Monday, January 11, 2010

A spirituality of the body...

From Episcopal minister Barbara Brown Taylor's new book, An Altar in the World.

It is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially if you are full of loathing for your body. Maybe you think you are too heavy. Maybe you have never liked the way your hip bones stick out. It is always something.

Maybe you have been sick, or come through some surgery that has changed the way you look. But so far, maintaining your equilibrium has depended on staying covered as much as you can.

This can only go on so long, especially for someone who believes that God loves flesh and blood, no matter what shape it is in. Whether you are sick or well, lovely or irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, "Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul's address."


  1. A 68-year old woman who's not a churchgoer writes, "I have a full-length mirror in my bedroom. It's a lovely oval mirror with a wide, ornately hammered metal frame. Not too long ago, not more than a year ago, I decided/realized that every breath I take is a prayer of thanksgiving for my life; every step I take an expression of gratitude for my body. Needless to say, there is great joy and connectedness ever present, always available in this practice.

  2. Another middle-aged woman, a Missouri Synod Lutheran, writes, "Organized religion bears some responsibility for the idea that the body is evil and sinful and must be punished. Even Luther at one point practiced self-flagellation, and many people today still abuse their bodies in religious practices.

    People, especially women, forget that the body is indeed 'The soul's address,' or as St. Paul put it, 'A living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.' For me personally, praying naked in front of a mirror evokes no particular spiritual experience. It sounds kind of chilly. However, this may be spiritually uplifting for others.

    I appreciated the previous comment, "That every breath I take is a prayer, and every step I take is an expression of gratitude."