Friday, December 16, 2011
The Body Doesn't Lie
For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.--2 Cor. 5:4-5
I guess the Spirit, then, becomes like a winter coat or a sweater providing us with the further warmth and protection from the cold of the world over the layers we all ready have on.
What caught me in listening to this passage the other day was the phrase, "we groan under our burden." I have done many massage sessions with people who are in some stage of grief. Either they have lost a loved one, a job, a relationship, or they have stayed mum and haven't told me anything. As I work the tissues of their body, there will not only be a physical release; sometimes, it's vocal. And it sounds a bit like a groan. Not in pain because of what I'm "doing", but in the recognition that those things that are painful to our minds and our souls manifest in the body.
Recently, I was working on a person who kept slipping in and out of sleep. This person had been through a rough patch, and sleeping clearly was an important part of the healing. When I got to the area of the heart, I heard it: the groan. Soft, and like a heavy sigh. How much this layer of skin, bones, and muscles was holding and protecting a heart that had been broken. I held my position for a few minutes and allowed the body to grieve in its own way. All the while, I silently repeated the Sanctus:
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us....
I watched my client's breathing as waves of sadness and sorrow came to the surface.
O Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us...
Releasing, letting go. In these moments, I can sometimes see tears roll down the cheeks. Sometimes, the facial muscles begin to tighten as the person's mind suddenly picks up on what the body is doing and attempts to override. But bodies have more wisdom, and they know that when they are allowed this opportunity to unleash their pent up emotions, they need to do it. In the massage room, this is OK. Out in the world, they must remain strong, vibrant, and always under the control of the brain.
O Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace...
Once there has been a release, indicated through another long and heavy groan, I know I can change my position and address new places in the body that are also aching and in need of a reminder that they are loved.
When I reflected on St. Paul's message to the church at Corinth, I was bothered by this idea that "the tent" was somehow getting in the way of the holy. These are the beginnings of the misguided Christian doctrine that there is something "bad" about bodies. For some people who have suffered illness or disability, the body may feel like its a prison or rebelling against the soul. But it is truly the house, or tent, that maintains the soul. And it can serve as a receptor to what I believe is holy: massage and therapeutic touch. This contact that I make with clients is part of God's desire to continue having an every day presence in the world. And there is nothing "bad" about that.
Thanks be to God for those people who have brains humble enough to allow their bodies that holy encounter.