Body Symbolism

Body Symbolism Diagram

Human Body Diagram Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Posted by Mikael Haggstrom

Body Symbolism: Psychological and Spiritual Meanings

Body symbolism reveals the inner meaning of each organ and part of the body. This allows for a greater understanding of health and illness. The spiritual meaning of the body can be a key to healing on all levels: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. 

Understanding the direct psychological connection between our physical bodies and our thoughts or emotions gives us a tool for self-healing. The patterns of our thoughts that have contributed to discomfort or disease can be altered by affirming new thoughts through affirmations or mantras.

Language, Idioms and Body Symbolism

The meanings associated with different parts of the body are often revealed in our common idioms and colloquial expressions. This correspondence between language and body meaning allows you to use affirmations or chant or sing with particular healing outcomes in mind.

I also like to use images of human anatomy for visualizations when chanting privately. I am thrilled by the capacity and the beauty of the human body. I love stories about extreme athletes and people with amazing physical abilities of all kinds.

As a child, I had planned to go into the medical field. However, as I observed life around me during my teenage years, the maladies of the mind and soul seemed much deeper than those of the body. I began to feel that the mind and spirit should be addressed first or at least simultaneously with the body.

This led me to study of the work of Louise Hay and other pioneers in the field of the mind-body connection. For decades there have been forerunners in metaphysics and psychology insisting that we recognize the importance of attitudes, emotions and beliefs in health and wellness.

These include Dr. John Sarno, Steven Ray Ozanich, Deb Shapiro, Joe Dispenza, Inna Segal, Bernie Siegel and more. Some of these experts have mapped out distinct connections between personality patterns, body symbolism and health conditions. Their books are great sources of information for finding ideas when I am creating my own healing mantras and affirmations.

By understanding the specific symbolic meaning of an aspect of the human body, you can be conscious of the benefits you seek to gain. When healing affirmations, mantras and positive self-talk are set to music, they can also be sung for potentially even more effective results. In my own life, I have created mantras with affirmations in both Sanskrit and English related to eyesight and vision, thyroid health, general vitality and more. Singing can help us to utilize the connection between speaking, chanting and the mind to heal the physical body.

Examples of Body Symbolism

The meaning of specific areas of the body are covered in depth in subsequent articles linked after the brief descriptions below. Explore the symbolic nature of the human body!

CHEEK MEANING: Cheek meaning is revealed clearly in the language that we use to describe our bodies. A single part of the body can be heavily laden with many different meanings. And sometimes the meanings are highly amusing as well. This is particularly true of the cheek: the fleshy part of the face on either side of the nose between the eyes and ears. Learn about cheek idioms and read full article on Cheek Meaning.

CHIN MEANING: To “take it on the chin” is to stand up to something adverse or unfair. The chin can take the full brunt of criticism or adversity. This alludes to a blow on the chin in boxing or fighting. Taking it on the chin can also mean not to complain when bad things happen. A trembling chin shows emotions that are being held in check, especially grief or sadness. 

Root Chakra Affirmations Feet and Lower Body

EYE MEANING: Our eyes literally represent our vision of the past, present and future. Near-sightedness indicates comfortability with the future. Near-sightedness can be related to fear of a parent by a child. Far-sightedness may be an attempt to not see what is happening now and to escape into the future. Releasing the trauma locked in the eye muscles can restore healthy vision.

FEET MEANING: Another part of the body highly laden with meaning is the feet. The feet represent the willingness to be on earth and engaged in life as in “putting your best foot forward.” In contrast with this, someone who is afraid to rock the boat may be “walking on eggshells.”

The feet are our foundation and grounding in life. To have your feet firmly on the ground is to be willing to be on earth and walk your own path. Problems with the feet can indicate corresponding emotional issues:

  • Feet that are knotted upward indicate someone who is afraid to disturb those around them.
  • Feet pointed outward indicate confusion about a direction in life.
  • Feet pointed inward indicate shame and resistance related to sexual and spiritual maturity.
  • Injury or disease of the feet can indicate concerns about security and lack of solid contact with the earth and the meeting of physical needs.
  • Injury to the feet can be blocking the desire to kick someone.
  • Problems with the feet may indicate a fear of the future and stepping forward in life.
  • Cold feet indicate withdrawal from an emotional situation.
  • Swollen feet are holding frustration about your direction in life. 


Feet represent our “understanding” of life. Your feet are literally “standing under” your body. To put yourself under the tutelage of another is to be at their feet. For example, many religions refer to sitting at the feet of a spiritual master or deity.

Affirmations for the feet include: I move forward in life with joy and ease. My new direction in life is safe for me. My life is supported with abundance and loving relationships.

GALL BLADDER MEANING: The gall bladder is a small organ associated with the liver. The gall bladder releases bile and aids in the digestion of fats. In Oriental medicine, the gall bladder is associated with the wood element. On an emotional level, the gall bladder is connected to the ability to make decisions, movement and flexibility.

Problems with the gall bladder can indicate a fear of inappropriate expression, bitterness, hard thoughts and concern about minor details of the future. Deficiency in the functioning of the gall bladder can result in indecision, timidity, and easily becoming discouraged.

On the positive side, a healthy gall bladder supports courage, initiative and the ability to make changes, decision and decisive actions. Affirmations for the gall bladder include: I release the past joyously. Life is sweet. 

HAIR MEANING: Many cultures around the world, from Native Americans to Sikhs, believe that hair has a special significance. Cultural beliefs about our hair and how it can affect us go back as far as recorded history.

Some ancient cultures believed there is power in uncut hair. Long hair on a man was attached to a cultural as well as a ceremonial significance. For many cultures, long hair was a sign of courage, and nobility. Cutting hair in some cultures meant cowardice, or mourning. Other cultures simply valued the way a man looked with a handsome complexion, and long, dark hair.

In Ancient Greece, long male hair was a symbol of wealth and power, while a shaven head was appropriate for a slave. In the European middle ages, shorter hair often signified servitude and peasantry, while long hair was often attributed to freemen. The Gaelic Irish took great pride in their long hair, and a person could be heavily fined for cutting a man’s hair short against his will.

In ancient China and Korea, hair was regarded as a precious legacy from parents. Most people would never cut their hair after they became adults and cutting off one’s hair was a penalty for minor crimes. Before World War One men generally had longer hair and beards.

In the Old Testament, the Nazirites would go for long periods of time without cutting their hair to show devotion to God. Samson is one example; his strength depended upon his refraining from cutting his hair.

Rumors are that during the Vietnam War, American Indian scouts known for their incredible tracking abilities were recruited by the US military. Once they were sent through boot camp, their abilities were critically diminished. In an effort to discover why they could no longer sense the enemy or prepare for danger, investigators eventually narrowed their research down to their need for long hair as a sensing device.

Apparently hair is not just for endless primping and fashion. Human hair may function similarly to cat whiskers, a type of feeler or antennae that transmits information to the limbic system, brainstem and neocortex. This includes head hair, body hair and facial hair in men. Cutting your hair may actually numb the senses and reduce awareness of the environment.

Long hair and beards have been part of many religious traditions. Ancient peoples cut their hair only as an extreme sign of mourning, or a way to increase hygiene in armies. Long hair was usually cut when people were enslaved as an outward sign of their loss of power.

In the Ayurvedic system, hair is seen as an extension of the etheric spine, taking in life force or prana to increase our vitality and intuition. When left to grow without cutting, the length of hair will be different for each individual. Like the skin, the hair is said to absorb vitamin D as well as phosphorus and calcium. The natural oils in hair assist in this process. Ideally, washed hair will be dried in the sun.

In India, wise men or Rishis coiled their long hair at the crown of their head to energize the pineal gland and mental faculties. This coil helped channel the energy of the sun during the day. At night, the hair is down or loosely braided. Wooden combs (which do not create static electricity) were recommended to keep the hair healthy.

Another interesting aspect of hair is the idea that long hair is associated with maturity and with accepting the order of the universe. Children are generally born with very little hair. As they grow, their hair is part of the record of their life experiences.

Some believe that hair holds emotional energy. As an adult, long hair may be a way to take our place sensitively in our environment. It may be a sign of humility to accept that their is a reason for our hair even if we do not fully understand its significance.

As Yogi Bhahan said: “Your hair is not there by mistake. It has a definite purpose, which saints will discover and other men will laugh at.”


INTESTINE MEANING: Assimilation. Absorption. Elimination with ease. Ability to follow ideas through to completion. Thinking that you can’t do anything right. Wanting to run away and hide from the world.

Some thoughts that may be related to conditions that need healing in the intestines include the following: Feeling that you are different and alone and that no one understands you. Adamantly defending yourself. Stress and tension from daily life. Deep layers of fear, guilt or grief. The small intestine relates to holding onto details and trying to analyze information or experiences obsessively. Focusing on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. Oversensitivity to criticism. Easily hurt or irritated. Difficulty standing up for oneself. Not letting go of that which has served its purpose. Lack of trust in life.

Some of the ways we talk about our intestines that reveal our feelings about this organ include: A gut feeling (intuition); gut check; gut instinct; gut-wrenching; blood and guts (the core of the matter); bust a gut (work hard to an unhealthy level); gut factor (deciding element); gut it out; spill your guts; kick in the gut; no guts, no glory; get your bowels in an uproar;  deep in your bowels; intestinal fortitude.

MOUTH MEANING: Mouth meaning taps into the entire world of emotions and self-expression. The mouth is possibly the most psychologically conflicted feature of the face. The mouth is a central focus for both receiving and giving pleasure and pain. We use the mouth to take in food and drink, to praise and curse, to kiss and spit, to sing and to moan. 

NECK MEANING: The neck is the physical separation between the mind and body. Problems with the neck may indicate that you feel required to live a life that is not in keeping with your own vision for yourself. The mind and body have become separated.

A tight neck also is a way to keep from feeling the responses of your body to life. A stiff neck may indicate resisting the views of others around you. A healthy neck represents your right to commit fully and participate fully in the life of your choosing. The neck is your right to be on earth, to belong and to create a situation where you feel at home.

SHOULDER MEANING: The spiritual meaning of shoulders can be drawn from the growing scientific evidence collected through somatic therapies and health psychology. This research as well as anecdotal evidence connects aspects of the body with specific thought patterns. This work reveals associations between illnesses or injuries of specific parts of the body and emotional states.

The spiritual meaning of the shoulders is also revealed in various religious traditions. In the Christian Bible, the shoulder signifies all power. The shoulder includes the power of the hand and the arm. To serve God “with side and with shoulder” (Ezekiel 34:21) means to serve with all one’s soul and all one’s might. To rend a shoulder means to be deprived of all power. To “turn a stubborn shoulder” (Zechariah 7:11) means to resist with all one’s might. 

Prophecies concerning Jesus as the coming Messiah make reference to his role as a counselor and advisor: “the government shall be upon His shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6). There are also New Testament references to the “lost sheep” being carried on the shoulder of the Good Shepherd.

In the Hindu tradition, there is a clear distinction between the left and the right. Women always sit to the left of the male (off of his left shoulder). In specific rituals and ceremonial worship, a woman may be off the right shoulder of her husband. 

In the Bahai faith, negative and positive forces are represented by angels and devils. These beings symbolically sit on the right and left shoulders, respectively. Their whisperings influence choices for good or ill.

According to Islam, each individual has two angels: one on the right side and one on the left. The angel on the right records good deeds. The angel on the left records bad deeds. These records will eventually be part of the judgment of the soul.

Here’s another fairly universal example: the shoulders represent the ability to carry our experiences and responsibilities in life. If we are so busy with what we “should” do, have too much to do, or are caring for others with little time for ourselves, then our shoulders can become tense and rigid. A stiff or frozen shoulder may symbolize resistance to the pressure that life is exerting on you to perform and an unwillingness to let others or life itself help us to carry the burden.

Difficulties with the shoulders may indicate that you are living a life of duty and obligation. Pain in the shoulders may indicate a block in your expression of love towards others (hugging, reaching out). Hunched shoulders can be overwhelm by the burden of life. Shoulders that are raised or pulled back can project strength but hide feeling of inadequacy or show where feelings are being held back. 

Idioms and language connections to the shoulders include the following: he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders; a chip on your shoulder (easily competitive or angered; a shoulder to cry on; put your shoulder to the wheel, square your shoulders; she’s got broad shoulders; a good head on his shoulders; shrug your shoulders; gave him the cold shoulder; rub shoulders with others.

A basic affirmation for the shoulders is : “I carry my experiences easily. My burden is light.” Other affirmations include: “I choose to participate in life in ways that are right for me. I let go of all situations that are not serving my spirit. I have enough time for activities that bring me joy and freedom. I express love in ways that increase my joy. “

There are many songs in the repertoire of sacred music around the world about laying down our burdens. We can symbolically give our burdens over to a higher power such as a deity or life itself, potentially alleviating physical problems with the shoulders. Many mantras emphasize surrender to a spiritual teacher or a representative of God. In any of these situations, a mantra can be found or created that allows us to release our feelings into the physical world and potentially transform our physical bodies in a positive way.

STOMACH MEANING: Our digestive system is also full of contradictory meanings. Digestion is a process of absorption, nourishment and filtering. The emotional connections are related to honesty, emotional vulnerability, processing the experiences of life, inner power, inner strength and life force.

Problems with the stomach include the opposite conditions: indigestion, malabsorption, fear of intimacy, insecurity, holding onto toxic feelings, deep-seated fear of not being good enough, worry, concern about and fear of the future. To settle your feelings is to “settle your stomach.” To be highly disturbed is to be “sick to your stomach.” And you don’t want to handle difficult situations “on an empty stomach” (out of energy, strength or sustenance).

Because of the many central functions of the stomach, the idioms and language related to the stomach are highly varied. Someone who is honest and emotionally vulnerable may be said to “spill their guts.” We’ve all got “gut feelings” in “the pit of our stomach” that warn us of impending danger. To go “belly up” is to go bankrupt. When you want to have more than you can handle, your “eyes are bigger than your stomach.”

To “bust a gut” is to strain yourself, usually unnecessarily. If you can’t let go of a problem or agitation about a situation or person, it’s “eating you up.” If you are constantly thinking about your problems, you are “contemplating your navel.” To be nervous is to “have butterflies in your stomach.” You may have a “weak stomach” (easily disturbed) or a “strong stomach” (ready to handle most things) or a “cast-iron” stomach (can handle anything).

If you dislike someone, you just “can’t stomach them.” And when you really dislike someone, you “hate their guts.” That’s pretty telling right there. We don’t hate their kidneys or their forearms or their shoulders, we “hate their guts.” The guts are the core of the person, both literally and symbolically.

A key to healing the gut is learning to be compassionate and loving without getting subjectively involved in the reality or suffering that you are witnessing. Learn not to take on another’s suffering when seeking to be of assistance.

THYROID: The thyroid is associated with the breathe and the rhythm of life. The thyroid is related to the throat chakra and the ability to speak up for oneself. Trapped anger (unspoken words) are often held in the thyroid. The thyroid gland plays a major role in metabolism, growth and vital body functions such as heart rate and body temperature.

Chanting is an ideal tool for supporting the health of the thyroid gland since the vibrations of chanting and singing pass directly through the thyroid. A video about restoring proper functioning for the thyroid called “My Healing Journey: Mantras, Money and the Thyroid” can be found in the Throat Chakra Meaning article.

TONSILS: What have you swallowed that was frightening or frustrating? What reality cannot be filtered by your immune system? Children or adults who are unhappy, do not understand what is happening around them or have no control over events may develop inflamed tonsils.

TOE MEANING: The toes represent the details of the future. Problems with the toes can indicate feelings of tiredness, confusion, anxiety and depression–like a small child who wants to hide from life. You may have the feeling that there are too many events and situations over which you have no control. You may be wanting to give up and run away, expect there is nowhere to run. A positive affirmation for the toes would be: “All details of the future take care of themselves. Change is safe for me.”

Author’s story: I was out walking one morning and noticed that the fourth toe on my right foot was a bit tender. To make matters worse, when I got back to my house I accidentally stubbed the very same toe with great force on a stationary bike in our basement. The pain took my breath away and I fell to my knees. When I recovered a bit, I went back to my busy life and tried to ignore the pain in my toe. By late afternoon, I took off my shoe to find that the toe was completely black and blue and swollen to the point that I wondered if I had actually broken my toe.

An approach that I commonly use to try and work with health issues is to write in my journal about everything that could possibly connected to whatever symbolism seems to be associated with the injury or condition.

I wrote in my journal for three hours that night, giving advice to several friends that I would never tell them in person because I respect their ability to make their own decisions and would not want to burden them with my feelings on top of everything else in their lives. At the same time, it gives me a way to recognize and respect my own feelings. After that, I tore out everything I had written and burned the pages to complete the process of release.

By the next morning the swelling had gone down and within a few days I was back to all of my usual activities. My children and husband had seen the toe that first day and were amazed days later when the bruising had almost completely faded and the joint was only slightly swollen. Perhaps the toe was not as badly injured as I had thought. Or maybe the emotional release helped. I’m convinced the loss of sleep to write in my journal that night was a good investment in my health.

Meaning of Body Systems

Each of the body’s systems have their own symbolic meaning. Within that context, aspects of the systems indicate where mental or emotional conflicts may exist. Examples are given below for the symbolic meaning of the skeletal system and the joints.

Skeletal System Meaning

The skeleton serves as the framework and structure for our lives. We depend on the strength of our skeleton for everything we do. The skeleton represents security, safety, trust and belonging. For these reasons, the skeleton is associated with the root or base chakra. Learn more in the article Root Chakra Meaning.

The skeleton is the hardest and densest form of tissue in the human body. Therefore, the skeleton is connected to our deepest level of psychology, emotions and spirituality. Breaking a bone or developing a bone disease is an opportunity to look at core beliefs, the deepest levels of inner strength and security and the very purpose and reason for existence. Some specific interpretations of the meaning of broken bones are given below.

ARM BONES MEANING: A broken arm is related to deep unease about what you are doing. Broken arms can also symbolize not being able to reach out for what you need. You may be doing too much or giving too much.

FACIAL BONES MEANING: To break or injure facial bones indicates a conflict between your outer appearance and inner self. Injury to the face breaks the mask that you show to the world.

FINGER BONES MEANING: Broken or injured fingers are connected to conflicts in smaller issues. you may be extending too far or reaching out inappropriately. Fingers are related to handling the details in life.

FOOT BONES MEANING: To break a foot indicates conflict about the direction you are going in life. A broken foot can also mean that you are letting someone else take advantage of you (not putting your foot down).

HAND BONES MEANING: a broken hand can be symbolic of a deep conflict over touching or being touched. Hands also represent how you are handling life or being handled. A broken hand can be suppressing a desire to punch someone. you may be resentful at giving someone else a hand (assistance) without receiving anything yourself. You may be letting things slip through your hands. On the other hand (no pun intended), you may be grasping life too tightly.

HIP BONE MEANING: A broken hip can be caused by a loss of support or the desire to lean on someone else awhile. You may be resisting forward movement in life.

LEG OR ANKLE BONE MEANING: Broken or injured legs and ankles can be a conflict concerning the direction you are going.

NECK BONES MEANING: A broken neck indicates a severe disconnect between the body and the mind. Injury to the neck can also indicate a tendency towards cutting off or strangling all feelings. A broken neck can also indicate a sense of not knowing where to turn in life. 

PELVIS BONES MEANING: A broken or injured pelvis shows conflicts related to security, survival, relationships and sexuality. The pelvis bones are connected to the root or base chakra. Learn more in the article on Root Chakra Meaning. Pelvis injuries can also be a fear of your own feelings.

RIB BONES MEANING: To break your ribs indicates a conflict between emotional vulnerability and protecting yourself. Broken ribs can also indicate a refusal to breathe in life deeply.

SHOULDER BONES MEANING: To break a shoulder shows that you are carrying too much weight and responsibility. Other types of shoulder injuries such as a torn rotator cuff also indicate bearing burdens that are not rightfully your own. A broken shoulder can symbolize not expressing your real needs or that there is something you’d rather not be doing. You may be reaching out to the wrong person. A shoulder injury may also indicate a resistance to the pressure to perform.

SKULL BONES MEANING: A cracked or broken skull is related to the need to expand and grow from within or the need to be free from restrictive, external circumstances. An injury to the skull can also show a desire for deeper insight and enlightenment.

TOE BONES MEANING: Broken or injured toes can be the result of conflicts in immediate issues and the details of life. Toes and fingers have many similarities. You may be extending too far in life.

WRIST BONES MEANING: A broken wrist can be a desire to limit or avoid certain activities. You may have a deep conflict over what you are doing or what is being done to you.

Language, Idioms and Body Symbolism

The meanings associated with different parts of the body are often revealed in our common idioms and colloquial expressions. This correspondence between language and body meaning allows you to use affirmations or chant or sing with particular healing outcomes in mind.

I also like to use images of human anatomy for visualizations when chanting privately. I am thrilled by the capacity and the beauty of the human body. I love stories about extreme athletes and people with amazing physical abilities of all kinds.

As a child, I had planned to go into the medical field. However, as I observed life around me during my teenage years, the maladies of the mind and soul seemed much deeper than those of the body. I began to feel that the mind and spirit should be addressed first or at least simultaneously with the body.

This led me to study of the work of Louise Hay and other pioneers in the field of the mind-body connection. For decades there have been forerunners in metaphysics and psychology insisting that we recognize the importance of attitudes, emotions and beliefs in health and wellness.

These include Dr. John Sarno, Steven Ray Ozanich, Deb Shapiro, Joe Dispenza, Inna Segal, Bernie Siegel and more. Some of these experts have mapped out distinct connections between personality patterns, body symbolism and health conditions. Their books are great sources of information for finding ideas when I am creating my own healing mantras and affirmations.

By understanding the specific symbolic meaning of an aspect of the human body, you can be conscious of the benefits you seek to gain. When healing affirmations, mantras and positive self-talk are set to music, they can also be sung for potentially even more effective results. In my own life, I have created mantras with affirmations in both Sanskrit and English related to eyesight and vision, thyroid health, general vitality and more. Singing can help us to utilize the connection between speaking, chanting and the mind to heal the physical body.

Discovering Body Symbolism

I woke up in the middle of the night nearly a decade ago, overwhelmed and angry. I felt like I had been thrown into the game of life without a rule book. I had studied metaphysics and self-transformative practices for years, but my results at the time were sporadic. Sometimes life was wonderful. Sometimes I felt confounded with too many difficult challenges.

Then from somewhere the thought came to me: “I will put my laws in their inward parts, and in their hearts I will write them.” This Biblical quote (Jeremiah 31:33) was only vaguely familiar to me. All the same, in that instant I knew that every bone and muscle and fiber of my being was the living, breathing rule book demonstrating the laws of life.

Everything I needed to know was literally written in every cell, organ and limb of my physical body. All I had to do was read the pulsating messages written in blood and sweat and flesh. My physical body was reflecting my thoughts and experiences. As others have said before me, biography had become biology. The invisible had become visible. I could read the script of my life‒past, present and the trajectory for my future‒in my physical form.

I believe that our bodies are designed to last in health and vibrancy for a long time, possibly for centuries, of creative, joyful living. The words and sounds that we choose to vocalize and those that we sing are creating and recreating us constantly. This is one of the reasons that I generally prefer chanting as a spiritual practice when compared with meditation or silent prayer. Sound affects matter. And that matters to me.

Unfortunately, our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, words and lifestyle choices are sometimes the weapons of our own chosen self-destruction. If we accept the premise that God, as the energy of life, is literally with us in every breath and heartbeat, we need only read the messages written in our bodies with true honesty and courage to know how to heal ourselves. This does not discount medical attention but is an adjunct to reasonable health measures.

This is not to judge ourselves or others for maladies of the body or soul, but a way to have compassion for ourselves and others. I will also say that there are saints among us that accept disabilities or diseases on behalf of others. Not everyone is the cause or source of their own suffering. Some conditions may be sacrificial and do not reflect the thoughts or consciousness of the person bearing that burden in any way.

The video below is my own story of healing a chronic injury after surgery for a sports injury has unfortunate results. How I used emotional release to regain greater mobility.

References: The Divided Mind by Dr. John Sarno; The Great Pain Deception by Steven Ray Ozanich

Connecting with the Body

I find it fascinating that healing the body through giving homage and praise to the body itself is a principle that seems to be universal. This principle has been rediscovered in modern times by practitioners of positive thinking and New Thought Christianity. Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, founders of the Unity School of Christianity, both healed themselves of tuberculosis using this approach. Myrtle Fillmore relates her experience:

“Life is simply a form of energy and has to be guided and directed in man’s body by his intelligence. How do we communicate with intelligence? By thinking and talking, of course…. I told the life in my liver that I was not torpid or inert, but full of vigor and energy. I told the life in my stomach that it was not weak or inefficient, but energetic, strong and intelligent….

I told my limbs that they were active and strong. I went to all of the life centers in my body and spoke words of Truth to them—words of strength and power…. I did not become discouraged at their being slow to wake up, but kept right on, both silently and aloud, declaring the words of Truth, until the organs responded.”

Myrtle Fillmore’s health began to improve immediately, she was completely free of tuberculosis in two years, and she went on to live another forty years founding and running a church and spiritual organization.

Many mantras for healing have simple meanings along  lines similar to Myrtle Fillmore’s approach such as: “I give honor to my shoulder” or “I welcome the healing sun to strengthen my eyes” or “I praise the spirit that strengthens me.”

Synergy of the Body and Spirit

Ultimately my personal goal is to go beyond achieving physical health through chanting and other spiritual practices and move towards having a true synergy of the body and the soul. In many traditions the body represents the Divine Mother and the spirit is symbolized by the Divine Father. I would like to experience the spirit flowing through my body freely rather than feeling the need for unending control and discipline.

Even in intensive sports, there must be a way to channel energy so that the physical body does not break down from overuse. Why should the physical body deteriorate if it is a reflection and expression of the eternal spirit? This does not make sense to me. There are yogis and saints who display all kinds of supernatural abilities such as slowing or stopping their hearts or going into breathless states for extended periods of time. Why is this the exception and not the norm?

Maybe our bodies begin to fail because we are trying to strengthen and master the physical body through sheer force ‒manipulating muscles, bones and joints‒rather than viewing the body as the pliable vessel of energy or spirit. Many martial arts masters do not necessarily even look strong, but they can do things that the strongest men in the world cannot do because they have learned to use their body as a channel for energy. There must be a way of channeling chi or prana so that the body is restored rather than destroyed in the process of living.

There have been miracle workers throughout the ages: Jesus and Buddha and Christian saints and Babaji and more. Babaji, an Eastern master and spiritual teacher, is called the Eternal Youth. He is purported to have lived for thousands of years, coming in and out of his body as desired or needed to assist mankind. Read full article on Babaji and his counterpart Mataji.

This is the stuff of legends to be sure, but science is also beginning to document individuals who can live without eating and those who are immune to poisonous snakes and those who live with little to no sleep. Stan Lee’s episodic series called Superhumans documents many of these modern people with remarkable abilities.

Spiritual Meaning of the Body

Illustration by Rose Karlsen
Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved

Mantras, Yantras & Body Symbolism

Mantra Yoga is a practice that unites the body and soul. Sound is a conduit between the world of the spirit or energy and the world of the earth. There seems to be a fairly direct conversion of energy into matter. Quantum physics is demonstrating that particles and waves merge and shift into one another constantly.

The work of Hans Jenny in the science of cymatics demonstrates that forms are created by various tones and sounds. There is a clear congruency between sound and geometric forms. This directly ties into the practice of both mantras and the use of yantras or sacred geometry.

Creating a Spiritual Body

When we speak, and especially when we chant or sing, we may be creating geometric forms in our own bodies and in the matter around us. This is quite a science and a lifetime study. There is also a concept in Christianity that one day we will have an eternal body: “this corruptible must put on incorruption” [1 Corinthians 15: 53]. This is called the “body glorious” or the “body celestial.” The same concept exists in many religions in different forms: the idea that there is an eternal body that we can create or receive.

Chanting, toning and sacred singing are among the tools that have an impact on both matter and spirit. Perhaps a combination of efforts will lead to achieving an eternal form, if that is indeed desirable for one or many. Various other yogic techniques may also be part of the equation.

Mantra Yoga is a form of self-investigation. What feelings arise and what is the impact on the physical body? When you chant do you feel spacey or grounded or uncomfortable or elated? These may be keys to evaluating your own psychological and emotional states. I am fortunate in that regard: when I am chanting, I often feel like I am falling in love.

There seems to be a huge leap from the desire to simply be free of ailments of the body and mind to the possibility of an eternal body. I am fascinated by the research being done by scientists like Candace Pert (learn more on her website) who demonstrates how thoughts are converted to chemicals in the body. There is also much work being done with somatic psychology, and even reports of people with multiple personalities whose physical forms change when they shift from one personality to another. There are records of people whose eye color, scars, eyesight and conditions like diabetes appear and disappear when they are existing as one personality versus another. That is amazing!

All of these things show that the body is quite fluid. Perhaps the body is far more fluid than we have thought in the past. For example, the human lymph system is a critical part of health and wellness. You can learn more at The Amazing Lymph System on the Essential Drops of Joy website.

Anything that is fluid is instantly affected by sound. Sound is a bridge that unites the physical and the spiritual. That is a great place to start. A practice like chanting that involves the emotions, the mind, the heart and the physical body may allow ordinary, flawed people like me to transform ourselves into more glorious beings on one level or another. At least it is a grand experiment.

Ultimately a dedicated spiritual path, including whatever practices appeal deeply to you, can lead to a harmonious relationship between the body and soul. Maybe there are multiple answers to the long-standing question of old age, disease, and death. I am looking for a way to find those answers and to achieve results without going into a cave for a lifetime or more. For me, chanting is a path that can work on many levels while I am living in the modern world and fulfilling my responsibilities. There are other tools I have found to be helpful like breath-centered meditation and hiking in the mountains. However, mantra yoga is my primary spiritual and self-creative practice.

Working with Your Body Script

Body Script™ is the use of physiognomy, oriental diagnosis, body language and symbolic anatomy to ascertain mental and emotional connections and meanings related to specific aspects of the physical body. Body Script™ is the understanding that our bodies outpicture our thoughts and feelings in a concrete, knowable way.

Reading the body gives us clues to our own personality patterns. The changing of these patterns will then be reflected in changes in the physical body. Body Script™ is therefore not fixed, but is an art and science art based on the feedback system of the body which can be utilized for ongoing personal growth and wholeness.

In our ignorance, we may be killing ourselves quickly or slowly. Our thoughts and feelings and beliefs and lifestyle choices are the weapons of our chosen self-destruction. Ultimately, all death from illness and “natural causes” could be considered a form of suicide. If we accept the premise that God is literally with us in every breath and heartbeat, we need only read His rulebook in our bodies with true honesty and courage to know how to heal ourselves. This does not discount medical attention, but is an adjunct to reasonable health measures.

Heal Your Body by Louise Hay
The Secret Language of Your Body by Inna Segal
Your Body Speaks Your Mind by Deb Shapiro
The Healing Secrets of the Ages by Catherine Ponder
Body Symbolism by Richard Rybicki, M.S.W.

Paranormal Abilities of the Body: Vision

Magic, miracle, science or myth? The purported ability of blind and sighted individuals to “see” with their fingers, known as dermo optical perception, has gotten some good and bad press. Most stories about those who can read and sense colors with their fingertips come from research in Russia, Taiwan and China. Some question the scientific standards utilized in these experiments.

It’s the stuff of legends and begins with a story of a Russian woman who could embroider by feeling the colored threads with her fingers. This was Nina Kulingina, a sighted person with other unusual abilities such as psychokinesis. Her ability led to others working with blind children and the discovery that 25% of blind children could be trained to see with their fingers.

This is not reading Braille, but sensing colors acutely enough to read regular text. Another Russian woman, Rosa Kuleshova (see image), developed the ability to see and read with her fingers as a young woman. She was not blind, though blindness ran in her family. Both of these Russian women were celebrity in the 1950s.

Other parts of the body also seem to be color and light-sensitive such as the tip of the nose, toes and the elbows. Another scientific name for this phenomena is paroptic vision. Research by American psychologist Walter Makous in the 1960s led to his conclusion that this phenomenon is based on the “subjects’ sensitivity to thermal exchanges between the skin and colored objects, even in complete darkness. As objects of different color (lightness and hue) differ in their heat-reflecting properties, blind as well as normally sighted individuals can learn to differentiate between them”.

Some theorists believe that this level of skin sensitivity may have developed as an adaptation to help guide man in the dark since we have relatively poor night-vision when compared to many other animals. Others see dermo-optical perception as a link between physical vision and psychic vision.

In any case, it appears to be an ability that can be developed by a significant percentage of people with enough practice. Just passing your fingers over (but not touching) similar surfaces with different colors may be enough to convince you that it is indeed a latent ability. For most people, red surfaces will feel sticky, yellow surfaces will feel slick and blue surfaces will feel cool. I’ve tried it myself and invited others to give it a try. You may be amazed.


Living Without Eating

Breatharians have been known to exist for centuries. These include well-known figures such as the Catholic saint Therese Neumann (d. 1962). Modern example include a couple living part of the year in California and the rest of the year in Ecuador. Akahi Ricardo and Camila Coastello have eaten almost nothing for 15 years.

They have lived as long as three years with no food at all. Occasionally they eat a small piece of fruit or something in a social setting. Camila went through an entire pregnancy with no significant food. Her baby was born healthy and normal. The couple claims to have learned to live on cosmic energy.

Another modern breatharian is the elderly Indian yogi Prohlad Jani. He has lived without foor or water for over 70 years. He has submitted himself to extensive scientific evaluation twice. This included living in a hospital for two weeks with no food or water and no stool or urine. Prohlad claims to live by directly consuming sunlight.

A New Look at Patterns of Sleep

As the decades go by, scientists have had to rethink many aspects of basic health: what we should eat, the ideal amount of exercise, and optimal patterns of sleep. We may have a misconception about what we consider to be “normal” patterns of sleep.

Some historians think that our current idea of a “solid night’s sleep” may be a modern phenomenon. Roger Ekrich, professor of history at Virginia Tech, says that before modern lighting, people slept in two shorter periods over a range of about twelve hours.

They would sleep three or four hours, be awake for two to three hours and then sleep again until morning. References to the practice of having a “first sleep” and a “second sleep” are found in court documents, personal papers and the literature of the time.

In a study done in the early 1990s by psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of the National Institutes of Mental Health, fifteen men spent a month with their daylight artificially restricted. They had fourteen hours a day in a dark room to rest or sleep. This mimicked the natural sunlight in mid-winter.

At first they slept long hours, probably to catch up on the sleep debt that is common in the modern world. Then they began to sleep four or five hours, wake for several hours and sleep again until morning. The total was about eight hours of sleep. They were, indeed, in the “first sleep, second sleep” pattern of their ancestors.

Resources: Evening’s Empire by Craig Koslofsky

Sports and the Superhuman

There are athletes all over the world demonstrating superhuman feats of endurance and agility in many different sports. There is a growing recognition that there are multiple components necessary for success: psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual.

Some athletes have had transcendent spiritual experiences while pushing themselves to their physical limits. Sports can be a path of self-mastery on all of these levels. In particular there are traditions in the martial arts and in endurance sports that give the practitioner the means to reach both the highest levels of physical culture and spiritual attainment.

The ancient Taoists viewed the human body as a vehicle for spiritual transformation achieved through mastery of the flow of chi through the human form. There have been forerunners for decades in the fields of metaphysics and body-mind psychology insisting that we recognize the importance of attitudes and beliefs in health and wellness. These include Dr. John Sarno, Steven Ray Ozanich, Louise Hay, Deb Shapiro, Joe Dispenza, Inna Sega, Bernie Segal, and more.

The power of music and art in healing has also been explored by psychologists and medical doctors alike. Some of these pioneers have mapped out correlations between personality patterns and health conditions, allowing you to read your own thoughts as out pictured in your body in a clear and unmistakable way.

We are all part of an energetic ecosystem. I believe that our bodies are designed to last in health and vibrancy for a long, long time–possibly for centuries of creative, joyful living. That is my goal! The understanding of chi is now being applied in running, walking, tennis, golf and other sports to help athletes avoid injury and reach their full potential.

A Healing Painting for My Back

I had a very interesting and unusual experience with a healing painting several years ago when I had a chronic back problem. At the time I was involved in a major project with a friend. Just when I thought we were getting things rolling, the situation in his life changed. He backed out and I continued on alone.  

Right around that time, I noticed that my back was hurting. I had to be careful not to stretch too far or bend too far forward. I had started doing yoga, but I didn’t remember injuring myself during yoga. I didn’t remember injuring myself at all. One day I just discovered that I had pain in my lower back. Little did I know that a semi-abstract piece of art would become a healing painting for me.

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Body Symbolism and Back Pain

As I went through this experience, a friend of mine mentioned that there might be some symbolism involved. In this situation, I had thought that someone “had my back” but then felt let down. She suggested I focus on “having my own back” so to speak.

I ignored the pain as best I could. My back didn’t hurt all the time, but enough to limit my movement and exercise regime, which was very important to me. I tried gentle stretching and gave myself some time to heal. Weeks went by. Then months. There was absolutely no improvement.

Healing Painting Back Illustration

At this point, I was getting very discouraged. My back had been hurting for over a year. I didn’t want to seek medical help at that point. I thought there might be a slightly pinched nerve or compressed vertebrae. Or maybe something with a ligament. I reasoned that a pulled or strained muscle would have healed by now.

I was concerned that I would be told from a medical perspective that the condition was permanent. I did not want to hear that. I wanted to believe that the pain could be resolved somehow. I kept hoping for a solution. Over a year after the pain had started, I was creating a series of abstract paintings. Over the years I’ve done portraits, florals, landscapes and large abstracts, the latter usually with universe themes.

No matter what the subject, my aim has always been to create healing paintings that uplift the viewer in some way. I like to say a prayer before a I start making art that my work be a healing painting in some way. I don’t always plan the subject. I simply set an intent and then ask that something pure or helpful will be created. Sometimes I call to angels to paint through me or with me.

Finding My Spine in the Painting

I do most of my abstract paintings in sequential layers. I’ll start out pouring multiple colors of very thin paint on a canvas, then let that dry for a day or two. Then I’ll go back and look for patterns in the flowing shapes and colors. I’ll add another layer of colors, let that dry and repeat the process. I tried to stay in a neutral state and observe what is emerging in a painting.

After a few days on this particular one, I noticed that something like a spine was visible in the patterns of color. Sure enough, I had unintentionally painted an image of a spine and back! I looked closely and knew that something was wrong. The spine wasn’t right. This was a painting of a misaligned spine! And I had the feeling that this was not any spine, but my own.

I didn’t know what to do with the painting or how it could function as a healing painting. I didn’t want to display or sell or reproduce an image of pain or distress. I set the painting aside to ponder the situation. By the time the summer came around again, I was really frustrated with the lingering back pain.

One day I remembered the painting, which I had named “I’ve Got Your Back.” The thought occurred to me that maybe I could use the painting in a concrete way to heal myself. I had read about an experiment where patients needing knee surgery were divided up into three groups. Some received full knee surgery. Some had an alternate procedure. A third group had incisions done but did not have any knee surgery at all. None of the patients knew whether they had had the actual surgery or not.

The results suggested the same therapeutic benefits were achieved through non-invasive placebo surgery. Sometimes the results were even better. I thought maybe I could use the painting like a proxy. What if I did surgery on the painting and could get the same benefits as if I had had actual back surgery?

Surgery by Proxy with the Painting

I rarely destroy or discard a painting. However, a year of back pain was more than enough incentive to try an experiment with this unique painting. I got the sharpest knife I could find from the kitchen.

I set the painting against a wall in the master bedroom, centered myself and set an intention for healing, asking for assistance from angels or guides or whatever divine help might be available. At first I tried only removing the center of the painting where the spine was clearly misaligned. Somehow that didn’t feel quite right.

Eventually I removed the entire spine from the painting, working for fifteen or twenty minutes. Now a third or even half of the painting was missing and the misaligned spine was completely gone. I stopped my work on the painting and tried stretching again. The pain was diminished, but still present. I paused at the end of the experiment to reinforce my intention that the painting be a catalyst for healing. The painting itself was destroyed, so I put it out in my garage.

Over the course of the next few days, the pain disappeared entirely. I no longer had any limitations. At all. The painting was now in a pile of miscellaneous junk in the garage. I went out into the garage and rescued the painting long enough to take a photo. It was as though the pain and injury had never existed. 

Over four years have passed since this experiment. The back pain has never returned. I sacrificed a painting and gained back a fully active life. I am sharing my experience to inspire others to use whatever tools work for them to keep the hope alive for a full recovery from whatever difficulty or challenge they are facing.

I am not suggesting in any way that this is a new method of treatment that will work for anyone else. We are all unique with our own paths to follow, especially where medical care is concerned. I am an artist and a musician. I am not a doctor or health practitioner. I am simply reporting what happened to me.

Maybe miracles are not always available, but sometimes they come in mysterious ways. I am grateful to have discovered that my creative efforts combined with faith and prayer were a successful combination. This experiment resulted in a healing painting that made a significant positive difference in my life.

Resources: Study Finds Common Knee Surgery No Better Than Placebo, Baylor College of Medicine, Science Daily 

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Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew, and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.

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