Sunday, February 17, 2008

Body and Soul

I've been enjoying John O'Donohue's Anam Cara quite a bit. At one point he mentions that we have misunderstood the idea of divinity, believing that it is outside of us rather than within us. He counters this belief with the notion that our bodies are contained within our souls.

If we believe that the body is within the soul and the soul is divine ground, then the presence of the divine is completely here, close with us.

Being in the soul, the body makes the senses the thresholds of soul. When your senses open out into the world, the first presence they encounter is the presence of the soul. To be sensual or sensuous is to be in the presence of your own soul. Wordsworth, careful of the dignity of the senses, wrote that "pleasure is the tribute we owe to our dignity as human beings." This is a profoundly spiritual perspective. Your senses link you intimately within you and around you. (pg. 59)

I think this is a beautiful idea.

When we are in nature, our senses are flooded with sights, sounds, scents, and textures. It is no wonder that nature can act so powerfully to ground us in our souls. Allowing our senses to open to the mystery and majesty of nature can heal us in profound ways.

Even more so, when we are intimate with someone we love, ALL of our senses are overflowing with the sensuous. We may misunderstand this experience as being purely physical. But when we are intimate with another being we are in the presence of soul, if only we can open ourselves to that experience.

It's wonderful to have raw animal sex sometimes, but we need to balance those times with encounters in which our bodies and senses are open to touching and being touched by our own soul and the soul of our partner.

There can be a shadow side to this as well. Our addictions are all cravings of the soul that have been twisted into dysfunctional behaviors. When we get drunk or high, we are craving something that can only come from a profound connection with our souls. But we often don't know how to meet these cravings in healthy ways, so we find other ways to fill those holes. From this point of view, all addictions are soul wounds -- misguided attempts to fill the needs of the soul.

When we can learn to honor our bodies, we are really honoring the gateways to our souls.

A renewal, indeed a complete transfiguration of your life, can come through attention to your senses. Your senses are the guides to take you deep into the inner world of your heart.

By being attuned to the wisdom of your senses, you will never become an exile in your own life, an outsider lost in an external spiritual place that your will and intellect have constructed. (pg. 58)

The world would be so much a better place if we all could live our lives with an openness to the physical nature of our souls.

No comments: