In the days of the Catholicism of my youth, we often heard the phrase “temple of the Holy Spirit” in reference to issues with our bodies. Most of us interpreted the caution to treat our Temple of the Holy Spirit with honor and respect which in those days meant “Don’t do anything sexual!” In revisiting that issue, however, I’ve come to see that it offers a healthy powerful morality of the Body.
Traditionally, Christian theology has tended to separate spirit and body and to place a much higher value of spirit. This is not the case with all religions. Buddhism, for instance, celebrates the body and has a much healthier approach to morality of the body.
I recognize that in my addictions of cigarettes and alcohol, I desecrated the temple of my body and that, in pursuing recovery, I atoned for that desecration. I also recognize that, when I allow extreme levels of stress and do not do anything to protect against the effects of stress, I am neglecting care of the temple, allowing it to deteriorate in disrepair.
There are many ways we desecrate the temple of our bodies. There are addictions. There is overeating. There is unsafe sex. There is an absence of nutrition. The list goes on. When we treat our bodies in these and other irresponsible ways, it is as if, like the Jews of the Old Testament, we have introduced false idols into the temple, choosing to give such idols as Alcohol or Making Money priority. We know from books like Lamentations how angry this made God!
How then do we honor the temples of our bodies? We need to first of all assess whatever we do that potentially harms our bodies and to make corrections. We need to assess the level of stress to which we subject our bodies. We need to note those healthy ways in which we enjoy our bodies and therefore celebrate the temple. In that regard, the words of Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire come to me when I think of the running I do: “God made me for a purpose…But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” What a liberating notion! When I treat my body well, when I enjoy my body in healthy ways, I please God! Therein dissolves the separation of body and spirit.
Reflections: How do you celebrate the temple of your body? Have you desecrated that temple in any way or brought in any false idols?
It has taken me nearly seven decades to fully inhabit my body. I have experienced that until I could genuinely do that, I couldn’t lovingly care for it. So many of our “body issues” result from not being in them. If we are fully in our bodies which causes us to be sensitive to them, we will FEEL that certain foods, beverages, activities (or lack of it), and environments do not make our bodies feel good. The Christian religion right from the gate began encouraging us to split off from our bodies because the body was associated with the earth and the feminine principle. The men who dominated and shaped the destiny of the church preferred living in their heads and distancing themselves from the body. Augustine was classic. However, the wonderful mystics like Francis, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, and Hildegard showed us a different path. How to fully inhabit the body? I suggest body work, massage, body energetics, and psychotherapy. Trauma takes up residence in our bodies and often causes us to want to be anywhere but in them. It takes a lot of work and often many years to feel comfortable in “the temple.”
Yes, thank you for a thoughtful, insightful message.
These are the exact issues I deal with…almost sixty and still afraid to be in my body and feel my feelings. Richard Rohr’s work helps to point in the direction of healing as well. A non-theistic friend (in that she doesn’t identify with any religion) wrote yesterday she wants to move in the Divine Spirit Current that is always Now. I find that my early Christian background froze me in egoic identity because it emphasized so much on belief, which of course no one knew actual came from “credo” of the heart. It is a spirit led struggle for me to keep from feeling I need to define God with my mind, but instead of living in Her current.
a heartfelt bravo! — your mom’s simple faith shines through all you write — god knew what he was doing when he called/drove you from the seminary — a great doctor, a great healer,a great husband, a great dad and granpop — and a cherished friend forever — tom
Good one Doc.
It seems like I am the dark voice of the website. I do know that there have been times that I have dealt with stress poorly. Smoking was my favorite de-stress tool for years-so much so that I had severe pneumonia once. I saw the worried look in my doctor’s eyes as he listened to my lungs. I was destroying my temple. As a nurse, I was taught to always protect the airway first, but I did not protect my own, and worse I shared my nicotine addiction with my unborn child and hurt his tiny temple too. I am willing to own those times when I have not treated my body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit. I am not sure though, that I know what is meant by “allowing extreme levels of stress” and “…not do anything to protect against the effects of stress”. There are times when I “allow” stress and times when I do not have control over what happens. I did not allow, for example, my father’s cancer or my mother’s illness either. It could be argued that I allowed myself to loose my job but I’m not sure about that. It could be said that I allowed myself to be politically exiled and plunged into temporary but severe poverty but I am not certain of that either. Right now I am surrounded by lovely, healthy stress managers – the warm, tropical ocean in which to swim, the lush mountains to hike, the wild birds to be watched, the flowers waiting to be made into leis, and yet I do not do any of these things which would buffer my stress. Again, willing to own it. And at other times I have been heir to extreme stress that I did not allow. To allow it would seem to be giving permission to it, or even to merit the results of it.