Thursday, October 7, 2010

Creating a New Relationship with Your Body

The Bottom of the Bottle
Your body is your temple, and yada-yada-yada. Let's just say that if your body breaks down, this whole ride of being alive ends real fast. In this time of collisions, it often seems like the body is being treated as at least a third-class citizen. I think about all the kids playing sports, and they're hitting each other so hard that you have teens and early-twenty somethings having major knee surgeries. Their parents and grown-ups encourage this. Lord knows how they'll even walk by the time they're fifty.
Obesity Worldwide
Plus, there's the obesity epidemic in this country. Whoops. I spoke too soon. I mean the obesity epidemic in the world. According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people are overweight. One Billion! Three hundered million are considered clinically obese, and some of the fastest growing obesity rates are in developing countries. Internationally, people don't know how to eat properly anymore.

Creating a New Relationship with Your Body
Look, you don't even have to read this blog as a spiritual thing. Just read it as a practical thing. You need to take care of yourself. Broken bones and poor nutrition are going to reduce your lifespan. If you really are okay with a shorter lifespan, then you can move onto another blog. I'm sure there's a new posting on Youtube of cute kittens doing something.

But if you do care, let's drill down a little bit to the beginning: your relationship with your body. Do you like your body? How do you treat it? How do the foods that you eat make you feel? These are important questions, and ones that you may want to take some time to talk to a friend about or to journal. Many people use food as fuel--as a way to get through a day. Many people are just trying to get through. They don't think about the costs of all the hamburgers, and then after they've had a long stressful week, many people drown their feelings in alcohol. And in case you don't think alcoholism is a big deal, here's another stat: "An estimated 43% of US adults have had someone related to them who is presently, or was, an alcoholic."

That's a lot of pain and suffering. Any kind of substance dependency is a sign of deep unhappiness within. This blog isn't intended to dive into stopping substance dependencies, and if you somehow stumbled onto this page and need that, please use this link to a government drug and alcohol treatment locator. However, I am simply building the argument that people don't treat their bodies well, and it's incredibly prevalent.

Why Don't I Love Me?
This is a big question, and it should be something that you spend a lot of time getting to know. Drug and alcohol abuse, over-eating, undereating, insane work-out regimens, and so many other physically abusive practices inhibit who you really are. A lot of times, they happen because we're trying to be something that we're not. You have to stop. Being skinny or muscular doesn't make you better. Drinking or using drugs to fit in doesn't make you more likeable. Burying your feelings under mountains of food can't hide you from you.

You Are Already Beautiful
At some point, we all forgot that we're already beautiful. You really are. I'm using the "you" narrative voice very specifically because I want you to read it. You probably haven't had enough people tell you it, and maybe this is the first time in a long time that you've read it. "You are beautiful." Read it out loud a couple of times. Swap the "I am" in for the "You are." Practice the words. You probably don't believe it. Maybe you're even a little emotional. For women, this may mean some tears if it's really striking a cord. That's okay. That's part of the process. For men, this may mean cynicism and derisive comments. That's okay. We've had it tough in a lot of societies to think of ourselves in these terms. If you're having a reaction, then something is moving inside, and that's an important first step.

Cultivating New Regimens and Diets
This is a long process. Even after I moved into awakening, I continued to try and lift weights. I tried to hold onto an image of my body that isn't what my body wanted to be. In all honesty, it's taken about 3 years to really let go of that modality of fitness. I literally finally canceled my gym membership about a month ago after countless trips to the gym where working out didn't feel right and my body just resisted the resistance training

Now, I'm working to find the right mix of movements that make my body happy and make it feel most alive. Currently, yoga, ecstatic/conscious dance, and occasionally running are working for me. That may change tomorrow. I've learned that I have to be flexible.

My diet has changed pretty significantly over the last couple of years. I eat very little bread and much less meat. None of this has to do with an intellectual desire to eat a certain way. It's simply what has arrived. Fruit smoothies are the current flavor of the day for me. They seem to work really well with my digestion.

Finding the Right Nourishment for You
What works for me, won't necessarily work for you. I've already blogged more deeply about food and spirituality on this link. I don't expect you to over-turn your diet over night. You know what needs to happen. It may be that this is a major blocking point to your spiritual growth. You may find all kinds of interesting issues tied up with when and how you eat. Do you eat when you're upset? Do you eat because you're bored? Which foods do you choose? The biggest change that I made that helped me start moving into spiritual awakening was to stop drinking alcohol entirely. It wasn't a problem, but I felt at one point that it was getting in the way. All the other food changes came about much more gradually for me. I was already pretty healthy though, so in some ways, I already had a very strong physical force to hold and enhance the shifts that would come.

This is a lot of major stuff. Food and exercise are one of the daily ways you tell your body how you feel about it. This is all part of building your foundation. I write this way because I don't want you trying to hide in your mind or in some altered state that some guru gets you into. Much of the most important spiritual work you can do is down here on this bottom, basic level. It can also be some of the most rewarding on a daily basis because your body will feel cleaner, lighter, and healthier. For that alone, you'll find that building a new relationship with your body is worth it because you are worth it.

Next blog: The Power of Family 

Today's picture comes from my student, Jenn.
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