The Most Important Quote You’ll Read Today.
I came across this snippet the other day, I’m not sure if it’s from one of Geneen’s books or not, but it’s pretty profound.
People who learn to cultivate a strong relationship with their bodies are pretty unusual in our society. Most just ignore their bodies until they are sick or can barely function. We glorify working ourselves to the bone for meaningless jobs and bosses, pushing through pain and sickness and learning to slow down to “check in” with our bodies is difficult, too uncomfortable and far too time consuming. It’s also perceived as “weak”.
Working with a general fitness population I have learned so much about this. Most have no clue that it’s not normal for their lower back to be achey all the time, to feel so slugglish after lunch or that the inability to fall and stay asleep isn’t a good sign. The majority of people are so distant from their bodies, they have no idea how to move and control their hips, ribs and/or shoulder blades.
I think this lack of awareness (both physical and emotional) is the root that holds so many people back from living full, joyful lives and knowing just how good their bodies and minds are supposed to feel. That’s where my job comes in.
I’ll let Ms Roth take it from here..
“Most of us treat our cell phones (or cars or bicycles) better than we treat our bodies. We protect our phones in spiffy cases (mine is polka dot), keep them away from the sun, bodies of water and the ledges of tall buildings. When they’re drained of energy, we recharge them and when they make strange noises, we pay careful attention. Since we depend on our phones for practically everything — calendars, phone numbers, emails, texts, photos, videos, and dozens of apps (the one that lets me call my friend Jane in Australia for free is my favorite), we want to make sure they run without a hitch. And we do all this for something that is completely replaceable every two years.
And then, sigh, there is the matter of our bodies. Most of us think of our bodies as inconvenient appendages that just happen to be attached to who we think of as ourselves — aka, our minds. It’s not that we don’t have endless ideas about our bodies or that we don’t spend time attempting to improve them. We agonize about being too fat. We compare our butts to Gwyneth Paltrow’s (big mistake). We make grand commitments every January about working out, or getting to the newest Soul Cycle class. We read about the three or five or seven wonder foods and decide to eat huge portions of broccoli and blueberries. But since we are living in our thoughts about our bodies and not inside them — in our arms, legs, chests, bellies — we misread or ignore the most obvious signals for rest, sleep, being in nature, moving, and eating particular foods that match our needs.
This out-of-body living makes it very difficult to lose weight and keep it off. And this is why: after a while of not paying attention to the basic needs of your body, you and your body become strangers. Or you feel so uncomfortable/unattractive/fat that you decide it’s best not to feel anything at all, so you become numb to anything body-related — and you start listening to the desires of your mind. You go for junky food (because when you’re numb, momentary-taste-thrill seems better than nothing), more stimulation, less sleep, less quiet. Since you don’t want to sense your body — which is probably feeling more and more uncomfortable from what you are throwing in and at it — but since you want to feel something, you keep going for The Next More.
I feel this way every time I eat the world’s perfect food: pizza (even gluten-free with goat cheese). Within half an hour of eating a slice piled with mushrooms, garlic, pesto, tomatoes and onions, I feel as if I’ve swallowed a concrete ball. My husband walks into another room because of the symphony of sound and fragrance coming from what Annie Lamott calls “my princess self.” I am so uncomfortable that believe it or not, I find myself thinking: “Well, what the hell, I am already so full, I might as well eat another piece.” From that miserably full place, the road to feeling well seems so far away that the warm melty taste of pizza is the only thing I can think of that will take me out of my misery. A temporary escape seems better than being stranded on the island of discomfort.
When I talk to my retreat students about inhabiting their bodies, they don’t like it. Not at all. “For God’s sakes,” they say, “now I have to pay attention to MY BODY? You’re asking too much. I have important things to do: My cell phone needs to be fixed. I have a meeting to get to. My children need to be picked up from school. I have a business to run, a paper to write, and I’m just finishing the last two episodes in the second series of Homeland. Can’t you just tell me what when and how much to eat? (So that I can do it for a few weeks and then rebel against being told what when and how much to eat?) No one ever told me that living in my body was part of the deal here. And I don’t have the time to learn something new.”
“Yup,” I say, “I understand. Until recently, I didn’t understand the difference between thinking about my body and living inside it. For most of my life, I viewed the various collection of limbs attached to my head with bank-camera eyes: I’d see my thighs and be critical of the cellulite, read about the new wonder food and eat it. I worked hard at having a body that would look good (to the people on line at the bank!). But looking good from the outside and eating kale three times a week is not the same thing as knowing when it’s time to rest or that I find the taste of kale disgusting, or that when I eat quinoa, which is supposed to be so good for you, I feel depressed. Hearing that I should engage in interval-sprinting when I walk or that lifting weights will make me strong doesn’t allow for working with my fractured ankle from a few years back.
It was (and still is) humbling for me to see that I didn’t know the difference between my body and my body image. Or that I continually pushed past my body’s limits, ignored its need for rest, ate what I thought was good for it, and then collapsed. I lived in a kind of driven-collapse mode until I realized that I paid more attention to the signals I got from my cell phone than I did to my body. Finally, I decided that I didn’t want to leave the earth (and my body) without actually being on and in it.
So, here’s what I told myself, and what I tell my students: When you don’t think you can do it, when you believe it’s too much, Live As If. Cut through the mishegas of “Oh No’s” and “I Can’t’s” and get right to the Living As If part. If you lived as if your body is as important to you as your cell phone, what would you do that you aren’t doing now? And what would you stop doing that you are already doing (i.e., watching cute little Youtube animal videos at 2 am when you wanted to be asleep three hours before?) Every time you reach for your phone, take thirty seconds and check in with your body. Pay attention. That’s it. Pay attention to whether your body hums when you eat broccoli, even if it is a wonder food. Pay attention to the kind of exercise you do and whether your body would prefer walking or swimming instead. Pay attention to how tired you get at three in the afternoon and whether you throw more coffee at yourself or whether you take a five minute walk outside instead. All you have to do is pay attention — and then, listen to what you hear. When you start paying attention to it, your body will become your friend. Nothing and no one can thrive without that interest, that willingness to hear what is going on. To be attended to. To be cherished. It’s always been true that attention is one of the purest forms of love. You are already showering your glitter or polka dot or neon-encased phone with it. Now, what about the only body you have?” – Geneen Roth