Praying Our Sorrows with Our Bodies

Knowing that a child’s body holds their sorrows, I suspected that when I returned to Haven House (a transitional facility for families without homes), we’d need to engage with our bodies.[1] While I was meeting with children for spiritual conversations through Zoom throughout the pandemic, meeting in person would invite a different kind of engagement. I wondered what the implications might be for our bodies which were simultaneously assaulted by danger and fear and forgotten by months and months of lockdown.

Regathering With Children at Haven House

As we gathered in a circle, I noticed that the natural wiggling energy of the children was missing. These children seemed tired, maybe not physically, but emotionally. They were still, listless, more wrung out than wondrous.

I invited them to stand with me, which they dutifully did. Looking around the circle, letting my gaze rest on each child, I beheld them in loving kindness, and they beheld me back. Some with smiles others with nods of what we all were going through.

“I’d like to begin our time together by praying with our bodies, if that’s okay with you.”

“Our bodies can hold our stories of joy and sorrow,” I went on, “and so when there are things happening like COVID, that make us sad or afraid, it can be helpful to pray with our bodies.” The children smiled that kind of smile that said they weren’t sure what I was talking about, but were willing to engage.

We prayed in this way.

Imagine that you are a tree. Your legs are the trunk, your feet and toes are roots. Spread your toes and root your feet. Bend your knees just a little. Let your arms fall to each side of your body, the tops of your hands against the side of your legs, palms outward.

Let’s also remember that God is with us. In your mind’s eye sense God standing behind you. God has got your back. God is not too close and not too far away. God is near. 

Look straight ahead into the faces that are in the circle. Continue to let your gaze rest on each person, looking at them with loving kindness.

Begin to slowly raise your arms up and over your head, like you are gathering in all the goodness, beauty, light and love around you. Name the good that you have experienced.

Participate with the children by naming some of the good that you have experienced, too.

On this day the children called out, “tacos,” “my mom,” “my bike,” “gaming with friends,” “Lucy, my dog,” “Elvis, the cat,” and so many more.

With arms raising slowly over our heads, pulling our attention to our fingers spread wide we gathered in the good and then pull them into our minds. As you name the good and lift your arms and straighten your knees letting your body reach up as high as you can.

Now begin the descent of your hands, pass your hands over your head, moving slowly as if to absorb every last drop of what has been shared.

Then slowly pass over your chest, notice and name the feelings you are feeling.

I heard, “glad that we are safe,” “sad about my grandma,” “I miss my friends,” “excited about the summer,” “grateful for my brother.”

Still our hands are moving slowly over our bodies, passing over our chests and arriving at our abdomen. Notice how your belly feels. Do you have an anxious feeling like butterflies are flittering around? Is your belly still and peaceful like the trunk of a tree?

“Mine feels like bees are in there, but now it’s better,” “I don’t feel anything in my belly,” “I think I need a snack,” another said, and we all laughed.

Lastly, we moved past our belly letting our arms rest to their full length and our hands relax. Hold still right here. What do you want to let go of? What would you like for God to hold? Are there sad things that you want to give to God?

Think of those, hold them in the cup of your hands. Then with a flick of your wrist, toss them behind you towards God. Can you see God catch them and hold them? 

Immediately a child asked if we could do it again.
I felt a gladness grow in my heart knowing that the children had connected with God in all the dimensions of themselves and it was an encounter they wanted again and again.

[1] I returned to Haven House after being vaccinated and the participants who were old enough were vaccinated as well. Certainly, the pandemic is not over. We took every precaution for love of the children.

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash.

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