God, whom I prefer to call Living Presence, shows up in the nuances of the ‘Felt Sense’ of my life.
Living Presence is within me and as such, I feel the subtleties of the invitations to movement, freedom, and healing love. Listening and sensing inward has become my practice of embodiment. This knowing has grown along with me as I have deepened my spiritual life.
It has always been a part of me, as far back as I can remember, though I could not have articulated it then. Hidden, it was like a precious pearl within me. I was not cognitive of its existence, but there was a shy subtle wisdom.
My child-heart longed for union with Living Presence. It felt like an ache I couldn’t seem to soothe. Over decades, with self-discovery, patience, tenderness, and gentle care, the Divine and I have unearthed this hidden pearl together.
This discovering is my lifelong journey.
Childhood formed me and from the outside we looked like an average, white, upper middle-class family. From the inside there was consistent, volatile conflict. Emotional and sometimes physical abuse were common.
From the moment of my conception, I was awash in the amniotic fluid of my mother’s despair, fear, anger, and deep sorrow. The very toxic vibrations of our home were absorbed into my body.
This is not a condemnation of my parents. They did the best they could in the situation they found themselves in and with who they were, with their own trauma and embedded cultural lies. Most sorrowful of all, is that they chose to stay in dysfunction for 52 years until my mother’s passing.
Our bodies receive approximately 70% of the data from our surroundings, sending it to our brain. Our brains take in approximately 30% of the information. Our bodies feel and sense the environment, the smells, sounds, and sights. They carefully register the facial expressions and movements of the other. Our bodies sense the nervous systems of the people around them. All this information is sent unconsciously to our brains, which then asks:
Safe or unsafe?
Calm or chaotic?
Rest or run?
Fight or collapse?
Held or neglected?
Seen or unseen?
In order to survive, our nervous system adapts our behavior and our way of being to keep us safe in our families of origin. This is an incredible intelligence, of which I give the Divine praise!
My mother and father’s nervous systems were in consistent explosive chaos. This shaped me. And that deep longing for Living Presence, which was already embedded in me, ached, and communicated through subtleties of ‘Felt Senses’. I discovered this first in nature or what I like to call, Mother Earth.
Many of my ‘Felt Sense’ memories of being held, safe, loved and in a state of wonder were found lying in the crook of a pink feathery mimosa tree. Sometimes it was during the long summer days spent exploring the rocky banks of a rushing glacial river and its surrounding dark green forest. It was there that I felt embodied or in myself. Home.
It was there in the nuances of the bright green inchworm and the wonder of watching it climb a bough, that the ‘Felt Sense’ of the Divine came to my awareness. It was an enchanted place, vibrant and alive. Years later, I came to understand that I too am a part of nature. I am Creation.
I too am vibrant and alive!
When I began to take yoga classes, I knew intuitively the practice was healing. I was able to be in my body. The capacity of what it was to be myself grew. When I studied the Christian mystics, I learned that others long before me, also noticed nuances, and subtleties of Living Presence within themselves and the Divine Presence in the Earth. When I sat with my spiritual director, I was held with such tender compassionate openness, that I could relax into myself and speak of the things that brought confusion. Bit by bit, clarity came.
As I studied trauma and somatic healing, I leaned into trusting my body. It knew how to heal.
Writing about this kind of experience of Living Presence is difficult. It’s challenging to find words to explain nuances and subtleties. We are body, mind, and soul, as the whole of us created by the Divine.
In the Christian tradition and our Western culture, the body has been ignored for many reasons. Sadly, this has caused disconnection from self and from Living Presence. Despite this, Love is always flowing, showing us through science and spirituality, nature and our bodies that we are made for healing.
Another name for Living Presence might be ‘Forward Moving Energy’. This to me, is the consistent gentle beckoning of Living Presence towards liberation, healing and love.
I can feel it vibrating in my body right now! Can you?
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: [email protected]