Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Finding Sacred Space Within Our Own Skin

I am attending a retreat this weekend. I have done two exercises today that stretched my own perception of myself. I’d like to offer one to you as a Spiritual Practice geared towards finding sacred space within your own skin and being willing to see yourself.

I don’t know about you, but that can be the most difficult spot for me to discover. Somehow, I can look at others and see their beauty, but acknowledging my own beauty seems at once terrifying, bold, and that I may fall short of being that … what? That person. That human. That woman. That mother. That chaplain. That presence of comfort. Oh, I think it is true that I fall short – we all do – but failing myself at simply just seeing myself is not okay!

Nowhere is that more present than in the myriad of photos I have of family and family vacations. Where am I? Behind the camera. I may be in 1 in a thousand photos. Seriously. It’s not okay! This Spiritual Practice is geared at self portraiture. It is a series of photos. (None of these photos are touched up. I am intentionally resisting the temptation!)

First exercise … find a place where you can intentionally photo bomb yourself with a weird background. I thought this was fun with a mural in the background. I think I can use this one when I am mad! This will let you have a humorous, gentle start!

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Next, consider what a self-portrait consists of … it is any part of you that is in a picture. Gather photos of you reaching for something, holding something, stepping onto a path, you name it! Hands, feet, hair!

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Next, learn to use that timer on your camera! I understand that iPhones have Gorilla and Windows phones have Auto Timer Camera. Now take full shots of yourself doing different things.

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Last, look into the camera and be love. You may think of someone you love and gaze into the camera or think of loving yourself or think of loving the world. Start here. Be an image of love.

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I spend a lot of time “being love” in the world. Working with incarcerated and homeless youth. But without a loving foundation that includes spiritual practices that let me see and be myself, I won’t be able to sustain compassionate action. Even the healthiest egos need times of sustenance.

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

© 2013, post , Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

“A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
― Desmond Tutu

Author:

I am a monk disguised as a passionate prophet. My true loves are God, family, and the creative arts. And maybe just a little bit of politics too. (PS My photo is by Eric Lyons Photography).

7 thoughts on “Finding Sacred Space Within Our Own Skin

  1. Thank you for this post. This is a very important topic. Thich Nhat Hahn and the Dalai Lama have both written of their surprise, in visiting the US superpower, at how many people have low self-esteem. I once read a magazine article about a man who found himself staring at his own image reflected in the blank monitor on an airplane seat back for hours. It made him weep. His challenge was to see if readers could endure even 30 minutes of looking at their own reflections. I couldn’t. My sister did a photo project for her 50th year where she took a self-portrait every day for 365 days. It was inspiring. I tried. I have 2 pictures. I want to criticize. I want to fix. I have a hard time letting compassion for myself arise. Such a lot of neurotic baggage with self…it makes sense to spend time on this, to heal and move on.

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      1. You do. Actually you probably hit more often than no. I started to write more, but at that moment decided NOT to be personal. And I tell you that because IT probably happens more often than not. Liz

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  2. The quote of Desmond Tutu is a nice summary to the point you make in this piece. The exercise is like a physical/visual version of the Buddist “metta practice” … loving kindness … which is extended to self as well as to others. You cannot love others if you can’t love yourself … and in the end we learn there is no difference between me and thee.

    A fine post, Terri. Thank you! Happy Sunday.

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