Body and Spirit

On Tuesday I attended my final class in my final course of my Certificate of Advanced Studies in Spiritual Formation and Direction. As I reflect on my three year journey toward this moment, I see a path of integration and unity. I see myself shedding notions of duality that have kept me living in an “either – or” world and I see the development of nondual awareness, an emergence of a “both – and” perspective. At the beginning of my certificate program, I would have told you I was on a journey to spiritual growth. Now I realize this journey was one of total integration of mind, body, and spirit.

Today I want to focus on the body and the spirit, two aspects of self that are intertwined, not separate, despite what Western duality teaches us. For most of my life, I have perceived my body to be at odds with my spirit. After bingeing or overeating, I often thought with shame of Jesus’s words to his disciples about temptation: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). I saw food (especially those foods I had categorized as “bad”) as temptation that would pull me away from higher (more virtuous) pursuits. I developed a strong desire to resist my body’s urges (be they for food, movement, play, or sex). Resisting those urges increased their hold on me. When I gave in to those urges, I felt ashamed and unworthy, which further distanced me from my spirit (i.e., God). It wasn’t until the early stages of my recovery from Binge Eating Disorder that I learned it was okay (even necessary) to attend to the needs of my body and that doing so attuned me to my spirit. The seeds of my “both – and” perspective had been planted.

Now, at the end of my certificate program, I notice the emergence of flower buds where those seeds had been planted. I am better at recognizing my body as fully connected to my spirit. I am more aware of my body’s needs and when I heed them mindfully, I notice how doing so nurture’s my spirit. Fully attending to the color, texture, smell, and taste of a pear as I eat it brings to mind the individuals who planted the seed of that pear tree, tended to its growth, plucked it from the tree, brought it to the market, and put it on display for me to buy. In this small response to my body’s hunger, my spirit is reunited with the spirits of all those people. Body and spirit are indeed together. The body is both the physical manifestation of me AND the housing (or “embodiment”) of my spirit. The body is not at odds with my spirit; it is at one with it.

This awareness has emerged slowly over thirteen years and will continue to grow as I nurture it. If you are interested in learning more about nonduality, here are some places to start:

Tiny Buddha blog

Cynthia Bourgeault (Nonduality and Centering Prayer)

Cynthia Bourgeault: “The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice”

Richard Rohr on The Dualistic Mind

Peace AND joy,