The Body As Container For The Soul
One of the problems I’ve often had with traditional religion is the way it describes the body as a lesser part of our being. The body is, after all, the container for our soul. If we didn’t need it in some cosmic sense, we wouldn’t have it. At this stage in our spiritual journey, we are experiencing a physical life because we need to learn lessons we can only learn by being in a physical body.
If we embrace the idea of wholeness or oneness, then we have to acknowledge that all parts of ourselves are sacred. Living in a body offers us infinite opportunities to learn. As a child, I had many illnesses including one that left me with a heart murmur which I out grew by the time I was twelve. I missed those early carefree years of life that others remember with joy. What I remember is lying in bed alone reading and designing paper doll dresses, feeling weak and shy and inadequate when we played softball at school and never learning to ride a bicycle. I remember having a friend or two but never feeling part of a group because so many group activities were too strenuous.
Awakening The Body And Soul
As a result of this childhood experience, I developed two interests: good health and creativity which I later developed through dance and writing. Staying healthy became a priority in my life. As a young adult I began to search for the answers that would allow me to become stronger and stay in good health. My love of dance was not just about expressing myself creatively. It was about building muscles on my skinny frame to become strong. It was also about the mind/body connection. Having rejected traditional religion by this time, I found that dancing brought me joy and touched my spirit. At times, dancing was transcendent, my body seemed to fall away and I was all spirit.
Each physical challenge has been a teacher. Around 1976, I studied with an amazing dancer, Erick Hawkins during a summer dance program at American University. Having studied Eastern philosophy and anatomy and kinesiology, he had created a modern dance technique that trained the body gently, working with the pelvis as the center of the body, and teaching us to respect our own bodies.
But that summer, I was in distress, and despite Hawkins’ peaceful way, I made a decision I would regret. I injured one foot simply walking across campus, adding more pain to the tendinitis slowly healing in the other foot. I was in a dance company and had a performance coming up. We were short on dancers; I couldn’t disappoint the director. So, I demanded that my doctor give me cortisone shots which he did going against his own better judgment.
When I danced, my feet were numb; I couldn’t feel the floor, but somehow I got through the performance. Afterwards, as I rested and healed over several weeks, I realized I had committed a terrible act of aggression against myself. I’d somehow crossed a line I’d never crossed before and was willing to abuse myself in order not to disappoint others. This was clearly a signal that something was very wrong with my thinking. I realized at that moment that I couldn’t stop thinking about the reverence with which Hawkins treated the body even in training. As I thought about Hawkins and the reverence he had taught us to have for our own bodies, I realized he had been my spiritual teacher that summer.
Loving Ourselves With Good Health
This experience made me realize that I needed to learn to love myself. I had created unnecessary suffering and my soul ached. Dance taught me about one aspect of taking care of my body, but other experiences taught me about a healthy diet. When I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I found a doctor of integrated medicine who taught me how to use food and supplements to heal. What I learned from him has continued to serve me well over the years to support my immune system, keep my blood sugar level, and sustain a level of energy that creates a feeling of well-being.
It is difficult to enjoy life when we don’t feel well, and while it is important to take care of our minds and soul, taking care of the body is sacred work too. To deny the body’s needs is just as detrimental to our well-being as ignoring our spiritual or emotional needs. Although I am middle aged, I’m actually healthier than I’ve ever been, and I believe that is because, in addition to taking care of my spiritual life, I have cared for my body, this precious container for my precious soul.
Do you want life to be a dance or a drag?
We have a choice and it’s an important one. Caring for our bodies makes it possible to do things that feed the soul like walking in the forest, dancing until dawn or jogging through the early morning air with your daughter. What are you willing to do to make your body and soul one?
© 2011 Georganne Spruce