“Why does the spontaneous relationship of myself to my body–and therefore of all of me to the present moment disappear with childhood? This is what interests me most. And how is it that my awareness, my kinesthetic sensation of my own body, brings me into the present moment again, able to participate in a more complete way of life? All that we have and are is in the body. Even as I write this, my fingers are tapping these words, formulated in my brain at this very moment, into the computer. And you who are reading them are almost certainly sitting in a chair, buttocks cradled, feet pressing into the floor, and hands grasping PARABOLA as your eyes follow the words.
Yet the importance of the body in the act of presence is seldom acknowledged. I once was shocked when one of my seriously esoteric friends, who had spent much of her life working to arrive at what she thought of as higher spiritual levels, told me to “treat the body like a wound.” What kind of relationship would result from such an attitude? The body is usually relegated to second place, or even third. The underlying assumption is that head and heart move along the road to spiritual development dragging the body behind them. Yet actual experience tells us that when the body comes alive, all it contains comes alive as well.
This seems evident when speaking of yoga or T’ai Chi or meditation, but even going for a swim or a walk is food for the spirit, and represents far more than taking time out from important things in one’s life for physical exercise. Attentive movement helps thought to become livelier and negative or anxious feelings to quiet down. It becomes a call to untie all three parts: thought, feeling, and body. The body is an instrument, and unlike the mind is blessed with a permanent limitation. Thoughts can soar and emotions can roar, but the feet are subject to laws that keep them on the ground. The body lives in the present, doing only one thing at a time. It is a faithful companion in the search for presence when it is given more attention and respect, when one tries to listen to its messages, even though they are expressed in a language foreign to the mind.
A mysterious relationship exists between “me”–whatever that is–and the body. For clearly, though we go through life doing what has to be done as if we wholeheartedly approved of our decisions, there is a deep (instinctive?) part that makes its own choices and has its own standards. The fact is we do some things we love and love some things we seldom allow ourselves to do.” ♦
—An excerpt from Patty de Llosa, “Befriending the Body,” A faithful companion, PARABOLA Volume 29, No. 4, Winter 2004: “Friendship.” This issue is available here.