In spirit work there’s a line of wisdom that states that one must get right with the body before the practice can really go anywhere. Like many others before me, I wrestled with this wisdom wanting to reject it out of hand as not applying to me, wanting to see my situation as not applicable to its guidance, and wanting to hold up the pressure of the Work as evidence that I had things to do *now*, not once the body’s concerns were satisfied. Maybe most of all I didn’t want to look too hard at the body or to acknowledge the myriad pockets of deep dark sticky self-hatred that lurked not very far under the surface.
For years I’d cry openly at even small slights and setbacks. Being singled out, being ignored, being picked on, being praised – everything that called attention to myself (or that caused me to think about myself) resulted in instant distress. My self was not a safe place to be and I never knew why. Though much insight has been gained a considerable degree more comfort has been won I still struggle with very deep wells of self-loathing, distrust of my physical state, and disgust at the fact of embodiment. Perhaps I have thus far failed at getting right with the body. Things are better but there’s still a very long way to go.
Despite the obstacles and difficulties I’ve managed to come to some very important realizations about the body and it’s place in devotion and spirit work. That the body is the only vehicle of practice might seem so simplistic that it doesn’t even need stated – but it does.
The body really *is* the only vehicle of practice. What else is there? What else carries our matrix of awareness, planning, anticipation, experience, and sensation forward into new dimensions of practice?
That a non-physical complex is related to the physical complex doesn’t diminish the thrust of this particular truth. Indeed, the sensations our non-physical complex sends us are interpreted and sorted via physical capacities; we would not even be able to make sense of what was happening to our spiritual and non-physical selves were it not for our capacity of perception – and this perception is rooted (or at least most easily discerned) in physical tissues and organs.
Getting right with the body allows greater capacity for spiritual sensation, exploration, and growth. Although there were plenty of spirit work tasks and lessons I could handle while still battling the fact of embodiment things got better once I stopped fighting. After all, there’s no way to win in this fight (as in so many, many others). A different strategy was called for.
Gradually seeing my body as integral to practice – as fundamentally supporting the very fact of practice itself – has allowed me to give it some space, patience, and understanding. It can’t help being the way it is; chronically ill, disabled, injured, chemically scarred, easily fatigued, incapable of living up to standards of appearance or beauty, bearing the evidence of both sides of the colonization process the body simply is what it is. Radical acceptance is required. Trying to get deeper into the body and situate my awareness firmly here (ha!) will, I hope, let me dive deeper into practice and to integrate the actions of all this work into my physical self through knowledge and sensation.
The body is the vehicle of practice, the thing that carries our inquiries and capacity for sensation into spiritual engagement. The body is also the very site of practice, the place where this holy work occurs. Devotion happens in the body. Magic happens in the body. Spirit work happens in the body. We are our own setting, our own foundation, our own holy land – after all, this is where the gods become seen, heard, felt, and loved. How can the body be anything less than absolutely sacred?
Place and space have become important to my practice. Engaging deeply with space was a necessary part of developing the Virtual Temple Project and Loki’s temple videos. Even though these videos are intended to transcend the boundaries of physical space and make place accessible without consideration for conventional geography, these strange in/tangible principles continue to put parameters upon the expression of these videos. For instance, I can’t just slap together some candles on a table and have it become a temple space. Something else is required.
Repetition is part of what’s required. Repetition is one way that time becomes easily noticed in space, and it’s also something that adds layers upon layers of meaning and power to a space. A temple space without the requisite time spent building that power isn’t actually a temple space at all.
All this repetition and planning requires a great deal of engaged investment; there can be an element of deep play to this work, just like there is to the work of getting right with the body. Finally it occurred to me that body and place are much the same thing, at least in principle. Just as space and place become transformed through focused engagement, so does the body. Because the body is the place of practice, engagement with it is a way to bring about the desired transformation.
Again, all of these principles are actually very very simple. But you see, I already know how to transform space into place and place into a crossroads of the numinous. This means that I can do it all over again within the body and as the embodied self. My practice continually leads me back to the body and demands that I dig deeper.