The Denial of Physicality

your body temple god

Sculpture from a temple at Khajuraho
Photo by Henry Flower

Last month I wrote about how you aren’t really your body. It’s an old theme of mine, and it’s absolutely true. Your body is the vehicle for your spirit, but it isn’t the entirety of you. That being said, however, you are in a body now, and it is definitely a huge, important part of you. Your body is what keeps you grounded and connected to all life here on earth. Your body (and therefore, you) is physically part of the ecosystem and the completeness of the organism that is our planet. Your body is sensual, experiential, primitive, and wild. And the denial of all this has been the prevailing thought of modern civilization, with incredibly damaging results.

Many of the world’s monotheistic religions have demonized the body over the years. It was naked in Eden, so we had to be ashamed of it and cover it up. Female power and desire and its capacity to reduce the male to his wild, sexualized state was scary and became “sinful.” The body wants to lose control, but the mind suffers the delusion that it IS in control. Sexuality is highly problematic. Eventually, the once-revered Goddess became subservient to her male counterpart, who lost his wife. The body became a source of shame.

Some psychologists have argued that our love/hate affair with our bodies is rooted in the knowledge that our vehicle will die one day. We don’t want to be reminded of our mortality, so we try to avoid thinking of ourselves as physical beings. Most people retreat into the world of their minds or, more accurately, their egos. As we are constantly being reminded of our physicality, however, we have come up with some pretty strange ways of avoiding dealing with it.

The Inner Child’s View:  The Body and Self-Loathing

My mother was the modern marketer’s dream. She grew up impoverished, in the Southern Baptist tradition, where the body was definitely not beloved. The body was to be overcome or transcended in some cerebral, faith-driven way. As a result, she expressed an amazing amount of self-loathing toward her own physical form. My birth was traumatic for her, and she literally did not rest until she found a doctor who was willing to remove her reproductive organs, nearly twelve years later. This had the added benefit of no longer bleeding once a month, a painful reminder of just how physical we are.

But it was the little things about her body that seemed to drive her mad. The slightest congestion of her sinuses was something to be attacked. She dragged us both to allergy specialists for many years. I endured weekly allergy shots (which did nothing other than waste my Saturday mornings), and she gave me antihistamines daily, as a sort of prophylactic measure to ward off potential allergies. (As a result, I have a phenomenal resistance to just about every drug on the market, so when I do need something, I need pills strong enough to make normal mortals hallucinate.)

My mother also had the notion that her nasal passages should be clean. Cleanliness is next to godliness, and heavens have mercy, the body is just not a clean thing. Neti pots, nasal sprays of all kinds…heck, she put everything up her nose except cocaine. But if Prevention magazine had recommended it, she certainly would have. And that’s the thing. Our whole society has bought into this weird notion that our bodies are somehow immature teenagers who are incapable of taking care of themselves. We think our sinuses should be clean, our intestines should be clean, and our vaginas should be cleaned out with a vinegar rinse that smells of spring. I mean, seriously? Deodorant, perfumes, and mouthwash also play their roles in denying the fact that we exist in carbon-based, excreting, sometimes smelly bodies.

The popularity of the character of Mr. Spock is hardly surprising in this context. I love Star Trek, too, but let’s get real. Spock is the Ego Wet Dream. Always logical, always in control, never distracted by emotions or sexual feelings… unless he is in the midst of Pon farr, the time when the body and its hormones take control and logical thought becomes impossible. Poor Vulcans, there’s just no balance for them.

But balance is possible for us. We have just forgotten. Our current antibody/antiphysical mindset is responsible, no doubt, for a great many ills, including sexual predation and psychosis stemming from the conflict between our “evil” bodies and our own physical desires and needs. I suspect that many a warped sexuality grew out of this conflict.

We are Part of This Earth

The primary damage that the elevation of the mind over the heart and body has inflicted on us is the belief that we are not part of our natural environment, that we are somehow separate from the natural world. After all, if you deny your physical essence, then you deny that you are part of the ecosystem and the great web of life. I think the fundamentalist tendency to disbelieve evolution and think of man as somehow separate and “greater than” the world around us is rooted in this denial. If you hate your own physical form, then it cannot have arisen from the same processes that produce the world around us.

As I become more and more grounded into the earth and become more in tune with the animal spirits, they are showing me what modern man has forgotten. We have a primal nature, a wild nature. We feel and sense the world with more than a mere five senses. Our connection with spirit is not something that simply occurs in the stratosphere somewhere; it occurs here on the earth, even deep below the earth, as well. Sexuality is not just an occasional joyride or inconvenient feeling. It is creativity; it is love; it is power; it is a joining of spirits; it is a sacred bond.

My body is not a temple of shame. It was not created to tempt me constantly so that I might prove myself worthy of the love of an external god. Rather, my body is a temple of my spirit, and of the spirit of the entire universe. My body is a cell in the organism of the world. I am connected with all life, and I have a duty to respect and protect the other cells in this greater body.

We are pack animals. We need each other, but not just other humans. We need our animal brothers and sisters, the plants and the trees, the moving rivers that flow like veins in the body of our mother, and the great oceans that are the womb of all life.

It is time to ground yourself in the energy of the planet, to experience your spirit in its physical form. Cast off your shame and any self-loathing that lurks in the far corners of your temple. Inhabit your body fully. Be present in it, feel in it, get lost in it. After all, you’re only here for a relatively short time.

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