Our Bodies Choose | Essay by Catherine Shainberg

When I was having surgery for a hip replacement my surgeon offered a visualization tape for relaxation. I thanked him for relaxation tape but suggested the real issue was different. “The body is conscious,” I replied. “The body has choice, too.” He became very quiet and even looked shocked.

There is often confusion among people seeking spiritual enlightenment about whether the body is to be embraced or to be rejected in some way — this is an ageless and recurrent struggle seen in many different places and times. Yet, there are two things I am certain of when it comes to our bodies: the body is holy and the body is truthful.

Any effort we may make to escape from our body and its earthy instincts and sensations to float in a rarefied atmosphere may be profoundly appealing, but it’s unreal. All life is made of atoms which configure and re-configure in time and space to manifest through a descending crescendo into tree, frog, human. It is the sacredness of the manifest form that is most important.

Canova: Pauline Borghese

Through the lens of our bodily boundaries, we learn about the world and our relationship to it. Our only way of expanding our consciousness is through all the sensory and physical tools that the form of our body gives to us. Our sensations, physical capacities, emotions, and thoughts are the ingredients for our transformation. They tell us how we’re progressing, what we need to avoid or change, what feels good and right — not just about health and well-being but about all choices we face. If we listen, our bodies always reveal the truth.

Our bodies choose what our bodies need. Our bodies also inform us about the rest of our lives as well. That is, if we listen, pay attention, and let it happen.

Here is an exercise to show how the body informs good decisions:

Decision Making

Breathe out slowly 3 times, counting from 3 to 1. See the “1” tall, clear and bright.

Turn your gaze inward.

Ask your “decision” question simply and clearly. For instance, should I take this job?

Pay attention to how your body moves. Does it expand or constrict? If it constricts, where do you feel it in your body?

Breathe out. Look into the constriction and ask to be shown the image hidden at the root of your constriction.

Breathe out. Bring the “constricting” image up out of your body and see it dissolving in the sunlight.

Breathe out. Look in again, asking your question again. How does your body move now?

Breathe out, open your eyes.

Respect The Body’s Wisdom

Would you disregard your body’s wisdom when it has so much to reveal? The idea that our body is just organic matter defies the evidence. When we feel too hot, it’s our body that tells us. When you feel uncomfortable with what your best friend just said, it’s the constriction in your solar plexus that alerts you. The truth of what you feel and think is in the body, for every living thing.

I understand this is a radical thought. It means that you, through your body, will know what is best — not the doctors, not the authorities, not even our loving spouse or parent know what’s right for you. Only your body — informed by our dreams and images — knows what is best for it and for you. Listen to your body. Your body will always tell you the truth. Your body knows what is good for it.

When you have a real decision to make turn your eyes inward and ask your body about the choice you are considering. Is this procedure good for me? Do you approve? If your body sighs and expands, the answer is “yes.” If it constricts, then the answer is likely “no.” When you feel the “no” then ask to be shown what needs to be taken care of for your body to agree, to say “yes.” If it does not agree, do not force the mental choice of “yes.” Instead, listen to your body: walk away from the procedure. Whatever you issue you face, listen carefully to what your body is telling you as you ask inwardly, then make your decision.

This is true democracy: the right of our body to choose.

By Catherine Shainberg