Hardly anyone is unaware of their body these days. We know the importance of exercise in order to maintain proper weight, ward off health risks, and sustain a positive self-image. We know about endorphins and getting in the 'zone.' We understand the exercise mantra: "no pain, no gain." We go to gyms, lift weights, and power walk. We have exercise buddies and wear pedometers. We spend hundreds of dollars on exercise equipment and apparel. All this is an effort to keep our bodies and attitudes in a healthy state.
Centuries ago, St. Paul reminded us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are the place where the Holy One dwells. More than mere fleshly machines powered by a beating heart and flowing blood, our bodies are a place of connection between earth and heaven, between God and humanity. Our contemporary obsession with our bodies is less about being aware of that spiritual connection and is more concerned about maintaining a living machine.
We breathe because God's breath moves through us and animates us. Imagine how exercise would feel if it was a mindful spiritual practice rather than a mere physical expulsion of energy. If it became a time to be aware of God's breath in you. A time to pray not with words but with slow and silent motions.
In these mindful movements developed by Thich Nhat Hanh, we may just find ourselves opening up to the wonder of our own lives and to the miracle of the Holy One's presence in us. We may just find ourselves waking up to ourselves and to God as if for the first time. We will, most surely, find ourselves becoming as still as a pond at dawn—a state no endorphin can match.