"The Divine, being invisible, needs our bodies to become manifest in the world...we have to abandon, once and for all, the erroneous, small-minded, sacrilegious notion that the body is evil and keeps us separate from the Divine." -From the book
For millennia, some forms of organized religion have taught that the body is the source of sin, temptation, and even evil itself-especially when it takes female form. The damage inflicted by patriarchal attitudes has created a culture of women who hate their bodies, and where parents give their children breast implants and liposuction as birthday or graduation presents. The cosmetics industry in America alone rakes in 8 billion dollars annually. Individuals allow their bodies to be sliced, stretched, lifted, tucked, reduced, or inflated so they can love themselves-or, more importantly, have the approval and love of others.
In her book Divining the Body - Reclaim the Holiness of Your Physical Self, author Jan Phillips explores the graceful curves, sinewy muscles, sturdy bones, and pulsating aliveness of the physical self. Using the latest scientific research as well as mystical traditions and personal experience, she puts the glory and magnificence of the human body on proud display. This insightful, gentle guide attempts to un-do the damage we've sustained from living in a culture that teaches-and thrives on-our self-hatred by renewing a sense of wonderment, respect and appreciation for the rich terrain of the physical body.
Phillips reminds us that the body is the "temple of God", and that the continuing creation of the universe happens through us as the "word made flesh". Indeed, energy medicine and quantum physics echo what mystics have known for eons: every thought and action we undertake directly influences the flow of our life force. Therefore, our well-being becomes a matter of mindfulness. This process of mindfulness is not the accumulation of facts, but the cultivation of feelings-for "there is nothing to learn, but much to unlearn."
Through exquisite prose and poignant stories, Phillips throws a sacred celebration and dares the reader to join in. She recounts the bliss of photographing birds roadside, and the excruciating pain of burning flesh experienced minutes later as a car hits her at 60 miles per hour. She shares the pain of being dismissed from a religious community, and the joy at discovering that the path she thought she was destined to travel was really a thru-way to something greater.
A breath-taking travelogue of the physical and metaphysical body, Phillips takes us on a tour of the feet, legs, hands, back, generative organs, belly, heart, breasts, throat, ears, eyes and brain. She deftly weaves scientific discoveries (such as those discovered at the Institute of Heart Math and the Max Planck Institute) with social observations ("the girdle is an instrument of social control, a device to contain and restrict the expression of women's natural power"), and challenges us to express our authentic self, discover our grandeur, claim our voice, and know our priceless worth that stems from within. Encouraging us to display "extraordinary heroism in the realm of the everyday", this revolutionary work:
"...calls us to take a stand. To stop colluding in the darkness of duality, to stop trafficking in negativity, and to let out, once and for all, over and over, the light within. To see through the veil of multiplicity to the kingdom of God within, we must act on the basis of what we feel and known from our own experience."
Divining the Body is peppered with a multitude of beautiful, profound quotes that are found throughout the text as well as the margins. Each chapter ends with a reflection, exercises, and a writing exercise aimed at re-connecting ourselves with a particular body part, promoting introspection, expanding perspectives, and igniting awe and gratitude for the Great Beloved that is in and around us. As "souls dressed up in sacred, biochemical garments", we're invited to see the body as a cauldron where alchemical transformation explodes into global transmutation. What's at stake, Phillips asserts, is life itself:
"...if we don't begin to find God in the bodies we see in the mirror, if we don't reel our God in from the heavens and honor God's holy presence in the flesh and bones in our neighborhoods, we're betraying ourselves and the Divine."
This book is a rare gem that nourishes, informs, and inspires. I've taken my time savoring (and highlighting) many passages in Divining the Body, and appreciate the timely message that Jan Phillips has delivered so artfully to the consciousness of humanity.
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