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andrew rumsey
strangely warmed
By Andrew Rumsey
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The waiting room
Advent 2006

Some of you have been kind enough to comment on how helpful you found a meditation that I composed for this column a couple of winters back. As the nights are now drawing in and Advent will soon be shaking her bucket at the door, you may well be digging out the Brian Eno CD and IKEA candles for a spot of reflective worship. I thought, therefore, that I might bless you with another guided meditation which you can use or adapt for your own congregation.

You know the drill – simply lower the lights, adopt the manner and vocal tone of a lobotomised nanny and let the silence do the rest. I have entitled this meditation, the waiting room.

Good evening. Welcome to our guided meditation for Advent. As I lead you on this festive journey, it might be helpful just to relax completely each part of your body in turn... Starting with your head... your ears... your teeth... your hair... just let it relax... Is any part of your body still tense? Any of your muscles? Muscles are useful, yes, but not tonight... And if relaxing them means that you start to... to dribble... or slump over onto the floor, then just let that happen... your neighbour won’t mind... and if they do, just gently but firmly... kick them.

Here in this place, gathered together, we are like one body – and so just become aware of those next to you in all their wondrous complexity: imagine all their bodily functions busying themselves only inches away from you... and realize that, in a very real way... you are part of their body. In a way also this ceiling and these walls are like a huge great covering of wonderful skin and we are here inside as... body parts.

In the quiet, beneath this great skin, it may be helpful to say out loud which body part you are... (at this point you might like to encourage other folk to contribute by naming aloud various body parts – pelvis... epiglottis... and so on).

And now, remembering that you are a body part, I want you to imagine that you are now entering a doctor’s surgery. You are at the head of a long queue and the receptionist asks your name... How superficial your old name seems to you now, how isolated from the rest of the body. And so you simply pause for a moment and tell her your new name, your... body name.

She appears not to have heard and asks you your name again. How slow people in the world are to understand, how dull they are. How easy it would be to give her the answer she wants to hear, and how keen the people waiting behind you seem to be that you do so. But that is not your way and, with a helpful smile, you simply repeat your real name – I am legs... I am kidney... (pause).

Touchingly, the man behind you in the queue also appears to have a new name for you... It too is a body part... You smile and thank him, glad that, all around you, people are beginning to understand...

With this seed so profoundly sown, you leave the lively hubbub behind you and proceed into the doctor’s consulting room. For all his knowledge he looks a worried man... For all the books on his shelf he doesn’t appear to realize that you are part of his body. How can you help him, do you think? Surely, mere speech won’t be enough... No, you will need to make contact in a more real way. And so, without a word, simply approach him and begin to feel the contours of his face with both your hands... his ears... his nose...

How is he responding? What do you notice about his complexion or the tone of his voice? Rather wonderfully he appears keen to make contact with you now, too, and slowly you become aware that you are being carried out into the street by a whole host of bodies, all functioning as one. So once again, just allow your muscles to relax completely, and let them take you where they will. Your work here is done...
strangely warmed
Strangely Warmed by Andrew Rumsey is now available as a book.
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Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
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Also by Stephen Tomkins... a regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
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