do you experience hunger? Where do you feel it in your body? How do you know when
your hunger has been satisfied?
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,
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
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.
to your capacity for digestion, your belly processes your hunger for food and
supplies its satisfaction. But what about your soul hungers?
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.
recently came across these words in Coleman Barks' book, The
Soul of Rumi:
is the core of the mystery.|
Longing itself is the cure.
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.
practice Boat pose, I begin lying face-down on the floor,
arms parallel beyond my head, legs straight and hip-width apart.
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,
you're embodying this pose, the question you're incorporating becomes: What is
the source of the longing?
poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, may provide a clue. As Robert Bly passes Rilke's words
along to us in The
Winged Energy of Delight:
your well-disciplined strengths|
and stretch them between two
Because inside human beings
is where God learns.
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.
- - - -
soft animal of your body: In "Wild Geese," New
and Selected Poems: Volume One.
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.