Monday, 12 August 2013

review: Prayer and Our Bodies

Wisdom is what remains true over time

I read Prayer and Our Bodies (Flora Slosson Wuellner, Upper Room, 1987), devotionally, chapter by chapter each morning. With its guided meditations concluding each chapter, it's quite well suited to this approach.

Daily reflection was one reason for reading this book; another was professional development. I offer workshops on prayer from time to time, so I was mining the book for exercises and insights for those settings; my biblical studies research is exploring an embodied performance hermeneutic (way of interpreting biblical texts by embodying them for performance, a la storytelling), so I am interested in reading a range of ideas on embodiment and spiritual practice to inform those ideas.

In some ways it is evident that this book was written more than 20 years ago - many of the ideas and observations Wuellner presents as new struck this reader as commonly accepted wisdom. Positively, that is affirmation for the ideas and observations. I still thought it was worth the read, especially devotionally - because as the author observes throughout, we too often take our bodies, our embodiment, for granted, or separate out the various facets of our being - cognitive/psychological, spiritual/emotional, and physical - and fracture our wholeness, our wellbeing. So it's a good reminder of our inherent wholeness.

The meditations are also helpful, for individuals in such a devotional reading of the book, or perhaps to take one or two and incorporate into your daily practice. Sitting comfortably, with movement or the movement of your mind's eye, paying attention to your body, its aches, pains, ease and un-ease, once a day would be a helpful support of our health and wellbeing.

Wuellner recounts stories of encounters she has had as a workshop and retreat leader - and the delightful moments of discovery that walking, 'touching a tree ... lying in the grass ... stretching ... playing with clay can be prayer?' I have marked many pages that contain practices she has found helpful, that I would like to adapt for my own practice as a workshop facilitator.

The author honestly approaches the subjects of our sexuality, our bodies as sometimes differently abled and diseased, for long and short periods of time, and our communal body with a graceful boldness and humble wisdom that will shape sermons and conversations in my practice as a congregational minister.

This book offers much to individuals, to groups; for workshops and retreats; for congregational life. I am grateful for having stumbled across it in a sale, and pulled out this wisdom from two decades ago, its author still teaching this willing learner.

MediaCom have sold out of this title, but have other titles by Flora Slosson Wuellner worth checking out (link).

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