Our bodies are integral not only to our physical existence but also to our spiritual practice. I love the aspects of Goddess spirituality that are especially attuned to checking in with and respecting our bodily wisdom. We host an entire biome of bacteria in our guts that we’ve assembled from our various life experiences. Think about that, we are each playing concierge to a list of travelers from each of the places we’ve stopped along the way. There is recent research suggesting these entities can communicate through neurotransmitters with our brains, and let us know when they aren’t “happy!” To me, this gives a new dimension to the concept of gut feelings and intuition and highlights the importance of respecting our physical needs.
Caring for Medical Conditions
Medical checkups and treatment are not high on my list of things I enjoy doing, but these are basic needs we all have and may often put off out of anxiety or busyness. Situational factors like limited insurance and serious health conditions can add to the burden of these needs. It takes time and energy to evaluate every possible resource and option, but sometimes additional information helps us to find solutions we otherwise might have missed. I find myself returning to the concept that our bodies are sacred. From this framework, attending to them is a spiritual act, one that can propel us into caring for the people, animals and land around us as sacred beings and sacred ground.
Recent studies have demonstrated a multitude of benefits, both physical and mental, that come from a healthy night’s sleep. It is one of the most important things those of us who have mental health concerns can do to lessen our risk factors for more serious episodes and breakdowns. In addition to the benefits to our body and mind, sleep is a gateway into the fascinating world of dreams! What better way to allow Goddess to speak to us through symbolism than through our dream-world. Consider ways to make your sleeping area a sacred place of rest and divine communication.
Sex and sensual needs may be mired in guilt and shame for those of us raised in religions and cultures that deny that they are a natural part of being a human. They can be especially fraught for those of us who are sexual abuse survivors. For some, those around us can pressure us into engaging in behaviors that are outside of what we desire for ourselves. You have the exclusive right to determine how and when you express your sexual identity and desires, as long as you are not infringing on anyone else’s rights. Sex does not need to be a spiritual act, but, for many, it can be a conduit to deeper spiritual understanding and fulfillment when the sacred is intertwined. If you aren’t sure where to start, get to know yourself first. For women, Lisa Lister’s The Sassy She is one resource for experiencing our sexuality as sacred.
Eating With Purpose
Access to time and place to engage in healthy eating helps our bodies in innumerable ways. I love the fact that we can practice mindful eating or share in a ritual meal as a way to draw the sacred into our physical needs. Something related that I just started doing to encourage myself to eat more mindfully was inspired by Starhawk’s book Earth Path, in which she describes thanking the sources of our meals. I try to imagine the origins of each piece of food and express my gratitude to that from which it came. So, for example, if I’m eating eggs and toast, I would thank the chickens that produced the eggs as well as the wheat field that led to my slice of bread. I also take time to express appreciation for the workers who transformed the food source. This practice is deeply challenging me on how I feel about eating certain kinds of meats like beef and pork. They don’t seem as appealing to me if I cause myself to think about a cow or pig dying to create them. I’m also a bit concerned as well as how “natural” my food is if it takes me more than a few seconds to identify the original plant or animal that it came from!
Moving Our Bodies
Exercise and physical activity are other needs that we can interweave into the spiritual. Movement exercises such as yoga certainly can have a spiritual dimension. Moments of indulgence like lounging around feel more peaceful to me if they are counterbalanced with activity. A free resource I like for physical activity is Fitness Blender, which I’ve used as my workout inspiration for years. There isn’t anything particularly spiritual about Dan and Kelly’s approach, but they promote a healthy body image and listening to one’s body, which I take as a respect for our inner intuition.
Your body is ready to let you know what it needs, should you be willing to listen to it. It will let you know one way or another what is going on for it, and I think it’s much nicer to receive its feedback as a little nudge than a full-blown illness or exhaustion. Incorporating the spiritual into how we respond to the messages our body sends us can allow us to more fully access our intuition. I also believe tasks we may find unpleasant, such as going to the doctor or working out, carry a heightened sense of importance and demand more diligence when we envision our spirituality in an embodied form.