on being your body: you are not what you look like

You’ve heard me say (or read me write?) that you are not your body.

But as I was reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle the other day, I came upon a passage that made me realize that perhaps I’ve been framing it the wrong way. It discusses how many religions deny the body, but it’s not a far stretch at all to relate it to our own personal denial of our bodies

Why have most religions condemned or denied the body? It seems that spiritual seekers have always regarded the body as a hindrance or even as sinful.

Why have so few seekers become finders?

On the level of the body, humans are very close to animals. All the basic bodily functions– pleasure, pain, breathing, eating, drinking, defecating, sleeping, the drive to find a mate and procreate, and of course birth and death– we share with the animals. A long time after their fall from a state of grace and oneness into illusion, humans suddenly woke up in what seemed to be an animal body– and they found this very disturbing. “Don’t fool yourself. You are no more than an animal.” This seemed to be the truth that was staring them in the face. But it was too disturbing a truth to tolerate. Adam and Eve saw that they were naked, and they became afraid. Unconscious denial of their animal nature set in very quickly. The threat that they might be taken over by powerful instinctual drives and revert back to complete unconsciousness was indeed a very real one. Shame and taboos appeared around certain parts of the body and bodily functions, especially sexuality. The light of their consciousness was not yet strong enough to make friends with their animal nature, to allow it to be and even enjoy that aspect of themselves– let alone to go deeply into it to find the divine hidden within it, the reality within the illusion. So they did what they had to do. They began to disassociate from their body. They now saw themselves as having a body, rather than just being it.

When religions arose, this disassociation became even more pronounced as the “you are not your body” belief. Countless people in East and West throughout the ages have tried to find God, salvation, or enlightenment through denial of the body. This took the form of denial of sense pleasures and of sexuality in particular, fasting, and other ascetic practices. They even inflicted pain on the body in an attempt to weaken or punish it because they regarded it as sinful…

The fact is that no one has ever become enlightened through denying or fighting the body or through an out-of-body experience. Although such an experience can be fascinating and can give you a glimpse of the state of liberation from the material form, in the end you will always have to return to the body, where the essential work of transformation takes place. Transformation is throughthe body, not away from it.

The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle (emphasis mine)

I was wrong. The truth is not that “you are not your body.”

  the man who didn’t believe in love.

The truth is you are not what your body looks like.

But…

You are IN your body. And your body is a part of you, a part of what helps you function, to create and breathe and laugh and live. You can appreciate, love, & honor your body for what it does for you: the amazing way skin regenerates after a cut, how your body stores energy in the form of tender softness, how skin feels so good to the touch, how your joints help you move, walk, dance.

The size of your pants or the number on the scale, though? That has nothing to do with who you are as a person.

  what’s the point of it all?

You are not the numbers on your clothes tags, you are not the digits on a scale, you are not your choice to wear make-up, you are not what your face or eyes or skin looks like, you are not the size of your ears or thighs or lips.

You are much, much more than that. Much more than numbers or sizes or complexion or nose shape or hairstyle could ever say about you.

Capisci?

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