Our bodies must last a lifetime. We get only one. Without it, life ends. Done. Fini.
So why don’t we treat our bodies lovingly? Like prized possessions?
Wouldn’t you think I’d appreciate my body’s nonstop efforts to function smoothly?
My body asks for so little. Rest when I’m tired or sick. Food for nutrients, energy and strong bones. Water to keep hydrated. And play to lift my spirit.
Its ability to forgive past indiscretions and respond well to good care is impressive.
Not only do I take my body’s minimal demands for granted, but I’m annoyed when a physical constraint, like a cold or an injury, keeps me from doing what I want.
Until recently, I abused my body with excesses of all kinds. Moreover, I was harshly critical when it failed to conform to standards of beauty in magazines and on television.
Evidently, I’m not the only one who struggles to develop a positive relationship with his or her body. I’ve painfully observed acquaintances and family members systematically destroy their bodies through drugs, overeating, alcoholism or workaholism.
Although I never started that low on the ladder, I certainly held on to the next rung. My overeating, sedentary lifestyle and excessive work weren’t fatal, but they had a negative impact on my life. Increased medical expenses and injuries were on the rise. Premature death was likely. Although I had good intentions to change, I didn’t follow through.
I moved up a rung on the ladder when I started reclaiming my body. Once I realized it was in my self-interest to take care of my body, I made choices that were more constructive. Instead of asking, “What do I want?” I ask, “What does my body need?” and respond accordingly.
Surprising even myself, I’ve continued to climb the “body care” ladder. Positive actionsexercising, eating carefully, getting enough rest and water, limiting my work hours and scheduling recreationare becoming regular habits rather than disciplined efforts.
Beginning the day with 45 minutes of yoga and stretching is now as necessary as brushing my teeth. Lying on the floor with my feet in the air reminds me of the simple joy I felt in my body as a child. During these meditative moments, mind and body are united. Besides giving thanks for getting this far, I ask for guidance.
If, during the day, I am tempted to indulge, I stop and stretch. Simply adopting a pose for 10 to 15 seconds reminds me of my stewardship responsibility. The bad impulseto munch a candy bar, for exampleis replaced with one more consistent with my self-interest, such as taking care of my body.
I’d like to reach yet a higher rung. At this height, I imagine the mind and body are joyfully and continuously integrated. Miraculous in its conception and functioning, the body should be considered a holy temple and treated with awe and respect. A deep sense of well-being is constantly present.
Knowing this ladder existsand that, if you’re reading this article, you’re alive and climbing it with meis reassuring. Knowing that it’s part of the learning process to take one step up, a couple back, or even fall off the ladder, is also comforting.
I also accept the fact that when we climb to a higher rung, a friend or family member may feel threatened and try to get us to step back down. This column is intended to do the oppositehelp us move up a step.
At death, my body and I will part. Until then, I hope I have the good sense to honor it and be faithful to its needs. I applaud those of you who do the same.