Extracts from "Reflections on one Woman’s Spiritual Journey":
Entry 1: experiencing the Sacred
While relaxing in a comfortable upstairs chalet in the peaceful grounds of Te Wahi Ora, cocooned by the mountains on one side and the awesome Piha beach on the other, I felt compelled to reflect on moments of my spiritual journey thus far. This is one of the many reflections on experiencing something of the Sacred as a child.
One of the memories I hold of ‘spiritual experience’ is of a young, blonde ‘pony-tailed’ girl (about 8 or 9), petite in build and dressed in the local gymnastics club’s obligatory uniform of black leotard and bare feet. I remember enjoying how my youthful body would do exactly as I asked it to – and oh, the freedom of soul when I would fly around the apparatus or the floor in full ‘routine’ with precision accuracy and agility( particularly when the teacher was watching!)
The joy of this weekly experience would be preceded by a brisk walk from my home, several streets away, to the local church hall where the gym classes were held. Every moment of this routine walk contributed to a sense of ‘enthrallment’ and freedom – perhaps due to anticipation of the gym class and no adult supervision interfering with my thoughts and pace of steps. I was certain that all of nature had conspired to make this a pleasant experience for me – which I guess sounds rather “egocentric” in the ‘developmental theorists’ jargon’ …
I was almost convinced that it was all created “just for me” because the afternoon sun would warm my face, arms and legs while my trek took me past a bird-laden tree, where a gathering of exceedingly ‘tuneful’ birds would always assemble to sing for me – oh what a gift that was!
Our West Auckland suburb of Te Atatu was a somewhat small community where most of the people that I met along the way knew me, creating an invisible sense of connection, made visible through mutual smiles and acknowledgement.
I am continually grateful to have (even as a child) noticed and enjoyed how the ‘physical’ senses such as vision, hearing and touch could elicit such powerful ‘psychological’ responses as joy and pleasure. I wonder if it is somewhere in this meeting-ground of the physical and non-physical that we may ‘detect’ glimmers of the spiritual – of what many name God …
Entry 3: Encountering the Sacred
Nevertheless, the reduction in physical movement has not diminished the ability to hear and ‘feel’ beautiful music or to observe and appreciate the elegance of movement in others. My ears can still perceive the rhythmic sounds; my eyes can still observe the graceful movements, my heart still sings with joy when these sensory experiences permeate my consciousness and offer me an opportunity to encounter the Sacred, yet again.
In the previous entries of “reflections on the spiritual journey of one woman” I have portrayed, in some detail, the absolute joy and ‘soul freedom’ of participating in forms of intense physical expression during my participation in gymnastics and ballroom dancing.
These have become particularly valued memories – along with experiences of horse riding, athletics, swimming and jazzercize/jazzergetics (which is similar to aerobics or pump classes).
They are treasured memories predominantly because this type of freedom of physical movement became greatly restricted at the age of 24, following the birth of my first daughter.
Half of my body, which had previously been the source of much delight - due to its disciplined flexibility of limbs, hands and feet was paralyzed by a stroke.
It seemed to take some time to perceive that the distinctive and awkward ‘outside’ body-movements did not fittingly reflect the calm essence of spirit and soul that was present within. Paradoxically, the exterior limitations seemed to generate a compulsion for a boundless and exploratory interior journey of discovery.
Thankfully, the journey has produced more gratitude than sadness to accompany these memories (gratitude to have had the joy of the ‘physical’ experiences to remember, in the first place!) however; the memories are not without a ‘sprinkling’ of sadness to have been unable to run, or dance, or play sports with my children.
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