I’ve been thinking a lot about my body.
Yes, like you, I compare my body to t.v. bodies. I examine my asymmetrical face, knowing it precludes me from modeling or movie stardom. I watch as my hair becomes increasingly silver and know that the image I present to the world is quickly moving toward middle-aged.
That’s my surface self looking at my surface body.
A painter once told me: always be painted, never photographed. A painting shows the soul.
When I look deeper, when I use soul-eyes, I know that my body is made up of Earth stuff and that Earth stuff is meant to serve a greater purpose than simply looking pretty.
(You are watching me seeking words for something that I have known for a long time. Bear with me if the words are not perfect yet… it may take me some time to tease this out. But it feels important to begin this conversation so I can hear back from you and learn what language is resonating and what is missing the mark. So you can debate with me and help me to be both concise and expansive.
And, as I begin the 3rd edit of this post, I am committed to it being a work in process!)
For the last few years I’ve been pondering my own journey. How this all began with being sick in my body and somehow ended up being a spiritual path. From a woman who screamed “atheist!” for her first two decades, this is a stunning turn of events!
What is a body and how can it lead you to know yourself and to connect to the greater whole of All That Is?
I play with the words. The language skitters about but remains unclear.
My students have heard me tell this joke many times; it’s one of those quips that contains Truth, I think. Yes, capital T truth. I embellish it a bit when I tell it, but here’s the gist:
A monk dies and his soul ends up in heaven having a private audience with God.
God says So what have you done with your life?
And the monk says I have spent it in your presence. I prayed and meditated. I was here with you, all along.
God says Get back down there and try again!
Part of the human experience is living in this thing we call a body. But it’s more than that: it’s learning to be embodied. If we spend the time we have, the time that we are flesh, escaping that flesh, we have, on some level, missed the point.
When I taught herbalism in the Amazon, one of my co-teachers was a shaman. Not an I-studied-shamanism-in-the-comfort-of-my-living-room-shaman but an I-was-chosen-by-my-people-and-made-to-live-alone-in-the-Amazon-jungle-at-the-age-of-eight shaman.
(Don’t misunderstand—I’ve studied shamanism in the comfort of my living room and learned a hell of a lot. But I didn’t learn the tribal bonds that toss an eight-year-old into the jungle so that he can learn from the spirits of the land- the trees and the rivers, the animals and the shooting stars- how to heal his people.)
Here’s the thing about this shaman: this life he was forced into? He hated it. He wanted to go to school and play soccer with the other boys. This was not some great mystical adventure for him, it was simply everyday misery. Eventually he “escaped” and joined the Peruvian army. It was only as an older man that he began to understand that the jungle spirits had given him a very different way of seeing the world and that his healing gifts were needed.
All of that is background to say this:
This shaman, this little bird of a man, was one of the most embodied people I have ever met. He wasn’t drifting out in the ethers, he was anchored in flesh. And he used his flesh as a tool, a channel through which to gain greater understanding of the rhythms and working of the world around him.
Perhaps this is our job: learning to use our bodies as channels for the rhythms of the universe.
I loved to watch him channeling the sloths. For hours he would sit, laughing to himself as he moved excruciatingly slowly, sometimes glancing around slyly to see who of us was catching on. He knew sloth from the inside out. He felt each minuscule, motion in his own muscles.
Although I began this journey seeking medicine to heal my body, looking for an alternative to what the pharmaceutical industry offered, as I continue on the Earth Path, it connects me back to the ground beneath my feet, to the rhythm of the seasons, to my own soul-self, and its connection to All That Is.
From this inward place of connection, we can spiral back out and use our body to connect with the energy of the sloths… or the sparrows flitting about our garage… or the wind threading through the trees. We can come to a greater understanding of the web of life.
This is where medicine becomes Medicine.
We realize that the Earth is us.
We are our own portal, our own connection, to the greater Universe.
you have all you need.
You are all you need.
love & hugs-