Lynn Willis, LEAD’s Spiritual Guide, attended the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto November 1-7. She will be sharing her experiences and reflections in a series of newsletter articles.
This is my body. Upon hearing these words, while flowing through a series of standing yoga postures, it all became crystal clear. It was one of those aha moments in life. It felt as if the heavens had opened up and downloaded clarity into my whole being. This is my body.
The Reverend Gena Davis, Episcopal priest, yoga instructor and founder of YogaMass
Physical awareness and physical movement were vital parts of many of the worship services at the Parliament. And here’s the surprise. I found it even in Christian services!
I read somewhere that modern Western people think of their bodies as vehicles to get their brains to meetings (and to worship services too, I might add). There are wonderful antidotes for this. Here are a couple that I experienced at the Parliament.
The chairs were pushed back to the wall, the floor was spread with yoga mats and live musicians provided sweet sounds. We were led in a series of yoga poses, each one increasing our energy and awareness. When we were truly feeling alive and open, Rev. Gena Davis filled our hearts with a homily. Then we shared the Eucharist. There was tactile energy in the room and a wonderful camaraderie among the worshipers.
YogaMass bridges yogic principles and practices with Christian spirituality and worship as a path for bringing the whole self (body, mind, soul and spirit) to the experience of spiritual awakening.
Around 200 people in the room. 10 foot puppets. An opera solo as invocation. This is not your grandmother’s Christian worship. And yet, the Cosmic Mass draws on ancient human forms of worship – song and dance, joy and mourning, creativity and strength – to bring the worship out of our heads and into our hearts and bodies.
We formed a line dance to express joy, we curled up on the floor and wailed our grief and mourning (this was extraordinary for me – I have never been in the company of so many people who are crying and moaning and being vulnerable).
We greeted each other. We experienced the Eucharist. We jumped and danced and sang. I left this service exhilarated.
Created by Matthew Fox, the Cosmic Mass deconstructs the Western liturgical tradition by employing indigenous and rave elements, live music, and other methods, in order to awaken a cosmic sense and to create a sacred space connecting community, Earth and the cosmos.
While this isn’t exclusively Christian and wasn’t even a worship service per se, I want to add this as something you might like to explore.
Each day, dashing between rooms for the next session, I would see rings of dancers. Simple, repeated steps; all shapes and colors of people; simple chanted tunes. Everyone looked peaceful, happy and engaged.
Building on the work begun by Samuel L. Lewis in the 1960s, the dances promote peace and integration within individuals and understanding and connection within groups worldwide. There are no performers nor audience: new arrivals and old hands form the circle as everyone sings and dances together.
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I invite you to explore ways of adding dance, music, yoga or other movement into your worship. Bringing our whole body, our whole imagination, and our whole creativity to God honors the Creator and wakes us up to the life we are meant to have.
To learn more:
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Others in the Parliament of World’s Religions series: