Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sacred Body

Lately, I have been obsessed with Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. It is a show on the Science Channel that is blowing my mind. I think because I grew up in a Christian, six-day creation household and culture, I was taught science in a factual way that was based on the idea that we know what we need to know based on the Bible and the rest is bunk. Although my dad is a nature lover and definitely gave us a strong appreciation for nature, it was always with the admiration of the Creator in mind. God and spirituality were separate from nature; God created it. Nature (including mankind) is other and must worship the God who created it. I was never given a fascination for or an appreciation of science and the search for understanding in the universe. In fact, I was always taught that we should really look skeptically on scientific research and that most of the research done is all based on lies. There is this idea in the really conservative US Christian culture that scientists are all building their careers trying to discredit the truth of Christianity and the truth of God. They want to deny God and want to deny creation, so they go out of their way to come up with things that are the opposite.

Now that I’ve been outside the Christian faith for many years, I can see this way of thinking as extremely dangerous and limiting. Instead of the scientists being the ones in denial, it’s the Christians who are in denial of all the amazing discoveries and research that is being done. I know a lot of people reading my blog are Christians. In fact, now that I think about it, probably most of you are Christians. I am not trying to be anti-Christian. I am just writing about my own journey and the discoveries I have made about myself, about what I’ve been taught and about what I believe to actually be the truth. And, lately, having learned so very much about how the universe operates and how our bodies function and the very structure of our beings, I am getting angrier about all the years I’ve missed out on knowing these things. It really frustrates me that I’ve been taught from such a narrow perspective. Instead of teaching me how to search and learn and discover, I was taught, “THIS is the truth.” Instead of saying, “This is what I believe to be true based on these things” my teachers said “THIS is the truth.” Instead of giving me a thirst for discovery and openness to what we might learn, I was taught, “THIS is the truth.” There was no room for change. There was no room for discovery. There was no room for any other way of thinking. God created the world in 6 days. He created mankind in his image. But mankind sinned and is therefore terrible and wretched and rejected by God. I was taught little songs that said, “It took him six days to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, ‘cause he’s still working on me.”

Because of this perspective, I was never given an appreciation of or respect for my body. My body was just an “earth suit” that carried around my spirit that would one day be with God again. My body was sinful. My body was full of cravings. Yes, I was taught that my body was “fearfully and wonderfully made,” but that was usually taught in the context of not having sex and not having abortions. My body was just secondary to my spirit. And, even though God made it, I was never taught to respect it or cherish it or care for it. More than anything, I was taught to try and get my body to submit to God. I truly think that because of this point of view about the body, I developed a deep disrespect and irreverence for my body. I have hated it. I have treated it with utter contempt. I viewed my body more as my “cross to bear” in life rather than my tool to live my life.

So, now I’m nearly 33 years old. And I’ve had this awakening about my body. I’ve had this “aha” moment of realizing that I have been mistreating and disrespecting the one thing I’ve really got in this life. I mean, everything else can be taken from me. If my body goes, then I’m gone. So, it’s all I’ve got. AND, after learning so much about how we’re made and how we’ve evolved and all these amazing things that are happening in our bodies, I have a deep and growing respect for my body. I’ve done a lot of damage to my body. I’ve eaten poorly. I’ve not exercised. I’ve had unprotected sex with strangers. I’ve done drugs. I’ve been binge drinking. I’ve cracked my knuckles. I’ve carried excess weight around and damaged my hips and knees. I’ve rarely flossed. I’ve picked at my fingers. I’ve gotten too much sun. And yet, my poor body is a dear and faithful friend. It keeps on going. It repairs itself. It has carried three babies. It has gotten me through difficult situations and helped me run after my kids. I’ve climbed a mountain in my body. I’ve ridden waves in the ocean in my body. I’ve sat on the porch in a highlands tribe in Papua New Guinea and felt a wind blow through me so strong I may never feel its likeness. I’ve traveled and jumped and spun around in circles. I’ve gotten to experience so many wonderful things because of this wonderful body. I’ve felt a connection to something greater, something that gives me strength every day. It is there, part of me, part of my body experience. Whatever it is, makes me feel as though I am not alone. Whatever it is keeps me peddling my bicycle, keeps me going. And I truly believe it is part of me, part of who I am as a sentient being on this particular planet revolving around our particular star in this particular galaxy and in this particular universe. And, based on what I’ve been learning, there is still so much more to learn about what it means to have a body, how we function, how our brains work.

I have come to truly understand and believe that my body is sacred. I have come to respect it and am just beginning to treat it better. I’m realizing that, at 33, I still have many, many years to live in this body, so I better start caring for it and getting it in the best shape I can to carry me through all those years, to give vibrancy and life to my years. If I want a life filled with adventure, I better remember that it’s my body that’s going to take me on those adventures. If I destroy my knees, I won’t be able to run with the bulls. If I pick at my fingers, it won’t be a pleasant hand to hold as I grow older. If I get too much sun, I’m going to look older and maybe shorten my life with illness. If I drink too much, I may destroy my liver. You get the idea. And that is just the physicality. I also want to harness the strength I have as a soul. I want to learn to love my body and love my self and treat other people with the same love and respect. I want to have mindfulness and awareness. I want to harness the strength of my mind and my body and figure out how to truly BE HUMAN, because that is all I am that I know for sure. I want to learn as much as I can about the scientific discoveries about our bodies and how that relates to how we experience the world. Is there a “God” part of our brain? Is there a force within us we don’t yet know or understand? Do we have separate “sprits” or are we all connected with some sort of energy? What is really going on here? I want to know. I want to learn. I want to stay open. And, more than anything, I really want to start respecting my body and treating it like I would a friend. Poor old body, you’ve been mistreated for too long.


Anonymous said...

I wish we had been in touch years ago... who knew we were leading such similar lives. I swear I feel LUCKY to have escaped the mind fuck that was my Christian upbringing. Private school, RBC... and hell, I don't even have the last name of Minter to further fuel my guilt LOL.

I wish we could hang out... I'd love for you to come to FL some time!! We can hang out on the beach and drink beer while the kids eat sand :)


Jen Stults said...

Heather - how brave of you to be honest about your struggle for truth and meaning, knowing that most of your friends are Christians! : ) I think that your perspective on Christianity is skewed by your particular experience growing up - not all Christians are raised with this thinking. In fact, most of the things you condemn are things that I also would condemn. As Christians, we SHOULD be in awe of nature and especially our bodies. God has given us great responsibility in these areas. We SHOULD seek to learn and use the minds God gave us. The problem is that we are not perfect, and we don't always live out the faith in the way that we should. : ) If you are searching for scientific truth, I would suggest looking at scientific evidence from both sides of the argument - check out Lee Strobel's works Case for Christ and Case for a Creator. The odds of earth just happening to be the perfect blend - chemically, physically, and biologically - of the attributes necessary to support life will blow your mind! And the story behind Lee Strobel's work is pretty amazing, too. : )

Anonymous said...

Other odds that blow my mind... the chances that all land species on earth could survive on a boat for 40 days regardless of the different temperatures, diets and environments they require to survive. the chances that a human could turn water into wine, the chances that one could be dead for three days and then not only return to life but also fly off into space.

Hopefully science will prove that God exists, that way we can find out who was right after all and stop the fighting.


becky said...

I love your honesty, Heath... I'm thankful to be your friend even though we might have different views on certain things. I have several friends who, along their life journeys, have decided to become more "openminded" and no longer associate with those who share different views than themselves. It's truly a shame; how can we grow if we live our lives in a bubble shutting out anything that may challenge us?

I did also want to say that my perspective on my upbringing and on science is much different than you describe. I don't know if that has to do with working in health sciences and being married to a guy who is very scientifically minded or whether it has to do with my nature/personality, but I don't feel that I was taught not to question or that a "crisis of belief" so to speak was a bad thing.

Anyway, thanks for sharing with us. I hope someday we can sit and actually talk about all this in person (dare I say without interruption?)

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