This article also appears on the Huffington Post.
“Is it possible to find the spiritual in the body?” a reader of my blog asked in response to a post on body image. My first reaction was, “No way. There’s nothing spiritual about my toes.”
However, I continued to explore this: Could it be that the spiritual is in this body? There were a lot of thoughts in my mind that disagreed with this, e.g.: “The body is of this earth. It’s banal, temporary, and dirty. It’s a vessel for the soul which is all that is spiritual. It serves a purpose and is not spiritual. It gets old, it dies and therefore cannot be spiritual.”
These thoughts went on and on and were reinforced by some things I was reading. For instance, there is a school of thought in the self-help community that “the body keeps score.” This is meant to be helpful in terms of letting people know that, or become aware of, how you live your life and the thoughts that you have are impacting your body and your body can tell you a lot about the life of your mind.
Though when I reflected on this – the body as a referee of my life – it felt incredibly negative and dualistic. My body vs. my mind and my body is the judge and jury and will sentence me to . . . illness and, of course, death at some previously undisclosed point.
So none of this was entirely ringing true: the body as a vessel or the body as a referee. Could I find in my body, even in my toes, the spiritual?
What if my body is spirit in the same way as my soul? Why do I cling to this dualism (tri-ism?) of mind-body-soul?
The truly troubling trend in all these thoughts seemed to be an antagonism toward my body. Then I had a thought: What if I befriended my body? What if, rather than seeing her as a scowling referee, I saw her as a friend (an old friend in my case) who wants to tell me something?
Perhaps she’s that very dear friend who wants to have tea with me and tell me something true. Perhaps she wants to speak to me with deep honesty. It may not be easy to hear. These truths she holds and wants to share with me may be surprising or difficult to accept and, yet, I must hear them.
Maybe she wants to tell me that those work choices that I continue to make, the ones that round my shoulders and hang my head, are not the right ones for me. Maybe this will be difficult to hear, but she is a dear friend who is on my side, who wants to share with me the truth of what is.
Perhaps rather than thinking of her as a means to end, I can see how she makes “it” all possible. She makes this life possible. She makes the joy of being here with others, of being in a conversation and relationship with others, sharing my gifts, writing these words, eating beautiful food, and connecting with nature, she makes it all possible.
I was in a meeting one day at work, and a colleague was speaking with such honesty and kindness and as I listened to him and watched his face move, I thought about how his spirit was being expressed by his body. How the reason he was able to share that truth and beauty was because his body was there and allowing / facilitating the expression of his words and soul.
So I offer to you this approach in this journey to the spiritual in the body: think of your body as a friend. She is here for you and makes this complicated, beautiful life happen. Be kind to her, offer her tea and biscuits, and listen carefully to her wisdom. She has a beautiful story to share with you.
Wishing for you a deep spiritual friendship with every aspect of who you are.