Seven Shrines of the Body: 5. Throat

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The fifth shrine is for the throat. The feelings we experience there are often relate to the way we communicate. When we say ‘the words got stuck in my throat’ we locate the experience of being unable to communicate in that particular part of our body.

For me this shrine also explores the network of communication across the globe. tendrils of conversation that stretch from one to another, each one affecting the whole for good or ill.

Here are the images and meditation:

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Your words speak creation into being,

And my words wash over others, changing them in ways I cannot know.

In the global tangle of communication may I have the wisdom to know when to speak and when to refrain.

And so may the sounds that I make resonate with your creative joy.

 

 

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Seven Shrines of the Body: 4. Heart

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The fourth shrine is the heart, centre of generosity and compassion. I took some of the inspiration for this piece from traditional images of Christ’s sacred heart.

I like the ambiguity of the golden rods: are they light shining out of the heart or spears piercing it?

Here are a couple of images of the shrine followed by a meditation:

 

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Source of Love, you enable me to love

And that compassion shines as an undimmed light of liberation.

As I sense your rhythm within me, may that first impulse of love guide me in all things.

And so may my sacred heart be an echo of yours.

 

Seven Shrines of the Body: 3. Solar Plexus

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This is the third of the 7 Shrines of the Body.

The Solar Plexus is the source of the gut instinct, of power and of will. Notice what experiences, memories and feelings resides there.

Here are some images of the shrine followed by a meditation:ImageImageImage

You offer me the gift of who I am,

And the drive that swells in the pit of my stomach is a turbulent power.

May that source of will mould my being and energise my ways to build up rather than tear down.

And so may the truth of my own self reflect the truth of Christ.

 

Seven Shrines of the Body: 2. Abdomen

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Here is the second of the 7 Shrines of the Body along with a meditation.

The abdomen is the source of our sexual energy containing powerful drives and a profound sense of our identity as gendered and sexual beings. As in the previous post I invite you to pause and consider the feeling of the energy that is held there, what experiences and memories are held there and what does it mean to encounter God in and with that part of your body?

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You call me to connect and yearn for the other

And the fire that glows in my abdomen is the energy of creation.

As I’m drawn to entwine with another as friend or lover may that dance bring life and joy.

And so may I live the image of God, female and male.

Seven Shrines of the Body: 1. Sacral

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I have been working on an installation piece for the Greenbelt festival in Cheltenham.

The piece consists of 7 shrines that are intended to enable us to explore what it might mean to use our whole bodies to explore spiritual experience. Each shrine relates to a particular part of the body and over the next few blog posts I will post images and a meditation reflecting on each one.

In my introduction to the piece I invite people to consider focussing on that region of the body and noticing what energy is held there, what experiences and memories are held there and what does it mean to encounter God in that part of your body?

The first piece resonates with the base of the spine, the sacral region that, for me has a solid and earthy feel. Helping to keep us grounded and secure.

Here are some images of the sacral shrine followed by the first meditation:

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You form me from the ashes of stars,

And the weight of my body is the weight of my soul

As gravity binds me, may I come to discover that commitment to place and the experience of dust and dirt is liberation not incarceration.

And so may I live as Christ, grounded and rooted in this good earth.

 

The Children of Clay go to Iona

Last week I was on the Hebridean island of Iona where I stayed with the community at the abbey to help lead a programme for the week reflecting on ‘Thin places and spaces’.  We explored, with a group of amazing people from across the world who had all travelled to this little rock in the Atlantic, what it meant to find sacred space in ourselves, the island itself, with its rich history stretching back thousands of years, and in our neighbourhoods back home where we live and work.

It was an astonishing week in many ways. The years of prayer stretching back to St Columba who founded a monastic community there in 563AD and most likely reaching before that into the deep history of pre-Christian spirituality seem to have dug a well into the hidden recesses of the soul of the place. Time seemed to have an elasticity there and it was hard to tell sometimes whether I had been there for 5 minutes or 100 years. This mystic experience was grounded in the earthy and pragmatic spirituality of the Iona Community at the Abbey which taught me so much to be a part of their rhythm of life for a few days.

I was privileged to have the opportunity to preach at the Sunday morning Communion service. I spoke about my experience of the children of clay art piece I made a few years ago details of which can be found here   and some photos of the project can be found here as well as on some of the posts that follow it.

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I left 3 new figures in the abbey and revisiting them a few days later I found that one of them had been reshaped and moulded, moving from gazing upwards in wonder to bowing his/her head in peaceful prayer. I left the figures on the island so they now have a life of their own.

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For the initial Children of Clay piece I sent out 40 of the figures around Sheffield, leaving them in the streets of the city. 23 of them remained after 40 days and I gathered them together but I never knew what happened to the other 17. By coincidence or grace someone from Sheffield happened to be in that congregation on Iona as I preached. Afterwards he told me that he had seen one of those figures before; on his friend’s mantelpiece. His friend had found it on the street two years ago, been delighted by it, and given it a home. I was surprised and blessed to hear news of one that I thought had long disappeared.

For those who attended the sessions I led with my friend Caroline I promised to post some of the texts we used during the week here, so here they are.

We considered the prayer of St Aidan, who sailed from Iona round to Holy Island in the North East of England. Reflectign on the tidal flows of the spirit that call us to withdraw into solitude and to engage deeply with the world:

A Prayer of St Aidan

Leave me alone with God

As much as may be.

As the tide draws the waters

Close in upon the shore,

Make me an island, set apart,

Alone with you, God, holy to you.

 

Then with the turning of the tide

Prepare me to carry your presence

To the busy world beyond,

The world that rushes in on me

Till the waters come again

And fold me back to you.

 

We considered the relationship between spiritual experience and our bodies as St Teresa of Avila writes in her classic work ‘Interior Castle’:

“As I write this, the noises in my head are so loud that I am beginning to wonder what is going on in it…My head sounds just as if it were full of brimming rivers, and then as if all the water in those rivers came suddenly rushing downward; and a host of little birds seem to be whistling, not in the ears, but in the upper part of the head, where the higher part of the soul is said to be; and I have held this view for a long time, for the spirit seems to move upward with great velocity.”

 

On a pilgrimage around the Island we heard some of the words of Robert MacFarlane from his book ‘The Old Ways’ where he asks a powerful question:

“For some time now it has seemed to me that the two questions we should ask of any strong landscape are these: firstly, what do I     know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else? And then, vainly, what does this place know of me that I cannot know of myself?’

 

And, whether we inhabit sacred and ancient places or the shiny bustle of the new city we remember these words:

 

Where you are, however unchosen, is the place of blessing.

How you are, however broken, is the place of grace

Who you are, in your becoming, is your place in the Kingdom