The body does not lie and it never forgets. The mind – it’s hard to say what it really thinks as it works at so many levels that barely communicate with each other. And the mind, as we see in those slipping away from us in dementia, can easily and rapidly become mindless.
So why do we assume the mind can take us further towards the truth than the body? Only the illusion that truth is abstract, disembodied. Bethlehem and the Desert of Jesus’ temptation, the Cross and the Resurrection disabuse us of that idea.
At this moment we are still in the desert, resisting the temptations of the mind towards abstraction and illusion (the power, fame, control, possessions the ego is enamoured by). We are learning to practice physical discipline so that we can be free of the attachment of secondary desires that substitute themselves for our deepest desire.
In this way we learn to find and embrace that true desire which is fulfilled simply by embracing it, never by grasping at the image of its fulfillment. Only by facing it in the emptiness of our incompleteness and our longing do we fall into that poverty of spirit which brings the ultimate enrichment. Only by letting go of desire can we fulfill it.
Yet old habits die hard, as Lent by this stage will have taught us many times. Like the Israelites discouraged in their trek through desert and recalling their days of secure slavery: We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. The problem is that it is memory not the present they – and we - are inhabiting when we become disembodied and only think about the material world.
The more fully we are in the present the less we imagine, the more we see. That is why in meditation as in the Eucharist we eat and drink reality. And it is why both the body’s posture and the mind’s attention are both important as we learn how to meditate
Laurence Freeman OSB