For most of my life I have really only understood my body to be a shell in which my soul lives—a sort of carrying vessel for something REALLY real. Coming from fundamentalist Christianity I also have seen it as wicked, tainted, and prone to all manner of badness. At best, I have seen it as nothing but a vessel, and at worst, I have seen it as an insidious threat.
But lately, I am learning that my body is a gift. She is my friend. She is part of the ineffable “me,” inextricably. All of my story, the good, the bad, and the ugly, has happened in and through this body. My body may not be in her best shape (in fact, to be frank, she is in her worst shape so far) — but she tells me things. Not just instinctive things like “sleep now,” “eat now,” “drink now,” though I am grateful to her for doing that. She tells me when I’m anxious and stressed, when I’m afraid or when I’m deeply saddened. And if I take time to listen to her, to be conscious of her, to be mindful of her, my soul and my body feel more integrated. When my body breathes deeply, consciously, mindfully, I receive not only a good dose of oxygen, but a calmer, happier, more nourished soul as well.
This is all new to me. And believe me, my journey in this department is far from neat and tidy. My body and the shame attached to her have been a stumbling block in my relationships to myself, to God, and to other people in my life. But I am learning, slowly, to listen to her—instead of longing to shed my skin and “fly away, oh glory”—I am learning to appreciate her now, today. I am finding myself within her instead of looking for myself everywhere outside of her.
My body *is* me. It is not all of me, but it is me. The Christian teaching of the resurrection of the body reinforces this…apparently we will be reunited with these bodies someday. I might as well learn to love her now! So I have committed to stop loathing her and punishing her. She is good! My body is not perfect, but my body is a good creation.
Here is something I (very recently) started practicing. Thought I’d share it with you in case it could be a restful bit of self-care to start out your day. Maybe you’re anxious this morning. Maybe you’re exhausted and there’s no end of the stress in sight. Try this—see if it helps you settle into the day and into your body.
Breathe in for four seconds. Fill your whole belly and diaphragm and rib cage. Expand your body to contain as much air as you can.
Now, breathe out for four seconds. Send the air out into the room gently, with intention.
Repeat this four times.