Several years ago I was able to swim in the ocean, for the first time in years, and my body lit up with joy and gratitude, thanking me for coming home in this physical way. Perhaps you have felt your body’s voice thanking you when returning to the Aikido mat, a ski slope, or a dance floor after a period away?
In spiritual practices we come to the consideration that we are souls who are embodied as humans, that we are more than our body, our physical aspect. This is true and a necessary understanding to connect to our spiritual aspect. However, while the body is a vehicle for the soul, it is not a separate mechanical thing like a car. It is a living, breathing manifestation and expression of our soul.
In medieval Europe the teaching was that our bodies were inherently sinful and to be transcended by fasting, beating, all manner of subjection and control. In the modern day we sometimes think of the body as a machine to be fixed, or an accessory to be sculpted and adorned. It is, however, much more than meat, having its own levels of knowledge and wisdom, that we can come into a reciprocal relationship with.
Consider how your body talks to you? The various voices from the muscles, bones, nerves and organs are sometimes loud and painful, other times soft and joyful. Some may become familiar by repetition, until you blank them out and push them into the background. Others may be occasional or even novel and surprising.
Sensations in the muscles; from the sharp pains of joints tweeked or muscles strained, to that deep alive tiredness after swimming or yoga. The warmth of the summer sun, or the bite of an autumn wind; the touch of a lover’s caress or the small firm hand of a child in yours are all voices that come from and through our bodies. It is your body that allows you to feel the contraction of fear and the expansion of joy, or that sense of something running up or down your spine when the truth lands, or you meet someone special. While it is not all of who you are, it is the living foundation of all you experience and express in the physical world.
Your body is constantly talking to you. Some messages are housekeeping, it’s warm or cold, hungry or thirsty, or perhaps subtler messages about food or exercise that we so often ignore. It is also the means by which we experience emotions and feelings; the state of your emotional body calling out for things it wants, appreciating something it has, or reacting to external events or circumstances, real or projected. Your body is an antenna picking up emotions and feelings from other people, and from the other living things in the world around, even the trees and the mountains. Most deeply it is the landing pad for communication from spirit, from your own knowingness.
So many voices we are often lost, or only hear the loudest and most urgent. It is tempting to choose to tune them out, especially the ones that are uncomfortable, to push through to our goals in spite of the alarms and requests. In the hierarchy of your being we often override the body in favor of the emotional or mental voices and beliefs. Most of us can’t tell the difference between being anxious and being hungry, between what the emotional body wants to settle itself and what the body is needs as nourishment.
We have all heard the words that our body is the temple of our soul. These are truth. But how many of us have a relationship to our bodies that embodies this truth, where we listen to and honor our own body’s voices and have an ongoing communication about exercise and food? How many of us are trying to drown out the voices, or think our way through the physical aspects of our lives?
We spend our meditation time opening above to Spirit, or below to nature and Earth, but how many of us have taken time to listen to the inner voice of our own physical being, to learn even how it expresses itself to us?
There is a lot of static that we have to sort out and clear, that usually distracts us, but if you take time and create space your body will converse with you. Come into a clear, open relationship with it and it will tell you what it needs, how to take care of it, and much more. Infants, given choice, know how to choose a balanced diet. Set your intention and issue an invitation with curiosity and respect and discover what form this conversation will take.
The body is the temple of the soul, its vehicle in this life. As it is cleared, there comes a spaciousness for Spirit and Soul to be present, and all your experiences are enhanced. The physical is the foundation for all the rest, and as it is tuned it sings and dances and joy flows out of your very cells. Being present in your physical body, you can feel your emotional body more clearly, be present for your sexuality. The emotional body coming into balance, your mind becomes clearer and your thoughts are no longer old loops, but present insight. Yoga practices start with the body and end with spiritual union for this reason.
Gently making space for your body’s true voices, engaging in partnership with it, you will deepen into full presence as a spiritual being, embodied as human.