Last weekend, my teacher Gil Hedley spoke about how the models we use to describe our experience will dictate what we are actually able to see.
For example, St. Francis of Assisi “was ever so unsparing towards himself that at the last he felt constrained to ask pardon of “Brother Ass”, as he called his body, for having treated it so harshly. ” (Catholic Encyclopedia) In describing his body as an recalcitrant Beast of Burden, St. Francis created a model where the body needed to be disciplined and flogged into reluctant submission in order to be worthy of God.
The model of our body that we generally accept in North America is the one that we are inundated with through the media. When we view our own bodies through the accepted lens of our culture, we will almost always find a disconnect between our culture’s ideals of beauty and ourselves. We are:
- too old
- too fat
- too flabby
- too weak
- too flat-chested
- too big-boned
- too short
- too tall…
And because this model dictates how we see our bodies, we are almost always trying to discipline or starve them into “behaving.” (In yogi circles, we also sometimes embark on severe “cleanses” as a way of clearing out the terrible impurities that are no doubt infesting us.)
Gil proposed a new model. “What if we see the body as a temple. You go inside to be elevated.”
I paused. I have heard the line, “My body is a temple,” so many times that now I just roll my eyes and think about how I should be eating kale and drinking kombucha. Because when I have heard, “My body is a temple” in the past, it’s invariably spoken as a reason to keep things OUT, rather than letting things in. As in, “I don’t eat fries or drink – my body is a temple.”
However, in viewing the body as a temple to be entered, Gil shifted the metaphor. Now, our body becomes a vehicle through which to feel and experience, rather than an object that we are expected to adorn and show. The body is something beautiful to be cherished, entered, and explored – rather than a pristine edifice to be whitewashed and protected against all intruders.
We are invited to knock on the doors of ourselves and go inside.
When we enter our own inner sanctum, we have the opportunity experience our body, our breath, and our feelings. Our body – this body – becomes the pathway through which our human experience unfolds and evolves. Our intimacy with this glorious and subtle array of sensations brings us closer to being Aware, Embodied, Alive.
My temple opens its doors to all experience. It’s big inside – there’s room for french fries and wine. There is also room for discomfort, for fear, for disappointment, for longing. We can begin to experience our joy and sorrow, disappointment and hope, our pain and pleasure. And by courageously and honestly accepting all that is, we are invited to soften into who we really are.
We go inside – and we Rise.