This morning I woke up in a temple–my body. I woke up and thanked God for this gift of flesh. Sometimes, I treat my body like a utility vehicle, driving around until a light on the dashboard alerts me, “You live in the Temple of the Holy Spirit! Show her some reverence!” It’s hard not to override my body’s messages, even in Quaker Meeting.
Often in Open Worship the seating disrespects my spine, and my back cramps, or even spasms. At first attempting to remain still, I finally allow myself to fidget. Surprise! God does not cast me out of the meeting house. Even when my stomach is growling, and my muscles are zinging, I can have a season of worship. Luckily, the meetinghouse is a place full of love and acceptance.
For years, I wore my own body like a house of disappointment, disregarding her need for sunshine or shade. I might have joked that a realtor would advertise my temple as a fixer-upper. Lately, I am gently changing my attitude toward my body. While doing this, I find it necessary listen to what my body needs, and how it feels right now.
My sprees of self-improvement can lack follow-through. I forget, ignore, or even try to silence my body. This week I slept too little, worked too hard, and relied on caffeine, or analgesics to mask the ill effects. Disease and pain can slow me down. It becomes difficult to love and serve as I long to. I lose momentum.
Instead of giving up, I can gently renew my devotion to my Sacred space, attempting to listen even when the voice within is shrill with pain. I meet the Inward Teacher right here in my weakness. My body is a Mystery School, and I’m a student.
This week I also prayed, walked, practiced Qigong (an exercise like Tai Chi), and ate good food, attending to what my body needed. Nightly, pictures danced behind my eyelids, telling me stories as I slept. I don’t know how the dreams come, or even why I enjoy Qigong so much. The more I pay attention to my body, the more I realize the unique wonders I carry.
I will die. Where will these wonders go when my body expires? Will my puny temple expand like the Milky Way, so that the ceiling is no longer the top of my head, but the far stretches of the starry cosmos? The greatest genius cannot answer my question for certain.
Even if scientists find natural causes for every bodily mystery, life will still give us wonders beyond reckoning. Great labyrinths in my brain enfold every moment I’ve lived, and every thing I’ve seen, heard, and done. Undulate parabolas of DNA enable hordes of bygone ancestors to live within my cells. As I review these mysteries, I feel awe and respect for every body, every one a shrine. Tonight I will sleep in a temple–my body–my most sacred space.
— Claire Nail