By Adam J. Pearson
As we go about our daily lives, we often encounter messages that encourage us to create an unhealthy relationship with our own bodies. Whether it is idealized depictions of muscle and thinness that inspire anorexia, bulimia, bigorexia, insecurity, and self-loathing, or spiritual messages that the body is dirty, debased, and not who we ‘truly are,’ these messages all threaten to throw off our natural harmony with our own physical being. But the body is not a ‘problem’ to be solved by consumerism, unhealthy overdieting, or exercise extremism. It is not an adversary that we must overcome.
Through the body, we are grounded in the world, embedded in the universe. The body is our intimate point of contact with existence. It is where all of our wondrous senses reside, which allow us to experience the great wealth of sensory images that connect us to the world. No, the body is not our enemy, but our greatest friend and most constant companion. It is not some shell with which we should dissociate ourselves, but the very ground of our being. Far from a prison, the body is our most intimate home.
Nearly all of the inestimably rich experiences that make life worth living happen to and through the body. It is the core of our life, the center of our existence, the storehouse of all knowledge and memories, the means to all sensations and activities. Therefore, is it not far wiser for us to cultivate a healthy relationship with the body than to reject it, hate it, or debase it as dirty or inadequate? A healthy diet and a regular exercise regime are wonderful ingredients for a meaningful life, but they are not enough. An informed and loving attitude must complement them and enrich them with feelings of peacefulness, comfort with oneself, and acceptance. If it does not, we only continue to needlessly compound our stress and suffering.
However, we don’t need to do suffer needlessly. Having a healthy body is important; but having a healthy attitude towards that body is equally important. Through such an attitude, we can infuse our lives with far greater joy, peace, and fulfillment. If we add to it a sense of mindfulness, of being centered in our body and deeply aware and attentive to what we are feeling and sensing from moment to moment, we feel much more ‘present’ in our own lives. We feel grounded in existence and can much more readily “be here now,” to quote Ram Dass. In short, a healthy attitude to the body combined with a mindful centeredness in our physical being are two simple ingredients for a more fulfilling life.