Home in our Body

Mar 27 / April Brenneman
How do you experience the Divine?

Is it within you or outside of you? Or both?

Do you trust your experience?

Years ago, when my spiritual director taught me how to practice Centering Prayer, my whole world transformed. Though I didn't know it then, this was the beginning of learning about embodiment. As I centered myself in the Divine, the experiences deep within my body, heart, and spirit seemed to roll through me like waves. It was like a dry, barren desert flooded with living water. They (Trinity) were Present in, around, and through me. In tangible ways, too, as I noticed colors were more vibrant, hiking my favorite trails. Trees, plants, and earth were alive with life. Joy and love flowed through me, as well as grief and even anger at injustice.

All of it and everywhere felt sacred.

I was home in my body.

Home with the Divine.

Father Richard Rohr, the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, teaches the metaphor of faith as a tricycle. The two smaller back wheels represent Scripture and Tradition. Both are important. Yet, the biggest and most essential front wheel is Experience. We experience all of life through our bodies. We sense through our skin, nervous system, minds, tiny subtleties, and various sensations. This consistent flow happens whether we are conscious of it or not. Coupled with all this is the Divine, our sense of Love.

Sadly, we have been afraid of experiencing this in the church, relying more heavily on scripture and tradition. We have been encouraged to ignore our bodies or control them. We've been taught that our bodies are bad and must be managed or dominated. We have been afraid to trust ourselves.

This home we walk around in and experience all of life through contains our deep, holy knowing. When we are told that 'our hearts are above all deceitfully wicked,' we believe we cannot trust ourselves. We are indeed capable of great good and great harm. But can we trust Christ within us? Embodiment practices help us become conscious of that deep, holy knowing—our home.

Intuition is another name for this deep, holy knowing. Contemplative author of A Brown Girl's Epiphany, Aurelia Davila Pratt, shares how she's often asked about trusting intuition.

"Is the intuition I feel God or myself?" people ask her. Her answer is "Yes."

Of course, we need community and guidance too. How do we learn to trust our deep, holy knowing as co-creation with the Divine? Does it align with the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? These attributes are certainly good guidelines. They guide us as we practice embodiment, connecting more and more to ourselves, the Divine, others, and the world.

Embodiment takes practice. Perhaps it's about building a faith of experiences over and over again—layer upon layer of experience, which builds a foundation of trust.

With this foundation, we also need to add a lot of space for error. We are, after all, human. This undercurrent of needing to be perfect saturates our world. Not only does this block our experiences, but it also forces us to operate in fear. Without room to make mistakes, there is no space for experience and growth.

When Jesus Christ said, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," in Matthew 5:48, he did not mean what we understand the word 'perfect' to mean today. Other translations use the word 'complete' rather than perfect, which means 'whole.' Christ is calling us to wholeness, completeness, and this integration comes slowly through experiences of embodiment practices. I like to think of it as my bodily foundation for deep, holy knowing. After all, Source is our 'ground of being.'

I trust this intuition because it has always been with me, yet for so long, I had forgotten. I have two strong memories from my childhood where I felt fully loved, held, and at home in my body. Whether it was when I nestled myself in the crook of a mimosa tree, watching, marveling, and deeply loving a bright green inchworm, or exploring the rocky banks of a roaring river, I was at home in my body.

I was held.

I felt in awe.

I was fully Present to myself, knowing my Belovedness deep within my bones.

As a child, this knowing came and went. As an adult, it continues to come and go, but like a muscle that needs to be exercised to grow in strength, so does our practice of embodiment.

Here are three beginning guidelines for embodiment:

First, simply become aware of your body. Feel your feet on the earth. Notice the base of your body being held in your chair. Feel the whole back of your body as it's held while you lie in your bed or, better yet, on the earth. When you notice your hunger pangs or your thirst, fulfill them. Don't ignore them.

Second, breathe on purpose. Pause and breathe on purpose. Feel the breath coming into your nostrils and flowing down into your lungs. Begin to notice your chest and belly. Are they moving? Imagine this life breath nourishing every cell of your body, from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. This is Reality. Your life breath does nourish your body whether you are conscious of it or not. Every breath is grace.

Third, practice slowing down and pausing. Notice when you are rushing or hurrying. See if you can pause just for a few breaths and slow that rushing down. Place your healing hands on your heart, offering yourself compassion. Sense the Divine smiling tenderly at your human need to hurry, perhaps your desire to be perfect. Let that go.

Fourth, when you wake in the morning before you jump out of bed, greet your body with tender care and compassion. Place your healing hands on your body, wherever it feels most supportive. A healing hand on your heart and one on your belly is a good start. Bring gratitude to your body, thanking her/him/them. Sense Love, which is always there, though it may seem hard to connect with at times.

Trust Love.

Trust your deep, holy knowing.

If you are interested in exploring more embodiment practices with me, please consider joining my two upcoming offerings:

Embodied Spirituality: Opening to Our Body on May 15th from 12-2:30pm PT

Embodied Spirituality: Connecting to Our Body on May 31st from 10am-12:30pm PT

It would be an honor to practice embodiment with you as we discover our home together! 

April Brenneman

April Brenneman is a Somatic Spiritual Companion, a Hatha Yoga teacher (200-hour RYT), and an Embodied Spirituality Teacher. She was sent from the two-year Living School program for Action and Contemplation in 2020, where she studied Christian Mystics, some Buddhism, and the prophetic call to social justice. Her somatic certificates are through The Embody Lab, with ongoing training through the Somatic Experiencing ® (SE™) Trauma Institute. Her passion is helping others connect with their bodies and discover the Divine within themselves through embodiment practices and somatic meditations. Her own spirituality can be described as Creation Spirituality and Embodied Christic Contemplation. She spent the majority of her adult life raising and nurturing her five children, two of which had major medical complications. She enjoys walking, reading, hiking, the natural world, and long dynamic, life-filled conversations with close friends.
Engage with April on IG @thecontemplativespace or by email aprilann.brenneman@gmail.com.