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Grateful Body

“It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here, right now… with its aches and its pleasure is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.”   -Pema Chodron

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from the old Wim Wenders’ film “Wings of Desire” when Peter Falk is speaking to the air, to an angel he senses next to him.  He bubbles with gratitude about the joy of living in a body. The deep satisfaction of physical human experience translated into something as small and often unnoticed as warming one’s hands on a cold winter night with a steaming cup of coffee. He lingers over the strong aroma cutting the night air and the warmth of his breath puffing over the cup.  He laughs at the feeling of tingling heat coming back into numb fingers. I remember this scene each and every time I catch myself taking this bodily experience for granted.

When it comes to living in a body and really experiencing the world through our remarkable five senses, attention and appreciation are one in the same. Our attention is the rare and purest form of gratitude that happens in us when we stop and use our senses fully, allowing our heart and higher mind to bask in the wonder and mystery of our human body. Mary Oliver once wrote: “This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know, that the soul exists, and that it is built entirely out of attention.” Paying attention to this amazing world through our miraculous physical body is nothing if not a sensory feast.

In fact it is impossible to not experience this generous attending to even the smallest of details without being overcome by our basic capacity to feel, smell, taste. Just imagine for a moment losing any one of those senses- that you might never again smell the sweet freshness of early morning or be awake to the sensation of a soft pillow meeting your head.  This is where the privilege of living inside of a body becomes so tender; when we realize how fleeting and perfect so many of our small visceral moments really are. Even the brilliant color bursts of the trees on their way to dormancy shake me wide awake these days. Imagine a day without color and then look around.

The art of flavor and its multilayered and seemingly infinite effect it has on our palate is documented in literally millions of cookbooks and bears witness to the extraordinary depth of meaning and sensation that comes through our ability to taste. Taking the time to savor our food bite by bite is an act of gratitude. Going beyond the habitual filling ourselves up and giving the body time to discern the fuel you are consuming will impact not only your food choices but bring you into direct contact with where self nurturance begins. The ways we feed ourselves is a metaphor of our capacity for self- love. “We are what we eat” is a lesson easily learned when we begin to honor the wisdom of taste.

Truly how we live in our body is how we live in the world. Honoring our physical experience as the gate to our gratitude is also the path to a life of goodness and love. Lao Tzu said it best: “He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire.”