In my last post exploring the importance of the body in contemplative living, I suggested that there are three challenges to paying attention to the well-being or ill-being of the body:
- We are unaware.
- We are aware, but believe it won’t change; or,
- We are aware, but feel powerless to change our behavior, even knowing the consequences
In exploring the first challenge, I hope that in the past few days you’ve had an opportunity to notice the ordinary day-to-day sensations surrounding sleeping, eating, working, etc., and are beginning to bring into awareness moments where there is a deeper connection between head, heart, and body; those moments where the disconnect is wide and dizzying; or those moments of waking-up after a period of numbing through media, internet, task surfing, or some other activity done not for itself, but as a distraction.
In each of these cases, the practice is about paying closer attention, but not making huge shifts in your schedule or activities. Just notice.
Even as you sit, reading this blog post, extend your contemplative attention: What is happening in this moment? How does my body feel? How does my spirit feel?
And then ask, Where is God with me in this moment?
We are embodied. Our feelings, thoughts, and the experience of our spiritual aspect are all tied together. While we often split body and spirit, or mind and feelings, in truth, what we are doing, thinking, feeling, and our experience of God in this moment are all filtered through our bodies.
Simply notice the information your body is providing–feelings, thoughts, pain, memories, a sense of well- or ill-being, energy, weariness–and let the Holy Spirit use this information to help you make connections.
The second challenge is more difficult because, while there is awareness, there is also a belief that “this is the new normal.”
The irony of this post is that it’s four days late because of my own wrestling with this challenge. For the past year and half, I’ve gotten cold or flu viruses nearly every month. This past week, the new normal knocked again on my door, forcing me to bed with a fever. But finally, thanks to reflecting on contemplative living and the body, it was a wake-up call to take some action.
I’m fairly slow to give the signals my body sends me any real credence.
The last time I was in the position of listening, dealing with migraines, it took me way too long to seek a solution. I’d adapted as best I could on my own, but finally reached a morning where I said, “God, get me out of the pit I’ve fallen in.” And he did, through the advice of a kind neurologist who also suffered from migraines, I embarked on a new life, never believing that life could change so rapidly for the better.
Before accepting that nothing can change, it’s important to listen.
Of course, the tension in this practice is that the ill-being we’re experiencing might be the new circumstances of our life.
If that is the case, even then, contemplative attention to the body and to God’s presence with us in our embodiment, can help us deal with the circumstances with care and wisdom.
Practice: So, what is your “new normal?” What are the signals of ill-being that your body is communicating? Bring your experience into conversation with God. We often say that we are to be like “little children” in faith. The little persons I know bring their ouwies to a trusted adult for comfort and a kiss. I think God longs for us to do the same.
While discomfort may be overwhelming any other signals, stay with your awareness and see if there is any sense of well-being, joy, anticipation, or hope in other areas of your experience or body.
Is there a possibility of expanding that sense of well-being?
Sometimes discomfort is not simply discomfort. Discomfort can be married to the disappointment, frustration, anger, or exhaustion that comes with it. Being able to sort out the discomfort from everything else can often bring a renewed sense of well-being even in pain.
Is there a possibility of relaxing your body’s tension around your sense of ill-being?
And, finally, are there some possible cause and effect connections?