A Course in Miracles and the Body
In the study of A Course in Miracles, one of the core lessons, “I am not a body, I am free” sends many folks into a spin. As a body-oriented psychotherapist, I understand the struggle. For over 20 years I have been teaching that the body holds wisdom and is here to teach, guide and support. Are these beliefs in conflict? Not for me.
In my experience, knowing that I am not the body does not prevent me from working with the body’s wisdom. In fact, quite the opposite. As I learn to identify less with the body and sensations, less aversion and attachment to it arises. When I believe I am the body, I also believe if the body is not okay, I’m not okay, which cannot be true. Stephen Hawking (who some would say was imprisoned in the body) and Victor Frankl (whose body was imprisoned) clearly demonstrate that we are so much more than the body.
When overly identified with the body and sensation, there is a tendency to extremes: we either exalt it as God, or vehemently deny it as the devil. In the hands of the ego, the body becomes a problem to solve and a tool to enforce the belief in separation. Clearly, if all I am is a body and you’re also that; I am not you and you are not me. And this completely contradicts any belief that we are one.
New age thinking has also had a heyday with the body; often blaming and judging those with physical ailments with a proclamation: “if you would only think right, you wouldn’t be sick”. This is not completely out of accord with the teachings of the Course (which says only the mind creates), but it is certainly out of accord with “Teach only Love, for that is what you are”. I have certainly dealt with my share of physical ailments. Blaming myself and trying to figure out what I did wrong to create them is an attack upon myself and not useful and not kind. When we believe we are the body, we are inclined to take credit or blame for everything it does, which leads us further into separation and egoic thinking. Instead, I choose to heed any lessons (i.e.: "slow down," "don’t push so hard," or "don’t worry") and as best I can, to allow the wave of illness or discomfort to be just that.
The Course says the body is a way of joining and uniting minds with Spirit. And “the only reality of anything is the service it renders God on behalf of the function He gives it”. Recognizing the body as a communication device and not what we are, opens up a whole new conversation. When I think of the body in this way, it’s a little closer to the way I think of my car. I love my car, but I am not my car. My car has a purpose and serves it well. If it should break down, I would not say I am broken. When I look at the body in this way, it no longer has power over me. And then, I can truly listen to its lessons.
In my work as a somatic psychotherapist, I teach clients how to listen and respect the body. To understand that it holds unresolved emotions; that it registers upset before the mind; and that it can teach us how to open and let go. When I know I am not the body, I can give it the respect it deserves. For more on having a respectful relationship with the body, see my previous posts Using the Body to Let Go, What is your body trying to tell you, and Where the Body Goes.