I often view bodies like cars. They are vehicles that allow our non-physical bits to participate in this thing called life on earth. They carry us around and let us do things with one another, and instead of pumping gasoline as a means to fuel the body, we instead nourish ourselves with food, sleep and other such things.
And if bodies are like cars, I’ve got a bit of a lemon.
I’ve got the kind of body that mimicks the car you probably had in college. The kind that you have to do a special wiggle dance with the key in order to get the door to unlock. The kind of car whose gas gauge isn’t reliable. The kind of car that makes weird noises when you accelerate and threatens to stop working when you come to a complete stop at a light.
That’s the kind of body I have. And I’m sure that there are many others out there who have similar (or worse) bodies to mine.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of having a fixer-upper body. The nature of having spoon based illnesses where you are constantly working to keep things together. Or hell, even the nature of just living in such a situation where nothing is ever stable. How do we cope with that? What is even the point if everything you build up is only to maintain some semblance of ‘breaking even’? Why bother if you’re never going to get ahead?
I remember breaking down one evening at Osiris’ place and crying the ugliest cry you ever saw as I poured my heart out about how I didn’t understand the point behind all of it. Why do you keep trying when you’re never going to get ahead?
And he reminded me that ma’at is much like that.
Back in antiquity, it was believed that ma’at had to be established every day, because existence and creation always lived on the brink of annihilation. Every day the barque would travel across the sky, and the gods would look down upon the world below and watch its machinations. Every evening, the barque would slip into the underworld, the realm of the dead. And every night, Set would have to fight a/pep to keep everything safe. Every night Ra needs to rejoin with Osiris to recharge himself. Every day the gods fight against a/pep and isfet to maintain their existence and the existence of all of creation.
Every. Single. Day.
Without pause, without stop. All the time ma’at and isfet clash together, and it is only through sheer perseverance and dedication that ma’at triumphs as it currently does (generally speaking, I mean, we’re all still here at least). In many ways you might be able to argue that ma’at will never ‘get ahead’. There will always be isfet. There will always be trouble looming over the edge of the horizon. And yet the gods continue with it anyways.
I mulled on this for a couple of weeks. My initial response was that of utter desperation. If the gods could never get ahead, how the hell did I expect to find some peace of mind in this life, with this body of mine? But as I thought on it more and more, I actually felt that viewing my self-care as a means of establishing ma’at within myself made me want to do more self-care.
In a way, I am the center of my universe, which isn’t to be mistaken as being the center of the universe. But I am the center of my universe because everywhere you go, there you are. The scenery around me may change, but I am always there, at the center of my existence, because I can not escape myself. And if I were to treat my universe the way that the gods treat the Created universe, then I realized I would need to be more diligent in maintaining ma’at through my body and how I treat it.
This may involve a shift in how I perceive spending money on myself, spending money on treatment to keep myself healthy, or spending more time on helping my body keep its spoons. I don’t usually scowl when the gods ask me to get them something- I always look at it as a means to help our relationship stay stable, and as a means to help keep them in the world around me. And yet I’m ready and willing to scowl when I need to spend money on something that helps me to have a slightly better existence? It seems hypocritical (because it is). And looking through the lens of ma’at and my body being the center of my universe, I realize those mentalities need to change.
As much as I may wish to be a completely normal, healthy person with minimal health problems, I know that I will never be that. And as much as I wish I were made of money, I also know that that will not likely be the case (or at least, not for a long long while). This is the same as the gods realizing that they are stuck in a form of Creation that is what it is, and that their role within that Creation has to be what it is, lest the Creation cease to Be. It’s not ideal, but it’s what they have, and so they make it work.
As a new layer to my shadow work, I’m going to begin realizing that my body is a vehicle for ma’at. Not necessarily in the sense of writing for this blog, or doing things for others in life. But more in the sense that ma’at flows through my veins, makes up my muscles and tissues, and is bound up in the center that is my universe. And in understanding that, to start viewing the actions that I take to help support the center of my universe as a means of maintaining ma’at and keeping the balance that is the Creation that is me.
When I wrote about unconditional love, I stated that that included loving yourself. So too with ma’at. In order to bring ma’at out into the world, you have to first start with yourself. With the vehicle that is your body, the center of your universe. Your universe which, too, requires persistent dedication to uphold its own ma’at.
What role does self-care play in your practice, if at all? Do you view your body as a means of maintaining ma’at?
June 22, 2014 at 10:37 am
I can assure you that self-care has rapidly begun to be incorporated into my practice, though not at my own behest of course. But I can also assure you that I don’t really think of my body about maintaining ma’at. I should, though, as you pointed out. But I dunno – I just don’t. Perhaps I just tend to think of ma’at as this big and encompassing thing and don’t really pay attention to what, if any, role I have within it.
And as I wrote that, I realized how fucking dumb that is because, clearly, my actions which are carried out BY MY BODY have to do with ma’at.
June 22, 2014 at 11:08 am
But yes. Ma’at technically starts with the small stuff, I think. And the small things become bigger things and that’s how it snowballs (ideally). Everyone does their small part, and those small parts create something bigger and better.
But I also don’t think many people look at their body in terms of that. I think ur society has taught us that we don’t deserve to care for ourselves, for our bodies. And that the only things that matter is what you do for others. Which just isn’t true.
But it’s been really hard to break myself of thinking that way.
June 22, 2014 at 10:58 am
Self-care has started to play a larger role in my life, especially in regards to my anxiety. I know the /cause/ of most of my anxiety, but getting it to go away is another story. It’s like my brain doesn’t know how to /not/ be anxious about stuff, so it keep throwing worst-case-scenarios at me. *grumbles*
June 22, 2014 at 11:07 am
I’ve learned in the past year that anxiety is something that becomes so much a part of you, that it almost becomes habitual. I want to write more on it later, but suffice to say that even if you aren’t feeling anxious, or you have something preventing the anxiety from shining through, your body will still want to go through the motions to be anxious because it’s such a learned thing, it’s a hard habit to break- even if the triggers aren’t necessarily there.
I think that makes breaking free of anxiety even more difficult. I know I struggle with it regularly.
June 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm
Your post has arrived coinciding my own recent battle. I feel at the point of giving up fighting to not be in pain. , when I waited a year or more to see a consultant only to find no answers . I’m actually devastated and hiding it somehow. I’m trying to pick myself back up again, but I find myself wanting to be angry and wallow in self pity . I try to think of netjer and ma’at, and then think I’m too insignificant for me to bother them , then the thought of having mysterious unexplained pains the rest of my life , is overwhelming.
June 22, 2014 at 5:15 pm
I can relate to this in a lot of ways. I live in a pretty constant state of pain, and there are certain things that are wrong with my body that will likely never change. Which means I’ll be stuck in pain for pretty much the rest of my life. And I wax and wane btwn “I can certainly find something out there that will help my situation” and “omfg I’m screwed and should just give up and accept my lot”. I think it’s normal to go btwn the two, and I wouldn’t judge anyone who is permanently stuck in the “I give up category”, either. It can be really hard to keep pressing forward when it feels like you’re gaining no traction D:
It is overwhelming and it does suck and I’ve spent a lot of days in the self pity and anger stage (more than I’d like to admit). Unfortunately I don’t have any advice, but I can at least say that I know how tat feels and that sucks and I wish you luck in figuring out what to do :<
Mikhael aka Setken (@WingedPhysique)
June 22, 2014 at 5:00 pm
A thoughtful, well written post Devo, thank you.
We are taught today that our bodies are not our own, and like a motor car, some cumbersome clanky thing that needs to be serviced not for its own good but so that it will keep us mobile. Perhaps we need to look at our motor ka as a greater means to drive us to the destination of “salvation”, “fulfillment” and as you suggest, maat.
It struck me some time ago that the Ancients had quite a different take on this: from looking at mummies as a kid and then pawing through Kemetic religious texts when I got older I began deducing that they knew that the physical body plays a greater role in their spiritual / religious beliefs than our modern minds can currently comprehend. I think scholars like RA Schwaller de Lubicsz found so too – and I read his work (dense as it is) to this end of understanding.
I think that the concept of yoga hits at the heart of ideas you put forward in the article. I consider the physical body an important part of my (non yoga) practice, yet thinking of it in terms of maat invokes something else again. And it is really good food for thought.
June 27, 2014 at 9:53 pm
When I was younger I used to ignore physical needs and push myself too far, until one day I injured myself, and then suddenly it became very important to listen to my body. I’ve gotten a lot better at listening since then, but it’s something I have to constantly remind myself about, or I’ll start overdoing it again. It’s an ongoing process.
I’ve been doing my best to find balance in my life since before I heard of ma’at, and part of that involves taking care of myself, both physically and it other ways. So it is something I’ve been doing, but it hasn’t occurred to me to connect it with ma’at until now. (I’m not sure if “something I’ve been doing” counts as part of my practice? It used to be a not-religious thing, and now it’s sort of vague, like it fits into my religion, but it preceeded it, so I don’t know?)
It has also been hard to accept that there are some things wrong with me that will never get better. (It’s not just the injury; some things have been broken from the start.) I used to think my health problems could be fixed, but nope 😦 Even though I know now that there’s no chance, I’m not sure if I’ve really come to terms with that. Can’t stop wishing things were different.
Bah, that’s more somber than it sounded in my head. Let’s try that again. My body is not great. Self-care is an important thing in my life. Sometimes it’s hard, but most days I do a pretty good job.
June 27, 2014 at 10:04 pm
I think that ‘something I’ve been doing’ counts as being a part of your practice, even if you’re not purposefully making the connection. Your religion usually ends up permeating your life in all sorts of ways, so I think it works.
Considering your last two paragraphs, you’ll probably like next week’s post, then. I intend on discussing much the same thing. I thought my body would fix, but it never will, and now I’ve got to figure out how to handle that, etc. So fwiw, you’re not alone.