Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Beltane blessings to you all this week, whether you celebrate on the traditional May 1 or the more solarly accurate (this year) May 5. Me, I've declared this week the week of Beltane. The May full moon (sun in Taurus, Moon in Scorpio) is also the Buddhist lunar holiday Wesak, the serendipitous date on which the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and died.
This year, I feel strongly that Beltane is a holiday about the body. Of course it's a sex holiday. And it's the time of year, where I live, when we can finally remove a few layers of clothing and stretch our limbs to the sun. I find that I want to be outside more and move more. All of a sudden there are more dogs and people walking through the neighborhood. I'm seeing folks again on the streets whom I literally haven't seen since last fall.
But while we Wiccans pride ourselves in honoring our bodies, for me that's often a nice abstract principle rather than a real practice. Being present in the body means both being present in the now and accepting what we find here without judgment. I've been experiencing a lot of emotional turbulence lately, and while my mind can whip me into a frenzy of fear and loathing, it's my body that I can rely on to tell me the truth about how I'm feeling. Yet I strongly resist taking time to be still and listen.
I recently read Dancing in the Dharma, Sandy Boucher's lovely book about her teacher, Ruth Denison. Ruth teaches an innovative form of Buddhist practice that emphasizes awareness of and reverence for the body. (I picture her as the Martha Graham of Buddhism.) Ruth also has a gift for working with people who are seriously mentally ill. She brings them to her home and meditation center in the California desert and gives them manual work - literally, work to do with their hands. She has observed that coming back to the body is the first step in regaining mental health and a measure of equilibrium. When I'm struggling with depression, as I have been recently, the first things to attend to are getting enough sleep, eating enough nutritious food, and exercising every day. Also, getting outside, into nature, and being with my dog. In other words, getting out of my head and into my body.
The pleasures of embodiment are many. Of course, there is also suffering, but that is only part of life. Wicca, more than most other contemporary religions, teaches pleasure in our bodies for its own sake. This is what is holy: our animal bodies and their mother, the earth. Happy Beltane.