Friday, 28 June 2013

5: Posture

How much do you think about what you do with your body when you pray?

We all remember from primary school being told 'Hands together, Eyes closed'. The idea of that is to stop distractions. Hands together means you aren't fiddling, eyes closed means you aren't distracted by what you can see around you.

Scientists are continually finding more connections between our bodies and our minds. We are not just a mind in a body, like a computer in a case. Our bodies are part of us, and what we do with our bodies can shape our thinking.

At its simplest, try this: smile. You actually feel happier when you make the muscle movements that are a smile, even if you are just acting. Maybe thats why funny cat videos are so popular?

How many different physical ways of praying can you think of?

Originally, in Roman times, people seem to have stood to pray, with their arms outstretched. If you go to an Anglican or Catholic church, the position of the priest during the communion prayer is a descendent of this.

Kneeling became fashionable in the middle ages. It was a position that people were used to because you knelt before a lord, or the King. Kneeling was used because as people began to have a more personal idea of God, they related to God as they would to their social superior. A similar theme can be seen in other cultures, such as Islamic prostration on prayer mats, which again imitates the kind of posture used in the presence of a king or superior in Eastern medieval culture.

In some times and places, people lie on the floor to pray. This is called prostration, and it is usually kept for particularly serious times of prayer. In some churches now, this is used on Good Friday, or at ordinations of new clergy. In the past, monks or nuns might pray all night lying on the floor before taking vows to join the monastery, and a knight might do the same before a battle, perhaps.

Nowadays, the most common posture for prayer is sitting down. Differences are mostly about what you do with your hands: clasped together? Flat together? Open on your knees, as if you are waiting to receive something from God? In the air, as if you are carried away at a rock concert or celebrating a goal?

Today, try several different postures for prayer, and see how they make you feel about the relationship between you and God.

Go to your room, or somewhere you know you won't be disturbed, so you don't feel embarrassed at being found in different positions! Then try standing, with your arms out (like a priest at the altar). Imagine you are standing before God. How does it feel to be in front of God like this?

Next, kneel down (either on one or two knees). This is rather like kneeling before the monarch to be knighted; or pleading with a lord for some favour, or mercy. Imagine you are kneeling in front of God: how does it feel?

Next, lie down, flat on your front. Legs together, arms outstetched - a bit like a lying down crucifix. Are you lying in front of God? How does that feel? Or are you imagining what it was like to be Christ on the cross?

Now sit on a chair. Imagine Jesus sitting next to you. How does it feel to be talking to God in this position? If you like, try out some different hands positions too.

If your body comes up with other positions to try, then try those out too. Think about how each position makes you feel, and makes you feel in relation to God if you imagine God there in the room with you.

1 comment:

  1. I've tried a very similar exercise in a school RE lesson but with the key questions being slightly different because ot the context ie. questioning how the positions feel and what might they tell us about the believer's understanding of God and their relationship to him. The responses were excellent.


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