The Core of the Mystery

How do you experience hunger? Where do you feel it in your body? How do you know when your hunger has been satisfied?

These questions invite mind's compassion for body. For me, hunger has a texture and a sound. I feel an ache in my body's center, sometimes a clutching sensation, often a gurgle or a growl. As poet Mary Oliver names your physical form, the "soft animal of your body" sends hunger as a signal of your need: for food, energy, sustenance.

Your soul sends hunger signals as well: desire, discontent, longing. How do you experience longing? Where do you feel desire in your body? What contentment is your soul seeking?

I long for creative expression, the sense of being at home, connection. The feeling radiates from a point in my gut, like the tip of a broadcast tower sending out radio-waves. I suspect this sometimes aching hunger (my belly just gurgled in accord) will be with me as long as I'm alive. The soul's hungers need steady attention, just as the body's hungers need regular meals.

Home to your capacity for digestion, your belly processes your hunger for food and supplies its satisfaction. But what about your soul hungers?

If your soul hungers are anything like mine, we need something more than and different from food to satisfy these other cravings, these other longings. Yet the body's center may play a pivotal role in tending to our soul hungers, too.

I recently came across these words in Coleman Barks' book, The Soul of Rumi:

Longing is the core of the mystery.
Longing itself is the cure.

I had no idea what these words might mean. Still, I felt they held out some promise. They've begun to make sense to me, in fact, as I've added the yoga pose called Naukasana (Boat) to my power-centering Honoring Your Belly practice.

To practice Boat pose, I begin lying face-down on the floor, arms parallel beyond my head, legs straight and hip-width apart.

Tilting my pelvis and contracting the muscles around my tailbone, I press my belly into the floor. Then I lift and stretch my arms straight forward at the same time I'm lifting and stretching my legs straight backward. As I breathe, as my body's center presses into the ground, I am the process of lengthening, elongation.

If you're embodying this pose, the question you're incorporating becomes: What is the source of the longing?

Another poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, may provide a clue. As Robert Bly passes Rilke's words along to us in The Winged Energy of Delight:

Take your well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.

Activating your body's center with movement and breath, stretching from center, letting your gut feelings impel you to reach for and receive the many kinds of nourishment you need — these are deepening ways to know and feed your soul's hungers.

- - - - -

the soft animal of your body: In "Wild Geese," New and Selected Poems: Volume One.

practice Boat pose: There's more to practicing Naukasana correctly and safely than I've indicated here in brief. Consult a reputable yoga teacher for instruction, including the benefits and precautions related to practicing this pose.

© Self-Health Education 2008


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