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Bodywork Ministry: Sacramental Healing & Contemplative Bodywork

(Note: This page is a work in progress. Visit it often to see what new thoughts emerge.)

After eons of repression and even abuse, the body is finally emerging as the sacred temple that Master Jesus taught. Sophia's Well of Wisdom is dedicated to advancing the concepts introduced by John O'Donohue in Anam Cara (1997) as "The body is a sacrament" and "The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression," (p. 47). Another expression along this theme is by spiritual teacher and bodywork specialist Jim Gilkeson. In his book, Energy Healing (2000), Gilkeson states the case of the physical body in spiritual process:

One of the most misunderstood aspects of spiritual growth is the role played by the physical body. A spirituality which does not include the body is, by its nature, ungrounded, lacking expression in the everyday world. Without a positive and conscious relationship with the body, we have no means of expressing the energy and intelligence from higher dimensions in a balanced way....We are now at a time when the problem for many spiritual seekers is not getting out of their bodies but rather getting into them. In a certain very significant sense, they are already out of their bodies, or, to put it the other way around, they are not completely in their bodies. They are, quite literally, not fully incarnated, (pp. 156-157).

After years of spiritual practice in which I sought to "transcend the body," eventually I came to my senses, and realized that the spiritual imperative is incarnation. Spirit seeks to fully embody the human form in a perfect balance, a yin and yang of body and spirit. 

Historically, spiritual seekers have aimed at transcending the body in order to escape life or gain their heavenly reward. We now need to foster genuine experiences of expanding consciousness and spiritual transformation while remaining in the physical body. Body-based spiritual practices provide this experience. The goal of my work is to anchor the concept of “embodied spirituality” in practical applications of spiritual formation and transformation associated with psycho-spiritual and bio-spiritual processes.

Spiritual Healing and Bodywork

Healing was considered a sacrament of the church until medicine became a profession and took over the role. Nevertheless, healing was a large part of the public ministry of Yeshua (Jesus) and he charged his followers to heal as well. Healing ministry is now finding its way back into the spiritual path of service. 

My current spiritual healing and bodywork practice includes subtle energy work, integrative massage, and somatic therapies. These modalities include a variety of holistic techniques. My experience with practicing these techniques, has inspired me to push the envelope of the spiritual application of bodywork. As a result two new body-based spiritual approaches are emerging: Contemplative Bodywork and Sacramental Bodywork . The former is a psycho-spiritual-somatic approach to body-based spiritual healing. The latter envisioned as a creative mode of contemporary "worship" or liturgy of the sacred body/spirit temple.

What is Somatic Therapy?

In general, somatic therapy refers to the body-mind connection and commonly uses holistic healing methods of touch, energy, movement, b0dy awareness, and visualization, color, light, and sound as components. In my current practice of psycho-spiritual-somatic therapy, I use the sensory stimulus of bodywork, the focused intention of energy work, along with guided imagery, prayer, reflection, and inspirational music of soul work to stimulate personal growth, holistic wellness, and spiritual well-being in a sacred ecological context. Psyche is a Greek word for the human soul; thus, it is a soul-based body therapy or perhaps a body-based soul therapy. The Celts believed that the body is in the soul rather than the soul in the body, (O'Donahue). This is an important distinction for psycho-somatic therapy as I practice it today.

There are many bodywork approaches used by practitioners. My primary focus is based on the concept of embodied spirituality, in which I strive to actualize through spiritual healing, energy-active healing, and holistic bodywork. Spiritual healing utilizes techniques of energy transference designed to recharge or balance the energy system of the body. It involves reaching into the higher vibrations in order to connect with soul and channel this sacred healing energy to the recipient. Energy-active healing practices increase the interaction between the energy field and the physical body and awakens the interplay between conscious and non-conscious processes, (Gilkeson, A Pilgrim in Your Body, 2009). Holistic bodywork emphasizes self-healing and transformation by addressing the underlying psycho-spiritual cause of physical or emotional pain and dis-ease to open the door for true healing by connecting with the inner wisdom of the body.

Contemplative Bodywork is a holistic therapy using psycho-spiritual-somatic methods that aim to integrate the whole person including the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and relational aspects of our being from the inside out. Soma may be defined as “the body experienced from within.” It is the “living soma,” the nexus where spirit meets matter, the inner body consciousness that manifests as the physical form we see and feel. It represents a spiritual ecology based on the ideal of right relationship with the internal and external environment: the inner and outer bodies of a human soul. 

The psycho-spiritual-somatic methods used in Contemplative Bodywork help us learn to become more aware in our bodies: how we experience sensations and how we experience consciousness in the body. When we bottle up emotional disturbances inside of us, they eventually manifest at the physical level and block the body's natural healing and inner wisdom. During body-based psycho-spiriutal-somatic therapies we learn to let go of addictive thinking processes, be fully present in the body, release our inner self-healing power, embrace our inner wisdom, and prepare to relate positively and ethically in the world.

Through our newly found awareness, we are able to make peace in and with our body, which moves us towards a healthier and happier way of life.

Bodywork as Spiritual Practice

Bodywork is the most practical format for spiritual practice. Body and spirit are nourished in a protocol that is individualized and sacred. We come to find a point of balance between body and spirit. 

Transformation takes place within the field of the body. We cannot get beyond the body except through the body. The body as the “temple of God” in divine equilibrium is the deepest of esoteric truths.

The greatest spiritual achievement is not transcending the body, but joining the body and spirit together in perfect balance. It is the sacred marriage of matter and spirit. As we transcend the illusions of the small mind to access a deeper consciousness within the living soma (body), we “take off our shoes and walk on holy ground."

Contemplative Massage and Bodywork™

My interest in developing a body-based spiritual practice to enrich the spiritual or soul-body aspect of my holistic massage and bodywork practice resulted in what I am calling Contemplative Bodywork. Although still a work in progress, I have begun to offer this experience for my clients and am learning so much in the process. This is an intuitive spiritual practice of bodywork in which the intention is to encourage the client through guided meditation, prayer, and sound to shift awareness to the inner body and experience integration of body and soul. It is a deeply relaxing holistic spiritual practice for those who are ready to shift their awareness.

Sacramental Bodywork: A New Way of Worship for a New Era

There is an amazing old Catholic concept based on the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus): The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Donahue says, "The body is a sacred threshold; and it deserves to be respected, minded, and understood in its spiritual nature," (Anam Cara, p. 47). A consideration of the body as sacred — as a sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace, a living temple — is the subject of my investigation. As such, I am seeking to develop a sacred ritual or liturgy of the body that truly integrates the body in a personal expression of reverence or individualized worship of God Immanent, the "God within." As a result I am beginning to think about developing a "somatic sacrament" that would focus an appropriate level of spiritual emphasis on the importance of the body temple.

My present thought is that sacramental bodywork could be a form of creative worship expressed in and through the living soma. It would entail a multi-sensory body-centered spiritual practice with the intention of experiencing the Sacred Presence in the body. The goal is to reclaim the sanctuary of the body through an individualized somatic experience — a liturgical “Mass” for the body where one may encounter God/Christ Within. With the support of a "bodywork minister", an individualized body-based "liturgy" to stimulate the inner senses and open or expand the Light Body would be experienced If you would like to discuss participating in such an experience, give me a call.

Visit for an overview of practices and therapists at Sophia's Well of Wisdom.

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