Your body is the piece of the universe you have been given.
– Geneen Roth
So, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of balancing the body, heart, mind and spirit in order to live a full life. I wrote about how we tend to gravitate to certain areas which we find comfortable and easy, to the detriment of other aspects of ourselves that sometimes remain untapped. This seems to me a terrible shame that we have these unexplored reservoirs of skill and strength that we avoid for all kinds of reasons. We may have had our heart shredded, our intellect criticised, a body that failed to meet ours or society’s expectations or be uneducated in the way of spirit. We put these uncomfortable aspects of ourselves aside and concentrate on what we are good at, just like we are taught to. I say this: sometimes we find astonishing gifts by doing things that we are not good at. Often, we cannot go forward until we get uncomfortable and grow those under-developed parts of ourselves. Let me tell you a little bit of my own journey with my body to show you what I mean.
I mentioned before that the realms of spirit and intellect were my comfort areas. For the first 25 years of my life, I stayed safely within those zones. I thought my body was weak. As a child and teenager I had had quite a few health obstacles – asthma, terribly painful menstruation, skin issues and lots of back pain because of spinal problems. I was relieved to have better health in my 20s, but other than that, I didn’t pay it much attention. Enter yoga and pregnancy. Yoga took me way out of my comfort zone, literally turning me upside down and metaphorically inside out. I am not naturally good at yoga. I am stiff, I have lots of aches and pains, and I was not physically strong or brave. Yoga isn’t easy for me, and yet it is one of the most important things that I do for myself. Speaking of things that aren’t easy, but transformative – at the same time that I was developing strength, flexibility and courage through my yoga practice, I was having babies. Growing and carrying my babies to full term and birthing them, both with no medical intervention, transformed forever the way that I felt about my body. For the first time, I was not only inhabiting my body, I was in awe of it. I have been on that journey ever since.
Your body is the gateway to the Divine, the doorway to the infinite. We have such a conflicted relationship with our body in our culture. We are either over feeding or starving it, not exercising at all or exercising too much. We neglect, abuse and hate our bodies and then we wonder why it wears out, creating disease as it falls to bits. We spend more time, money and love on our cars and houses than our body. Listen – all of the great spiritual masters say that our body is sacred, that our body is our temple. What does that mean? It means that our body is the house of the soul. Without our body, we would not be able to have this Earthly experience.
We can either look at our body as a heavy restrictive suit of meat that refuses to comply with our desire for perfection, or we can look at our body as a walking, talking, listening, smelling, touching, seeing temple of light that is a complete and utter miracle. Women in particular have a great deal of work to do in order to drop centuries of body repression and negativity. We have the most to gain by owning our body in all of its feminine mystery and power. Our fertility, our cycles, our sexuality, our capacity for nurture and connection are not things to medicate and suppress; they are our greatest source of personal power, and it is with that power which we will heal ourselves and the Earth.
It may be useful to understand that our culture is still very much influenced by the remnants of a patriarchal religious, political and social system. In the early days of Christianity, the body, with its earthly senses and imperfections was seen as a hindrance to spiritual development. Our human lives were seen as almost a punishment, something to be endured until we could return home to God, a kind of male entity. Women, with their abundant, fertile, earthy bodies were seen as threatening, a distracting, sinful temptation from the spiritual life. The female capacity to create and nurture new life, once celebrated as sacred and powerful, was harnessed to serve the family and perpetuate the family (father’s) name.
In order to rise out of repression, women have had to look back into ancient times, when the feminine was sacred and our bodies were honoured as the representation of the Goddess on Earth. Feminism, women’s circles, the cult of the Goddess, Wicca and all of the other empowered women’s groups that you see in our world today, are part of the process of the divine feminine rising. Women access the divine through their bodies, by recognising that they are able to act as the meeting point of divine and earthly energies. When you understand the true nature and purpose of your body, and how its power and beauty has been repressed and subverted for thousands of years, it becomes very difficult to watch while women are encouraged to hate and distrust their own bodies, which the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and pornography industries do under the guise of female empowerment.
In order to change the way that you see and understand your body, it may be helpful to imagine that your body is a child. If you are not well, then your body is a sick child. How would you treat your child? Would you say nasty things to your child, not listen to her when she tells you that she is hungry, thirsty, tired and cold? Would you do your very best to ignore her, snapping at her when she tries to tell you how she feels? You wouldn’t, would you? Yet, we do all of these things and worse to our bodies each and every day. Just for today, treat your body like a beloved child. Wash it carefully. Feed it mindfully. Move and stretch. Use your five senses consciously, as if hearing, smelling, seeing, touching and tasting are miracles, which they are. Bring your awareness into your body throughout the day – don’t forget to take time out to breathe deeply and consciously. When your body tells you that it is tired or hungry or thirsty, listen. It will serve you well if you love it and look after it. For now, soften your attitude to your body. Treat yourself gently and with care, and take note of how that feels and what changes in your world as a response to that.
Next: The Importance of the Mind