How would you feel if—after you’d supported a friend for years, giving him everything he needed to start a new business—he told you he didn’t like how much weight you’d gained during that same period? Very likely, you’d feel hurt and angry.
Yet this is exactly how we treat our bodies, who do far more for us than a friend or even a parent.
(Did I just call the body a ‘who?’ Yes, I did. After all, bodies live and breath, feel pleasure and pain, and are deeply wise. The fact that they also uphold our verbal, analytical awareness doesn’t negate their sentience when we—however mistakenly—speak as if the ‘mind’ is something different from the body that supports it. Instead, as discussed elsewhere on this site, when we perceive a mind-body separation, we simultaneously perceive a relationship between the two. Granted, we could look at that relationship as between a ‘who’ and a ‘what,’ but I believe that sells the body short. In my own personal experience, it is far more healing to consider my body as an intelligent partner rather than a dumb device.)
Self-compassion has become an important focus for healing. Among others, psychologist Kristen Neff (SelfCompassion.org) has written at length about the benefits of regarding the ‘self’ (which, of course, includes the body) with loving appreciation rather than critical disdain. That work lends credence to MindfulBiology’s efforts. It seems likely that we can improve mental and physical health by developing friendlier and more appreciative relationships with our bodies.
In a recent post I listed some ways to limit criticism. Here I’d like to suggest concrete steps toward offering our bodies positive regard. Since the mind habitually comments on what it sees, it is important to replace critical scripts with appreciative ones. And since our bodies do so much to support us, appreciation seems only fair.
Consider that your body gives you the capacity to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. Consider that it moves you through your environment. With legs, we walk; with hands, we create; with reproductive organs, we bring new life into the world. Everything we do, after all, we do with our bodies. Even thought requires a brain, right? And that requires blood flow from a working heart, glucose (which the intestines extract from food), and stable internal chemistry (maintained by the liver and kidneys).
This site gives details many examples of bodily support (check out the essays listed under the ‘systems’ tab). In sum, the body provides the entire experience of human life. Without it, we would not exist. That seems obvious, but it’s a fact we tend to forget when we look in the mirror and wish the body looked ‘better.’
The body deserves appreciation, but we have trouble giving it what it deserves. In the post, Ideas for a More Appreciated Body, I list suggestions for how to begin.