We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The definition of embody is “to put into a body an idea or spirit; to give the idea or spirit a concrete form to express principles, thoughts, or intentions.” “Embodied spirituality views all human dimensions-body, heart, mind, and consciousness-as equal partners in bringing self, community, and world into a fuller alignment with the Mystery out of which everything arises.” ¹
Culture, history, and religion have all had significant roles in human history in downplaying and denying that the human body has any spiritual value, even encouraging the renunciation of the human body. Spirituality has been divided from our bodies. It is ‘beyond’ our physical body. Our bodies have been considered sinful, weak, evil, and unworthy. We have been admonished to deny our bodies and subjugate our bodies, instead of seeing them as the beautiful creation that they are. We are told that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:2, NIV) We just seem to have a hard time believing this!
Our bodies are what allow us to learn about, relate to, and interact with our world. If, as Teilhard de Chardin says, we are spiritual beings in a human body, then our spirit experiences this human existence through our bodies. Our wonderful senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, our vast array of emotions, our incredible consciousness with its ability to think, create, reason, and express what we experience, all inform our spirit. Our spirit informs our consciousness and our bodies. We cannot separate body, mind, and spirit. They are one whole that moves in a dynamic interaction, each informing the others, and through this dynamic interaction, we are connected with the Mystery in every way. One is not more important than the others. ALL are needed!
Yet, we are often disconnected from this embodiment. We are often totally in our heads, with our thoughts whirling around like a cloud of buzzing bees. Our minds are then separated from our emotions and our bodies. Our bodies continue functioning, doing what they do, but often just functioning on automatic pilot. Only when we experience pain or fatigue do our bodies come to conscious attention. We often seek our spirits outside of ourselves, feeling spirit as disconnected from our minds and bodies. We don’t take the time to just be silent, to allow ourselves to go within and find that small still center that is the voice of Spirit. We move about our world split, rather than as the beautiful, integrated whole we were created to be.
How can we begin to recognize and nurture this Wholeness, and live as spiritual beings having a human experience?
Practice living in the moment; practice mindfulness. When we are fully in the moment, we become aware of our breath, our body, our emotions, our thoughts, our awareness, our spirit. We feel a sense of integration, and can recognize these as separate, and yet at the same time, as one. At that moment, “All is well, and all is well, and all manner of things are well,” as St. Catherine of Siena said. As we practice this, these moments of integration become more frequent, more pervasive, and even when life circumstances get difficult, we can flow through them in a more connected, peaceful way.
Find ways to use your body to express your inner spirit, to join body and spirit. We can do this through dance, singing, or playing musical instruments. We can do this through creating; art, making wood projects or furniture, writing, sewing, crafts, or photography. We can do this through moving our bodies out in nature; hiking, fishing, canoeing, camping, or climbing mountains, or sports activities. There are SO MANY WAYS we can touch, experience and listen to our spirit through our physical bodies! There are SO MANY WAYS our spirit is expressed through our human activities! What works for you?
‘Yoke the body, mind, and spirit together.’ Meditative practices that are specifically intended to bring our awareness to and integrate the body, mind, and spirit are very helpful. A gentle yoga practice that uses the breath to move the body, especially when a bit of meditative inner awareness is added, is wonderful. Walking meditation is a very good and easy practice that also can get us out in nature at the same time. Practicing sacred dance or movement, mindfully tending to children or others, and going about our daily activities can all be done with the intent to be fully awake.
There are SO MANY WAYS! Try different things. See what works for you. The most important thing is to do these things with the intent of being mindful that you are a beautiful, integrated body, mind, and spirit, connected intimately to the Mystery, moving through this life you are given as a “spiritual being having a human experience.”
Practice embodied spirituality.
¹ What Does it Mean to Live a Fully Embodied Spiritual Life? Jorge N. Ferrer, California Institute of Integral Studies