In an impromptu yoga session recently, our leader, Ann, urged us to become aware of our back-bodies. We usually focus attention on our front-bodies, Ann said. It is the side of ourselves we present to the world, the side we examine closely in mirrors, the side we make sure is well put-together. But our back-bodies, Ann said, is a side we don’t often dwell on. As such, it is an entry-point into the unknown.
What do our back-bodies know that our front-bodies don’t? Well, for one, we can’t see from behind. In front, we keep a vigilant lookout on the world. But our backsides are vulnerable, unguarded, an open door to things unseen. Maybe that’s why we can sense things with our back-bodies that our front-bodies can’t. We feel the stares of others drilling into the backs of our heads. The hairs on the backs of our necks stand up on end when we sense danger. We feel a tingle down our spines in the presence of beings from the spiritual realm. In short, our back-bodies have a keen sense of things unknown and unseen.
Maybe, as Ann suggested to us, our back-bodies are a place where we can find God – the unknown, unseen whisper of a God who showed himself to Elijah not in wind, earthquake or fire, but in “a sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19). How does one hear “sheer silence”? Perhaps Elijah did not hear God’s presence with his ears. Perhaps he heard God in the nape of his neck, in his shoulder blades, in the liquid spaces between his vertebrae.
As I was lying on the yoga mat, bringing my awareness into my back-body, feeling myself being held in the palm of the ground, I recalled Psalm 139. The psalmist says to God, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.” The knowledge of being hemmed in by God, behind and before, was something beyond the psalmist’s grasp. Yet perhaps he knew it in his back-body as he was lying on the earth, feeling his weight being supported by the God who laid the earth’s foundations.