My awkward, stumbling search for faith is no secret. I write often of the way I trudge through my days, alternating with lightning speed and cloudy confusion between certainty and doubt. There are times, though, when the idea floating up in my mind seems to be echoed by external messages in a way that can’t be an accident. I was thinking yesterday of the ways that my spirit manifests through my physical body, and then I read three things that convinced me this inquiry was something to dwell on. I started a book that I already know is going to change my life (and I don’t say that lightly): Devotion, Dani Shapiro’s new memoir. And I read posts by two of my beloved blogfriends, Ronna and Julie.
They all seemed to be speaking about what I’d been thinking about. There is something that is true deep down in your body: listen to it. Okay. Perhaps I should believe that my attention is being drawn, like my eyes to shook foil, to this theme for a reason.
Dani Shapiro describes how the word please “seemed to emerge from some deep and hollow cavern” inside of herself. Please, as in: please help me to understand. This is so familiar to me. Often the word that I hear over and over is just that: please. please, please, please. She then shares her view that the startling moments of clarity come at random times, and that “those insights are already fully formed – they are literally inside our bodies, if only we know where to look.”
Ronna writes about “this deep, before-time wisdom that I know-that-I-know-that-I-know that I have; that … all women have.” And Julie speaks of the energy of the Great Mother, and of how she “first became conscious of Her presence a number of years ago. It felt as if someone was pulling me down, way down into my body, into the depths of the darkness that the descent illuminates.” Julie mentions that she initially resisted this pull into her innermost physicality because it contradicted all the years of spiritual teachings about “transcendence” and “Light.”
There is something here. It’s not fully formed yet in my head, but there is something about the wisdom of the body, the story in the pulse, the truth in the marrow of our bones. It’s more than just the way we – certainly I – can sometimes know things in a visceral way. It is more than the cyclical nature of the female body, the ways that we spiral through circles and seasons, ebbing and flowing and waxing and waning in a way much less directly linear than either the world or, maybe, the male body. It’s more than the ways the state of my spirit manifests in my physical well-being, specifically how my lack of boundaries results (I believe) in my being sick far more often than I’d like. I am permeable, porous to the outside world, letting in both good and bad influences far too easily.
What is this something? What is this that I’m sensing, to which I’m being guided gently to by the words of the world? I don’t know. Something about the ways that our spirit communicates through our bodies. Something about a knowledge that is on the flip side of reason, beyond logic, to a place where all there is is belief. Something soaked in blood, in tears, in milk. Something that might – maybe? – be showing me the way towards faith, towards meaning, towards the things, both maddeningly abstract and all-important, that I ache for most powerfully.
I can think of so many examples of this thing – this energy? this truth? – animate in my life. The way my physical self slept ten hours a night through my senior year in high school, hibernating through a lonely and sad winter the way an animal might. The way some vibrating core of power I didn’t know I had, exhausted but ferocious, propelled me through Grace’s delivery. The way my body shrank into a husk of itself within weeks of that delivery as my depression drove me to try to hide, escape, vanish. The way my dear friend Taylor always used to talk about people being “in their bodies” as shorthand for being present, engaged, conscious.
I don’t have a clear conclusion yet, only a newfound conviction to listen to the messages that I know throb in my bloodstream. There is more there than the simple beat of my heart. It occurs to me (just now!) that this could be merely another expression of instinct and intuition, the same internal choir I’ve been struggling so mightily to tune into. So when this trio of women whose writing I respect all seemed to speak about the same thing, they are the universe speaking to me: yes, this is a worthy effort. The answers you seek are already there: you just need to know where to look and how to listen.