Embodied Practices and Poetry

March 27, 2017
CSWR Resident Melissa Lago
CSWR Resident Melissa Lago./ Photo courtesy of Melissa Lago.

On March 8th, Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) resident and MDiv candidate at Harvard Divinity School (HDS), Melissa Lago, gave a presentation entitled, “Embodied Practices and Poetry.” She began by sharing what led her to her interest in embodied practices and poetry and how her courses at HDS have supported her research. Then she invited residents to participate in a guided yoga practice accompanied by music, which was followed by reading, reflecting on, and discussing the poem Traveling Companions, by Rumi.

Melissa is interested in how the combination of practicing yoga and reading and discussing poetry support one’s personal journey, as well as how this process may be used to foster understanding across faith traditions. Melissa began to develop this process when a private yoga client wrote her the following testimonial, “The yoga experience with Melissa has not only changed my body but her insight and perspective has changed my mindset—a true blessing.” When Melissa read this testimonial she believed it was the potent combination of yoga, poetry, and discussion that helped her client to change her mindset. This insight led her to begin to build a program she calls, Mind/Body Wisdom, which integrates meditation, intention setting, yoga or any movement based practice, and poetry or other readings with discussion.

As Melissa develops this process she continues to observe and research the ways that body-based practices performed with mindfulness calm one’s nervous system and enable one to glean deeper insights from poetry or other texts. Her hope is that these insights will then support one in experiencing a fundamental shift in perspective or even catalyze an experience of self-transcendence. As an HDS student primarily studying and practicing spiritual care and counseling, she has seen first-hand how important an experience of self-transcendence or a shift in perspective can be for people who are suffering, or stuck in limiting beliefs about themselves or others. Her hope is that this process may ultimately inspire and support people in their journey of understanding themselves and others at the deepest level. She was grateful to have an opportunity to share this practice with her fellow CSWR residents and to receive their thoughtful feedback. She looks forward to continuing to fine-tune this process and to sharing it with others one-on-one and in groups.