It is interesting to me to look back over the years spent at home absorbing my parents’ view of Christianity and how they approached discussions of the “flesh”. When I considered the physical aspect of being alive, I felt profound shame.
I felt shame over having this skin, this flesh, this weight that I was born into. Unfortunately, so much for me is heavy when I reflect on this theology and the view of our physical selves is the heaviest of all. Through my physical being all of my need is manifest, visible, and known. I felt ashamed for feeling hunger, needing new clothes, being smelly. My physical body was a reminder that I was a sinner at the hands of a disgusted God–one who viewed my imperfections with disdain.
Over the years and through my study of contemplative prayer, I must say, my physical body has become a huge component to my spiritual and every day life. I have learned to celebrate all of me. I allow my body to inform me. After all, isn’t that part of my essence? I am spirit, flesh, and water. I can’t deny this part of who I am—how I interact with my world.
I can’t not notice:
what the air smells like,
if a shirt is uncomfortable,
when the music is too loud,
if my shoes are wet.
If I spin my view of my physical self around, I see things that fill me with peace. I love how drawing in a deep breath grounds me. I am filled with peace when I hold a book in my hands. I love the feel of different fabrics throughout my home. I find the papery gauziness of a fresh coffee filter to be soothing. If I spin a little further, I see my skin and I notice that if I eat too much sugar, it will be apparent in a day or so. If I get too much sun, my skin will blossom a pinkish red that is uncomfortable and needs my attention.
And if I spin further, I can see that certain experiences and thoughts cause my shoulders to rise, my neck to get tense, and my breathing to turn shallow. My physical body is part of my ability to know myself, to peek into my internal life—my spiritual self and my well-being.
My physical body is a portal to what is living inside of me at any given moment, and it is my gift/pleasure/responsibility to take in the clues and to draw my attention to what I need. I am filled with need, but I view the seeing of my need as a compassionate gesture. For at the end of this thought is: I am whole in the eyes of God. I am worthy because I am God’s creation. My physical self lets me know what my needs are before they get loose and go on an emotional rampage.
The most basic form of life is my breath and I use it to calm me down, pray, ground me in this moment, and to help me to check in with my internal landscape. This is free. This is where it is at: in the noticing, in the simplicity, in the slowing down.
I have come full circle with how I view my physical self. I used to see it as a liability; whereas, now I see my being as whole, complete, interesting, and plenty. I can’t block out a part of myself because it is dirty, smelly, or has potential for disconnection from the Source—our Source.
Instead, I welcome my self—all of me—to the table to eat a wonderful meal, to contribute to good conversation, and to hug those who joined me. I couldn’t connect with others if I wasn’t flesh, bone, sinew, fat—alive.
We all have shame, good & bad, light & dark.
But if we don’t come to terms with our shame,
our struggles, we start believing that there’s
something wrong with us.
~ Brene Brown