Wednesday, April 13, 2016

HAND IT OVER: The body knows how to let go

HAND IT OVER(all art (c) by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for communal opportunities to physically release ideas, petitions, prayers or anything else. Hallelujah for our BODIES, which know how to let go! We have arms and hands that enable us to “hand over” inarticulated thoughts or verbally expressed ones!

Go ahead try it! HAND OVER whatever it is you want to release by moving your hands up from your side, past your stomach, beyond your shoulders and above your head. Then thrusting your hands forward toss out (or lovingly propel) your petition out away from your head, heart, and spirit. Give “it” to someone else or something else. Repeat as many times as needed.

Recently, I had a “body epiphany” during a Monday night “Online Dance Chapel” with Cynthia Winton-Henry and Nancy Zoelzer Pfaltzgraf, who  lead us participants in embodied prayer for an hour.

Together we participants gather online from across the United States and around the world to witness each other on the computer screen (six people fit on the screen at a time). We watch each other warm-up and then dance. We listen to one another’s “noticings” and hear each other’s concerns. All of it is to be savored but my favorite part is the DOBO—or “Dance on Behalf of,” which is an opportunity to embody our own or another’s petitions/prayers.

On the first Monday in April, Cynthia introduced the concept of “handing it over” –the physical act of raising our arms and hands over our heads and “handing over” our petitions to God, the universe, another human being, etc.  The idea is to acknowledge our concern/petition/prayer and then to let it go, relying on the wisdom of our bodies, which know how to hand that concern over….
In amazement I watched others on the computer screen as I moved my arms and hands over my body repeatedly. We had fun stretching, reaching and releasing. I couldn’t keep myself from laughing—the act was so cathartic, silly, and communal. What kind of prayful act is this? The practice of  “Handing it Over” gives prayer a new definition.

It’s been one week since the dance chapel, and I have been practicing “handing it over” every day and teaching others to do it as well! On the second Sunday, here in Decatur, at our local “Dance Church,” I spent 90 minutes exercising my muscles “handing it over.” Over that time, I envisioned and embodied submitting different concerns of mine to a variety of people in my life, present and deceased. I imagined the wider universe and proffered my deepest concerns. Dancing with my prayers and releasing them delighted me! I will do more of that handing over!

HANDING IT OVER AT HOLY COMFORTER. In my work with InterPlay Atlanta, I go to the “Friendship Center” at Holy Comforter Church in East Atlanta (I'm pictured top left). Along with Jennifer Denning and Christine Gautreaux, we facilitate an hour of movement, storytelling, voice, and shape and stillness with people living with chronic mental illness.

On the Thursday following this “Handing it Over” Dance Chapel, I led the participants at Holy Comforter in a “handing it over” activity. First, while I read the “Serenity Prayer” in its entire length, everyone did a one-hand dance. Then we went around the circle and everyone was given the opportunity to name something they would like to “hand over.” Then we practiced “handing it over” again and again before I put on some music and we squished together in a seated circle to do a group one-hand dance, with opportunities to “hand it over” when we felt like it! One man who speaks but in a way that is difficult to discern raised his hands along with us, smiling and speaking. Oh the body does know how to be present, connect, and let go!
Hallelujah for HANDING IT OVER!

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Cynthia Winton-Henry and Nancy Zoelzer Pfaltzgraf for these Monday nights “Online Dance Chapel.” A note from Nancy preceding the April 4th Dance Chapel (Hand It Over): “We will be offering wisdom and guidance as we bring our whole selves and dance on behalf of our deepest needs, one another, our loved ones and the world and all the places in which it is broken and suffering. I will be guiding us through our warm-ups.”  This class is related to Cynthia’s “Mystic Tech” offerings, which can be accessed HERE. Cynthia also posts inspirational poetry on her Facebook page, Mystic Tech (HERE). Below is an excerpt from a Mary Oliver poem she posted recently.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal,
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
-Mary Oliver


  1. From my favorite Jason Mraz song: Lift it up to the almighty. Raise your hands and start acknowledging. Live high, live mighty. Terrific post, amazing painting. Thanks.

  2. Sally thanks for visiting Coffee with Hallelujah and reading my post and leaving this comment. I have to listen to the song you mention. It will be my first!

  3. Love these words, love these images. Thank you Ruth!