Today – on a gusty, cold, and brilliantly sunny day – I got to thinking about embodiment. My nose was running, my earlobes were freezing, the wind was blowing sharp bits of this and that into my face, but I found myself celebrating the miraculous fact that my spirit and mind have a physical home. I realized that I have the rare privilege of being a part of the universe that requires a body.
And because I have a body I can eat and sleep, I can listen to the glory of music, I can feel the fur of a cat, the weight of a blanket, I can fold warm laundry and type this blog post. And I can love and play, work, witness, and serve. I can receive gifts and give them. I can teach and I can learn, plant gardens and harvest tomatoes, bind up wounds, make meals, and wipe away tears. And I can walk in cold, clear wind under a winter blue sky.
Although I have found my spiritual home among the wide diversity of sects that call ourselves followers of Jesus, I have never had much patience with the belief that I know everything there is to know about the Holy One and how the Holy One interacts with creation. So, I don’t know whether I have one wild wonderful physical life or whether life recycles itself in some way. What I do know is that I can go through this life in a kind of trance or I can cherish it with every fiber of my being. I know that I can take my embodiment for granted or I can pay attention to both its blessings and its requests.
Because it seems to me that the privilege of having a body brings with it a responsibility, a duty in the sense of something I owe this abundant universe simply because I am an integral part of it. It seems to me that we need to stretch the muscles of our embodiment in the same way we stretch the muscles of our body. If I want to stay strong and flexible, I need to move beyond what is merely comfortable and easy. In the same way, I wonder if we need to stretch beyond comfortable and easy embodiment.
Yes, this body allows me to love and play and work, to serve, to plant, to build, and to share. But I’ve noticed that it is perilously easy to get lazy about all of those. The familiar becomes the “traditional” which then becomes “the right way” which then becomes “the only way.” I think about loving. I think about giving. I think about building and planting.
Walking in that tempest earlier, I began to wonder if I have fallen into a pattern of loving the same things, the same people, the same places over and over and over. Perhaps that is the same socially acceptable group of people, or kinds of things, or ways of thinking. But is that all I can do? Is it even the best I can do? I think about giving the same amounts of time, and money, the same skills over and over and over. Is that all there is to give? Really? Or is that what is easiest for me to give?
What about using this gift of embodiment to love some people who don’t have anyone else to love them? Or to love an ugly urban block that needs some impassioned cleaning and planting? What about giving something I am not really good at right now – something that might even make people laugh…and then give them permission to share something they aren’t really good at? What if I give away control? What if I give away my good ideas? What if I give up the prejudices that sit so comfortably in my heart? What if I look at people, really look, and see all their hopes and dreams and fears?
What if I have this amazing blessing of embodiment so that I can keep becoming wiser, and more compassionate, and more forgiving, and more patient, and more generous, and more joyous than I ever imagined? Doesn’t it seem like a waste of this life (even if it isn’t the only one) to settle for what I already know and feel and think?
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photo © 2014, Immram Chara, LLC