To a Celt or Native American or member of any earth-based tradition, the idea of the duality of body and soul would be comical. To our early ancestors, a person was not a body with a soul; a human was an integrated body-soul. But over time, as duality-laden religions dominated the culture, we lost touch with this inner knowing. We stopped seeing the body as the beautiful expression of spirit. John O’Donohue speaks of this truth in his book Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom: “The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you toward wisdom and holiness.”
The first chakra—the chakra that energetically grounds your sacred temple to mother earth—is the ideal place to begin these seven deep soul explorations, because your soul vows are the vehicle through which you will gather divine Presence in you and through you. That means in and through your body. You won’t just think your soul vows or say your soul vows; you will be your soul vows. You will be your soul vows in the most ordinary times and ordinary ways. Through your hands and your feet, you will plant your vows on earth. So take time in this first exploration to refresh your relationship with this exquisite vehicle of earthly life, your body.
Begin with Self-Care
The word self-care has been bandied about so much that we don’t really hear it anymore. Caring for ourselves comes across as one more thing to do, one more retreat to attend, one more yoga series to sign up for. That’s a great shame because self-care—caring for your Self—is the first way we acknowledge that we are the beloved of the Divine. If we are as loved as the poet-saints tell us, then we honor the embrace of the Divine by embracing ourselves.
The popular wording for this whole-self embrace is “body, mind, spirit.” But there’s an intrinsic problem with that phrase. It reinforces a feeling of parts—the body part, the mind part, the spirit part. We are not a series of parts; we are an integrated whole. Honoring the body is one and the same as honoring the mind, and one and the same as honoring the spirit.
An exciting way to begin to honor your exquisite body is to turn your attention to your senses, because, as John O’Donohue reminds us in Anam Cara, “Your senses link you intimately with the divine within you and around you.” As you focus on, appreciate, and begin to honor your miraculous senses, something surprising and holy happens: you begin to notice that divine guidance flows effortlessly and continuously in and through them. Throughout your entire body, but especially in your gut, you awaken to your natural gift of clairsentience and realize you are, and always have been, a font of intuition. That’s what “I have a gut feeling” means.
With practice, you can learn to trust the yes and no signals in your body. As you revel in your sense of vision, for example, you will begin to notice divine guidance everywhere you look. Animals crossing your path, books opening to a particular page, even billboards will surprise you with news that you are guided and loved. When you reduce the amount of noise bombarding your ears, you will begin to hear guidance all around. It may come as a snippet of conversation, a phrase in a song, the call of an owl. You don’t know what it will be or how it will come, but by becoming quiet and open, you will begin to hear in a whole new way. These are just a few of the gifts that come from wrapping yourself in your own self-loving embrace.
Notice the Media You Invite into Your Life
Your attention is sacred. Where it lands is what you deem holy. Notice the images, ideas, and emotions that pour into you through the media you watch, the music you listen to, and the newspapers, magazines, and books you read. Once you pay attention, you may find that some, perhaps most, are not in alignment with what your soul knows to be true. Don’t worry if this happens. Don’t get mad at yourself. Simply stop and listen to your internal knowing and act on the truth you hear.
Where does my attention land throughout my day?
What is that telling me about what I consider holy?
Reduce the Noise in Your Life
You can tune into your internal knowing more easily with a body that is not bombarded with noise. Every sound, from the softest sigh to the roar of a jet engine, is a vibration, and your body feels them all, whether you are conscious of it or not. Noise is not just a nuisance; it’s a health hazard impacting hearing loss, hypertension, heart disease, aggression, and sleep. But it’s tough to get away from. Our consumer-oriented world intentionally uses noise to induce us to buy things. The next time you walk into a store, notice the rhythm and volume of the songs on the sound system. Stores don’t play this music to entertain, and it’s not background music. It’s in your face—or rather, in your ear—because research shows that people spend more money when high energy music is playing at high volume.
Restaurants are often worse. We go out to eat for respite, food, and conversation, but instead of creating an environment conducive to enjoyment, many restaurants, especially large chains, serve up surround-sound assault. The music prevents conversation and often insults the cuisine. When my favorite Thai restaurant played loud country music, I walked out, never to return. Find the quiet mom-and-pop restaurants in your area and encourage your friends to support them, too. And tell your dentist and doctor and car repair shop to please turn the TV down or, better still, off.
You may not be able to get away from all the exterior noise in your life, but you can control interior noise. Often, instead of creating quiet havens in our private spaces, we add to the noise by playing the radio in the car, keeping ear buds in our ears, and leaving the TV on. In honor of your precious body and delicate sense of hearing, notice the noise in your life and eliminate all you can. Then watch as your muscles untense in the quiet, and guidance begins to flow more easily in and through your beautiful, relaxed body.
Reprinted with permission from Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC., Soul Vows by Janet Conner is available wherever books or ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at 1-800-423-7087 or www.redwheelweiser.com.