For Kalyn Falk, connecting to one’s own body is a powerful experience.
Falk is a writer and spiritual director in Winnipeg, Man., where she is a part of saint benedict’s table, an Anglican community in the diocese of Rupert’s Land. In 2016, she published the book I Am Here: Six Postures of Prayer, which explores body prayer, a way of connecting with God through physical poses.
“I sometimes feel that when you get in all those theological debates and stuff like that, you get further and further from God,” says Falk. Body prayer, she says, puts her “in the presence of God,” where she can “accept that I am loved by God as an actual experience of that love, rather than as an idea or a thought process.”
Growing up with a mother who was a nursing administrator and a father who was a psychologist, Falk became used to analyzing her thoughts and feelings. But when she discovered dance as a child, she says, “that was the one time I felt totally free.”
Her dance background and years of experience as a spiritual director have contributed to Falk’s interest in body prayer, but she also credits her youngest son, who has profound autism, and is completely non-verbal, with teaching her the power of physical presence. “I have a 20-year relationship with somebody that I can’t talk to…my very presence is all I can give to my son. It’s not how I talk to him or how I help him understand the world. It is that I am here…and my presence is a comfort. And that’s how God has met me as well.”
Body prayer, as a concept, can encompass any way of using one’s body to pray, from meditative breathing to labyrinth walking. Falk describes the practice as simply “putting a visual or concrete experience to prayer.” While some people assume the practice involves choreography or dance technique, she says, “Really all you need to do body prayer is, you have to have a body.”
However, as Falk led workshops and retreats that incorporated body prayer, she realized people desired a structure within which they could practice. Having come to the Anglican church later in life, she realized the appeal of liturgy. “There are prayers that, no matter whether you feel them or not, you just say them. So, I wanted to develop a liturgy of body.”
During a year-long stint as the artist in residence at saint benedict’s table, Falk developed the six postures of prayer that form the basis of her book. The postures centre on the head, heart and body, and are grouped in sets of two: expansion and contraction, reaching and receiving, standing steadfast and surrendering.
For those beginning to explore body prayer, the postures offer a starting point and a backbone that can be easily adapted.
There is often a lot of shame surrounding the body, Falk says, and using one’s body in worship can make some feel “vulnerable and exposed.” However, she says, “All of us are called to be more than just our brain. No one has taught me that more than my son…We all have dignity and worth simply because we’re here.”
Falk says she is often asked why the body is important, a question that she sees already answered in the Christian faith. “We have an incarnate faith. We celebrate the birth and death of God. We celebrate the Eucharist on a weekly basis,” she says. “Clearly the body is important—it’s telling us that it’s not to be ignored.”