By Eileen Metzger
My spiritual director suggested that I might want to try moving to music as a spiritual practice. She said it can be a way to express yourself to God. “It can even be a way for God to communicate with you, to speak through your body as you move.”
Although I had never danced in my life, I thought, “Well, okay, I'll try.” So, I went home and turned on some peppy Irish music that I like. It made me want to dance but the large picture window in front of me gave me pause. I went into the bedroom and pulled down the shades, but I couldn't hear the music.
Next, I tried the bathroom, a little closer to the music. From there I could almost hear it so I went and turned the stereo up really loud. Back in the bathroom, the first song had ended, and a quieter piece was playing.
I listened, trying to get in touch with the music. I tried to move my arms up and down gracefully. I could see one arm in the mirror and thought, “That looks stupid.” So I faced away from the mirror, lifted one knee and extended my toes. That looked stupid, too.
I thought, “All right, now what?” I closed my eyes so I couldn't see what I looked like. This time I could move a little in time to the music without judging myself. But I felt awfully inhibited. The small movements necessitated by the small room seemed to suit me.
I wondered if it was really worth working at this. I wasn't exactly communicating anything to God and I certainly wasn't receiving any communication from God.
All this happened a long time ago, earlier in my relationship with God. At the time I decided that dance improvisation was just not for me. But if I had been willing to keep trying, I may have gained something from practicing it as a spiritual discipline.
Since then I have learned that disciplined practice over time can get easier, and more meaningful, if you keep working at it. I've also learned that intention is very important. If my desire and purpose in dancing are to commune with God, God responds, and willingly, to that desire.
Actually, any art form can be a way of facilitating access to God, and God's access to us. A friend recently gave me a book entitled Awakening The Creative Spirit by Christine Valters Paintner and Betsey Beckman.
The authors suggest many ways to connect with our creativity: storytelling, imagination, movement, visual art, music, poetry. They remind readers that creativity is one of the ways in which we are made in God's image.
When people are engaging in the expressive arts, they often experience feelings of peace, centeredness, freedom and joy. Many people report that the process feeds their soul and takes them into an encounter with the sacred, into Holy Presence.
Lent can be a time of increased commitment to a spiritual discipline, a time to make a concerted effort to draw near to God. I would like to challenge us, and this includes me, to try something new this Lent. Let's try one of the expressive arts as a spiritual discipline. It may take some courage but those with experience tell us the result can be very rewarding.
Paintner and Beckman have also included a list of recommended books that you may find helpful. Some examples are:
They also mention some interesting websites that you might want to check out:
If you try one of the expressive arts this Lent, comment below and let us know how it went for you.