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Monday, November 21, 2011

Body Maps

Several of you have written to me - offline - to ask, "What the heck are body maps?"

I used them as the "point of activity" during the three-day retreat on Narrative Leadership I lead for the interns who are part of the Episcopal Service Corp Program known as Newark ACTS.

I chose 'body maps' for several reasons.

First of all, I think we are growing more and more disembodied as a people in a church which professes to be incarnational. We don't always remember the mind-body-spirit connection. We forget that our bodies have great wisdom.

As I learned from a very wise Hawai'ian woman named Auntie Margaret:
Your mind can play tricks with you.
Your heart can deceive you.
Your body never lies.
Auntie Margaret is a kahuna - a spiritual healer - from whom I first learned the process of forgiveness and reconciliation in the art form known as ho'oponopono.

Auntie Margaret incorporates deep massage when she does a ho'oponopono session because she believes that we carry our stories deep in the muscles and sinews and joints and bones of our body.

In massaging the body, Auntie Margaret teaches, we are better able to locate and then release, if necessary, the places where our stories need to be unlocked and unleashed so that we can find healing and reconciliation.

No, we didn't do massage, but I wanted to take the first step in helping the interns tell their stories and locate where they might be residing in their body through a process of relaxation and guided meditation.

We began by getting large paper rolls of table covers and laying them down on the floor. Then, each person took a turn laying down on the paper and having another intern trace the outline of their body on the paper.

After each aspect of Narrative Leadership I was presenting, we stopped and located the stories on our body map and drew them in, symbolically or with letters or words.

As you can see from the pictures I've posted, some of them really got into it. Others, not so much.

It wasn't that they didn't like it. In fact, I think most of them did - if nothing else than the fact that I shut up for 15-20 minutes and they could just doodle on their body maps.

Some were, well, shy about their art.

"But, I can't draw," they would moan.

"That isn't the point," I'd say.

Even though they knew that, it was still difficult to engage in a visual art form when you believe that you can't express what you're thinking and feeling in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Blessed are those who are willing to risk for the sake of learning, for they will receive their reward. 

More to the point, the purpose of the exercise was to be more in tune with their bodies and the message their bodies give to them. Like, when they find themselves saying,

"It makes me sick to my stomach." Or,

"What a pain in the neck!" Or,

"It made me grit my teeth."

I hope this exercise will help them explore the metaphor their body is giving them as a clue to the stories that contain those emotions and where they may be found in their bodies.

Why? Well, because one of the important aspects of being a good leader is knowing yourself and being connected to your own story - and, in fact, stories. 

I happen to think that our bodies are very wise and can help us find the resources and tools we need to dive deeper into our spiritual wells and surface as better Servant Leaders.

A good leader is a good listener.

We need to be able to listen to our own cries before we can hear the cries of the people we are called to serve.

You know. So we can get our own "stuff" out of the way and listen to what's really going on.

You know. So we can serve by leading. In community.

I'm not going to answer all your questions about that in this wee post. It would take me three days of a retreat for you to understand it all. Or, at least, begin to understand.

My hope is that, having a body map will make the journey into self-knowledge and deep wisdom a bit less formidable, helping a generation of Servant Leaders become more of who God is calling them to be and what God is calling them to do in this world.

Well, at least ten of them.

In the Newark ACTS Project.

Of the Episcopal Service Corps.

One body map at a time.

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