, scanning for tightness or distress. What wants my attention now? What does this part of me want? Listening to my body with respect, without trying to fix anything, being a good companion, has an energizing effect and most often, results in a release of anxiety. I look forward to reading more posts on this topic. Thanks to all who've posted.


Posted on Jan. 27, 2007 - 10:46 AM
Honoring the body - honoring the mind
I enjoyed reading Frederic's essays and think this is a wonderful new forum! My body practices include yoga, walking, light weight lifting, Reiki, and knitting. More information about Reiki can be found at Knitting is a lovely practice in that while the hands are busy crafting, the mind is quieted into a meditative state. I look forward to reading about others' practices!

Posted on Jan. 26, 2007 - 2:17 PM
Honoring the Body
I guess the first reaction to your request would be to wonder why in a holistic arena as is yours, we need to separate out body from mind and spirit. But I understand what you want.
After retiring from a career in the Air Force, I began to teach middle school (not a great idea going from Colonel to Special Ed teacher!) After my first depression, I saw an ad for a free yoga class after school in a nearby school gymn. That changed my life. Since then, I've practiced a bit of yoga, taken classes at my club etc, but I also picked up a bit of Tai Chi while teaching in China and I enjoy my Pilates class very much as I do the sauna and pool at my club. OK, we older folks need cardio and strength training also. Honoring my body centers around an eclectic blend of all these practices that have helped me these last 18 years. Generally, but not written in stone, after reading a couple of papers and checking my email, I do a bit of Tai Chi to loosen up the joints and strengthen my new titanium shoulder ( a longer story), then I move into whatever yoga postures appeal to me that day, but most often sun salutation, triangle, moon, plank, dolphin and a few other postures help my day get started. Afterwards I move over to my ball and do a few push-up type exercises and ab work, then my free weights, just 5 and 15 pound ones for curls and presses. If I'm still feeling good I work with my bands (rubber workout bands) that help my shoulder increase strength and range of motion. If it is relatively nice here in Oregon I may end outside on/under the patio with some jumprope.
Works for me! Off now for a month in Cuba where I automatically lose 10 pounds and always feel better on the poor man's Mediterranean (in this case Caribbean) diet of mainly beans, rice, fresh fruit and veggies. Well, that's not counting the refreshing ice-cold beer.
I'll read this thread again in March. Ciao!!!
John N

Posted on Jan. 25, 2007 - 9:58 AM
Practices to Honor the Body
We invite you to share the simple, everyday ways you express your gratitude to your body and your wonder over its marvelous capabilities, including the power to heal. Frederic shared some of his practices in the articles Good Flesh and Into the Far Country of Surgery. We'd love to put together an additional list from our visitors as "Related Content" for those articles.

We'll credit your "display name" and location on this article unless you email us directly that you'd like us to use another name. Also, if your practice is not original, please include the book/teacher/other source where you found it.

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