Have You Showered Recently? The Role of the Body in Spiritual Growth
I come face to face with a number of interesting experiences in my spiritual growth on a regular basis. These moments are often full of disorientation, confusion, stress, and anxiety, which, were I to simply pay close attention to them, I would discover are usually a function of a few things being out of balance.
These are often physical things: hunger, exhaustion, and a feeling of heaviness that comes from not having bathed recently.
Usually, I am very good about asking myself these questions when I feel overwhelmed:
“When was the last time you ate?”
“When was the last time you showered?”
“When was the last time you slept?”
If any one of these answers is, “not recently,” there is no point in diving any deeper into understanding what could possibly be going on with me before these physical challenges are met and rebalanced.
It simply makes no sense to even attempt to fix, change or heal a spiritual issue on the physical plane of reality if the physical vehicle is stressing.
This special wisdom is not mine; this is the common sense wisdom of my older sister coming through loud and clear to me. For as long as I recall, these were the questions she asked me first and foremost; when I was a child, to even just yesterday, when, quite suddenly, I found myself crying quite out of the blue, because I was just so tired, because having a new born is, at its best moments, exhausting.
In fact, it is, what some might just call obvious common sense, these nuggets of wisdom coming from my sister; we so easily neglect, ignore, or opt out of recognizing our physical vehicle is communicating information with us when out of balance, and instead, we interpret the physical distress as the crux of our spiritual suffering when we begin to become aware of our selves as evolving and awakening individuals. Maybe we think our issues must be deep, must, in fact, have some intensely spiritual cause that we must discover, uncover, seek to understand, and resolve. As if some how this makes us a better seeker, a better teacher, a better student of knowing ourselves to ignore that the body is simply communicating information to us by being tired, hungry, angry, or out of balance and instead to always focus on something deeper as being the root cause.
Sometimes, we do need to go deeper; often, the root cause of our physical challenges are deep and spiritual and profound, but sometimes…. I’m just hungry. Or over-tired… or I just, well…. Stink, and I need a shower.
What I have found is very often, our problems and our issues can become less complex and convoluted than our egos give them credit to be when we take care of these three physical things first. In fact, most of our challenges on a spiritual, or psycho-social level are intensely dramatized because we are tired, hungry, or feeling like we need a bath.
I would go so far as to say a number of our spiritual issues arise because of an imbalance of the way our spirit, soul, and mind relate to, take care of, or perceive our physical bodies, and ultimately, the way we communicate with our physical bodies.
We have all been sick at some point in time.
We have all been frustrated by the way we feel about our body, whether we are too much of one thing, not enough of another, we have no time to exercise, not enough time to sleep, etc…
Our bodies are amazing teachers and are always giving us information in the form of discomfort, emotions, and sensation. How good is our spirit at being a student and listening to and interpreting those messages?
The irony is that we come into our bodies when we are born, a blank canvas, full of neurons that not only are still forming and creating themselves but are just beginning to draw connections between one another. This neurogenesis, or mapping out of the mind, which ultimately leads itself to us being able to eat, sleep, poop, walk, dance, learn languages, and even change the way we feel about things, will continue for years.
So it is funny that as adults we get frustrated with our bodies, because, you see, these bodies of ours spend the first part of our lives simply downloading information, sponging up code, analyzing it, and sorting through it, eventually forming enough connections to enable us to engage in the world as “functional human beings.”
It is funny, because we give our bodies so much control later on as “fully formed adults,” when the reality is simply that our bodies are simply responding to the coding it sponged up in the first 7 years of our lives, and the major neuropathways that got formulated during that time. We then blame the body for being sick, for getting emotional, for being over-tired, for struggling in relationships, when our bodies are simply enacting the code it learned so well.
We get angry at our bodies for being limited, for not listening to us, when it thinks it is doing its job very well indeed by responding directly to a specific coding.
So before we get ourselves in a tizzy about not being enough ___________ this year, start with these simple questions:
and slept recently?
Take care of the those fundamental three things first.
Now… Take a look at that challenge you were struggling with earlier. Notice how the creation of the body’s natural balance creates some pretty interesting space for your spiritual growth to occur with greater clarity.
The body starts as a student, learning, recording. It does not have to become your only teacher. What happens when you engage with your body acknowledging the needs of the body with out resentment or resistance? What happens if you acknowledge that the body can be a collaborator with you instead of your teacher? As spiritual beings, what happens when we love our body and the way it chooses to communicate with us?