This afternoon my son, Remy, got to missing his dad who is in Japan doing field work. I found him in the backyard sitting on a rock crying tears that were so sincere and alone that I immediately cried right along with him–both out of sadness for him, and also a sense of joy that he, after a mere five years on this earth, was able to feel so deeply for someone else.
Because I was crying, I was short on words, and really didn’t have anything that great to say anyway, but I sat on an overstuffed chair and let his little heaving body fill in every space on my stomach and chest. We stayed there for a long time without words while he calmed and seemed to want to melt right into me until any hurt he felt was gone.
I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies and the spirit lately and have come to a few abstract ideas and conclusions, but that moment for me was made of clarity. My body is home to my children. I lay between them each night while they fall asleep and they reach out in the dark and stroke my face or reach for my hand. It’s like the reaffirmation of both their place in the world, and their place in a larger plan, as they run their tiny hands across the familiar and tangible landscape of my body. My body for them is a manifestation of home, and home is what the spirit has always felt like for me.
There have been periods in my life, more than I’d like to admit, that I’ve spent copious amounts of time, thought and energy in trying to re-arrange the home of my body. Roughly pushing furniture around in dissatisfaction, barging in with the latest trend, sitting at the window wishing that my home were anything than what it was. I think, like most women, I’ve been harsh to my body, spoken unkindly to and about it.
In high school and college I learned quickly that externality of the body is more than important, it is survival in a culture where dating and marriage are the goal. The externalities of my body didn’t always live up to my expectations, or often to those of others and I found myself in the banal war of hope for my body to be something other than what it was-read skinnier.
Maybe then it is having a three-year old little girl who is so confident she snuck around a wedding reception last night smacking older men on the backs of their legs and running away laughing that has helped me to shift my paradigm. Since she’s been around, I have slowly, one step and one day at a time been taking back my confidence in my body. I feel fierce in protecting her confidence, and I’ve learned in order to do that, I have to protect my own. I’ve learned that my ability to be an efficacious woman of any sort of spiritual power, I first have to love my body.
I have to love the place that is home to my spirit and home to my children. As I held my son today, his head pressed up against the place where my heart beats, his legs wrapped around a belly I at one time despised for not being flatter, I felt a sort of communion that was consecrated by the peace I’ve found with my body. I’ve stopped worrying about re-making my body into the perfect arrangement.
It is not just the maternal that makes my body an important and vital spiritual vessel though. The bodies of my friends who don’t have children are places of respite for me, and my children, again and again. It is also not just female that makes a body home. Sitting on laps and reading books, a hug, a hand held, a surety conveyed by peace between the spirits and bodies of my friends have huge impact for good and for peace in my life, and I know it is not just me that feels the power in that.
As a kid and teenager, I never took much stock in the phrase “the body is a temple” because the temples I knew felt so stark and ordered and white. My body is untempered in the way that it has never quite fit the model I supposed it was meant to be and so the idea of trying to make it a temple felt abstract and unreachable. But today, temple meant home. Temple meant a place of rest from the world. Temple meant fullness and complexity and a hope for better things, and an acceptance even if things did not get better than they are now. Today for the first time in maybe ever, initially for my children, and then for me, I recognized this body of mine as a temple.