Posted by Frederic Brussat on February 4, 2014

According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches, and of these, 28 million suffer from migraines. About 20% of children and adolescents also experience significant headaches.

I started my lifelong relationship with this form of pain when I was about 12 years old. Several times a week I would be stopped in my tracks by a pounding, throbbing pain in my temples, dizziness, and mild stomach upset. Taking to my bed for a few hours helped: pressing my temples against the pillow alleviated some, but not all of the discomfort.

For many years . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on December 23, 2013

The poet and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen has written: "Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh."

From the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, my body is a historical archive on which a number of dramatic, and often thoughtless, moments are memorialized in scar tissue.

None of these wounds . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on November 7, 2013

"Experiencing my body, I breathe in.
Smiling to my body. I breathe out.
Calming my body, I breathe in.
Smiling to my body. I breathe out."

Thich Nhat Hanh has taught me more about my body than any other living spiritual teacher. Above is an example. It's a way of appreciating my body and specifically my lungs.

We take about 25,000 breaths a day, inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, seldom thinking about our lungs until we have a problem. There are many ways to protect our lungs and show our love for them. We can stay away from tobacco smoke, avoid exposure to air pollution, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, eat vegetables and fruits with antidoxidants in them, and have regular checkups on our lungs.

Breath by breath . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on October 18, 2013

Our arms are wonderful limbs for making connections in our lives. Each day, we use them in our interactions with others: receiving a package from a delivery person, paying a cashier for a purchase. Arms are also important for intimate relationships. Consider all the times you have linked arms with a friend, regardless of gender. No problem. Touching other body parts is much more tricky.

Although my arms have always been skinny, I never was tempted to increase my arm strength with weights or doing lots of push-ups. I do include in my stretching routine doing arm circles; they seem to loosen things up in my shoulders and back.

I cherish that my arms . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on September 10, 2013

We first experience water in the undulating sea of our mother's womb as we are floating in the dark and warm current of amniotic fluid. No wonder we closely identify with the many creations myths that emphasize the role of water. Our bodies affirm the water's presence in our beginning and in the Great Beginning of life on this planet.

We are 77 % water at birth with our skin delineating the boundaries of our internal waters. This is a fact of our existence: We are a body of water. On a spiritual level, we acknowledge that the water coursing through our physical being is connected to the rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans: we are kith and kin. When they are polluted and harmed by our careless acts, we suffer with them. When we work to protect and save the waterways, we are healing ourselves.

I have always felt deeply connected . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on August 1, 2013

There is a long and rich tradition of spiritual bathing in all the world's wisdom traditions. Bathing becomes a devotional act when we combine water, prayer, and ritual with the intention of shedding the negative toxins of anger, fear, anxiety, stress, grief, a broken heart, and other forms of loss. Tieraona Low Dog has observed that "a daily spiritual bath is an easy way to start paying attention to your spirit and soul as well as your body."

I am a water person . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on June 13, 2013

Every fall and many winter days I go outside in my Western Stockman Outback Duster for another adventure in the wild city of Manhattan. I got the coat 20 years ago during a visit to Australia, having admired the style in movies about stockmen. Rain quickly slicks off the coat's caped shoulders. I am protected from the wind by a standup collar with a comfortable throat latch. When it's both wet and windy, I can fasten the leg straps to keep dry. When I need to carry a book with me, it fits perfectly into the large cargo pockets.

I love this coat for taking such good care of my body and for expressing my soul. Another favorite piece of clothing is my winter cape coat. I was wearing one like it when I first met Mary Ann, and I had that coat copied by a tailor. It could have been worn by Sherlock Holmes and makes me feel a bit mysterious!

Besides these two favorites . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on May 24, 2013

I spent most of my childhood in my bedroom comfortably hidden away from the tensions and anxieties of the 1950s. I loved to read and my eyes became very familiar with the rhythms of long hours of my turning pages while seated in my cozy chair. I also loved to go to the movies where my eyes were treated to the exploits of heroes and to the wilderness of places beyond my ken. I must have been seven years old when I got my first pair of glasses, and I haven't spent a single day since then without them. I have always had a fondness for glasses with black frames. 

During my teen years, all the eye strain caused a series of excruciating headaches but there was nothing I could do except endure them. I certainly wasn't going to give up all my reading. Looking back on my life, I agree with Hui Neng who is quoted in Frederick Franck's book Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing: "The meaning of life is to see."

My life has been organized . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on May 3, 2013

As a child filled with energy, my legs carried me to the baseball field where I usually played center field because of my speed.

As a boy I loved to run and my legs would oblige me, helping me burn off my large reserves of energy.

As a teenager I suffered at the hands of bullies and when a group of them came after me, my legs helped me escape from their clutches.

As a young unmarried man . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on April 4, 2013

I am standing up and breathing deeply into my belly, letting all cares and worries go. Just below my diaphragm is my abdomen, the center of gravity for me and, according to Hindu and Buddhist yogic systems, the sacred energy center that sends chi flowing throughout the rest of my body. This fire in the belly enables me to nurture myself and take care of others. It is also the place in the body that activates my deepest emotions and truest intentions.

Years ago, the spiritual woman who gave me shiatsu every week said that I had incredible energy in my abdomen. I told her that I was grateful to God for this gift. But just talking about it took me back to childhood when bullies at the school I attended used to derive great pleasure out of holding me down and giving me a pink belly with a series of sharp open-handed slaps.

Memories of regular persecution . . .

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About This Blog

The world's religions encourage us to acknowledge the sacred qualities of our bodies. But how do we do this? This blog will explore spiritually literate views of the body through some of my personal experiences and favorite spiritual practices. More