So much of what we are taught in spiritual lessons is a version of “I’m not my body.” To me that has always seemed a dangerous mantra. Deciding you are not your body is almost a declaration of separateness from yourself. The argument is seductive. You are not this thing that you are at war with, constantly struggling to change, alter and tug at. You are not this thing that you dislike and are forced to walk around carrying all day. You are not this thing that you cannot separate yourself from. You are something much bigger, much more great.
The argument continues to disconnect you from your mind. “You are not your mind”, the line goes. You are not those terrible thoughts you have about yourself. You are not the anxiety, the constant worry, the controlling and the fear that lives inside of you. You are something much bigger, much more great.
The wisdom has divided us from ourselves and forced us into living in a state of dis-ease and leading us to relate awkwardly to the world around us. We are fed messages about ideal body shapes the measures we need to take to get them. We are fed messages of anti ageing wrapped in the packaging of well being repeating to us that it’s not ok to get older and it’s really not ok to look older. Fighting life’s natural process is an unnecessary battle that we are told to subject ourselves to. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be celebrated at every stage of life for taking good care of yourself instead of being celebrated only if you look like an idealized younger version of yourself who doesn’t exist anymore and hasn’t had the pleasure of your life experience up until this very moment?
It’s all so ridiculous that we make ourselves feel awful for going through life’s natural processes, but we have the power to change the conversation we have with ourselves from a destructive one to a healing one. With a healing self-dialogue we take the energy away from destructive external messages that prey on us. When we change how we feel about ourselves, we invite others to feel the same. The products, marketing and messaging machines work to mirror and magnify those little voices in our heads. When we change our mind, our thoughts and our actions, we change the world.
New science shows us that our mind creates our body, or at least it’s processes. How we think, our stress levels, and how we feel about ourselves literally creates how our body responds. Bring your awareness outside of yourself and it’s possible our mind is creating the world as well. Our collective actions, interactions and consciousness is a together project of what is going on with each and every one of us.
Change the conversation with yourself and your immediate community and space responds. This isn’t such a far off concept, it’s our reality. We’ve all felt a sense of space and warmth and trust when we are in the presence of a good friend. We’ve all felt a sense of fear, insecurity and anger when we are in the presence of someone we are not in a good relationship with. I love this concept in the context of leadership. We literally lead the experience of how we feel about ourselves. Our number one job as leaders is to take care of ourselves so we feel great and share a good and productive feeling. Of course what we teach and the words we say are important, but the are only meaningful when they match how we feel about ourselves. We cannot help other people feel good if we don’t feel good ourselves. Honesty is a virtue and when we have it with ourselves we gain wellbeing of body and mind not only with ourselves but provide it for those around us.
It doesn’t matter how many yoga and fitness classes you take, if you are doing these movements with a negative conversation going on in your head you are creating more tension within yourself and your body’s response is the opposite of healing. On the other hand, if you are open and relaxed and stroll into a boot camp where the instructor is yelling at you, you may be able to keep your homeostasis while performing the exercise and enjoy a nice benefit. The form doesn’t matter so much as your state of mind. This is why yoga doesn’t work if you are rigid or the instructor is forcing a rigid mindset. There is nothing magic about the poses, the magic is inside you. Flow state is the goal, whether you are practicing yoga, tai chi, running, swimming or lifting weights. Efficiency of movement, grace, coordination and a calm mental state is even more important than how many repetitions you do. Practice your mindset along with your movement practice and you have the golden ticket to wellbeing.
If we believe we are a gathering of disconnected parts forced to cohabitate, we are doomed to a life of suffering. Ironic enough, some ancient spiritual texts say just that. Yoga is a practice to endure the suffering of the body and the mind. We can practice literally putting up with ourselves or we can practice taking responsibility for ourselves. How you see your life and view the world is up to you. You create your own reality either way. The choice is yours.
We also live in an elevated time of physical empowerment, body positivity coupled with intense anxiety, social media induced body dysmorphia, and the seemingly impossible challenge of making time for yourself in a world set up to distract you from just that. We have an internal call to slow down, listen to what our body is telling us and respond accordingly with proper care.
The trends of simplicity, searching for deeper meaning by prioritizing experiences over things, and the rise of minimalism hold up a mirror to our physical imbalance. We are constantly searching for our best body either by ignoring it or treating it like an object to be managed. We will find lasting body acceptance and happiness with ourselves when we recognize our bodies are an expression of who we are and the choices we make. Our physical self is not only what carries our spirit and emotional life, it is interconnected so deeply to our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Our bodies are individual, unique, amazing and full of wonder. Our body is our home. It does us no good to superficialize them, compare them to others with judgment, and to shame ourselves for not looking how we think we ought to. When we bring our mindset in line with the reality that our body is amazing and is here to stay for as long as we are in this life, we can begin the work of taking really good care of ourselves, and heal our relationship to our body in a lasting and meaningful way.