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Sunday, December 26, 2010
Emunah. Trust. I trust in the wisdom of my body to support my soul, my mind, my heart; no matter how splintered, shattered, fragile or fractured I feel physically, on a given day. Every day as an embodied being, the potential for befriending my body with deeper compassion and yes, emunah exists.
As we age or become ill, can we trust our bodies to support us in the same ways they did in the past? No. That is the truth. Our bodies, these temporary, magnificent vessels that house our souls are in a continuous state of transformation, and have been since the day we were born. So how does one trust a body that looks different, feels different, functions differently than it did when we felt physically strong? (This is of course assuming one is born with a relatively healthy body to begin with.)
This is a difficult question. And perhaps the answer changes as the body does and with the individual answering the question. I can only speak from the heart of my own experience.
I live in a body that has an impaired immune system. As my long time readers know, I live with Multiple Sclerosis. Over the past 10 years I have been acutely ill for months on end, mercifully followed by periods of remission. Sometimes the remissions will last for many, many months, other times for only weeks. (My MS diagnosis came not much more than a year ago, but in hindsight, it is clear that a lot of the pain, strange sensations, and relentless fatigue I've experienced over the years was likely the beginning stages of this disease.)
Even on days that hold the potential to be physically challenging, you can be certain I wake up with gratitude, with modah ani on my lips before I even open my eyes. I am grateful for God’s grace, granting me another day. I am grateful for the pleasure of waking at dawn to a quiet house before the morning commotion of my daughters readying themselves for school. I am grateful for my husband lying beside me, and our dog warming our feet at the end of the bed. I am grateful for my miraculous body, with neural connections that might not be telling my legs or mouth or sensory receptors what to do in the way I expect, but still, my body is breathing God’s breath. My heart is beating.
I trust that if I can’t walk on a given day, my body will allow me to sit, and if I’m too tired to sit, I can lay down in this holy vessel, my body, meditate, rest in sivasana and feel God inside of me. I can journal about my journey on my laptop, catch up with friends and family through my blog, email, phone calls or Skype. This is an amazing time to be alive. I may not be able to go out of the house often but my friends (from around the world) and relatives (across the country), come to me, through my MacBook. Living in a somewhat disabled body does not diminish my capacity for love or joy or expression, nor does it impede my ability to interact with other people, with animals, with the beauty of the world, with God’s enduring Presence.
During times when I am mostly bed-bound, my connection with nature comes through my window, gazing at the sky or the trees, shifting with the seasons, or lately, the fractals of frost on the window, prisms, that separate the light into colors that quicken my heart with their magical allure. I trust that while on the one hand I am healing from the latest assault on my body, toxicity from a particular medication, my body’s functions will continue to break down gradually over time. I understand this as the simultaneous process of entering more fully into my humanness and opening to Spirit through the fine cracks that allow God’s light to shine through. Like the frost crystals that glaze my window, I am infused with Divine sparks, a mirror reflecting God, if only for today. And, like the frost, my existence is a temporary miracle. None of us will be here forever, so this moment, THIS ONE is precious.
I place emunah tenderly and securely in my body, the only one I have, and emunah in the Holy One of Blessing, who gently poured my soul into this same lovely, delicate vessel. I simply trust that my body will continue to cradle my soul for as long as it is meant to. I embrace the wholeness of being alive and the gift of each breath, each moment, each lesson, I am offered in this life. I may live for many more years, and there is no way to know what other losses will occur, or when, but I trust that they will, before my last breath is breathed back into God. Acceptance of this inevitability is yet another way to befriend my changing body, and a reminder to continue to cultivate gratitude for all that my body does so well and compassion for it’s suffering.
*This is an excerpt from an essay I was asked to write for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality that will be shared at an upcoming retreat. IJS offers lay retreats and trainings for Rabbis and Jewish Educators longing to deepen their own connection to God through prayer, study of holy texts, yoga, meditation and much, much more. Thank you Myriam and Sheila, my teachers, my friends, writing about emunah, helped bring discernment to what trust in my body and trust in God means for me at this time in my life. I am humbled and honored to be able to give back to the Institute in this small way.
**To make a donation to IJS, a non-profit organization that is healing the world, by expanding one heart at a time, so that we can teach and be guides for others, please click here.
***The modah ani link above takes you to my friend Janice Lynne Lundy's Awake is Good page. Jan's inspiring blog is well worth reading; if you are unfamiliar with it, do take the time to view her abundant offerings.