How we fear the descent into the depths of our own bodies.
We’ve been well trained to fear our flesh. All the lies we have been told about our bodies, and most especially our female bodies, rise up to face us when we decidedly choose to descend into our totally human, yet utterly divine, bodies. But, the descent is the most necessary thing we must do to become completely alive. Awareness from the shoulders up is like living powered by a 15-watt light bulb. It makes life dim and makes it hard to really experience the fullness of the world we live in.
This past weekend, I decidedly dove deeper into my divine female body. I traveled to Oak Park, Illinois, for the fourth realm of the Institute for Sacred Activism’s (ISA) series of trainings. ISA was established by Andrew Harvey, the renowned scholar and author, and Jill Angelo. This realm was all about embodiment. We were treated to Heart Yoga, a new yoga practice developed by Andrew and Karuna Erickson.
This new work, presented by Karuna and Andrew, was profoundly transformational in how it opened the heart through the gentle yoga moves and beautiful poetry of the masters, such as Rumi, Mirabai and Hafez. As I moved slowly through these Heart Yoga postures, glimmerings of light began to make their presence known from deep within my heart. The experience had a very ephemeral quality to it, a quality that contrasted starkly with the seemingly solid nature of my body. I was aware of the gentleness of the moves and how this gentle nature invited the heart to open, rather than pushing anything to happen.
Sometimes things in life seem so static and solid. So fixed and unmovable. So unrelenting. I know I have concretized so much of life, especially the places I fear – like the body – like my body. And, I’ve done a lot of embodiment work – and I still know there are many nooks and crannies where I harbor feelings of shame and dislike towards this most amazing temple that houses my soul.
Which leads me to another thing about Oak Park. This beautiful Mid-western town just outside Chicago, is the home of many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural beauties, including his masterpiece, the Unity Temple.
Yesterday, the Monday morning after our long weekend filled with work with the body, I took a last walk through town, making sure to make it to Wright’s Unity Temple, as I hadn’t yet seen this famous iconic work. I am a huge fan of Wright, having studied his work at length in my year-long foray into the study of architecture.
When I came upon it, I was transfixed by the totality of concrete Wright used in the temple.
So much concrete.
Such small windows.
In my life, when days feel difficult and I feel stuck and find myself thrashing around trying to make sense of the world and what’s happening in it, I tend to think of my body as this solid form, much like the concrete walls of Wright’s temple. Sometimes, I even feel like I have these tiny openings to the world, so small that only a little bit of my light shines out (and, conversely, only a little of the world’s light gets in.
In gazing at Wright’s Unity Temple, I wondered why he would have created such think, heavy walls, and I suddenly sensed this analogy between the human body, and its gross layers of tissue, bone, muscle and blood, and the more ephemeral quality of the subtle body within, made up of energy and life force, and the ephemeral quality of the heart. I don’t know what Wright was thinking, but the correlation between his design and my embodiment work of the weekend was profound.
The church as temple – the body as temple. Gross layers of seemingly heavy and solid matter that, from the outside, look like a fortress within which darkness prevails.
We humans tend to concretize our bodies, meaning we believe ourselves to be solid and simply bodies, when in reality, according to quantum physics, our bodies are really billions of cells, that contain mostly space. When we concretize our bodies, we see them as objects. We can’t be in them, meaning we pretty much live with awareness down to about our necks. In a concretized body, there is no fluidity, no sense of the life force within and no connection to all that lies outside of it.
In the Heart Yoga, we were tenderly led through a series of poses and instructions to awaken all the cells of our body to the light that is within, to fill the cells with this heart light that is sourced from the sun. The light is without, and the light can fill all that which lies within.
As I stood outside the church, imagining what the interior space was like to inhabit, I remembered having the same experience as I envisioned the light from the sun filling the cells of my body. Somehow, as I envisioned the light filling my body, I had begun to experience my body, not as a bunch of bones, muscles, and blood, but rather as a billion cells dancing with light and life force. Now, seeing the temple and imagining it filled with light from the sun, and light within, I wondered about the temple itself, not as defined by the concrete walls, but rather defined by the space within it, by the light and life that makes up the intereior of the temple.
Then, as if by divine magic, I walked past a sign indicating that the temple was open for tours. And, on this sign was a quote by Wright that seemed to align with what I had experienced:
Is this the reality of the body when we open to it as a temple of our divine nature? Is the reality of the body the space within? I suppose in everyday life, as we walk down the street passing each other, we only see the concrete walls of each other’s bodies, with small bits of light emanating from within, usually through the twinkle of an eye, or the flash of a smile. And, in our own experience, we only sense small amounts of light, if any at all, of our true nature.
Do the walls of our bodies, simply help us to know that another unique being lives within? What if we were to shift our perspective and see the body, not as the exterior characteristics available to the eye, but instead to the space within, to the vibrant creative life-force that infuses it with creativity, with love and with compassion?
Is the reality of our building, our human body, simply the materials we have been taught to believe it is, or are we really something more, that space within the body, and within the cells of our body?
Marion Woodman speaks of the goddess as the luminous, ephemeral nature of the light filling the earthly cells of the body. In other words, the goddess is not something that we take on, another role we play, where we wear flowing gowns and flowers in our hair. It is the awakening in the cells of matter, the billions of cells in the body, to the light of the source from which all life comes. When we open ourselves to the light that is the love and compassion that emanates from our own radiant hearts, that light floods all parts of our bodies and is the experience of our divine, sacred nature merging with our immanent earthly body.
This is the transformation of consciousness that we must make if we are to awaken to the sacred nature of earth and all that lives here. When we know that all of life is the goddess, the sacredness that we yearn to know, then we’ll realize it is within us and is without in the entirety of the world around us.
On Wright’s Unity Temple, above the entrance door, the following is inscribed:
For the Worship of God
And, is this body, this profane human body that takes so much abuse and punishment, so much self-hatred, and so many centuries of criticism from culture, religion and society, really for the worship of God? Are we here, in these bodies, to experience life on earth in its entirety, with hearts that are open and embracing of the simplest moments?
If we look out the eyes of our own body, onto the world around us, what if we were to gaze with eyes that know the divine spark within? What if, as light-filled beings we could see that light in everything around us, realizing that our temple is not simply a place of worship, but also a place where we gaze onto life with eyes of love?
In the past, we have separated out a house of worship from the profane space around it. That has led to the belief that everything outside of the temple is profane. But not all peoples have believed this. Indigenous cultures have worshiped life itself, the sky, the earth, all living creatures, and the four elements that make up our world.
As I contemplate this understanding that came from my experience this weekend, I know what I have understood for some time now, but in a deeper way. The human body is built for the worship of God, not the God that sits on high and judges, but the God that is the light, is the heart, is the ephemeral love that resides in every atom that comprises life.
It is only by way of this divinely human body that we can experience the multitude of blessings that life brings. It is through this doorway to life that we taste, hear, touch, see, and smell life. It is through this body that we become fully aware of the sacred nature of all of life.