Her Mercy

by | Mar 17, 2018 | 4 comments

“Mercy, mercy coming to you,
Feel her beauty flowing through you.”
Glen Hansard, ‘Her Mercy’

In a recent comment, Emily raised that most pertinent question: “How do I do this?” How does one honour the body – the clear, potent wisdom of the body – while, in her case, taking on the professional “role of digital guide and web designer”?

Many of us ask this. How do I bring the embodiment, the openness of meditation into the various roles I hold in the so-called ‘real world’? Into being a parent and partner? A friend and coworker? Into my professional life?

On the one hand, there’s a very Shoeless Joe (if you like the book) / Field of Dreams (if you prefer the movie) answer. “If you build it,” Ray Kinsella hears while wandering that Iowa cornfield. “If you build it, he will come.” In our case, the statement might more accurately be, “If you practice, it will come.” It’s that simple. As we deepen our relationship with meditation, we deepen our relationship with the body. As we deepen our relationship with the body, the knowing, tenderness and ease that are it’s basic nature – our basic nature – flow into daily life. 

At the same time, however, there is more we can do in this regard. Because the basic nature is often viewed as separate from the nuts and bolts of life, it can be helpful to look for examples of this – examples of the insight, open-heartedness, and the joie de vive inherent in each of us – coming forward in the stuff of every day. Beginning to see these, beginning to feel these manifesting in radio interviews and work interactions and grocery store lineups can be a powerful and inspiring teacher.

Personal experience might prove illuminating here. For whatever reason, music is an arena in which I find the essentially human relatively accessible. While far, far from the only arena available to us, I often feel our human essence in early Van Morrison, see it in live Bruce Springsteen, sense it in the vocals of Frazey Ford. I recently found this streaming through a YouTube clip in which Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova offer ‘Her Mercy’ to a fortunate audience in Austria.

From the beginning, there’s a sense of openness to the scene. Affection warms the space, even onscreen. This intensifies when Marketa moves in-frame, steps toward the mike, begins to sing. As early as verse two, the performers find relaxation within the song and delight blossoms. Smiles become broader, more frequent. At about the two minute mark, Irglova really starts to let go. By two-forty five – aided perhaps by a little surprise – words fly free from her throat. Hansard and the rest of the band soar into the rafters.

All of which reminds me that the affecting potency of the body – the power and impact of our inherent humanity – is ever available. It waits to come forward everywhere and in everyone. It waits to flow through me, as I sit here typing. To flow through Emily, as she works on another design project. Necessarily unique in every instance, who we are waits to flow through each of us in every corner of our lives.

As for how we actually do this, remembering it’s possible – remembering basic nature is, after all, basic – is a good start. It’s also helpful to familiarize with what this natural flow might look and feel like, to take it out of the theoretical and into the experiential. Watching this in others can be extremely valuable in this regard; it can help us recognize when something similar – but again, wholly unique – is happening through us.

In the performance noted above, Hansard and Irglova also encourage us to abandon ourselves to the moment by moment as it arises on the stage of our lives and, of course, to practice. After all, neither would be able to surrender in the ways seen here, to give themselves to this particular moment by moment, without practice – hours and hours of it. The same is true, always true, for you and I.

– Neil


  1. Thanks for the post, Neil. Helpful reminder that with practice we can stay with the wisdom of the body. I also feel there’s a need for cultivating trust. Maybe that’s part of the practice. Sometimes the voice of the Soma is loud and clear, but I hesitate because somehow it doesn’t seem "appropriate". It’s like the joie de vive way of being you describe requires a certain degree of fearlessness or apparent risk-taking. Habit patterns are strong, social expectations and norms feel solid and heavy, and moving counter to them requires a certain degree of bravery. Like a saxophonist in a jazz band riffing in a solo, letting go with confidence is what makes the music soar. Thanks again for the post. – Josh

    • I suspect you are on to something important here, Josh. There is a need to develop trust in the voice of the soma, in it’s place in our lives. Meditation is, of course, key here. Each session gives us opportunities to practice receiving this voice.

      We can find opportunities out in the world also. Asking the body for guidance when choosing a piece of fruit at the grocery store, for instance. This might seem a ‘no big deal’ example, but that’s very much the point – no big deal, low risk, so that with time we can develop the trust necessary to "let go with confidence" in more risky situations.

      Hansard and Irglova can again be instructive in this regard. Imagine how much practice singers must put in before being able to fly free in the way we see above. We require – and deserve – the same.

      • I like your suggestion of asking the body for guidance for low-risk decisions and then gradually working our way up. It seems sensible, especially for those of us who tend towards extremes. It’s interesting, too, because by connecting with the body around a piece of fruit I suspect I would somehow create a little gap in my usual objectification of it. It never occurred to me to try this. Thanks!

        • This is another reply to the question: ‘How do we bring the body into [fill in the blank]?’ Simply ask! Sitting in front of the computer composing an email we can take a moment to settle and then inquire, ‘What does the body wish to say here?’


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