Embodiment: Lighting the Temple From Within



How we fear the descent into the depths of our own bodies.

We’ve been well trained to fear our flesh. All the lies we have been told about our bodies, and most especially our female bodies, rise up to face us when we decidedly choose to descend into our totally human, yet utterly divine, bodies. But, the descent is the most necessary thing we must do to become completely alive. Awareness from the shoulders up is like living powered by a 15-watt light bulb. It makes life dim and makes it hard to really experience the fullness of the world we live in.

This past weekend, I decidedly dove deeper into my divine female body. I traveled to Oak Park, Illinois, for the fourth realm of the Institute for Sacred Activism’s (ISA) series of trainings. ISA was established by Andrew Harvey, the renowned scholar and author, and Jill Angelo. This realm was all about embodiment. We were treated to Heart Yoga, a new yoga practice developed by Andrew and Karuna Erickson.

This new work, presented by Karuna and Andrew, was profoundly transformational in how it opened the heart through the gentle yoga moves and beautiful poetry of the masters, such as Rumi, Mirabai and Hafez. As I moved slowly through these Heart Yoga postures, glimmerings of light began to make their presence known from deep within my heart. The experience had a very ephemeral quality to it, a quality that contrasted starkly with the seemingly solid nature of my body. I was aware of the gentleness of the moves and how this gentle nature invited the heart to open, rather than pushing anything to happen.

Sometimes things in life seem so static and solid. So fixed and unmovable. So unrelenting. I know I have concretized so much of life, especially the places I fear – like the body – like my body. And, I’ve done a lot of embodiment work – and I still know there are many nooks and crannies where I harbor feelings of shame and dislike towards this most amazing temple that houses my soul.

Which leads me to another thing about Oak Park. This beautiful Mid-western town just outside Chicago, is the home of many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural beauties, including his masterpiece, the Unity Temple.

Yesterday, the Monday morning after our long weekend filled with work with the body, I took a last walk through town, making sure to make it to Wright’s Unity Temple, as I hadn’t yet seen this famous iconic work. I am a huge fan of Wright, having studied his work at length in my year-long foray into the study of architecture.

When I came upon it, I was transfixed by the totality of concrete Wright used in the temple.

Wright's Unity Temple

So much concrete.


Such small windows.

In my life, when days feel difficult and I feel stuck and find myself thrashing around trying to make sense of the world and what’s happening in it, I tend to think of my body as this solid form, much like the concrete walls of Wright’s temple. Sometimes, I even feel like I have these tiny openings to the world, so small that only a little bit of my light shines out (and, conversely, only a little of the world’s light gets in.

In gazing at Wright’s Unity Temple, I wondered why he would have created such think, heavy walls, and I suddenly sensed this analogy between the human body, and its gross layers of tissue, bone, muscle and blood, and the more ephemeral quality of the subtle body within, made up of energy and life force, and the ephemeral quality of the heart. I don’t know what Wright was thinking, but the correlation between his design and my embodiment work of the weekend was profound.

The church as temple – the body as temple. Gross layers of seemingly heavy and solid matter that, from the outside, look like a fortress within which darkness prevails.

We humans tend to concretize our bodies, meaning we believe ourselves to be solid and simply bodies, when in reality, according to quantum physics, our bodies are really billions of cells, that contain mostly space.  When we concretize our bodies, we see them as objects. We can’t be in them, meaning we pretty much live with awareness down to about our necks. In a concretized body, there is no fluidity, no sense of the life force within and no connection to all that lies outside of it.

In the Heart Yoga, we were tenderly led through a series of poses and instructions to awaken all the cells of our body to the light that is within, to fill the cells with this heart light that is sourced from the sun.  The light is without, and the light can fill all that which lies within.

As I stood outside the church, imagining what the interior space was like to inhabit, I remembered having the same experience as I envisioned the light from the sun filling the cells of my body. Somehow, as I envisioned the light filling my body, I had begun to experience my body, not as a bunch of bones, muscles, and blood, but rather as a billion cells dancing with light and life force. Now, seeing the temple and imagining it filled with light from the sun, and light within, I wondered about the temple itself, not as defined by the concrete walls, but rather defined by the space within it, by the light and life that makes up the intereior of the temple.

Then, as if by divine magic, I walked past a sign indicating that the temple was open for tours. And, on this sign was a quote by Wright that seemed to align with what I had experienced:

“The reality of the building is the space within.”
“The reality of the building is the space within.”

Is this the reality of the body when we open to it as a temple of our divine nature? Is the reality of the body the space within? I suppose in everyday life, as we walk down the street passing each other, we only see the concrete walls of each other’s bodies, with small bits of light emanating from within, usually through the twinkle of an eye, or the flash of a smile. And, in our own experience, we only sense small amounts of light, if any at all, of our true nature.

Do the walls of our bodies, simply help us to know that another unique being lives within? What if we were to shift our perspective and see the body, not as the exterior characteristics available to the eye, but instead to the space within, to the vibrant creative life-force that infuses it with creativity, with love and with compassion?

Is the reality of our building, our human body, simply the materials we have been taught to believe it is, or are we really something more, that space within the body, and within the cells of our body?

Marion Woodman speaks of the goddess as the luminous, ephemeral nature of the light filling the earthly cells of the body.  In other words, the goddess is not something that we take on, another role we play, where we wear flowing gowns and flowers in our hair. It is the awakening in the cells of matter, the billions of cells in the body, to the light of the source from which all life comes. When we open ourselves to the light that is the love and compassion that emanates from our own radiant hearts, that light floods all parts of our bodies and is the experience of our divine, sacred nature merging with our immanent earthly body.

This is the transformation of consciousness that we must make if we are to awaken to the sacred nature of earth and all that lives here. When we know that all of life is the goddess, the sacredness that we yearn to know, then we’ll realize it is within us and is without in the entirety of the world around us.

On Wright’s Unity Temple, above the entrance door, the following is inscribed:

“For the worship of God.”

For the Worship of God

And, is this body, this profane human body that takes so much abuse and punishment, so much self-hatred, and so many centuries of criticism from culture, religion and society, really for the worship of God? Are we here, in these bodies, to experience life on earth in its entirety, with hearts that are open and embracing of the simplest moments?

If we look out the eyes of our own body, onto the world around us, what if we were to gaze with eyes that know the divine spark within? What if, as light-filled beings we could see that light in everything around us, realizing that our temple is not simply a place of worship, but also a place where we gaze onto life with eyes of love?

In the past, we have separated out a house of worship from the profane space around it. That has led to the belief that everything outside of the temple is profane. But not all peoples have believed this. Indigenous cultures have worshiped life itself, the sky, the earth, all living creatures, and the four elements that make up our world.

As I contemplate this understanding that came from my experience this weekend, I know what I have understood for some time now, but in a deeper way. The human body is built for the worship of God, not the God that sits on high and judges, but the God that is the light, is the heart, is the ephemeral love that resides in every atom that comprises life.

It is only by way of this divinely human body that we can experience the multitude of blessings that life brings. It is through this doorway to life that we taste, hear, touch, see, and smell life. It is through this body that we become fully aware of the sacred nature of all of life.

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8 Replies to “Embodiment: Lighting the Temple From Within”

  1. Oh, Julie – what beautiful writing and what poignant thought pours through your writing. I get together with a group of writers monthly to write about our bodies and the breakthroughs through out the past couple years have been astounding.

    I need to check out this institute for sacred activism – it sounds so aligned with who I am, what I do, and what I believe. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  2. Julie, Thank you for your lovely comment. I’m glad you enjoyed my writing. Yes, writing through the body is a profound way to tap into breakthroughs of all sorts. Plus, the more time we spend in our bodies, the more we get to be aware of the astounding world we are blessed to live in.

    I’d be happy to tell you more about ISA.



  3. I am SO glad I asked you for the url to this post! and how oddly/perfectly synchronistic that I just saw your Marion Woodman book pic on the home page of your blog (and mentioned it on Twitter moments ago..lol) …and here’s Marion in THIS post.

    there’s so much woven together in this post – I’m going to read and reread it. Healthy, wholistic ways of viewing/living in our bodies are so important – and this is THAT! thanks

  4. I am SO far behind in reading this and SO grateful you invited me to it.

    …the goddess is not something that we take on, another role we play, where we wear flowing gowns and flowers in our hair. It is the awakening in the cells of matter, the billions of cells in the body, to the light of the source from which all life comes. When we open ourselves to the light that is the love and compassion that emanates from our own radiant hearts, that light floods all parts of our bodies and is the experience of our divine, sacred nature merging with our immanent earthly body.

    My earthly body, this particular day, is in excruciating pain. But your words remind me that there is more to me than my pain; that even my pain seeks to tell me more, take me deeper, open me to the light of the goddess within.

    Thank you, Julie…as always.

  5. I’m further behind than Ronna, I just noticed the link to this post at the bottom of your latest post.

    But oh how I needed to read it at this very moment. Your writing has embodied these concepts for me since I found you. And this post illuminates everything with the light from within.

    Lovely and full of love.

  6. Extraordinary, Julie, thank you, what you say about being in your body, how you’ve learned to experience it through practice, your powerful awareness of change and movement and fluidity on the cellular level and the experience you connect with the Goddess. How beautiful, and so much change, and so much connection, giving me a perception and a reminder that there is always vastly more. Speaking of cells and talking of poetry (as Pooh would say, but we weren’t explicitly,) do you know this poem of George Oppen (also thinking of your new grandson and the totality and fulness and newness of life at every moment):

    Cell by cell the baby made herself, the cells
    Made cells. That is to say
    The baby is made largely of milk. Lying in her father’s arms,

    the little seed eyes
    Moving, trying to see, smiling for us
    To see, she will make a household
    To her need of these rooms – Sara, little seed,
    Little violent diligent seed. Come let us look at the world
    Glittering: this seed will speak,
    Max, words! There will’be no other words in the world
    But those our children speak. What will she make of a world
    Do you suppose, Max, of which she is made.

  7. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I am apart of a Gender and Contemporary Issues class, and we talk a lot about women and their relation to their bodies. In our culture it seems as if our principal focus is dealing with body image. This I relate to your thoughts on the “concrete body.” The external view (or the walls) of a human being is only a small portion of one’s absolute self. Unfortunately many media examples do not allow us to see past this. It’s almost as if we feel in order to live in our bodies, we have to solely look the part.
    Being a dancer, there is even more of an emphasis on image. I have always felt pressured to look a certain way, or fit into a specific size of apparel. For awhile I think I was living more on the outside of my body. Recently however, I discovered the beauty of Somatics. There are many techniques offered that allow you to be one with your mind, body and spirit. Yoga as you mentioned is one of them. My new found love for Bikram Yoga, has taught me to be one with my inner self. It is a type of personal, active therapy. I feel a sense of renewed control, as my mind becomes more clear and in tune with my body.
    I hope that all women can become more comfortable inside themselves. Although I am still learning, I think it is crucial for us to see beyond the ideal female body. That “light” is what truly causes someone to radiate outwards. I believe if the inward stirrings of our bodies can be at peace, we will begin to be more satisfied with the outer. More importantly, we can see and celebrate ourselves as a whole. That wholeness is what can bring us forward to new potentials never imaginable.
    Thank you for your thoughts! Your work is marvelous. Just what I needed 🙂

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