If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all. --- Comedian Joey Adams
Your body wants nothing more than to be loved. Like trying to drive an old broken down car or bicycle, it can be frustratingly difficult for a soul to work through a body that is unhealthy or uncared for.
Of course, much of our Western world is preoccupied with the body. Yet cosmetic surgery and ten thousand dollar makeovers are not necessarily signs of genuine care for the soul’s cathedral, but often signs of insecurity and misguided values and perceptions. Often, we are incapable of seeing and appreciating our innate beauty, so the body is excessively adorned or altered.
Body-Focused or Spirit-Minded?
Even as we fuss over our physical appearance, many of us are disconnected from the body. While many body-focused people ignore spirit, many spirit-minded people ignore the body. We may even attempt, perhaps unconsciously, to “ascend” prematurely to heaven or into the spirit world by withdrawing our energy from the body and the Earth up into the head or even out of the body. We abandon our own body.
This describes me for much of my life, where being human felt like too much pain and work. Looking back, I now see that I often spaced out, or withdrew energetically from the body, which held tremendous emotional pain.
But are we not here, in body, on Earth, for a reason? Furthermore, if we were not supposed to enjoy these earthly and bodily delights -- eating, sunshine, lovemaking, swimming, and so on -- they would not feel so good. When you do not trust and honor your body and allow it, with discernment, pleasure and movement, you grow bitter, miserable, and lifeless.
This view is the Middle Way discussed in Buddhism and by Jesus, “in the world but not of it.” In the later stages of their lives, the Buddha, St. Francis de Assisi, and other sages reportedly warned against excessive fasting and other extremes of spiritual austerities. This middle path includes being vigilant and honest in order to avoid both excess piety as well as gluttony.
It is all sacred: the Body, Bones, Blood, and Being. We who are spiritually focused can stop judging and resisting our humanity and learn to fully embrace this human adventure. As angelic and alluring the afterlife may seem to us, we had best keep our attention and awareness here in the body, feeling or finding the heaven within.
Not only is the body the temple for Spirit, the body itself is a manifestation of the Divine. To create a body, or any manifestation in the world of form, the “fast vibration” energy of spirit is slowed down, condensed into the world of form or matter. Still, it is all energy, and without life force and spirit’s presence pulsing through it, the body withers into sluggishness and decay.
Innate Wisdom Seeks Balance
At times, we may give the body everything it demands, and life becomes a hedonistic funfest. At other times, the pendulum swings back and we become self-punishing, perhaps excessively dieting or depriving ourselves. When you bounce from pleasure-seeking to monastic frugality, you are ignoring the genuine needs and innate wisdom of the body, which seeks balance. You can be present, loosen the control, and trust the body.
Perhaps everything has its place. Some of us may even choose to meditate in a cave for ten years. At some point, though, you have to leave the cave. Some of us may be pure love in meditation or in our spiritual group, yet short-tempered grumps when someone cuts us off in traffic. We may be peaceful by ourselves but sloppy in relationships. You can invite yourself off the cushion or couch, move the body, and connect with this world. That’s why they call it a spiritual practice.
Your Body is a Miracle
Your body is a miracle! It is a magnificent creation and it houses the miracle of you. It has simple needs: When tired, rest. When hungry, eat. When thirsty, drink. When stiff, move. Giving the body what it truly wants and needs is not difficult, if you are present, tuned in, ever alert to the temptations of the world.
Bodies thrive on activity and play. Like rivers, bodies need to move and flow. There is a deeply satisfying and fully embodied joy in dancing, drumming, or simply stretching or walking.
Choose Exercise That Pleases You & Your Body
I know one accomplished naturopath and healer who tells her patients that the first thing to do to improve their health is choose some sort of exercise or movement that pleases them and their bodies. Whether it is hiking or hockey, badminton or basketball, let the body do what it loves to do, or it will rebel. Among its many benefits, exercise relieves depression, lowers weight, improves glucose utilization, helps us sleep better, and raises self-esteem.
Bodies also need to touch and be touched. In an era of voice recognition software, internet communication, and lawsuits over inappropriate touching in the workplace, many people have become further isolated and afraid of safe and compassionate hugs and touches.
Enjoy every opportunity to feel: the shampoo in your hair, a cool breeze in your face, the stone in your hand, your bare feet on the earth. When you truly inhabit, honor, and trust the body, it finds balance, for it knows exactly what it needs.
Spirit and body make excellent dance partners, but neither should dominate or ignore the needs of the other. Spirit and body -- enjoy the dance.
* When you first wake up in the morning, what does your body need? A glass of water? Shower? Foot massage? Take a moment to do so.
* Pay attention to your body throughout the day. If you can’t make time for a yoga class or a walk, can you stretch, or simply take a deep breath?
Contemplation: In the Body
* Breathe deeply, and notice: the miracle of your body.
* Ask your body: What healthful kind of food, movement, or activity do you love but not get enough of? Honor what you hear, and discern what is appropriate.
Reprinted with permission of the author Roy Holman,
Holman Health Connections. ©2010.
Healing Self, Healing Earth: Awakening Presence, Power, and Passion
by Roy Holman.
A comprehensive, yet practical and easy to read guide to being human. Learn how to be present, care for the body, overcome adversity, and be your authentic, powerful, and passionate self.
About the Author
Roy Holman is a certified Yoga, Meditation, and Healing Instructor who has been teaching personal growth and Earth stewardship for over ten years and leads retreats to Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Sedona, and in his home state of Washington. Roy also spent several years abroad doing human rights work in Central America. Visit his website at www.holmanhealthconnections.com.