As I sat in church last Sunday waiting for the service to begin, I began to notice the pew in front of me, the grain in the wood, its imperfections and its beauty. There were many knots in the grain and some defects all emphasized by the stain and the finish on the bench. As I reflected on the wood, I thought that the defects actually increased its beauty. The knots and rings developed during the growth of the tree, but I don’t know the cause of the other marks, possibly a fire, an axe or other wounds. Now these wounds are part of the beauty of the wood. The more imperfections, the more beautiful, the more the wood draws us to it.
As in the wood a person shows the experiences of his life, wounds, tensions, illnesses and even good times in his face, in his carriage and in his response to life. In the 1990’s I taught some Reiki(a type of healing) classes at the Metropolitan Community Church in San Jose, California. This is a church established in the 1960’s by homosexuals at a time when few churches accepted them. In the faces and carriage of those members I could read the pain that they had experienced in their lives. In the rest of the population pain is less evident unless one is among the very poor. But we are the sum total of our experiences, if we wanted to remove any of our experiences because they were too painful, we would not be the same person. We incorporate, literally take into our bodies, the bad times and the good times as well. Everything in our lives informs what we become.
Your face, is it tense all the time? Your shoulders, are the curved forward in order to avoid the wounds of life? Your welcomes, are they tentative? Are you sick often? Do you sleep badly every night? Do you have chronic problems that you cannot solve? These are some indications of difficulties in your life. We “wear” these wounds like clothing that everyone can see. We reveal our joys and sorrows in our bodies. The body does not lie.
Our lives are the totality of what has occurred to us and how we have reacted in those circumstances. Our reactions are more determinative of our character than the events themselves, although sometimes if events are repeated often enough they can overwhelm us. Another thing contributing to our personality and character is our mistakes and how we treat ourselves. When you do something stupid or bad, do you forgive yourself? Do you continue to castigate yourself for a long time afterwards? Do you admit your errors and move on? Or do you blame someone else for your faults? Our capacity for forgiving ourselves and others also shows on our faces and in our carriage. Forgiveness can add years to our lives.
All our experiences good and bad in life, add to who we are. One can read in the faces and carriages of others the impact of various events in our lives, they stain us and burnish us just like the wood of the bench in front of me, and we marvel at the rings, showing the tree’s age, the knots and the defects that constitute its beauty. And see our own.