At every stage of spiritual growth, the greatest ally you have is your body. Is this statement surprising to you? Most of us assume that body and spirit stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. When we feel sensations that are body-centered, such as hunger and thirst, pain and pleasure, we do not regard them as spiritual experiences.
Sensuousness, which encompasses the whole range of physical delight, is often considered low compared to the heights the soul can reach. But spirituality must also be sensuous, because a spiritual person is one who lives fully in the present moment, which means living fully in the body.
Unfortunately, our culture has made the mistake of deciding that the human body is a machine, an inert lump of matter that works without any intelligence of its own. This misconception led to a second mistake – that the most spiritual people must be those who renounce the body, deny its passions, or at the very least attempt to control its desires.
This kind of prejudice against the body runs contrary to the way that Nature fashioned us. Nature balanced mind, body, and spirit as co-creators of our personal reality. You cannot do a single thing, from falling in love to uttering a prayer to metabolizing a molecule of sucrose, without affecting everything that you are.
In our society people suffer from a sense that spirit is basically separate from them. Our bodies process food, air, and water perfectly well without spirit; our minds effectively think about a million things without touching upon spirit. We find it easy to set aside spiritual life, waiting for the day when some as-yet-impossible leap takes us out of everyday life into a more exalted realm. Spirituality is not meant to be separate from the body.
Adapted from Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1998).