“Why, I say, should I ever have bitterly blamed (my body) for such trifles as I have blamed it for: for having too much flesh in this spot, too little muscle in that, for producing this wrinkle, that sag, that gray hair, or this texture? Dear body! My dear body! It has gone about its incessant business with very little thanks.”
Awesome Things: Reading the nutritional label and eating it anyway
Neil Pasricha from the Book of Awesome
Perhaps nothing is taken for granted more than our bodies. This may strike you as an odd given all the attention it gets from various sources: visual images, products, advertisements, and advice (scholarly and non-scholarly) around being healthy. We live by the assumption that our body will be able to do the things we need it to do, sometimes with little thought as to what that means. Care of ourselves can be uneven, depending on our knowledge, resolve, and the particular circumstances of our lives. One thing for sure: there is no shortage of advice on how to do it.
I must say I sigh when I hear another bit of “evidence” warning us about this or that, because I realize I have unknowingly been doing something that probably isn’t good for me. The advice is frustrating because it keeps changing. As one who has doled out a good deal of health advice in my career and followed some of it with mixed success, the prescriptions for a healthy and beautiful body are all a bit much to take. How do we truly honour our bodies- particularly at the life stage we find ourselves?
In talking about the body I am talking about our whole self: body, mind and spirit. The separation of mind and body, based on the theory of mind-body dualism advanced by Descartes, did all of us a huge disservice. Everything about us, within us, and around us is connected; all aspects of ourselves affect and are affected by each other in multiple and profound ways. What we do to take care of ourselves is shaped by our values, beliefs and attitudes and which contribute to our sense of well-being. To honour one’s self is to be intentional and in awe of the workings of this wonderful body of ours-regardless of the shape we are in or state of health.
Taking care of ourselves has benefits that go beyond feeling well. It is also a fundamental step in changing our lives and creating the life we want. How can we begin to undertake anything new and adventurous if we don’t first take care of ourselves? In so doing, we affirm we are ready to accept the best life has to offer. I believe others pick up on this as do those ideas and opportunities and serendipitous moments that come our way and move us forward to something wonderful. These are the ones in which we say “Oh wow!”
Nurturing ourselves is not so much a series of tasks as a state of mind that informs and shapes what we do. The process is personal and different for everyone, and also very much a practice that changes over time because of age, life circumstances, and our growing understanding of what we need. Everyone has ideas of how best to nurture themselves but a few thoughts come to mind for me. Honouring ourselves is about:
- Tender loving care, not a program of self-denial and austerity: Dining is a pleasure; the body enjoys movement; sleep restores; the mind loves an engaging challenge; and the soul loves laughter, companions, and solitude. Avoid guilt and pamper yourself with fine things: flowers, nourishing food; time with friends; or a good book. Chocolate is great too!
- Paying attention: Noticing our interior and exterior selves. Stopping long enough to listen to what our bodies say. The body never lies and it can stop us in our tracks if necessary so we get the message. The wisdom is there and it is ours.
- Expressing thanks to our bodies for what it does on our behalf. I am serious! Loving our body as it is. Expressing thanks means we notice and act accordingly to help our body do what it does best.
If we don’t do this, who will? We deserve the best for ourselves and who better to honour ourselves than us?