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Rejoicing that We Live in a Body

Let’s look deeply into what it means to have a human life where we inhabit a body, a great gift, given for a brief season. We can rejoice in being human. When we live well in the body we’ve been given, we will cease to regret the passage of time. We can choose to claim the body, treat it with loving care, and cherish the gift it is.

The workings of the human body are miraculous, and we can continue to learn about our bodies and celebrate their wonders. From birth to death our bodies are constantly changing. Instead of being bewildered and unhappy about these changes, we can choose to meet them with gratitude. The body is the vehicle for our experiences in this life, a holy vessel created to carry us through everything that comes to greet us.

As we cultivate joy and appreciation for everything in life, we find ourselves loving our bodies along with our minds, our hearts, our consciousness. One of the strange notions that has held many of us back from experiencing our bodies as gift has been the idea that we are not our bodies and, therefore, that they don’t count. It is not uncommon for people to think the body is a drag on us, a weight we would rather not have to lug around.

In the ‘70s I met a fellow student of theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. We were each practicing meditation techniques from India. It seemed we would have lots in common. His idea was that he wanted to get, as he put it, “off the wheel”, that is, to cycle out of what he saw as an endless round of birth/death/rebirth—followed, I might add, by the next inevitable death. He truly didn’t “like” his body and felt it was a weight he wanted forever to be rid of. He often spoke of his body disparagingly, which, to me, was “much ado about nothing”. Here we are in bodies. My idea is: Let’s see how we can love that.

I believe the human body is a great gift. Enjoyment of living in it and gratitude for its miraculous functioning are two essential parts of the human experience.

In the body we have a resting place from which to observe and embrace the totality of our experience on this planet.

Our bodies have consistently blessed and supported us. Why not shower each part with gratitude and love. Thank our feet for the walking they do. Thank our heart for faithfully pumping nutrients and oxygen through the body every moment of every day. Thank our brain for supporting our creative genius. Thank our immune system for keeping us strong and healthy.

Adapted from my book, Great Love in the 21st Century.

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