I was 40 years old by the time I realized that I had a physical body. Or, to be more accurate, it wasn’t until that time that I considered that my physical self was as important as the rest of me. For years I have been considered a specialist in the realm of the mind, and I began exploring my spiritual side as a teenager, but my body seemed like more of a nuisance than anything else. The holistic approach to healing maintains that in order to have a balanced psyche, we need to give equal attention to all aspects of our multi-dimensional selves. In fact, the most rapidly growing genre within the publishing industry is mind-body-spirit – which demonstrates that this is the trend in alternative care. My personal testimonial is that my life improved markedly once I acquired a more balanced approach to my physical being.
When I look back to that time in my life about seven years ago, I think that what really caused my turning point was developing what I call body consciousness. Body consciousness is a state in which there is a vital link between the mind and body, a synergistic relationship in which you have a feedback loop and you are open and responsive to the information you receive. Body consciousness is not about developing the “perfect body” or about being a health fanatic – it is about learning to listen to what your body needs and being willing to act upon that information. This is not a one-way street. When you are willing to develop rapport with your physical being, you are rewarded with more energy and an expanded sense of well-being. Your body can be very cooperative in taking you to your personal best when you pay attention to its needs.
Most of us are not born with body consciousness – it is something that we need to develop. In the absence of body consciousness, we are more likely to experience body self-consciousness or body unconsciousness, or maybe a combination of the two!
Body self-consciousness is like a constant inner dialogue of what we know to be wrong with the way we look and what we are doing or not doing to stay in that rut. While we remain in that uncomfortable mental state, it’s hard to be proactive. We are more likely to go through phases in which we over-exercise and attempt to drastically change our eating habits so that we can make unrealistic overnight changes. I know from experience how much mental anguish this state generates.
In our collective reality, women are constantly reminded of the need to project a specific image in order to be accepted by the new dictates of health and beauty. By simply turning on the TV or leafing through magazines we receive visual exposure of how we are supposed to look. Through the media we are bombarded by segments regarding health and beauty, infomercials marketing the fitness trade through a variety of nutritional products and equipment, exercise programs, and the vast network of the diet industry.
When we are more prone to body self-consciousness, the objective of being fit and attractive is often becoming the trade-off for the more important issues of health, flexibility, and the happiness that comes from self acceptance. Imagine how a child would turn out if he or she were constantly criticized and told that they were not good enough; that they didn’t measure up to what society’s image of them should be. Well, if you are willing to consider that your body has its own consciousness, the relentless humiliation and rejection you heap upon it can’t be conducive to developing a productive relationship between the two of you!
Disconnection from the physical, to the point of abuse describes the state of body unconsciousness. This is when we do not pay attention to the signals our body gives us – when we are over tired, over stressed, and not getting the proper fuel. We live in a busy time, and the way many individuals cope is by forcing themselves into automatic pilot; creating surges of adrenaline, which over time, become addictive. Unless there is a balancing act between the sympathetic (fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic (coming back to a state of homeostasis, or balance), the adrenal system starts to burn-out and the body begins to develop dis-ease. I was a vegetarian for more than 15 years and clearly my body was not getting the nutrients I needed, even though I went through a lot of soul growth during that period. Not paying attention for years to my body’s particular need for protein eventually led to physical collapse and being seriously overweight.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit theologian and paleontologist once said, “We are not physical beings who happen to be having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings who happen to be having a physical experience.” Thus, the human body is our vehicle throughout our lives to aid us in achieving our goals. And although we tend to take our bodies for granted, it would seem that heightened body consciousness would help us to cultivate a sense of sacred trust toward its care. And that means making much better choices about how we treat ourselves.
Body consciousness is not something that we develop overnight. It is a process, and it’s never too late to get started. Next month we will be exploring some techniques to tune-in to your body.
Here are some of the advantages of developing body consciousness:
- Once you learn to tune-in, your body will pretty much tell you what it wants to eat (as opposed to your mind screaming out for chocolate as a way of dealing with stress or mood altering). You get a sense of how your body operates on different combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates – and no two bodies are alike.
- You can tell automatically when you are dehydrated. Caffeinated drinks, if you drink them excessively, can lead to dehydration.
- Even though it is challenging to not be influenced by what society expects, you become more accepting of the genetic structure you were born with and strive toward your personal best, rather than being unrealistic about your goals.
- You know when to slow down. You sense when your body wants more exercise, so that you can schedule it in. (Just like your dog letting you know it wants to go on a walk, and it’s just as loyal a companion if you treat it with respect!)
- By knowing your limits, you do minimal damage to your body. Naturally there is the wear and tear of gravity and age, but you will not be accelerating the process by being unconsciousness of your body’s needs.
When you have a mind/body connection, your physique is capable of shaping and toning according to your inner vision, provided you are realistic as to what you can accomplish within your body type. We explored this topic in a former article, so check it out for more information.
This is a massive topic, and I have only begun to scratch the surface. What I would like is to get your feedback. How do you rate your degree of body consciousness? How has body self-consciousness or body unconsciousness interfered in your living a balanced life? I am very interested in hearing your point of view and we will explore this topic in more depth from your comments, questions, experiences, and opinions. Send your emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org