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Body, spirituality and passion

Celeste Snowber, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, spoke to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about the role of the body as central to how people live, move, breathe, question, and uncover passion and voice. This was in light of her performative presentation on Body, Spirituality and Passion: Embodied Ways of Inquiry in Vocation at the international conference on Spirituality in Society and the Professions at Waterford Institute of Technology on 17 May 2019.

Professor Snowber, who is also a dancer, poet, writer and award-winning educator, believes that physicality has been separated from spirituality when in her view they are inextricably interlinked. She says: “When we can open up to the body, we can open up to the heart… it’s about embracing our deep humanity and our bodies are part of that humanity.” For instance, she refers to the act of crying as a sense of deep beauty that unblocks a well of information and emotion, thus enabling people to access their joy and ecstasy.

Snowber asserts that it is particularly important for spiritual directors to be aware of their own bodies and the bodies of their clients, given that communication encompasses mostly non-verbal body language. “To be present in your body means to be really attune to all of the fine nuances… the body is a free GPS and the body is a spiritual director. If we listen [to our bodies] we will know”. Moreover, she says that people’s critical internal dialogue that is running “free-spirited” in their bodies is hurting them, and that instead there is a need to be able to play. Play can take different forms, for example, in cooking, writing and dancing. She says: “The most wonderful thing is to have a sense of humour… and I think God has a sense of humour.”

Professor Snowber is particularly vocal in speaking out against what she sees as a lot of toxicity in the academy and scholarship including a lack of deep vital inner life in places of leadership. In her own presentation, she gave a dance performance and invited participants to connect with each other through their own unique dance expressions. She says: “My body allows me to remember how I stay true to my deep passion and calling in my life.” Her book, Embodied inquiry: Writing, living and being through the body, is a culmination of the scholarship she has done around embodied inquiry for the last 20 years, and is suited for a wide audience.

Listen to the interview above for the full story.