It is so obvious and has probably been said before, but I heard from a counseling client today wisdom that floored me, took my breath away in its simplicity and strength. His words:
"Dear God, please help me listen to, and not look at, my body."
- John D.
I think everything I might ever want to teach the world is contained in that perfect prayer.
Why is it perfect?
It addresses God personally and with affection. God is not distant, God is near and dear.
It is rooted in the sensual experience of being human, the senses of sight and hearing.
It reflects the essential importance of imagination and metaphor in understanding the world we live in and the lives we live. “Listening to the body” is both real and impossible. We must grasp and lift the burdens that limit our imaginations so that we may free that truth from our cynicism. It is possible to listen to our bodies.
The prayer acknowledges how looking can impede listening. It doesn't disparage vision, but it teaches that vision is often the short circuit, the path of easiest access and least resistance, that deprives us of the self-knowledge that sensitive listening provides.
Implied also is how looking at bodies is a common experience and, as a result, problematic. I look at my body, I look at other bodies, I look at other people looking at me, and I get lost in the house of mirrors. All that looking, and I stop seeing me, I see only what I think other people see.
Listening, on the other hand, is personal, individual, tells us so much more. As a yogi, as a body healer, I've learned (even if I forget sometimes!) that I gain much more wisdom about my body by listening to it than I do by looking at it. Great body workers don't succeed by looking at bodies, they listen with their hands.
Finally the prayer makes clear, this isn't easy. We need God's help in this, because there is so much in our lives – good and bad – that makes this a challenge. Ignoring irrelevant issues of telescopes and microphones, This is true: Looking is easy, and we can do it from a distance. Listening is hard, and we need to be up close to accomplish it.
To listen to our bodies we must inhabit them. God, please make that possible today.