Posts tagged body prayer

Stretch to strengthen: pain of a healing sort

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No one really wants to be stretched. At least not too far, and definitely not when the stretching goes beyond what feels comfortable.

There’s just a certain out-of-control-feeling when someone is pulling you and you don’t know how far they will go, or even if they will stop. If you have ever had physical therapy after an injury or surgery, you know exactly what I’m describing. It’s painful but it’s pain of a healing sort. It helps recover your range of motion, and once you have that, the strengthening can begin. Then you’re on the road to return to action.

While there lots of ways to strengthen — exercise machines, dumbbells, pulleys, weights — it’s likely that when you earn your discharge from the PT gym you’ll be sent home with a lovely parting gift called a resistance band. It’s meant to be your home exercise companion. And it comes with a wonderful secret: When you stretch it, it strengthens you.

I know that sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it’s true. When you pull, it resists, gently. As you pull harder, it stretches, slowly. The harder you pull, the more it stretches and the more that strengthens you. This feels very much like life these days and, to me, very much like the life of faith. Body and soul engaged in a give-and-take which feels very much like exercise.

Apparently, my approach is a bit atypical. While most faith-folk tend to start with the soul and then invite the body along, when I begin with body, my soul always comes along for the joy ride. *

Try for yourself. Here’s a simple prayer routine using the “exercise” band and the words to the praise song, Spirit of the Living God. My daughter Stephanie’s lovely voice accompanies me.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mse98SpD1v4]

The movement is prayer. The words are prayer. The music is prayer.

But even better, even after the prayer-exercise is done, the sensation of prayer remains… in the body! The muscles that moved the band — the effort, the stretch, the exertion of prayer — reverberate and reiterate: melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Literally, the prayer is still there.

This is too good to be true, right? Try it again. Become aware of the energy, the symbiosis, the connection of stretch to strengthen. Let your body prayer become fluid, flowing one motion into the next. Body and soul, together. Who could conceive of something so powerful and yet so simple?

*My thanks to the folks at the Upper Room for honoring my unusual approach and inviting me to join them to lead worship at SOULfeast 2013.

SOULfeast 2013

Stretching it

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Seems like I sit a lot these days. Writing and blogging and posting and, well, information consumption can do that to you. That’s a bit of a problem for folks who like to move. Not just in the name of “getting in my exercise” or “keeping my weight down” or “not sitting for long periods because it’s bad for your health.” It disrupts me. Period.

And it’s pretty devious because sometimes I don’t notice. Been sitting here a while and everything I’m thinking is getting stale. The words are garbled. The imagination is out to lunch.

So one of my go-to’s is the seated tip. I extend my arms straight out to my sides (like a T) and, keeping my butt cheeks on the chair, I lean straight to one side and try to touch the floor with my fingertips. The other arm, then, is extended straight up to the ceiling.  Then, I repeat this on the other side. It’s a core strength and oblique abdominals challenge. Our trunks are woefully weak in this computer and screen age.

I’m lop-sided. I can reach the floor on one side fairly easily, but not so easily on the other. I attribute this to an injury I sustained 2 1/2 years ago that put me in a brace for a bit. But that’s no excuse. I’m weak.

So, leaning right, I look at the floor, trying to urge my fingertips further, further to touch. Come on, you can do it! Slowly, awkwardly, I brush the floor. Success!

On the other side, I don’t look at the floor. (This wasn’t planned; it’s just how this has gone.) I look, instead, at my hand extended to the ceiling. And feel for the floor that comes into touch. Voila!

Then, I repeat. And of course, I compare. How come it’s so much harder on one side than the other? Injury, yes. Thorn in my side, perhaps.

But here I am, arms extended, to touch the earth and reach for the sky. I am the me in the middle.  When I look to the earth and urge myself forward, my body resists. By my own effort I stretch, eventually. When I look to the sky and let myself go, my body complies, effortlessly.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, I say to myself. Humankind is in between and reaching. Do I look down and push or do I look up and reach?

The distance is the same. The difference is me.

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