Review VI: I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me.
(199) “I am not a body. I am free.”
Well, we don’t get much choice today. We’ve got to take another look at the fact that we are not bodies.
The belief that I am a body, I think, is what put us here in this world, wearing a body. I may say I believe I am not a body, and that I understand what I am saying, but I’m still wearing a body. That shows that my words and the deep belief of my mind are not entirely in synch. The reason the Course has had us repeating this idea for the last twenty days (it started with Lesson 199) is certainly not because we already believe it and don’t need it; obviously, the Course is recognizing that our belief that we are bodies is deeply imbedded in us, and the repetition is necessary to begin counteracting that belief. Remember that in Lesson 199, it suggested we make this idea a part of our practice every day. Our identification with our bodies is not an idea that will be easily dislodged.
The juxtaposition of the words “I am not a body” with the words “I am free” is interesting. If I had written the Course I would probably have said, “I am not a body. I am a spirit,” or something like that. Why do you suppose Jesus put these two thoughts together?
The body is an enslaving thing. All of us are slaves to our bodies. Think how much time and energy of our so-called life in this world is devoted to caring for the body. We feed it, we work to house it and cloth it, we wash it, we devote entire rooms in our house to taking care of the needs for elimination and cleansing, we buy all sorts of gadgets to groom it. Every week or so we clip our nails. We make appointments for haircuts. Look at the cookbook section in a bookstore some time to get a feel for the thought and care that goes into just the feeding aspect. Look at our supermarkets, our clothing stores, shoe stores. Most stores in a mall have to do with caring for the body. Look at the expense we devote to health care and hospitals.
What if I am not a body? What if this great focus of effort and attention is all misdirected? What if we are majoring in minors? What if the center of gravity in our lives began to shift from caring for the body to caring for the spirit? What would my life and your life be like if that happened? What if I were as consistent in seeking holy instants as I am in feeding my face? What if I began stopping several times a day to feed my spirit as regularly as I do to eat, or go to the bathroom? We find it so easy to say to a friend, “Care for a cup of coffee?” What if it were just as easy to say, “Care to spend a few minutes in meditation with me?”
Just thinking about this makes it evident how unbalanced our lives are and how centered on our bodies. It makes me realize how far we have yet to go. And since change begins in the mind, just reminding myself as often as I can remember to do so, “I am not a body,” is a good way to begin the great shift. Perhaps something as simple as letting my meals be a reminder to say a prayer can help, not because praying over food makes it any better, but because it helps me remember that I need my spiritual nourishment as much, or more, than I need physical food. Each time I become aware that I am taking time and effort to care for my body, let it remind me also to care for my spirit.
Think, too, of the freedom that will come to us when we realize that our body is no big deal. What I am is not something that wears out, grows old, and dies. What I am is not something that is a “brief candle,” as Shakespeare called it, but an eternal star shining forever in the heavens. The body is deserving of care because it is a useful tool for the situation in which we find ourselves, but no more than that. Like a car it is good for the purpose it serves. But the body is not “me” any more than my car is “me” (auto ads to the contrary). Think of all the anxiety and constant concern that would be lifted from our shoulders if we can think of our bodies in this way. Changing our mind in this respect is worth all the effort it will take.