I'm really good at "yeah, but's...", probably as a result of the early imprint of high school debate. I can almost always see the other side of any argument I happen to make. Ever since I wrote about the benefits of being alive and present to our bodies, I have been thinking about the problems with doing exactly that.
I realize that this sound like a slightly weird dilemma. After all, there may be pros and cons to having a body, but what's the alternative? It's not like we can choose to be disembodied spirits instead of embodied human beings. And while that's true, it really is amazing to realize that we can choose to live as if we were disembodied spirits. We can choose to ignore our bodies, to neglect them, and to live life as if we were floating heads.
A lot of us do this, and don't even realize we're doing it, until we have an experience which makes us show up to our whole body and start living there. I'm sure there are a number of experiences which can push us in that direction. For me, the main ones have been pregnancy, sexuality, intuitive eating and yoga.
I'm no expert on that last one. My forays into yoga have been interesting, but brief. But I know a little bit about the power of that practice from my own experience, and even more from Matthew Sanford's amazing book, "Waking: A Memoir of Trama and Transcendence". I first heard of this book when Sanford gave an incredible interview on the NPR show, "Speaking of Faith".
Sanford was paralyzed from the chest down at the age of thirteen in a car accident that also killed his father and sister. His book tells the story of his recovery from that accident, a journey that eventually led to his becoming a yoga practitioner and teacher of "adaptive yoga" to disabled people. Before he discovered yoga, he writes, he really did see himself as a "floating torso". He essentially ignored the paralyzed part of his body. But yoga brought him into relationship with even the parts of his body that he can't feel or use, and taught him to fully restore his mind-body connection.
This wasn't an easy task, it turns out. As he began to reconnect with the parts of his body which had been cut off from him by his accident, he found himself re-experiencing the trauma of that experience. Somehow, his body had retained a memory of a trauma that his mind did not have access to. When he begins to have vivid flashbacks of the accident, he's terrified. But eventually he realizes, "Healing, however, is not instantaneous. It is earned. There is no way to step around my body's past experience. I am terrified. My body has much to say, and it needs acknowledgment. More important, I need to feel grateful."
That's the insight that eventually changes everything. His body has been working hard to sustain his life, and it has done well. He can honor it, even though it's broken. For me, I read his story as a real-life parable of traveling into death and coming out on the other side, resurrected.
I have a feeling that Sanford's story is a more extreme version of a story each of us could tell. Our bodies carry the memory of trauma--of pain, of brokenness, of death--and when we show up to our bodies, when we consent to hear what they have to say to us, we will hear some harrowing things. But the promise of the Gospel makes us bold: when the new day dawns, the tomb is empty.
Dare I say it? I believe in the resurrection of the body.