Friday, July 4, 2014

Your Body is a Temple

"Treat your body like a temple, not a woodshed.  The mind and the body work together.  Your body needs to be a good support system for the mind and the spirit.  If you take good care of it, your body can take you wherever you want to go, with the power and the strength and energy and vitality you will need to get there."  ~ Jim Rohn

Exercise the body is one of the thirteen goals of a Witch, along with breathe, meditate and eat correctly.  This is a difficult goal for many people but it is an important one.  Our bodies are wondrous things that the God and Goddess have blessed us with.  We should respect the bodies we have been given and keep them in shape.  A healthy body feels better both physically and emotionally.  We also live longer and are less encumbered during mundane activities and magical ones as well.  To exercise the body is to honor the Divine Friends.

Our words health, whole and holy are all derived from the Anglo-Saxon word root 'hal'.  "Healing" is derived from the same word root and means to restore to a state of wholeness, soundness, or integrity.  "Holy" comes from the same root and signifies wholeness and purity of mind and spirit.  Taken in its fullness of meaning, therefore, "health" has come to mean completeness and perfection of organization, fitness of life, freedom of action, harmony of functions, vigor and freedom from all stain and unholy corruption.  In a phrase, "health" is a sound mind and spirit in a sound body.

Although the popular image of the people of the Nordic Age is one of wild-haired, dirty savages, this is a false perception.  In reality, the Vikings took care with their personal grooming, bathing and hairstyling.  Perhaps the most telling comment comes from the pen of English cleric John of Wallingford, who complained bitterly that the Viking men combed their hair, took a bath on Saturday and changed their woolen garments frequently; and that they performed these un-Christian and heathen acts in an attempt to seduce women.

The Vikings bathed their hands and faces on at least a daily basis, usually in the morning upon arising.  The writings in the Havamal also suggests that hand-washing was customary before meals as well.

What if your duty was to take care of a temple, its ground and interior?  Undoubtedly, you would do so with utmost sincerity.  You would sweep daily the walkway of leaves and debris.  The lawn would be freshly mowed, flowers deadheaded, shrubs modestly trimmed;  you'd re-plaster the outside and occasionally repaint the sides and trim.  Inside you would dust the alter, wash the windows, vacuum or sweep the floor and tidy the seats.  Perhaps you would keep a candle burning and light some incense.

Even if you are not a religious person, it is helpful to consider your body an important structure, it is indeed the foundation on which your good health and well-being is based.  Replace the word temple with shrine, palace, sanctuary, hof, amusement park, home or any word you are comfortable with and would care for. 

You would accept these duties with reverence and honor.  Indian Sanskrit has a wonderful word for temple - mandir.  Take a moment and look in a mirror.  What do you see?  Has it ever occurred to you that the person you see in that mirror is the only one responsible for your life?  This is a silly but profound thought - you're a sacred place, a worthy being, a divine sanctuary for your soul.

Your body is merely a sacred temple with legs.  Vietnamese Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh says that it is most important to take refuge in yourself.  It is not necessary to be religious here, simply practical.  He suggests: "When you transform yourself into a comfortable hermitage, with air, light and order inside, you begin to feel peace, joy and happiness and you begin to be someone others can rely on."  When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you see the light of divinity shine through the cells or your bodily temple?  Or are the windows of your soul boarded up with sadness, guilt, stress and discomfort?
Inhale deeply.  Do you feel the purified air of hope, love, compassion, gratitude and joy pour through the aisles of your heart.  Or are you choked with helplessness, despair or a preoccupation with survival or money issues?  And now, look at your face very closely.  How much does it reflect your mental state - do you look calm, serene, happy, at peace or does your face show lines of world - weariness, worry, emptiness, tension or grief?  Ask others that you trust what they see in your face.

None of this means that you should strive for a perfect body temple.  Impossible!

Simple devotion to maintenance is better.  Then your temple will withstand the tests of the world and be a model by which others may be inspired.  So, one aspect of embracing your sacredness is to take care of your physical sense of well-being.  You should be well informed and motivated to engage in your wellness and have good forms of exercise for your body's age and ability. 

You should have a comfortable bed in which you can get enough rest and sleep.  Wellness should also feel healthy and vibrant, the result of daily taking in pure water, clean fresh air and sunshine.  And you should be the source of diet, where you demonstrate a degree of commitment to eat nutritionally, using natural and wholesome foods consistent with your age, body and spiritual path.
Use the element fire to call to action your body temple.  To feel the manifestations of this power, go out on sunny day and feel the warmth and light of the Sun, hear the crackling of logs and smell of smoke from a burning fire.  As you gaze into the transformational flame of a candle, immerse yourself in the energy of fire.

1.     Never skip on sleep

2.     Don't smoke

3.     Go easy on alcohol

4.     Drink plenty of water

5.     Choose organic or locally grown produce

6.     Exercise often

7.     Stay on top of regular health screens and checks

8.     Keep yourself clean and trim

9.     Schedule regular 'me time' to de-stress and regroup

10.  Dress your best by only wearing clothes that help you feel wonderful

These are just a handful of ways to treat your body like a temple.  Remember, consider your discipline as a down-payment on a healthy and active life down the line as well as in this moment. 


As I imagine fire element all around me and within me,
I picture a cleansing, transmutation and nitrification of all things
back to their elemental purity.
I picture this on the surface of your being and on your interior.
I feel what that feels like as part of me – my body purified and regenerated.


Excerpts from forthcoming book: Islands of Grace: Creating Sanctuary in Daily Life. By Dr.

Christopher Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell


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