Many years ago I was on a retreat with a group of men here in the Pacific Northwest. It wasn’t a religious retreat, but we all had a sense of spiritual connection, whatever that meant for each of us individually.
In the midst of this retreat, one of the group leaders offered to lead us in a “body practice” – something I had little to no experience with. I immediately thought of yoga or some form of meditative stretching. Both of which, for me at the time, felt fairly disconnected from the spiritual work of meditation. They were just secularized activities done in high-priced and well-furnished yoga studios.
What I didn’t understand until the practice began was just how out-of-touch I was with my body – and that this was a spiritual problem.
The Spirituality of the Body
In the Christian tradition, there are two foundational truths taught that I stake most of my spirituality on: (While I don’t personally feel the need for proof texts, I’m including the scriptural passages in case they’re helpful.)
- We are creatures made in the image and likeness of the Divine. (Genesis 1:26)
- We are, at the very core of our beings, good. (Genesis 1:31)
With these two truths, it becomes undeniable for me that our physical bodies are good and that they are to be honored as images of the Divine.
Unfortunately, the history of Western Christianity didn’t start with this. They seemed far more interested in the story of Adam and Eve’s departure from the Garden of Eden, beginning the human story instead with one of moral failure and retributive punishment. This made it easy to separate body from soul, good from bad, and right from wrong.
Based on my experience of the Divine, my reading of our sacred story, and the teachings of our Christian mystics, I think this was a profound and deeply human misstep in theology.
Instead, I think it’s vital that a healthy spirituality begins with a positive few of humanity – one that the Christian scriptures support!
We are creatures made in the image and likeness of the Divine.
We are, at the very core of our beings, good.
If this is true, our bodies must be integral parts of our spiritualities – they are filled with the divine DNA of the Creative Force that made them. And they are the means by which we come into contact with the Divine around us through daily interaction, justice work, and witnessing the goodness in all creation.
Without this positive view of our bodies, our spirituality can too often become a disembodied head-game, divorced from Reality and teetering on the intellectually narcissistic.
No matter their ability, color, biological features – our bodies, as core components of who we are, are created good. (This is foundational! No matter what we do with our bodies – tattoo, binge eat or drink, change, pierce, poison, or otherwise alter – they are at their core good.) Or in the words of one of my favorite new children’s books, bodies are cool!
Below is a practice that has helped me come into contact with the goodness of my own body – I call it the Right-Sizing practice.
I invite you to reflect on the role your own body plays in your spirituality and then engage in a physical activity that brings your into awareness of its inherent goodness.
What is your relationship with your body?
How has this been shaped by religious leaders, teachings, and family members?
The Right-Sizing Practice
Many of us have been taught by our society and those around us to shrink down and make ourselves smaller for the comfort of others. Still others of us have been taught to make ourselves larger than we perhaps ought to be, inhibiting others from taking up their own space.
This body practice, which I refer to as the Right-Sizing Practice, is all about giving our body permission to take up the space it deserves (to right-size), whether that’s more or less than it usually does in the world.
The link above to Bodies Are Cool is an affiliate link – this means if you find my recommendation helpful and purchase the book, I’ll receive a small commission.