I rock. Everyday. Sometimes twice a day -- every time I get a chance. I particularly like to rock in the dark, before bedtime, as it works better than sleeping pills. My rocking chair has become my favorite place to read, to dream, to chat with a friend, to listen to music, to drink tea – carefully -- and yes, to meditate. I rock away stress, bad news, obsessive thoughts, back pain, and the despair of this world.
After rocking for only a few weeks in my Amish-made wooden rocker, I am convinced that the humble rocking chair may just be one of the most enjoyable ways to love the body, refresh the spirit, and calm the excessive anxiety in these difficult times.
Rocking with God
Of course, the rocking chair has sterling reviews from health experts for improving the three M’s: mind, muscles, and mood. As a theologian and spiritual practitioner, I find that the rocking chair can aid in three more M’s: meditation, metaphor, and meaning.
According to Alfred North Whitehead, God "dwells in the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love." The rocking chair is the perfect place to meditate on God’s tenderness and love. If we understand God as creative, unconditional, nurturing Love, then what could be more appropriate for a spiritual practice than allowing ourselves moments that touch on those feelings? Think of yourself as an infant being cradled, rocked, and calmed. Such cradling Love whispers to us: You are loved. You are cherished. You are cared for.
We all need this reassurance, especially in times of fear, transition, and loss. Sometimes we just need it for no reason other than countering the years of shadowy, unloving voices in our heads that whisper: I’m not worthy of love; I’m not enough
Rocking reminds me that there is more than gun violence and climate change and insane politics. There is always a place of refreshment and peace within. Even hope. The movement of the rocking chair renews my faith in the openness of the future – “the creative advance into novelty” (Whitehead).
With the infant’s cradle as a picture of God’s tenderness, the gentle to-and-fro rhythm of the rocker can be a place of peace and refuge. All of us yearn to be tucked into the cradle of divine love!
When I rock, I am also reminded of the meaning of my life: a co-creator with God, unfolding in love and wisdom and beauty for the sake of the world. We often say something or someone “rocked my world.” That’s because it moves us, gets us out of our static sense of ourselves, changes us, gives life meaning and purpose. I loved to be rocked: rocked by the dazzle of the universe as seen in the Webb photos from space, rocked by kindness, rocked by new ideas, rocked by beauty. What meaning rocks your world?
Co-Rockers in a Rocking Universe
In a rocking chair, we are not rocking on our own power alone; nor are we being rocked passively. In every gentle rock, we join the Divine to-and-fro rhythm of receiving/creating, receiving/creating. With our feet pushing us up into the arc of motion, we let go to the gentle flow of life unfolding in the sweet rhythm of a lullaby. Gentle movement carries us safely backward and forward again. Each lift of the heel is a Yes! to the ongoing flow of life.
As in walking meditation, rocking meditation asks us to pay attention to movement. But here the feet lift gently to create the regular rhythm that keeps our minds focused.
Every repetition seems to be exactly like the last one, but it is different, each one. Like occasions of experience unfolding, one after the other, the window of the soul opens to the flow of fresh offerings. Like the gentle rock of a boat on a river, our rocking can take us into deeper depths of love.
Hard Rock, Soft Rock
When we rock hard - big motions and feet off the floor -- we sense joy flooding through our body as the blood circulates and muscles strengthen. When we rock soft and small with the gentlest of movement, we can sense the rhythm of a heartbeat -- much like our mother’s heartbeat in the womb.
This heartbeat rhythm reminds us that we are inside God as much as God is inside us. The womb of God is filled with the steady heartbeat that moves through Universe, creating stars and immortal music, bringing lovers together in union, and giving song to the blackbird.
Rocking Meditation Practice
Now find a comfortable rocking chair, sit down, and begin rocking. Take some deep breaths, close your eyes, and notice the rhythm of your rock. Do you choose “hard rock” or “soft rock”? Try some of both. Finally choose a comfortable rhythm and focus your attention on the forward/back motion, letting all thoughts gently fall away as you keep your attention on the motion and rhythm of your rock. Now try a few of your favorite spiritual affirmations. You might want to include these:
I am cradled in Divine Love.
I am safe.
I am loved.
I am cared for.
I move with the Spirit.
I am unfolding, moment by moment.
My heart beats with all the creatures of the world.
My heart beats with the heart of God.
I am deeply connected to everything in the Universe.
Now, if you find comfort in singing, why not sing yourself a lullaby? If you don’t like to sing, listen to lullabies with headphones, especially if the child within you is hurting and scared.
Keep Rocking On
If we are sad or suffering, we can preface our affirmations with: “Even though I feel sad, I am cradled in Divine Love,” and so on.
We know that in this relational world of free will and shared power, suffering is never God’s doing—or allowance; on the contrary, God’s heart breaks over the broken shards of unnecessary violence and needless suffering; But we also know that God’s heart is big enough to hold not only heartache but healing, too -- and transformation and resurrection and fresh possibilities beyond our imagination.
We might even learn through the steady rhythm of rocking that our own hearts are bigger than we think: stronger and more resilient than we imagined, and even able move forward with hope amid sadness and discouragement. When we spend a few moments in rocking meditation, we are ready to offer this same love and reassurance to those around us; we become a new creation, ready to rock the world with who we are and what we have to give. Come what may, we keep rocking on.