It is our in-breath that holds us in Life. And yet it is when an opportunistic virus squats in the warm moistness of our body, and our lungs rattle and wheeze in the echoing silence of the night, it is only then that we experience the desperate urgency of that vital breath. We can live for weeks without food, days without water, only minutes without the hallowed air that connects us to the world around us. Yet, how often do we move mechanically through our days, without pausing to marvel at the miracle that is our body. Until we wake from our stupor… until something goes wrong.
Many religions place care of the body as a sacred responsibility. The body is the temple for the soul, a physical form through which we all experience spirit, our humanness. Yet paradoxically, these same religions condemn our carnality; denounce our bodily functions, shame our sexuality. We have lost our ancient connection to the land, to our own animal bodies. We worship at the altar of the mind, banishing our bodies, mutilating ourselves in our vain quest for some standard of “perfection”. Physical fitness is extolled in the media and in Western culture, yet below the skin of the perfect body, lurks a fetid abscess of shame which poisons our blood, defiles our bones. We subjugate our natural cycles, starve our hunger for touch, use them like landfills for the garbage of shame and self-abuse. The memory of fear, loathing, and trauma, lies in the vaults of our musculature, stays, silenced in our timid, shallow breathing.
How many of us love our bodies? Care for them as we would minister to a beloved pet or a cherished child? The black rat of dissatisfaction gnaws in the belly of this body we say we love. Our bodies remain charred uninhabited landscapes. We’re talking heads, amputated from flesh and blood, swinging in space. So, there comes the day when our athletic knees fail us after years of hip misalignment, and we must genuflect. Our facial muscles atrophy from mis-use of botox, our shoulders ache, immobilised by static hours at the computer. We are dis-embodied – unable to access the intuitive wisdom – or the raw courage to defy the herd mind and attune to what feels self-nurturing.
As Caroline Myss says, “Our biography becomes our biology.” So coming Home to the body requires listening, in silence, to the body’s innate wisdom to heal, to regenerate. It may take years to silence the critical voices in our heads that push us beyond exhaustion, that quell our instinctual hunger and desire. Jung talks of the Eros principle to describe this sense of interconnectedness, this sense of being fully alive, awake, in our fleshy moist bodies. He connected Eros to the archetype of The Mother, the feminine, the connection with the Earth, with sensual touch, with food, with nurturing, with relatedness to all things. Eros is our life force. When the feminine is demonised, devalued, she slips silently underground. She falls asleep, emerges angry, erupts as dis-ease. Somatised emotions sing to us our soul-songs of pain.
In the patriarchal West, we honour Logos – the masculine. When masculine and feminine energies are imbalanced, as they are in so many institutions, and religions, what emerges is competitiveness, perfection, specialisation, over-rationalisation, greed, mis-use of power, and the ultimate insanity – war. When masculine and feminine are out of kilter, we try to transcend who we really are. So often it is an illness, some kind of physical break down that brings us Home to surrender, so softly to the warmth of our bodies. Says Marion Woodman, “This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known. “
So, as we allow our minds to become still energy enters, the feelings overflow… we begin to breathe deeply, filling our soft bellies, receiving… Life. As we learn to trust, to take seriously the honour of loving our body, our dreams bring us precious pearls in oyster shells of metaphor, and imagery. They speak to us of dis-ease in our body if we are attentive, long before our bodies talk to us through symptoms. Or, perhaps an “accident” may open the door to a room in our psyche we have never entered. “Injury is an essential part of the life cycle of any active biological organism,” writes Josh Schrei. “Only in a world in which we seek an endless summer and a lifestyle of perpetual comfort would we consider injury as entirely negative. Our very life cycles say otherwise. Our mothers birth us in pain and rapture, structurally altering themselves — and often being injured — in the process. We ourselves are born through a passage that puts tremendous pressure on our new frames and warps them out of symmetry right from the start… The reality is that injury — like all things in this realm of physical preciousness, up to and including death — is a gift if we take it as such.”
We cannot destroy our energy; lose our power, (to anything or anyone). It is there all the time, in the sacred landscape of our body. In the heart, between our two lungs.
Florence and the Machine – Between Two Lungs
Dreams of a Saturday Morning in my Lover’s Bed – art by C.S. Scogins.