Is the real me my body or is the real me my spirit?
Today I want to share with you something about myself that I think is very special. I own the most sophisticated machine that actually exist to date. It’s more complex and has more parts to it than any other machine I know. Of course, like most of the machines that we own, it requires a lot of maintenance and upkeep. However, even without upkeep it holds up pretty well. At least it gives the impression of holding up well but its performance weakens a lot. Its upkeep requires time, focus and effort, things which I do not always want to invest into it but its performance will remind me that it is well worth the investment of my focus time and effort.
By now you may have figured out that the machine I’m talking about is not only my machine but the machine that you have to and that is the body. There is a particular reason why am referring to it as a machine. One of the biggest mistakes that we make in life is when we identify our self with our body and not with our spirit. In other words, when we think of ourselves which part of us do we identify with? Is the real me my body or is the real me my spirit? When I think of myself to I think of myself as a guy who is 5 feet and 8 inches tall, bald with a sweet tooth? Or do I think of myself in terms of my personality, my unique traits and talents? Another way of asking this question is “Who serves who?” When my body is my core identity then my spirit is here to serve my body. When my spirit is my core identity that my spirit is here to serve my body.
There was a great sage by the name of Hillel. When he would go to eat he would say that he was going to perform an act of kindness with his creature, referring to his body. It’s almost as if he saw his body as a pet. It wasn’t him, it was something that he had a relationship with. This meant that even when he was eating he did not see it as something that was an expression of him. He saw it as an act of kindness from his spirit to his body so that his body can continue to function in a healthy fashion.
This is the reason why I am using a different language to refer to my body. I want to see my body is a machine, as a tool that was given to my spirit to achieve its purpose in this world. This is very important to me for 2 reasons. The first reason is because I have realized that when I slip into the confusion of seeing my body as a purpose in and of itself it always distracts me from leading the meaningful life that I seek. My body has its own agenda seeking pleasure self-indulgence and really anything that makes it feel itself. It has a very short term outlook on things and never considers the long-term effects of its decisions. If it makes me feel good now my body wants it. So I think of it as a machine. It is not my purpose. It is here to serve my purpose.
The 2nd reason why I like to refer to it as my machine is because I have a really hard time taking care of my body. It’s much easier for me to let my body take over me. I have a really hard time overcoming my laziness, my desires and my cravings. So I call my body a machine. It reminds me that I must be responsible in taking care of this machine otherwise it will begin to fall apart. It makes it easier for me when I look at it as a machine to remind myself that if I don’t keep my body in control and make sure it does what it needs to do and stay away from what it must not do my machine is going to fall apart.
So I try and take care of my machine. I try not feeding it foods that don’t let it thrive. I try making sure it gets the rest that it needs. I try to exercise my machine so it stays in good shape and conserve my spirit in its most optimal way. I have found though that in taking care of my machine and doing acts of kindness with it, this itself could lead to its own form of obsession with my body. This is because everything we do can turn into some form of its own worship. And so like everything else in life, it is a balancing act. We must take care of our machine and we must ensure that it never becomes about our machine.
It is vitally important if we are seeking to lead a meaningful life to do whatever we need to, to keep it clear to ourselves that our true identity is with our spirit and our body is simply a machine, a tool that the spirit uses to accomplish its purpose in this world. The dominant voice in our life must be our spirit which then drives our body and to action. This is meaningful living. So I’d like to leave you with a question and that is what is one thing that you need to do to ensure that you remember that your spirit is who you are and your body is simply here to serve the real you?