Saturday, February 03, 2007

Flesh and Spirit

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.
~ Ephesians 6:7-9

There is a lot of talk in the blogosphere these days about weight loss programs. RevGals in particular have lots to say about their efforts in this area. (One of the reasons I joined this group was the deliciously wry sense of humor demonstrated above). This issue is such a pointed one for women, in particular. The sad truth is that men can still get away with carrying excess weight from a societal standpoint. (It appears none of us can "get away" with it from a medical one.) And the role of female minister can be enmeshed with a maternal role that excess weight seems to feed into (pardon the expression).

What strikes me as I do my own work in this area is the way in which passages like the one from Ephesians (today's lectionary) seems to come at the whole thing from both hopelessly harmful and hopefully helpful angles at the same time.

No one is interested in hanging onto the old hellenistic mind/body dualism. If our faith was planted with Abraham and Sarah's offspring then we receive in our spiritual genes a conviction that the created world (our bodies included) is good, and that the spirit and flesh are one. What I dislike about the way Paul phrases this is that he pits the spirit and the flesh against one another, when nothing could be further from the truth. When we honor our bodies we simultaneously honor what animates them, and the one who created them. Likewise, when we abuse our bodies (whether that is with sugar or alcohol or nicotine or any one of the myriad substances at our disposal) we similarly dishonor our animating spirit. They are one, they can't be separated.

And vice versa. When we honor the spirit... when we attend to our connection to the Divine, for example, and when we feed our spirits with beauty, meditation, peace... then something happens with our bodies. This is the genius of 12-step work. Everybody finds their way into the various Anonymous meetings because their addiction is killing them, one way or another. And they leave, if they attend to the true message of the program, armed with a spiritual solution to what they had previously seen as a material problem.

Some Buddhist monks and nuns, before each meal, recite the following prayer, called by some the Five Intentions, or the Five Contemplations.

This food is the gift of the whole universe—the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that is worthy of this food. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially that of greed. May we eat only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. May we accept this food for the realization of the way of understanding and love.

This is my prayer for all of us: that we accept nourishment from the earth to further in us the way of understanding and love.

But one quick question: does this pulpit make my butt look big?


steve said...

I really enjoyed this meditation. For some reason, it got me thinking about some of the clients I serve who struggle with eating disorders. And I particularly liked the Buddhit meditation at the end. Anyway, thank you for sharing it.

Cynthia said...

I think I love you. Great entry.