the body leads the way

It felt a bit weird and somewhat uncomfortable, but there was something in me that knew it was what I needed. So every morning I joined others from the community we were part of, to read scripture and liturgy aloud, and to bow low to the ground at regular points during the prayers. And that bowing did something within me that I never would have predicted. 

This was during a significant transition in our lives. We had left South Africa after 10 years of living and working there, and we left because we knew it was the right thing to do but not because we wanted to! We were back in our home nation, for what turned out to be a two year interlude, and places inside me were kicking and screaming to find myself there. Somewhere inside myself I knew I was being invited to surrender to a process I could not understand. And I had no idea how to come to that place of surrender when there was nothing in me that wanted to say yes to this experience.

Somehow, then, my body led me to into experiencing the truth that God knew what He was doing even though neither my head nor my heart were sure. Every morning, as I prostrated myself on the floor of that small chapel, joining my voice with the laments of the psalmist, or verbalising scriptures honouring of God’s greatness, something happened inside me. This was more than reluctant acquiescence to what someone else was telling me; this was a sort of entering into truth with my body leading the way.

You see, our bodies know things before our minds, sometimes. And my body knew the experience of surrender and was able to lead my emotions, my mind and my spirit into that place.

prayerful movement

Recently I led a group in a process of praying with our bodies, or posture prayer. We chewed on a passage of scripture that had quite a bit of emotion in it, and sort of sat with the emotion for a while. Then we took on a posture that seemed to embody the emotion we’d been feeling, and brought to mind someone we loved who might be feeling that same sense of lostness, or exile, or regret. We allowed ourselves to enter into a deeper experience of identification with our loved one through the posture, which again caused a lot of emotion to emerge. Then we took on a posture that seemed to embody the opposite emotion, something like belonging, or acceptance, or freedom. And we switched between the two postures, so that our bodies became a sort of wordless prayer for the person we had in mind.

This physical experience of something that is deeply emotional, relational and spiritual enables us, through our intuition, to enter into a prayerful place in a way that is very different to when we are searching to put our longings into words.

I’ve spoken to people who’ve known deep grief or trauma, and they tell me that somehow their bodies led them through their healing process. If she paid attention, one said, or gave herself permission, then her body knew what she needed at different moments. Sometimes it was to scream until her throat felt raw, sometimes it was to run as far as her legs would take her, and other times it was to lie cocooned in a soft blanket and mother herself into soothing sleep. 


What would it be like for you to get in touch with your body’s intuitive knowing this week? Ask yourself how you are walking in the world in this season of your life. Get outside for a walk and ask God to help you walk in a way that tells you something about how you are in this season. Are you dragging a lame leg, in some way? What healing or wholeness are you in need of? Or are you skipping through life, full of energy and playfulness? Perhaps you are walking slowly and tentatively, feeling unsure of what lies ahead? What might your physical gait reveal to you about the way you are experiencing your life currently?


Father God, thank you that you intend us to know and experience things in many different ways. Enable us to become more attuned to our bodies and to grow in our awareness of what our bodies might teach us.