How would you characterize your relationship with your body? Predominantly peaceful and harmonious? Or turbulent and emotional? You may have other ways to describe how you feel about your body also!
We all need space to grow and change in order to thrive. This is true of both spirit and body. It is also true of the relationship between spirit and body.
If there is no room for change within a relationship – if you take a relationship for granted, for example, and expect a close friend to stay the way they are and always be available to you – this will either lead to a breakdown of that relationship or a stalemate of resistance and bitterness, where neither party has the opportunity for freedom, growth or enjoyment of life.
The same goes for your relationship with your body.
In our current culture of unrealistic expectations and relentless pressure to succeed, be the best, be happy it is challenging, to say the least, to live in harmony with your body and accept its frailties, idiosyncrasies and flaws.
Is your first reaction to injuring yourself or catching a virus frustration or irritation? If so, you are not alone. We are all guilty of berating our body for failing us in some way – not being smart enough, tall enough, athletic enough, thin enough, healthy enough and so on.
And then there is the fear and distrust of the body that further disconnects you. Not being sure how your body is going to respond to a situation can create anxiety and a breakdown in communication. Equally, knowing how your body is going to respond and believing its response is inappropriate because that is what you’ve been taught or told can lead to feeling extremely uncomfortable in your own skin!
I have often described the physical body as a miraculous machine that works diligently and continually to maintain balance and well-being, and I still relate to that image.
However, recently my youngest daughter took a holistic health class at university in which her professor addressed the difference between eastern and western medicine and healthcare. She suggested that western medicine treats the body like a machine with parts that break down and are replaced or repaired, whereas eastern medicine sees the body as a garden. If you plant something in full sun that needs shade, it will not thrive. However, if you change its conditions – the amount of sunlight, the soil, food and water, it can be revived and flourish.
I liked this analogy. The idea of the body as a garden seemed gentler, kinder, more forgiving and nurturing than the image of a machine. A machine is often expected to function perfectly until something breaks and needs fixing or replacing. It is taken for granted more than a garden, which is naturally seen to need more consistent attention and nurturing and be in a constant state of flux.
Your body is going to grow and change. That is inevitable. Like a garden, it is going to blossom at times and wither at others. Like a machine, some parts are going to wear out or become less reliable.
Regardless of whether you see your body as a machine or a garden (or any other image), you have the ability to change your relationship with it at any time, to recognize those times when you feel really uncomfortable in your own skin, to release the judgment and invalidation that has accumulated between you and your body and to find a new level of comfort, respect, trust and love for your body.
If you would like to explore your relationship with your body and become more comfortable within it, I will be teaching a 4-week Saturday morning class in August on this very subject: “Being comfortable in your own skin”. Contact me if you’d like more information or to register.
And in the meantime, be kind to yourself and your body. Give your body some time and space to be perfectly imperfect, to rest when it needs to and to be loved, appreciated and respected. It is your home for this lifetime!