The body is perishable. It’s also a miracle. We live in it. We struggle with it. It’s part of our identity. Yet there’s more to us, a lot more. The body gives us a realness. It helps us know we exist. We can see and touch it, feel and watch it move; it takes up space and makes a statement.

It’s easy to identify with the body because it’s so here. At the same time, we know and feel that we’re composite beings; we have other significant aspects that are valuable and can’t be ignored.

Spiritual practice inevitably brings us face to face with the profound mystery of our own identity. We have taken birth in a human body. What is this force that gives us life, that brings us and the world into form? The world’s great spiritual teachings tell us over and over we are not who we think we are.

— Jack Kornfield

Lovers in the Library by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Lovers in the Library by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

We have to remain balanced in relation to the body. We tend to overidentify with it which limits us and gives sway to various fears in our life. This keeps us locked into a materialistic worldview and robs us of the opportunity to use the body as a meditation to greater truths.

The iron, calcium, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and other elements that are the very atoms of the body are in fact forged in dead stars light years away. The majority of the matter in our skin, hands, eyes and heart were produced near the beginning of creation.

Stars manufacture nearly all of the approximately 60 atomic elements in the human body. A supernova projects elements such as oxygen, carbon and magnesium. Other types of star explosions are the source of iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and zinc.

These ingredients are essential parts of the body’s protein, carbohydrate and fat structures:

Oxygen — 65.0% Critical to the conversion of food into energy.

Carbon — 18.5% The so-called backbone of the building blocks of the body and a key part of other important compounds, such as testosterone and estrogen.

Hydrogen — 9.5% Helps transport nutrients, remove wastes and regulate body temperature. Also plays an important role in energy production.

Nitrogen — 3.3% Found in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins; an essential part of the nucleic acids that constitute DNA.

These elements compose everyone’s body.

This begs the question, is the body who we are? If not, then who or what are we?

The body is personal despite its cosmic origins. But it isn’t only personal; it’s also shared and universal.

… our bodies arise from the forces and elements that make up the entire universe, through a complex chain of interdependent events…. reflect on the body as composed of the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, so that we will see how this life is interwoven with universal processes.

— Wes Nisker

In other words, the body experienced the right way is a portal to the less transitory. Understanding the body in the right way leads us to the more abiding. When we embrace our body as personal in the time of our lifespan, but also impersonal in its origin and dissolution, we can glimpse eternity right where the body is sitting.

Consider that each cell in the body is a whole community and passes genetic information to the next generation of cells. DNA remembers its origins in expired stars. That being the case, the body is yet another portal to the infinite. It functions as our vessel on Earth. It also points to our nonlocal self.

When we are exactly where our body is, we are in the present moment. The body isn’t in the past or future, it’s not conceptual or imagined; it’s part of nature and contains all of nature’s elements. It houses our awareness, is shaped by our stories, thoughts, and emotions, and holds our memories within its tissues. The body is our house—and how we live in it and where we occupy it are uniquely ours, as well as being part of the common human experience. The body is a treasure trove and an exquisite vehicle for our practice of waking up and being with what is.

— Jill Satterfield

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The Body