Monday Morning Mindfulness: Making Amends with our BodyAugust 1, 2016
When I initially launched RunDC I had a handful of people contact me who said they wanted to get started because they desperately needed to get in shape. After working through my initial impulse of considering a quick career change, I regretfully explained that I am in no way qualified to be a personal trainer. Despite my subtle decline of their request, many of them still responded with some version of, “Yeah, okay. So when can we get started?”
These inquiries made me realize that it’s sometimes easier to start by fixing the things we can see, and given our culture’s obsession with appearance we’re conditioned to change what’s broken or disheveled on the outside with little thought of how we look on the inside. All the ways we mistreat our bodies become much more visible overtime than the ways we mistreat our minds which may be part of the reason we’re more willing to repair the physical damage we’ve done. Or maybe we’re just that vain and don’t want to feel like human hippos dressed in children’s clothes this summer. Either way, this process of meeting people who wanted to get in shape physically but saw no interest in doing the same mentally confirmed part of what inspired RunDC – our traditional approaches to physical fitness and mental or emotional wellness tend to conceptualize the body and mind as two separate entities and treat them as such. It’s no wonder that we spend so much time stuffing our bodies but still feel hungry or devote endless hours at the gym to strengthen and sculpt our limbs but still feel weak. We address only part of the problem and thus, miss part of the solution, perpetuating an endless cycle of unhappiness. As Geneen Roth so aptly put it in her book, Women, Food and God, “The shape of your body obeys the shape of your beliefs… To change your body, you must first understand what is shaping it.”
Through mindfulness techniques that bring an awareness back to our body and breath, and by embracing an integrated approach to wellness, RunDC gets the mind in shape so the body can follow. Physical fitness is simply a byproduct of this process.
The truth is, I’m no different than all those people who came to me looking to get into shape. I haven’t always viewed my body’s strength as a direct reflection of my mind’s resilience. It took many years for me to finally understand that my tendency to oscillate between overworking and under stretching my body or under utilizing and ignoring it were physiological efforts to regulate my mind’s worry and its inability to cope. For that, I owe my body many thanks, countless apologies, and mad props.
I owe my body an apology for all the times I hid it, shamed it, stuffed it, or starved it. I owe it my gratitude for the ways it’s bounced back despite my neglect, and I owe it mad props for being my most reliable vehicle to some of my greatest adventures.
So this week’s intention is about making some much needed amends in order to begin caring for BOTH our mind and body in the ways they deserve. Hopefully this process will help shift some of our views about our bodies from being a cluster of unappealing appendages attached to our heads that need constant prodding and poking or tucking and tightening to being instruments of our minds that need tuning, alignment, and constant care. I’ll avoid regurgitating the obvious, not so genius things we’ve all heard about taking care of our bodies (ie: don’t eat a bunch of shit, sleep, exercise, etc.), and instead, I will encourage us to start making amends in a few different ways this week:
- When we look in the mirror, shift our focus from appreciating our body for how it looks to appreciating our body for how it functions.
- Acknowledge all the ways we mistreat our body, and more importantly, explore the beliefs we carry that perpetuate these patterns of behaviors.
- BREATHE. Does it feel shallow and strained? Or is deep and soothing? Our breath is the most natural way of regulating our internal systems, and its rhythm is often one way our bodies are trying to communicate with our minds. Let’s learn to listen.