Meditating on the Body

Interlude:  Nú hverfur sól í haf, performed by Schola Cantorum Reykjavicensis, on the Meditatio: Music for Mixed Choir album

You do not have a soul.  You are a soul. You have a body.

This Facebook meme drew me in a few weeks ago, with its emphasis on the verbs.  If you have something, you’re supposed to take care of it — rule #1 of possessions, most of us learned by the time we got to kindergarten.

Kindergarten was a long time ago, and I’ve reached the point where taking care of my body seems like more work than ever.  Funny thing is, every time I look for help with my body, meditation is right there, saying “Let me help you with that.”

I’ve read two books on how to lose weight over the past few months. Both authors recommended meditation as an important tool. Being mindful of what you eat.  Of whether you’re hungry. Being mindful of why you want to eat.  Sitting with your thoughts and feelings before you respond to a craving.  Meditation can help you.

I’ve been in physical therapy as part of recovery from foot surgery, and paying attention to how I’m using my body is an important element there, too. Don’t just walk, pay attention what your feet are doing. Well, if you’ve been meditating, paying attention to what your body is doing, to your breath, is a familiar activity.  Once again, meditation can help you.

I had a root canal re-done a few weeks ago, and tools from meditation made that long procedure easier than it might have been.  Relaxing into my meditative state, I paid attention to my body — not the sounds around my numb jaw, but the little places of tension that would show up in other parts of my body.  Relax the toes, and breathe. A while later, relax the shoulders, and breathe. Some time after that, relax the fingers, and breathe. Meditation was a big help.

All this body stuff — yeah, I’m not as young as I once was. And being closer to mortality than youthful invincibility can really mess with your attitude.  But again, every time you meditate, your body reminds you that you are still alive. The rhythm of your breath, in and out. “I’m not dead yet!” But more than that, meditating reinforces the sense that your body is not you.   That your thoughts are not you.  That “you” is something else altogether.  And our faith tells us that particular “you” is immortal.  Meditation — a huge help.

Yes, you have a body.  And you are a soul.  In the coming Christmas season, when we celebrate Christ entering the world in the flesh — taking on a body, let us also be thankful for our meditation practice, which blesses us body and soul, not just in the holidays, but every day throughout the year.

Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on December 7, 2018.