When was the last time you looked in the mirror and found no faults in your appearance? In fact, have you ever looked in the mirror and been totally satisfied?
Like so many women (and probably men, let’s not be sexist), I have spent my entire post-pubescent (and the majority of the pre-pubescent days, too) agonizing over my weight. I’ve tried countless diets, gone through many love-hate relationships with the gym, taken prescription and over the counter diet pills, binged, purged, starved, abused, and cursed my body all in pursuit of my ideal appearance.
Today, I want to be fit. I mean, not just fit, but chiseled, sculpted, and lean. My dream body is the body of a fitness model. I’m not talking about a female body builder- I don’t need the bulging biceps and the greasy, frighteningly tan skin. What I do want is to look in the mirror and feel strong, sexy, and confident. I want to be able to wear any outfit, any swimsuit, or nothing at all, and feel completely proud of my body- not only for it’s aesthetic, but also for it’s power. A healthy and strong body is the ticket to a lifetime of happiness.
In the Sivananda tradition of yoga, there is an expression that states: “Health is wealth. Peace of mind is happiness. Yoga shows the way.” Whether yoga is the way for you is not the point of this message. However, I urge you to consider the statement that “Health is wealth.” No matter what circumstances we encounter in life, our body has the potential to be our constant burden, or our most powerful ally. When I consider my physical body as a separate entity from my mind, I find myself stopping to reflect on how I have treated this ally, this partner and friend in my life journey.
Frankly, I haven’t been a very good partner to my body. There have been times when I refused to listen to her needs. For a period in my early twenties, I was downright abusive to my sweet body. I force fed her massive quantities of alcohol, filled her lungs with poisonous noxious gasses from cigarette smoke, and damaged her liver with dangerous prescription pills.
Not only did I pump her full of nasty toxic substances, but I deprived her of many things she needed to thrive and function optimally. Refusing to feed my body was a common form of abuse, one that spiraled out of control and led to disturbing anorectic thought patterns and behaviors. Other tortures included excessive use of drugs to the point that my body-ally was physically ill and could not get out of bed. One common practice was depriving my body of sleep and pushing it to party or exercise, when all the body really needed was rest.
Perhaps your story is similar to mine. You may have different habits, vices, or indulgences. When you examine your relationship with your body, you are likely to find at least one flaw; undoubtedly, you also find room to improve.
Your body is your partner in life. He or she is the only person who has been with you every waking moment since the time of your birth. He/she is also the stalwart companion who will usher you through the veil from this world into the next. It is your choice how you will treat your partner. You can be a loyal, supportive, nourishing, encouraging friend… or you can be a harmful hurricane of destruction against which your body has no defense. Your body is at your mercy. Whether or not your body thrives depends primarily on how you choose to treat it.
Turning twenty-five felt like a milestone in my life. I have existed for over one quarter of a century. In the grand scheme of things, such a tiny span of time is not even a blip on the cosmic radar. But in my little world, twenty-five years is a long time- long enough to figure out that I don’t want to live twenty-five more years treated my most integrated partner like a big pile of dog poop. Like Tim McGraw said… “My next thirty years, I’m gonna watch my weight; eat a few more salads and not stay out so late.” I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but Old TImmy is looking alright!
I want my body to be able to live her dream. The dream of my body is to become a fluid, elegant, graceful, and powerful force of dynamic energy. She wants to be able to climb mountains and dive to the depths of the sea. She wants to charge big waves, and balance elegantly on her head. She yearns for healthy, clean lungs to deeply inhale the air and the energy of the world around her. She fantasizes of lengthening and stretching her muscles to their limits- and then, maybe, pushing a little bit further. She and I are one.
I want legs that are powerful path-makers, and arms that can comfort or carry a friend in need. I want organs free of toxins, and a heart that beats steady and true. I want eyes that can see the majesty of nature, the colors of the flowers, and the brilliance of a sunset.
It’s up to my mind to help my body achieve all her dreams. We have to work together to overcome challenges, large and small. When my brain says, “I want another cookie,” I should ask my body what she wants, and then listen to the voice that replies “Six-pack abs!” When my brain demands a whole bottle of wine, my body will say “Just one glass.” When my body cries out “Please exercise me!” the brain should agree “Yes, let’s!”
We have to be a team, my body and I. Without my body, I’m just a disembodied consciousness. Without my mind, the body would be a lonely zombie. I’m teaching them to love each other, we’re working towards integration. And one of these days, we’ll look in the mirror, and body and mind will both say, “Nice work. Thank you for treating us so well.”
You, as much as anyone in the universe, deserve your love and respect.