Lately, I’ve been thinking about this experience of being in the body–and particularly the fluctuations of energy, the ebb and flow of wellness we all experience to different degrees. When I was much younger, I felt like I could command my body to do whatever I wanted it to do. In my young adulthood, aches and pains set in and I slowly became aware of the body having limits and it insisting it would call the shots from now on.
But of course I didn’t listen. I kept dragging my body from here to there insisting it be a good sport. And to prove it had the upper hand, I started getting sick. Just enough of a sore throat or an aching body to make it absolutely clear that I must stay in bed and cease all my big plans for a day or two.
And what I found was: it was nice being forced to slow down. I secretly loved letting plans go and surrendering my will at the hands of sleep and tea and warmth. Of course, as is often the case when I manage to be aware that my experiences–seemingly good or bad–are teaching me something, I felt Meher Baba’s hand in that realization. It always struck me as so gentle of Him to teach me a valuable lesson about letting go with a simple cold or flu. And, often, in those slowed-down times, I would remember more to keep His company and a different kind of freedom would result.
By His grace, I have been spared any serious illness so far in my life. But as more people close to me struggle with sickness and physical challenges, I continue to wonder what it means to have a spiritual experience in bodies that often fall ill or otherwise restrict the freedom of our external experience.
The push and pull between me and my body these days is about sleep. I am more tired than I want to be most of the time. And it seems many people in our culture are walking through life this way: exhausted by all of life’s demands and desperate for space and rest. Yet, many of us don’t do anything about it. We continue to chase our careers, social lives, travel plans, homemaking and all of life’s tasks as if there is no room to step back from any of it. We even relax with a vengeance.
Maybe so many of us live at this speed because we would rather ignore the idea of limits, we’d like to believe that we can do it all and that doing things matters. We are afraid of surrender. I know that I find it incredibly difficult to do less and rest more. So much of my identity comes from being on top of things and following through. After all, Baba did tell us not to shirk our responsibilities for the sake of a “spiritual life.” I think I really absorbed that part of His message.
But Baba also reminded us, gently, beautifully that “It is Maya that makes you identify yourself with the body and which makes you forgetful of your eternal, indivisible, resplendent divinity.” Maybe experiences of our bodies letting us down are opportunities to dip in that eternal lightness. And, like each time we take His hand to accept and surrender to the experience we are in, surrendering even to the ebb and flow of our own health is a chance to remember that we are in this body, but we are of something far more limitless than that.