As I write this it is a cold, rainy June day in Wisconsin. Fifty-five bone chilling degrees. Of course, if this was February I would be writing about fifty-five tropical degrees, a sure indication that our perceptions are very selective and relative. If you are over the age of thirty-five, or under that age and had the misfortune to ever break a leg and sprain an ankle, you know that even a beautiful rainy day brings on some aches and pains. In the old days, these aches and pains were used by the wise women and men in town to predict an oncoming storm with much more accuracy than today’s meteorologists with all of their high tech equipment ever could.
Forasmuch as the aches and pains are inconvenient, they do serve two very important purposes on our spiritual journey. The first is that they remind us that no matter how big a city we live in, we are physiologically connected to the land. Nature is a part of us and we of it – which means we need to do our best to appreciate nature all around us. I will never forget Montez, the kid from Brooklyn who I had to teach to use a rake when we were in Air Force tech school together – he had never seen a fallen leaf on grass! When I showed him, he delighted in raking leaves and being connected to the earth in a new way for the first time. Here was a task I found because I had been forced to do it over and over, and he found it delightful because he had never experienced it! Again, our perceptions are selective and relative.
The second important purpose of aches and pains on the spiritual journey is that they remind us that we are embodied, and that we re not our bodies. Because we are embodied, we share much with our animal brothers and sisters and are connected to them in ways we often ignore. Being embodied means having to care for our physical selves and the limitation imposed by our embodiment, even as we also come to learn that we are much more than our bodies and will one day no longer need them. On rainy days, as we wince while reaching for our cup of tea, we would do well to reflect on these things.