The Body is a conduit for emotional release, shedding tears, shivering, blushing and laughing. It also teaches us Non-Attachment by simply aging.
Our Body stores and creates Energies that we can tap into for Healing and living our Truth. Our Bodies are places to retreat into and ground ourselves with in order to calm our churning minds. The Body allows for spiritual repose.
As a gift, the Body is to be honored, Nurtured, and cared for— it is not a rental car. To abuse or to mistreat the Body dishonors the gift and disallows access to full Body Wisdom, which can be key to spiritual awakening.
“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” -Buddha
Our Body is the Wise-Gift-Vessel. It is our ticket to the show of the human condition. Without it, we are simply blissful, loving souls, uncontained with no illusion of separation from the Divine. The mere act of being placed in a Bodily container implies separation, or a soul-fooling illusion thereof.
Thus the lesson plan of Humanity begins.
As babies, we are unadulterated by socialization. Our egos have not yet begun to flourish. We are closer to our pure soul-like nature than we may ever be again. We have the child’s mind sought by the Wise and we are hampered only by basic Bodily instincts with which we are very much in tune. We poo when we need to poo. We have no shame. We eat when we need to eat. We stop when we’ve had enough. We sleep when we need to sleep. And then we awaken.
We live in the moment and can just be. We are Accepting and Non-judgmental. We gaze in Wonder. We are naturally playful and loving. With our basic Bodily needs met, we are pure Bliss. In fact, we are so naturally Blissful that we made our mothers glow while they were pregnant with us.
I like to see the Body as connected with the Tree of Life and connected with Nature in the time before the Tree of Knowledge had been shaken. In this way, we are bodies apart from that fabulously problem-solving yet constantly wandering mind and the commensurate ego that goes along with it (i.e. the Package Deal mentioned earlier).
If we were this kind of Body only, not relying on the mind, we would act through Body-based Wisdom and instinct. Our Bodies would compensate for the lack of monkey mind-based direction and these would be our main tools for survival and for communication. Intuition and Knowingness would kick in based upon our connection and our place in this Tree of Life.
In this scenario, we would probably lack the ability to truly understand our connection with the Divine. We would just live it. We would not make judgments between right and wrong. We would be driven directly by an innate knowledge of our place in the overall natural plan.
We do have thinking minds that help us to discern, judge, rationalize and create. Yet considering the gifts and potentials of our Bodies separate from our thinking minds can be helpful. When we can put our minds on “neutral” and simply connect with our Bodies, we can connect also with the Tree of Life and the Divinity of the universe.
“Keep squeezing drops of the sun from the sacred hands and glance of your beloved. And, my dear, from the most insignificant movements of your own Holy body.” -Hafiz
The Body as Wise
The Body is said to have its own brain, separate from the one in our skull. It is a network called the Vagus Nerve that expands out from around our heart. It is often called the Nerve of Compassion and Intuition. It is definitely the nerve of relaxation and plays a key role in shutting down our sometimes over-zealous fight-or-flight response after some real or imagined threat has subsided.
We live in a time where our fight-or-flight system is, for many, always engaged or easily triggered, even when a physical threat is absent. Because of this, it is more important than ever for the Body to tell the mind that we are in fact not under threat. The Vagus Nerve achieves this as it communicates with the skull-based brain. That is, if we allow it to do so.
The most effective method to stimulate the Vagus Nerve, thereby telling the brain it is safe to relax, is through Deep Belly Breathing (See Breath Element), done on its own or in the context of Meditation or yoga.
Through this kind of breathing, our Bodies recapture their natural Wisdom, which discerns true physical threat from what are effectively false alarms. Through working with the Vagus Nerve, we calm the mind in general.
With the alarm system turned off, we can then truly listen to our Body and its wisdom. We can listen to the Body’s subtle cues, which confirm Intuition and help us do things like read the Energy in a room. The Body’s cues can help us to empathize with other Humans and allows us to connect with Nature. The Body can tell us where we might be hiding trauma and what experiences may trigger our wounds. The Body’s intelligence can let us know what Healing mechanisms might be working. Our Body can even tell us whether we are living in our Truth, since varying from it can result in bodily stress.
When we are in tune with our Body and the flight-or-fight system is calmed, we can allow for the bubbling up of other Divine elements within our Bodies: Bliss, Love, Truth and Equanimity.
The Body can tell us all.
More Body-Based Wisdom
Our Bodies tell us if we are sick through symptomatic communication. If we are getting the flu, we might get the chills. If we have hay fever, we will probably sneeze. It can also let us know if our lives are too crazy or if we have had too much stress through symptoms like high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, headaches or tense muscles.
When I am stressed, my neck and shoulders tense up. They act as a barometer of the stress in my Body, asking me to take action towards alleviating it.
Our Bodies tell us about our addictions and that we may be self-medicating some hidden or overt pain.
Our Bodies tell us what we fear.
Our Bodies tell us when we are in Love.
As a society, our Bodies tell us if we are on or off track collectively by the various types of epidemics that may manifest on a wide-spread scale. The high numbers of obesity, cancer, chronic stress, eating disorders, body shame and extreme identification with the Body through media gives us a clue that things are not all okay in our world.
The Body as a Gift
The Body is not who we really are on a soul-level, but it does give that which we truly are so much. We get to inhabit this vessel called a “Body.” The Body that we are given may or may not meet the current socially conditioned definition of Beauty. We may get a Body that does not meet the current dominant cultural norm (“too fat,” “too thin,” “too weak,” etc.). We may get a Body with prowess or one with physical limitations. Whatever the case may be, the Body we are given is a gift in both lesson and form.
The Body further gives us the gifts of movement, instinct and our senses. The Body teaches discipline and acts as a conduit for self-expression: dance, athletics, affection, love and sexual intimacy.
Holding Trauma and Contrasting Energies
Our Bodies can hold trauma, meaning a concentrated charge of unprocessed emotional Energy associated with some major life incident or cumulative impact. This trauma could be derived from a physical event that is experienced or witnessed, like a broken bone or a major surgery. Or it can be an emotional trauma such as the loss of a loved one, abandonment as a child or shame for not living up to another’s expectations. There is a large range of circumstances where trauma can occur. Some might say the trauma is trapped in a particular part of the Body or some may say that the Body holds the trauma until we can handle its release. Our Bodies may tell us when we need help in a particular area of trauma. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Somatic Experiencing are two therapeutic treatment methods designed to release unprocessed emotions held in the body.
We must be cautious of the contrasting energies of addiction, neglect, lack of discipline over bodily instincts and over-identification with the Body (which includes shame and vanity). The Body is not us.
Addictions should be addressed via comprehensive treatment. The element of Healing is present whenever facing an addiction, whether it be alcoholism, co-dependence or too much Facebooking. Breaking addictions can be tempered with Courage, Acceptance, Devotion, Perseverance, Forgiveness, Freewill, Self-Awareness and Mindfulness. Neglect can be countered with a self-care regimen tailored towards a healthy diet, exercise (or movement in general) and the omission of toxins. There is no one right recipe for care of the Wise-Gift-Vessel. Apply the elements of Reason, Nature, Nurturance, Self- Respect, Healing, Love, Self-Awareness and Intuition.
The element of Energy (Karma) is important in relation to the Body as well. We reap what we sow by what we put into our Bodies.
Bodily instincts are beautiful and natural in and of themselves. They are to be expressed, yet they are not to dominate us any more than our egos. They are part of the lesson plan of our Humanity and the obstacle course we move through as we make our way towards integration with the Divine.
Self-Awareness, Mindfulness of instinctual cravings, Respect and Freewill contribute towards discipline on this front, which is really a base test of our spirituality. We allow them and Love them, yet do not submit to their domination.
Bodies love movement. Sedentary lifestyles oppose this natural inclination. Yoga, dance, stretching, walking or any movement you can do brings about health on all levels.
Over-identification with the body and identifying with it to the point that it represents who we are above and beyond our soul essence is problematic. If the Body is perceived as “less-than” in any way, shame and even self-hatred can emerge. Within the mainstream Bible Genesis story, body-shame immediately reared its head when we gained a mind that contained judgment and ego. If the Body is viewed as meeting the social conventions of Beauty that exist today, vanity and self-importance (or their opposite, shame) can emerge. Acceptance and Gratitude are the Elements which must first be applied when it comes to the Body. Humility is necessary as is Non-Attachment.
Beware of viewing others only as bodies instead of seeing them as connected to souls. With Beauty, we see the value of all Bodies as we see all people as souls and part of the Divine.
“I am not this hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within” -Rumi
Gratitude and Acceptance honor the Body as the Wise-Gift-Vessel of Divine contribution which it is and are to be activated in a constant state with the Body.
Healing can free trauma from the Body.
Non-Attachment supports Acceptance of the temporal nature of the Body.
Breath brings us into our Bodies.
Through Beauty, we see the value of all bodies as we see all people as souls and part of the Divine.
Love, self-directed, along with Respect, supports the Nurturance of the Body. Non-Judgment supports Gratitude and Acceptance of it as it is.
Creativity supports Body in self-expression and vice-versa.
Wonder and Self-Awareness support greater knowledge of the Body.
Equanimity can support relaxation in the Body.
- Touch. Be Touched. Receive Bodywork such as massage or reiki on a regular basis, a minimum of one time per month.
- Make love. Slowly.
- Breath and Relax. Exercises such as Deep Belly Breathing and Meditation will bring you immediately into your Body. Meditation with the specific intention of feeling your Body and the sensation of being in your Body is a good way to start (See Breath & Meditation elements).
- Take care of your neck and shoulders. For many, tightness or pain in these areas are indicators of stored stress. Take time each day for a gentle neck rotation: Start by moving your head slowly, moving your right ear to right shoulder, then moving your head down and to the left. Rest your left ear near left shoulder and then move your head straight across the shoulder blade and towards the right shoulder again. Do not rotate the neck far back towards shoulders blades. Repeat this several times with one full breath (inhale and exhale) for each neck rotation and then do the same amount of rotations going the other direction. Afterwards, do some shoulder shrugs. Move your shoulders forward and around several times and then backwards and around. Note: Modify these exercises or stop and consult your doctor if any of these movements cause pain or if you have had a recent neck injury.
- Write a letter of Gratitude to your Body, citing everything that it brings to you. Keep this letter in a place where you can read it often.
- Practice yoga. Yoga as a general practice brings us into our Bodies. It serves to tune our Bodies, bringing us more in touch with them, and helps us communicate with them. Start with gentle, restorative and entry-level movements. Tai Chi also makes for an excellent Body-awareness practice.
- Dance. Free-form dance in your living room “as if no one is watching” is a great way to let off steam, reduce stress, increase energy and just have fun! Be aware of your Body while dancing. Engage Gratitude for the movement it gives you. For extra depth of practice, reflect about your movement time in a journal later on. What parts of your body wanted to move more than others? Were there any sensations, such as pain, that you were aware of when you moved in a certain way? How did your Body feel after you danced?
- Celebrate each of the Bodily senses throughout the day. Focus on separate senses and what they bring at different points in your day. Record your experiences in a journal or notebook.
- Have a Soft Face: Be Aware of the thousands of muscles in your face by letting gravity take its effect on them. Make a practice of having an un-furrowed brow, relaxing the entire face when it feels tight, contained and/or scrunched up. Allow your face be light, relaxed, gentle and soft. Include a facial massage in your monthly massage appointments every once in a while.
- Recognize the power of some of the tiniest muscles in your Body: the eyelids. They have the power to open your eyes to Beauty, Truth and Justice. They can close, too, allowing you to go within and be inside your Body.
- Come to learn your Body’s clues and cues. What about your Body is the barometer of stress? What tells you that you need more self-care?
- Regularly schedule time to do something good for your Body, such as eat healthfully, go for a run or get a massage. It doesn’t matter whether it’s once a week, bi-weekly or once a month, although the more often you do it, the more benefits you will reap. What’s most important, though, is to prioritize your Body in the way you already prioritize other aspects of your life, such as work, family and hobbies.
- Develop a self-care regimen consisting of things you can do daily or almost-daily, that are relatively easy for you, and that feel good— such as having just one healthy meal a day (without having to commit to making all three healthy), showering/bathing, or stretching for 5-10 minutes.
Thank you for this Body. Thank you for the Wise-Gift-Vessel.
I am perfectly me.
I am in this Body, I am not this Body. I honor the gift of this Body.
I love and honor each of my senses.