I started my week with a hot yoga class. Sitting there on the mat, yesterday morning, all blissed out, I was suddenly pulled out of my self care reverie by the words of the instructor:
"Your body is just a tool"
"Pain is an illusion. Play around with the idea of just ignoring it"
"You are the source, not your body or your mind"
I sat there, horrified. Every fibre of my being protested, and I felt my spirit and my very cells call out a long Noooooooooooooooooooooo.
Her words lit a fire within me, and that is when I knew this article was ready to be written.
... Let's be honest. Most of us look at the body as a hindrance. It has to be fed, clothed, taken care of. It needs to be "exercised". It isn't precisely the shape you want it to be, it doesn't do things precisely the way you want it to. It needs sleep, rest, and recovery. In short, it's a hassle.
Right? - WRONG.
Yes. That is how society views the body. As something we have the right to use and abuse. As something we medicate and bind and bandage when it does not function as we feel it should. It proclaims to us that we need not feel remorse for the body that it cannot feel neglect, that when we find ourselves unwell, it is due to an innate fault within it. We teach this to each other, perpetuating the pattern to our families and our children, by making choices that reflect such an abusive mindset.
I am sorry to be harsh, my loves, but - this is simply unacceptable, and needs to end.
Recognize the gifts
Stop for a second. Silence the self talk, block out the mutterings of convention, close your eyes and ears to motivational fitness quotes and images. Just think - What does your body do for you? What are you able to do as a function of having a body?
We could make a very long list indeed. But, put simply:
- your body allows you to communicate
- your body allows you to connect
- your body allows you to experience
YOUR BODY IS THE REASON that you have the ability to laugh, hug, cry, jump, sing, run into your loved ones arms, and express the spirit inside.
No body, no emotion. No sensation. No body, no life as we understand it.
It's that simple.
Your body also allows us to experience the abstract. Those great mysteries and truths that surpass language - like love and unity and peace - that you can never quite describe but you feel deeply... it allows you to experience them. The human body is a portal to the source. But before we can activate this portal, we must heal the disconnect, and turn our attention back in to the physical in a loving and compassionate way. Only then will we rise up.
The enormity of the gifts the body has given us - we rarely pause to consider this. I encourage you to start asking yourself these questions in order to break the pattern of self abuse so many of us are guilty of.
Your body is not a tool
Your body is not a mechanism or a machine that can simply taken apart, parts replaced, and put back together. It is so much more complex. It is a living breathing being in its own right. It is an ecosystem within an ecosystem. It is one, it is also part of something greater, and yet it consists of smaller entities working cooperatively together.
Every year research reveals to us more about it than we have know previously - our understanding is still at its infancy. All we can say for certain is that it is complex. Dynamic. Adaptable. Constantly changing. Powerful. That it responds significantly to its environment. That is can heal beyond our capacity for understanding.
We do not have the right to take advantage of something so strong and beautiful just because it does not communicate with us in a way we can easily understand.
Don't be afraid to question
Pain is your body's messenger. It is really that simple. Modern neuroscience and pain science tells us this, esoteric practices do the same, and so does psychology. It is your body's way of communicating. It does not speak as we do, but that does not mean it should be ignored.
We live in a world where the mind is elevated to godhood, and the spirit and the body are thought of as unnecessary if not denied completely. With the rise of spirituality and holistic thought, we are now presented with a very different phenomenon - where the body and the mind are denied and the spirit elevated to new heights.
Why is it so difficult for us to find balance? To accept the inherent complexity within existence? Why must we always feel the need to put something down in order to lift ourselves up?
That is not love.
It is NOT a sign of enlightenment or spiritual advancement to ignore the body and force it to suffer the consequences of neglect - no matter what various schools of thought will tell you. We all have our paths and journeys, so while your teachers may be speaking genuinely, that does not mean you need to take their words and path as truth. Question them. Question me.
Use your mind to your advantage, it is here to give you the ability to look, and assess. A healthy dose of logic has a definite place here, no matter what others tell you. Spirituality or not, as soon as you take something out of the abstract universal into the written language, you are losing meaning and limiting the message - and so bringing it into the realm of the mind. In the realm of the mind, use the mind.
Incidentally, this is also where the body come in to play - it can help you bring those intellectual understandings about the spiritual out from the limits of language and back into the realm of the unexplained infinite. This lies in the power of sensuality and free movement. In the magic of touch.
So. Today and every day, listen to your body - what is it telling you about the effect of the teachings or principles you follow? Then ask your spirit. And you mind. Then make a decision and adjust your path accordingly.
Do not follow blindly.
If something hurts, pay attention. Do something about it. Make choices that reflect respect and compassion for yourself, all parts of yourself.
Don't settle for halfway happy. Don't settle for physical pain or low quality of life.
Do not resign yourself to a life of struggle and shame. You deserve so much better. We all do. Your body deserves so much better!
Compassion begins within
You have heard me speak of the dual nature of love - it is both a noun and a verb, a state and action. So too is compassion.
Repeated actions amount to skills, and skills can be taught. Everything is a skill. Love. Compassion. They are skills. And to truly master them we must start within ourselves. We must make choices that reinforce the skill of compassion in our daily lives, not just speak of it in grand and sweeping words. Those are beautiful but have little value in terms of actual growth.
If you carry resentment towards your body for simply being, then how can you ever expect yourself to live happily. If you do not lay a solid foundation, you will be forced to go back and fix it one day. You can give as much as you want to others, sacrifice in the name of love and family and rightly so, but you will remain incomplete. You will be easily drained, searching for something. You will redouble your efforts to "improve yourself" by further punishing your body. You will join bootcamps, go on diets, work on your image with unparalleled determination, with near desperation to achieve it or maintain it. And yet you will never be fully content. You are searching for that inner and outer acceptance, that confidence, that can only come when we can look at ourselves in the mirror and say "I love you".
You cannot say those words in truth until you reconnect with your body and slowly begin to replace the resentment with an abiding love.
Look at your body with compassion. Think of everything it has done for you and continues to do for you without complaint, without recompense, simply because that is part of its nature. It loves you and it yearns for your love. It has spent years caring for you while you were discovering yourself and struggling with the misguided messages of society. It put up with the abuse and the hurt, and still kept doing its work. Out of love.
It is time to nurture your body. That is what self care is all about - it is an action based expression of compassion towards yourself.
The Sacred Trinity
Body. Mind. Spirit. You've heard it all before, I've mentioned it here. This is the sacred trinity, a powerful concept that you will see echoed again and again in different forms of spirituality.
Yes, you are the source. You are the universe incarnate, experiencing itself through itself. But here's the thing - so are your body and your mind. You and I, those three aspects of your being, we are all fragments of that greater reality, none more important than the other.
All three have a consciousness, and an individual purpose. This life is not just about the spirit doing its thing so to speak, it is about the body and the mind fulfulling their purpose and learning their lessons too. Your self and your journey is the sum of three distinct beings, three purposes and promises unified into one.
Isn't that beautiful?
You - are a community, consisting of those three sacred beings. In a community, everyone has equal value though they may have different contributions and things to offer. Working as a team, members of this community grow and flourish together. If there is discord and no team work, the community falters and perishes slowly.
Each part of you is important, and has something of equal importance to offer. We are here to explore cooperativeness within ourselves, so that we may reflect that in our families and communities, and then in the world as a whole. So that we, these separate and distinct bits of the universe, separated so long ago, may re unite again in a conscious glory.
Healing the relationship
Compassion. Cooperativeness. Those all sound lovely. But where to begin? After years of walking, nay, sprinting down another path?
As always, you begin with the truth about a situation.
Then you make a shift in your perspective or mindset.
And finally, you take action.
Then you repeat.
Such a simple progression, yet within it lies the key to all progress and personal growth.
Let's go through these steps together:
BEGIN WITH THE TRUTH:
Let's imagine you had a close friend or family member that was always there for you. They never said much, but no matter what you needed, they were there. They were love incarnate. No matter how they felt or what stresses they were under, they did everything to support and to allow you to fulfill your dreams. When they were not able to do so, you medicated them and shamed them for not being able to. You rarely said thank you, and only did things for them because that was the bare minimum they needed to survive. And yet they never got angry with you, they did try to communicate at times - but were promptly silenced or ignored.
This is your relationship with your body.
That pattern went on for years.
So, what do you think - is this balanced mutually caring connection? Or is it abusive?
Be honest with yourself, even if it hurts. I'm sorry if this is painful to hear. Taking responsibility for this. You thought better of yourself, right? So did I. (I'm on this journey too- we all are). Understand that this is not said with accusation, but with love. It simply - is. The past is the past. What matters now are your actions moving forward.
MAKE A SHIFT:
The whole purpose of this article has been to start the process of this mental shift. But in the end, that is inner work that you need to do on your own. It is going to involve a heck of a lot of forgiveness, long overdue gratitude, communication, understanding, and for you to face some potentially unpleasant but freeing truths about yourself. As you begin to make a change in your mindset, your self talk and demeanor will change too. As will your day to day actions and choices. Every time you act in a way that reinforces this new mindset of love, heals the relationship between you and your body and brings you close to being whole.
Self care. Body work. Freeing mindful movement. Nourishing food. Creative expression. These are all ways of reconnecting with your body and taking action in a way that reflects the change in your values. I am not proposing that you abandon your life, and become a yogi (unless you feel drawn to that) - by no means, I am simply saying that examining your motivations for your current lifestyle and activities can be extremely powerful. Motivation matters. Are you "exercising" or are you moving? Why are you moving? Is it so punish yourself? If so why and how can you change that? Are you eating joyfully or starving yourself? Are you experiencing loving touch on a regular basis partner or a body work practitioner? The list goes on. There are so many places to start and so many paths to take. So start small, somewhere, and build. The smallest steps can have the most far reaching effect.
Pride vs Humility
In order to begin viewing your body with the respect and love it deserves rather than a tool at our disposal, we have to make the often challenging transition from pride to humility.
Pride is not an endearing quality. We all have it, but it does not serve us well. Note that there is a difference between pride and confidence - pride always involves putting something or someone down in order to lift ourselves higher.
We treat our bodies as second class citizens. We feel we are better than them, we are mind or spirit (depending on your perspective) and this is higher. - What that is, is terribly prideful. And it needs to STOP. Your body has just as much right to be here and to live in happiness and joy as you do. It is not here to be used and abused, or taken advantage of. To be ignored, shamed.
And it is the lowest form of spirituality that will encourage you to do so.
Reconnecting with your body takes humility. It is so much easier to ignore it, to assume that it does not matter, and to turn a blind eye to our choices. It takes patience, love, and care, and the acknowledgement that some of your previous approaches were not optimal. It takes being brutally honest, it takes saying that you're sorry. It takes gentleness, compassion, and understanding. It takes making up for lost time. But you can do it, I promise you. And oh, is it worth it! Being whole is always worth it.
Your body is your EQUAL partner in the worldly experience. Honour it, listen to it, do not ignore its needs - just as it does not ignore your desires. Connect back down and in, and you will be lifted higher than you ever thought possible.
Now is the time of the rebirth of the goddess. The re emergence of body wisdom, so that it can be re united with the mind and spirit on a global scale. The shift is taking place all around us, and we are all being called, here and now, to begin the change within ourselves.
Let your body to rise up and speak its wisdom. Be silent and listen carefully. It has much to share.
The sooner we realize this as individuals and as a society, the sooner our healing can truly begin.