One body. That’s all we’ve got, but we always seem dissatisfied with it someway, taking it for granted until something goes wrong.
I could talk about when I got cancer which was when I first truly learnt this lesson, but I was reminded of this last week when I was hit by the most horrendous bout of labrynthitis. I was so dizzy I was holding up all the walls and furniture as I tried to move about before being violently ill. Charming. Why am I telling you this? Because even though I’ve never been so incapacitated, I recognised that my body was incredible.
It can be difficult to feel grateful to your body when it is being ‘disobedient’ in someway, whether that be physical or mental illness, or being older or fatter than we would ideally like it to be. But by being kind to our aches, pains and judgments rather than chastising ourselves we can find a place of acceptance without resignation or hopelessness.
So, having gotten through a couple of very challenging days, I actually managed to have a shower – incredible! I even managed to walk in a straight line, unsupported by Mike (or the walls) – what joy! After a couple more days I was feeling so well, I managed to go back to yoga.
Now, I’m far from being a yogini but yoga has been a place for me to learn self-appreciation. However I do need to admit that until relatively recently my practice of yoga has been a competitive sport. I faced two opponents (1) the other women in the room who were all so skinny and so flexible, and (2) my body, which clearly was not doing what my mind was insisting it do. Unsurprisingly with this mindset I did not find much enjoyment in yoga!
That’s changed though; having found the right teacher (equally as important as finding the right therapist!) I now walk into a class and wrap myself in a blanket of kindness and form a little bubble around me because the class isn’t about anyone else in that room – it’s about me. It’s my experience and it will be different from tomorrow’s. My mind will be more or less still, and my body will be more or less flexible. But that’s all okay. Neither is better or worse, it’s just different and it’s all fabulous – a lesson that I’ve learnt to apply to my life more broadly.
By being kind to yourself you will do a much greater service to your mind and body than chastising it for not being “perfect”. Whilst I wish I discovered this earlier in life, I’m grateful I’ve discovered it now, as by changing the way I think I have created greater enjoyment and peace in my life.
If you’re looking for further inspiration I can recommend this poem:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi