Spirit and Body Go Together … Obviously!

For a human being the spirit and the body are ever intermixed, at least in this lifetime! There is no such thing as a purely physical experience with zero spiritual content; and there is no such thing as a purely spiritual experience with no roots in the body.

Even in the most far-out, elevated states of concentration and meditation, the spirit uses and manifests energy from the body. And a purified body will allow from more purified states of mind. And even dreams — seemingly so unrelated to “the real world” — will cease if you take a pair of bolt cutters to the brain stem.

Less obvious to many people, but nevertheless true, is the way this street runs both ways. All physical acts are manifestations of something on the spiritual plane. Will, intention, purpose — whether our own of that of the Divine — influence and indeed create everything that we experience in the physical world.

Wisdom in human life consists in knowing when to look for the intersection between the two; and when to focus on one or the other. Some cases are obvious: if you get shot in the knee, don’t visualize the bleeding stopping… grab a tourniquet. And if you are eaten up with guilt over setting a kindergarten on fire, no amount of push-ups and broccoli is going to absolve you.

But many other things are subtle admixtures of both body and spirit. If I hate the presence of some odious, smug person, I might cure this through combining a spiritual practice (praying for charity, visualizing sympathy, etc) and bodily actions (such as breathing deep, engaging in some cheerful, energetic activity, etc). In fact, in cases like this — that is, in most cases of day to day life — it is impossible to say where the body ends and the spirit takes over. They are two things, but they are not separate.

Sometimes a physical solution can get you over a spiritual problem. Morose and self-pitying depression, for example, can be very difficult to break out of through an act of pure thought or even prayer — but it’s surprisingly vulnerable to vigorous exercise. Just go for an exhausting run, then see how you feel.

Likewise there are spiritual solutions to physical problems. Prayer and visualization can absolutely speed the healing of bodily wounds. Chemical addictions are famously hard to cure through medication or even electro-shock therapy, and famously vulnerable to spiritual cures (to the chagrin of self-seeking addicts everywhere).

Sometimes when I have a problem, I think, “Oh no! Is this caused by selfishness or by bad diet? What to do? Where do I start?” Then I remember it’s probably a little of both and that the important thing is to start somewhere. Let my bodily actions support my spiritual endeavors, and let the Divine voice speak through my physical self.

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One comment on “Spirit and Body Go Together … Obviously!

  1. zhai2nan2 says:

    Ken Wilber might say that humans are centaurs, and we must function with a unity of mind and body.

    “As consciousness begins to transcend the verbal ego-mind it can… integrate the ego mind with all the lower levels. That is, because consciousness is no longer identified with any of these elements to the exclusion of any others, all of them can be integrated: the body, the persona, the shadow, the ego- all can be brought into a higher- order integration.”
    Atman Project pg. 53

    “One contacts and stabilizes on the centaur level, the elements of the gross personality- the body, the ego, the persona, the shadow, the lower chakras- tend to fall into harmony of themselves. For the individual is beginning to transcend them, and thus he ceases to compulsively manipulate and exploit them….This is the stage describes as one of autonomy, of integration, of authenticity, or of self-actualization….”
    Atman Project pg.54

    “The centaur, the integrated and total self, above and prior to body, mind persona and shadow, but embracing as it were all of them as experiences.”
    Atman Project pg.54

    All quotes shamelessly stolen from
    http://www.kheper.net/topics/Wilber/centaur.html

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