“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 24 June 2011

Senses and Spirituality

Human beings are complicated organisms - we have bodies, we have minds, and we have souls. In order to grow into the best people that we can be, we need to nourish all of them. In religion, our bodies often get ignored; all the emphasis is on what we think and believe and feel. But our bodies need nourishment too - we have to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and so on. if we neglect them, we will become unhealthy, and all of a sudden everything seems twice as difficult, like pushing a hippopotamus uphill. If we look after our bodies, they will look after us.

Rabbi Lionel Blue shared an interesting viewpoint about bodies when he wrote: "My body is not just a lump of meat. It thinks, and has its own insight. Many times it came to my aid when my mind and my soul could not help me. I was in a train at night, surrounded by Arabs making their long way home to Morocco. Our politics and our religions were separated by two decades of misunderstanding and political animosity. It was hunger which brought us together, not theology or ideology; common hunger and the desire to have a little taste of what the other person was eating."

Before I read that, I hadn't really thought about my body having feelings of its own. But it's true: if I am sad, I don't want reasons or explanations or even spiritual insights; I just want a cuddle. And it is my body - through my senses - which gives me access to a whole world of beauty and spirituality. This morning, on my run, the feel of the sunlight on my skin, the taste of cool water, the sight of summer flowers by the roadside and the sound of birdsong combined into one joyous paean of praise for the universe.

Through what we see and hear, smell, touch and taste, we can be transported from our mundane lives into another dimension.

Bodies have their own memories too - for example, have you ever been transported to another time and another place by a smell or a sound or a taste? I only have to hear the first chord of The Air That I Breathe by the Hollies to be back in 1974, fourteen years old and very sad. I cry every time I hear it - can't help it! Even though the circumstances of my life have changed beyond recognition, and the emotional scars of young love have long healed, my fourteen-year-old self is somewhere in there, and reacts when she hears that song.

Human beings are indeed complicated organisms, and I find the fact of our bodies, minds and souls working together wondrous to contemplate. May they all be nourished in the coming days.


  1. Thank you for this. Certain music can take me right back to time and place and or an emotion, although noit in exactly the same sense. i only resemble that man a little. It's interesting the point you make about physical memory, although perhaps this the the mind and the emotion impacting on the body.

    as a child I was never really ill, upto the age of 11 at least. Even when I got mumps, measels chicken pocks etc I was never ill to the same degree as my siblings. This cahnged from 11 onwards as I went deeper into myself and continued into adulthood. The more spiritually ill I became, the more physically ill I became.

    Over the last few years faith has transformed this. I rediscovered my true self and found spiritual health once again. Guess what for the last few years I have hardly been ill at all, apart from a couple of colds and even they weren't very severe.

    I think you are dead right that the physical does impact on the spiritual, but as I have discovered it works the other way too.

    Thanks Sue.

  2. My body decided to be vegetarian without consulting my brain.

    I came across a lovely quote earlier: "Think with your whole body" ~ Taisen Deshimaru