Thursday, November 20, 2014

Part VII The Small C. Embodiment - Key to Presence and Healing

I wish I knew the importance of embodiment as I was healing from my cancer two years ago.  I just want to share with you what I learned about it during a recollection I attended recently and its significance not only to meditation but also to healing.


First, here is Wikepedia's definition of embodiment in relation to philosophy and psychology:

      Embodied or embodiment may refer to: 
    Embodied cognition (or the embodied mind thesis), a position in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind emphasizing the role that the body plays in shaping the mind.
But why is embodiment or bodily knowing important to presence and healing?

This past Saturday, I attended a whole day recollection organized by the Memorial Day committee of the Associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph headed by Monica Maghrak which was held in Baden, Pa.  We had for our presenter, Martha Robbins, Th.D., Associate Professor Emerita at the Theological Seminary of Pittsburgh and presently the Director of the Pneuma Institute.  The topic was "Healed, Called by Name, and Sent". 

Using Mark 5:25-34 (the story of the hemorrhaging woman), Dr. Robbins introduced us to praying with Scripture called Imaginative Contemplation.  She first set up the scripture chosen by elaborating on the attitudes of that time regarding bodily fluids like menstruation.  For them, these are signs of lack of cleanliness to the point people with them are prohibited from temple services.  The hemorrhaging woman had the unusual and unfortunate fate of menstruating daily, nonstop for more than 10 years.  Thus her desire to be cured was as tremendous as that of the more influential Jarius in the same scripture reading who wanted so much to have his ailing daughter be cured. 

After delivering the context of the scripture reading, Dr. Robbins conducted the meditation wherein she read the scripture verses interspersed with her very own effective comments to guide us.  During this guided meditation, we were invited to use our senses - auditory, visual, touch and smell.

This was followed by silent reflection wherein we were provided several questions.  One of them, to my surprise was,

                   "How are you aware of your own bodily knowing?"

During the large group discussion with Dr. Robbins that followed this particular question was again emphasized by the title chosen for this segment, Bodily Knowing and Healing.

To further expound on the importance of bodily knowing, Dr. Robbins used the reading for Friday, August 8, 2014 from Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation website.  It was entitled Open Heart, Open Mind, Open Body and subtitled How to Stay Open.  This meditation was actually adapted by Rohr from his book, Breathing Under Water:  Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, pp 11-13.

The saying in the poster at the start of this post was taken from this meditation.  Let me quote further from this meditation by Rohr to elaborate on the importance of bodily knowing,

To keep our bodies less defended, to live in our body right now, to be present to others in a cellular way, is also the work of healing of past hurts and the many memories that seem to store themselves in the body. 

Furthermore, Rohr continued with the following:

It is very telling that Jesus often physically touched people when he healed them; he knew where the memory and hurt was lodged, and it was in the body itself. 

Note that, in the scripture reading during our day of recollection, the hemorrhaging woman took a risk and the initiative to actually be the one who touched Jesus who then was so pleased with her strong belief and healed her. 

Richard Rohr ends this meditation with the following:

For many of us, the body is more pressed and denied than even the mind or the heart.  It makes both presence and healing quite difficult, because the body, not just the mind, holds our memories.

The meditation further laments the fact that the Christian religion though it believes in God taking a human body, is so reluctant in embracing and knowing the body. For example, illnesses give us body knowing. What does it mean? It might have some message for us. How do we pay attention to the rest of our body?

Perhaps the reason I was surprised on the emphasis on bodily knowing during the recollection was because I had been so "trained" to the mind over matter mentality and never thought of how to tap on my body and its senses to unleash any pain that is lodging in there to help my mind be at peace. 

These are just some foods for thought I want to share with you.  Perhaps you can use them next time you do your meditation or as you are presently battling or healing from an illness or painful emotional experience in your life.  God's peace and love be with you all.

You might also be interested:
This blog is part VII of a series of blogs, The Small C, on my experience with cancer and insights I gained from it. Here are the links to the other parts of the series.

PS.   Allow me to share some pictures from the wonderful recollection. 
Dr. Martha Robbins

Mary Cay Burke Hammill singing the Litany of the Saints during the memorial rite for the associates and sisters who have journeyed with us.

Sr. Elaine was at my table and during the discussion I was very delighted to hear the name which she thought she was being called during the sharing on Mary Magdalene meeting with Christ during his Resurrection, (this was the second reading covered during the recollection).  The name was Cara Mia Elena.  Love it! I also love the little cute handbags she brings with her like that green one above. 

Monica Maghrak, the chair of the Memorial Day Committee, thanking Dr. Robbins for the excellent talk.

Excuse the blurred picture.  Sr. Paula Drass as she went around Medaille Hall fielding insights.  Pictured also are Monica with her wonderful friends who helped her set up during the recollection.

The captivated audience consisting of associates and nonassociates soaking in the wonderful presentation that day.

The members of the Memorial Day committee with Dr. Robbins and Sr. Paula.  From left to right,  Mary Cay Burke Hammill, Monica Maghrak, Dr. Martha Robbins, Patty Hammond, Sr. Paula Drass, Kathy Haver and Linda Biel.  Not pictured is Kathy Lotzmann.  Thank you all for your wonderful work and effort to make the day so wonderful and enlightening. Oops I forgot to take a picture of the baked goods served that day.  Awesome. See you next year. 

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