I’m not only my spirit but my body, and who can decide how much I, my individual self, am conditioned by the accident of my body? Would Byron have been Byron but for his club foot, or Dostoyevsky Dostoyevsky without his epilepsy? – W.Somerset Maugham
Artists and philosophers have debated for ages whether the body was a detachable thing from the soul or the mind that inhabited it. The body, considered separately, has been variously described as a vessel, a prison, a temple, a golden cage, a sacred garment. It’s what remains when we die, when the mysterious presence of our life is gone. It’s also how we express the various truths of ourselves during our lifetime.
One certainly has a soul; but how it came to allow itself to be enclosed in a body is more than I can imagine. I only know if once mine gets out, I’ll have a bit of a tussle before I let it get in again to that of any other. – Lord Byron
Touch is reciprocal – when you touch someone else, you are also being touched yourself. It’s how we first learn, as babies, where we physically end and someone else begins. The nature and frequency of our first, formative touchings shape how we perceive the world, how we take up space in it and how comfortable we are in our physicality. Our bodies carry the messages of what we receive – tenderness, violence, pleasure, caring are all communicated through the physical body to our comprehending core.
If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred. – Walt Whitman
Another way of looking at the body is that it’s a container, a place where our consciousness is kept, where our perceptions and our thoughts reside. We also carry emotion and memory in our bodies that sometimes manifest as tension, chronic pain, illness. Professional massage therapists know that we often release suppressed emotions related to trauma, abuse and ongoing stress when we have bodywork done. Muscle tightness is one way the body holds anger, grief, fear, depression and other powerful feelings that the conscious mind cannot or will not cope with. These patterns in our bodies can become fixed, holding us in postures of unconscious tension until they are released.
Health is an indicator of the body’s condition. Think of the many ways your outlook changes even with minor illnesses, fevers, pains. Or perhaps you’ve suffered a major injury or live in the presence of a health condition of some kind. Perhaps you’ve borne children, or wanted to.
The movements, stillness and activities of our body are, like poetry, another form of personal expression. Whether you walk with your dog every day, sit at a desk all day, do kundalini yoga or train for marathons, you’re using the potential and energy of your body to a specific purpose every day.
The body says what words cannot. – Martha Graham
We also tend to see the body as honest, somehow, like an animal that simply is what it is and does what it does. Think of the times you’ve searched someone’s features, watched their mannerisms, their “body language” for the truth, maybe when you didn’t quite believe what they were saying to you.
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. – Emily Dickinson
* Are you a body with a soul inside it or a soul with a body around it? What’s the difference?
* What part of your body has its own story to tell? Do you still have your tonsils, your appendix?
* Has a musical instrument, a tool, a motorcycle, a horse, a weapon ever felt like an extension of yourself, part of your body?
* How are you a physical place? What do you contain? If you do, where do you open?
* Is your body a metaphor for some truth about you?
* Talk about the changes in your body, either abruptly or over time, or differences in how you’ve come to perceive your body.
* Do you disregard your health? Alternately, do you obsessively tend to your body? Be honest about your carelessness or your vanity.
* Try writing a biographical poem about the body. Take note of any points where you feel your own story and your body’s story diverge from each other.
* Have you ever been so lost in a moment, in another human being or animal, or in the presence of something so amazing that you felt the boundary of your body dissolving, becoming weightless?
* Alternately, have you ever suffered a mental or emotional shock so powerful it affected you physically?