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Dust of the Earth: the Spiritual Meaning of Living in a Body

Wonder Bras le Corps, oil on linen, 2006-2007

Hello readers,

Recently, I haven’t been writing as much because my body has been occupying my attention.  More specifically, the center part of my body, which would correspond to the third chakra in Ayurvedic medicine.  According to Carolyn Myss (author of Anatomy of the Spirit, among other titles), the third chakra corresponds to the value “honor your self”.  And I have come to realize that my body has been trying to communicate with me, trying to tell me – be confident, have stamina and endurance.  Do not give up your dream.  It is time to realize it, embody it.   We, as humans, have chosen to come to bring our souls into physical bodies which are full of bacteria, viruses, cells, liquid, meat…matter that is heavy, swarming, reminiscent of a teaming and rotting forest.  The body is both beautiful, vibrant, and in constant decay, like the planet on which we live in our bodies. 

In my previous post, I make note that Lilith has been documented in the Kabbalah and other ancient spiritual texts as the first Eve, created like Adam from the dust of the Earth.  In the image I chose to illustrate my post, Lilith is depicted with a woman’s head on a serpent’s body.  The serpent represents the wisdom that can be gleaned from the physical world, if we stop running from it…if we stop equating physicality, femininity, earthiness, hibernation with sin and evil forces.  In this story, God intentionally created both man and woman from soil, from the very stuff that Mother Earth embodies.  Created from Earth, earth is our destiny when we come here.  Earth is our teacher, and descending into the soil and reaching into the darkness of ourselves is where we find the true purposes of our voyage to this planet. 

I believe that another clue to the massive rejection of the feminine in world culture and all world religions is related to a world-wide equation of sin with flesh, sin with earth.  Why would god create man and woman out of earth if he / she considered physicality, earthiness, and the pure dark feminity of the humus to be sinful and bad?  Much of our culture in the western world is geared to happiness, lightness, verticality, progress, competition – to reach the stars, or the moon.  To reach inward is to reach into the earth, to embrace suffering, to embrace the wisdom of the body and the difficulty that this brings to the soul.  About six years ago, I painted a self-portrait (see above) in which I am planted into the ground, nude, eyes closed, with a bird’s nest filled with blue eggs balanced on the crown of my head. 

Okilele, by Claude Ponti

The painting was inspired by a French children’s book called “Okilele” by Claude Ponti.  The story is a philosophical tale of personal discovery and an adventure unveiling the particular destiny of a child creature who is different from his parents and siblings. Because of his differences, he is rejected by them. Okilele (the name is a phonetic translation of “Oh, qu’il est laid”, which means “oh, how ugly he is” -this is what his siblings call him, and he comes to believe this is his real name.) At one point in the story, Okilele plants himself in the ground “pour faire l’arbre” – to be a tree.  He sprouts branches, and a family of birds come to live in his tree-self.  Seasons pass, and Okilele learns to speak the languages of the earth: the languages of the trees, the birds, the animals…He learns to speak with the Universe and becomes conversant with this language.  The process is entirely passive.  He submits himself to the powers of the Earth and becomes completely receptive to the knowledge and power of all that is, and becomes one with it.  I can’t express how moving this story is, and how much it resonated with me each time I have read it.  It is a tale of transformation, of love, and of internal necessity.

We each are born with this sense of necessity, and it grows inside of us, becomes more urgent, unfolding when ripe and ready like the tightly knotted flower bud encouraged by crawling ants, sunshine, and rainfall.  We come  down to Earth, souls who have chosen to incarnate.  There is no sin in being made of dust.  It is a choice we consciously make; a contract with our eternal selves.  Many cultures, including the ancient Greeks (see Plato, Plotinus) have described this process.  When our soul enters a fetus, we forget the contract we made, but it is integrated into our DNA.  Descending into the earth, into our bodies, into suffering, into the language of the body – healthy or diseased – all of this is a process that helps to reveal our personal destiny.  Western medicine seems to be obsessed by curing or masking symptoms.  In fact, symptoms are clues that our spirit self is sending us to keep us on track with our personal life plan.  A nudge, as it were.  True health is staying aligned with our encoded plan, even if this plan includes disease, difformity, or sickness.  When we live according to the plan, we are free, even when freedom is painful.

Our human lives in physical bodies are an experience of the great feminine mystery.  Somehow this is lost on most of us, as we are trained to be constantly inclined upward – back to the spirit from which we came.  The point being: we came here temporarily for that physical incarnation, for the suffering and sensuality that this experience engenders.  Our souls cling to the dust of our bodies for a time, and with purpose.  For me, understanding this makes being in a body that much more meaningful.

One comment on “Dust of the Earth: the Spiritual Meaning of Living in a Body

  1. […] Dust of the Earth: the Spiritual Meaning of Living in a Body (adamevenevenadam.wordpress.com) […]


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