As a teenager, I found mindfulness a little insulting. One book on the subject instructed me to take a shower as if it were the only activity in the world, to feel all the lather and the hot water and to focus on every swipe of the washcloth; to breathe in the steam and to “be” the shower. Frankly, it seemed limiting and kind of sad.
How could I pretend that a shower is everything, I thought, when there is so much more in the world, when I have a complex mind and emotions and my life is so complicated? Why, it makes me sound like nothing more than an animal! It reduces me to less than a human being, and denies my spirit and puts me in a box that reads “this is all life is”. Is this all we can hope to attain: the enjoyment of a good shower? It seemed small and silly.
But years later, I often find myself caught up in tiring, circling thoughts that lead nowhere. I feel resentment about my past and anxiety about my future. I feel like I’m floating aimlessly, with nothing to anchor me to life, nothing to make me solid and whole.
Yet I find that I am happy when I slip into nature. The warm breezes and shimmering leaves speak to me and settle my spirit in wordless silence. And I have moments of conversation with friends when we stand side by side, breathing together, laughing, and I feel a deep connection that I can’t explain. We are like trees in the sun, warmed and rooted to the earth, as we sink into each other’s physical presence; lost in the moment, and found there, as well.
I begin to see that these moments felt deep in my body anchor me to life, give me a place from which to connect and know. God gave me a physical body for a reason. I am not a formless, floating spirit. Well, maybe I actually am, on some level, but this spirit has its current home in a physical body; a body crafted to experience one moment at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time.
The irony, I am learning, is that the more deeply I go into my body — my physical presence right here, right now — the more I connect to my spirit and its shining joy. I feel the solidness of my back and stomach as I sit in this chair, I feel the openness of my beating heart and the light that pours into it and moves into my eyes and ears, and I relish all the sights and sounds that flow through me and feed my spirit and move back out into the world. I am spirit tethered to a body that is a world of wonders, a gateway into all connection within and without. And I am awed and comforted.
The journey continues…