Spirit Trumps Body…Not!
By: Jeri Senor
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Hmm… I think, scratching my head and wrinkling up the space between my eyebrows. I don’t know about that, Monsiuer Chardin. No disrespect, but when I read that, my right eye starts to twitch and my dander gets up. Now, mind you, It is really difficult for me to get my dander up. In fact, these days, I have realized that a highly charged cup of coffee is necessary to get my languid and lazy dander to even think about getting up. So, a little dander-raising just might be in order. And you, Pierre Chardin, have given me the fodder and a perfectly delicious conundrum with which to do just that.
Now, some of you might be scratching your own heads and wondering why I am making such ado over something that, at first glance, seems so yummy and lovey-dovey other worldly. Some of you may think that where fodder and conundrums (especially delicious ones) are concerned, I should find something else to muse about.
Don’t get me wrong. The idea of a spiritual being having a human experience is brilliant. And, if lived and put into practice, I dare say it could potentially make this world a better place. But, let me be a thorn in the side, a ‘buster-upper’ of this notion that somehow spirit is superior to body because clearly that is what is implied. (Why else would my barely breathing dander be up?)
This “spirit trumps body” idea seems lacking. At best, both spiritual and human beings and experiences seem of equal import. This idea that we are shackled by our human form and somehow need to cast it aside as quickly as possible (spiritual beings experiencing not human beings experiencing) reminds me of trying to hastily move through the appetizers (human beings) because the main course (spiritual beings) is coming. Well I, for one, love appetizers and, oftentimes, they fill me up and satisfy me so completely that the main course is rendered unnecessary.
Thich Nhat Hanh said that “Walking on water is not the miracle… walking on the earth is.” This seems to validate our earthly experience and makes the above quote moot or at least invalidates spirit as superior to body. It gently urges one to find awe and wonder in the act of embodiment… of being human and the fact that there is an earth to walk on. It requests that we tweak our position.
Subtly denigrating relative reality and the objects (human beings) in it doesn’t make sense if we are to fully understand the absolute desire/need for, and beauty of, manifestation. Mindfulness of our humanity alone, though, won’t do either. We must also be acutely mindful of our spirituality. And there, Chardin has excelled. His dander-raising failure was in making the distinction between what it is that is experiencing what? Had he left it at, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience,” danders (at least mine) would remain on the couch. But, to negate that we are also human beings having a spiritual experience… ouch!
It is an easy trap to fall into, however, as many of us are generally more comfortable with the notion that a thing is “this” as opposed to “that.” Being both at the same time isn’t part of the mainstream and, therefore, can be distasteful. Two or more seemingly contradictory ideas being held as equally viable can be a profound cognitive dissonance inducer.
But, consider this. The spirit seems to be in just as much need of a body as the body is in need of a spirit. And, that we have such high regard for spirit, would seem to lend itself to the notion that we allow ourselves to trust its need, its desire and intelligence in placing itself in a body: Spirit cloaking itself in myriad form in order to be seen; Body soft… accepting, embracing and protectively housing spirit, neither usurping from the other. Body, mind and spirit co-creating, co-experiencing, playfully co-delighting in what it is to be human and what it is to be spirit simultaneously. Now that is worthy of thought.
With this perspective, I am free to revere my “human-being-ness.” I am free to allow my whole self to more fully experience all that is material as well as all that is spiritual right here, right now. I can spill into the appetizers, ooze onto the main course, and by golly… I can saturate myself with the dessert. (Might end up filled to the gills, but having my cup runneth over… that, I am committed to.)
As my body is a valuable and necessary extension of my spirit (just as my hand is an extension of my arm), I can come into a most deep and delightful awe of my humanity knowing that both body and spirit are mutually in cahoots. They dress each other up… makeup and all. One does not trump the other, and different though they may be (but, only by degree), one simply cannot be realized without the other.
My human experience would assuredly be left wanting without my spiritual experience. And, being human without being spiritual… not. I am clearly a human being having a spiritual experience, just as I am clearly a spiritual being having a human experience. And, as G. Kalsa insightfully claims, “If you cannot see the Divine in everything, you cannot see the Divine at all.”
So, pardon me Pierre Chardin, as we (my dander and me) get up and shout, “no stinking thank you”! to being told that we are the one, but not the other. We are just okey dokey, fine with being both. We will take it all… appetizer, main course and dessert.Check, please.
Jeri Senor teaches yoga at Asheville Community Yoga in Woodfin where she is often ‘caught’ telling her students not to strive to become more spiritual. “Just do the practice with awareness and enjoy your ordinary everyday moments.” She also facilitates Awareness-Breathing Experiences and can be reached at 828-337-5615 or email@example.com.