A Square-Peg People Book Review
Divining The Body
by Jan Phillips
Doesn't that sub-title (Reclaim The Holiness Of Your Physical Self) grab you right away? Particularly in our culture, who doesn't need to reclaim the holiness of their physical self?
If the title wasn't enough, the bulleted points from the cover of the book really drew me in:
• Accepting and loving yourself
• Connecting your physical and sacred self
• Feeling the Divine Presence within yourself
• Listening for inner wisdom
• Claiming your voice
I often read several book at once. But, since I like to explore different subjects (and because authors usually write on their particular favorite topic), I've never read 3 books by the same author at the same time.
Jan Phillips writes well on a number of different topics. There is a common thread in her writing - but it's not a single topic - it's love of story!
She shares many of her own stories in this book - some are self-esteem related (her first boyfriend nicknaming her "Horse"), some healing and journey related (one that stands out in my mind is about her healing from being pinned under her own car - sustaining severe burns and other injuries), some are related to "calling" (she "...entered a religious community...to become a nun...and was sent home after two years in the novitiate").
Her stories don't end with the hard part - she goes on to tell what she's learned - inspiring us forward.
She also shares stories from others - among many of these is a beautiful description of dance used in a West African ritual to aid in processing grief. There's even a fable - whose message is "Beauty is what you see when someone is real."
She quotes so many people - from so many different disciplines.
And she shares wisdom from so many other writers (my wish list of books has become scary-long thanks to Jan Phillips - grin).
Jan encourages us in knowing and telling our own stories - she tells us:
...when we share our stories...They not only help us clarify and understand the particularities of our lives, they help others enter more fully into the experience of their lives. When we acknowledge our vulnerabilities, our victories and failures, our fears and wildest dreams, we give others permission to do the same.
It's through our stories that we begin to name ourselves, to say who we are under all the social trappings, and to emerge from those trappings like a butterfly from a chrysalis. We are midwives, in a way, to each other's rebirth.
This is what great writers and speakers do - and what I love about story - they have us saying "yes, me too.." - seeing more of our similarities than our differences.
She shares about how she started Divining the Body, which is a treat because we don't often hear HOW writer's set to work on a book:
Before launching into this project, I had a "Divining the Body" dinner party. I invited twelve friends to come and engage in a conversation about our bodies. We talked into the wee hours, and by the end, I knew which body parts would become chapters of this book.
The body parts she chose: feet, legs, hands, back, generative organs, belly, heart, breasts, throat, ears, eyes and brain. And the subjects covered include things like dance, sexuality, regaining our voice, healing, community, story, and more.
Each chapter ends with reflection, exercise(s) and a writing suggestion - which bring the book out of being merely a brain journey and into something deeper.
Here's what Jan Phillips wrote in the Introduction: This book is an attempt to undo the damage we've sustained living in a culture that thrives on our self-hatred. It is a sanctification of our human bodies...a journey of awe and reverence...
That's a huge attempt - and it works. This book is like medicine - a reuniting potion for the body and soul.
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