The book The Gentle Art of Blessing, which I gave a rave review last Friday, inspired a new line of thinking for me. I will try to explain it here, partially because it might help you too, and partially because I am trying to get it to stick more thoroughly in my own thought, which is overly entrenched in another direction. I really want to take hold of what I’m writing about here, until it transforms my thinking about my body in routinely practical ways.
As I mentioned in my review, the author related a bunch of stories designed to make you think. My eureka came about through the fusing of two of these stories dovetailing with my own experience.
In the first story, the author talks about doing workshops where the participants put a large rock in a sack, which represents some burdensome experience or relationship. Then they are asked to take it on an uphill climb, looking for when they can set it down, both metaphorically and physically, never to pick it up again.
When I read that, I wondered what rock I’d put in my sack that I needed to get rid of. I’ve had some extremely challenging things happen in my life, but have genuinely forgiven and moved past them, as hard as it was. I wasn’t sure what my now (un-put-down) “rock” was.
Later in the book, the author tells an amazing, true story of a man paralyzed except for one finger that he could move. The man decided he would rejoice he could move that finger and focus on that blessing, instead of what he could not do. In this way, his spirits stayed buoyed, and as he felt such gratitude for the one finger of movement, eventually he could move a second finger. His joy compounded and he focused on blessing what was going right, until eventually, one step at a time, he was no longer paralyzed. This was a deeply impressive story on many levels, both the fact that the man could actually find that level of gratitude in the face of so much debilitation, but also that the result could be so profound.
I thought about my body, whose motion I take so for granted. It has served me pretty darn well. But I realized that instead of being grateful for that and sending it a sea of blessings, I usually beat myself up about my body. All I can think of is it being overweight. I’ve long been frustrated about that, and it has mushroomed to being a something I wrestle with hourly, even though I wish it was not.
I eat more “right” than anyone I know (for example see here). I’ve tried to “fix” my weight it in all sorts of ways, including considerable witch hunts for causes like “are you over-burdened with something,” or “do you need to heal appetite,” or “are you deeply unsatisfied,” to the craziest, “maybe you are a hoarder”… and the answer to all that is just plain, no.
I’ve tried to jumpstart my metabolism both physically and metaphysically. I’ve prayed for my expression of abundance to channel into my bank account instead of onto my hips, and for my well cultivated streak of generosity to only be turned outward, and not to be expressed around my midriff. I’ve claimed my true self as spiritual instead of material, which means in a sense, never being born and never dying, which removes impositions like heredity from the mix.
You can see some of my spiritual thoughts on body here. And check out this newspaper article, where I share about peeling back the layers of false belief that have stopped me from being athletic in the past. Now I am embracing exercise all the more as part of my true identity. Even this year’s New Year’s resolution is to get higher and better and beyond all this to my true, best self.
Anyway, you get the point. I have REALLY tried not to be fat. I also try not to deeply identify with being that way, but feel like it is my responsibility to demonstrate that I am not (since I seem to be). I do not like feeling judged for looking this way (and no, I don’t “just imagine the fact that others judge me about it”). Yes, there is some vanity is this quest, but even though I long to wear a dress with a waist again, it is not all about that. I want to love myself, and feel like I’m doing this right, instead of being an obvious billboard as a failure in this (supposedly) straightforward thing. Also, don’t I have the responsibility to remedy or heal whatever is not perfection? Besides, I can’t seem to be able to face “not trying to do something,” because that seems tantamount to accepting that I’ll never have the joy and freedom of being slim again.
Just like this quote I posted recently I needed a change of focus in order to experience a change of body image. I think I just got that shift in focus. It feels a bit thrilling, but trepidatious at the same time. I’ve tried shifting focus away from personal sense and toward God, with only mixed results. It had never occurred to me that I was promulgating the situation with my preoccupation about it. Even praying about it all the time is being obsessive about it.
I know that we get what we focus on; I preach that all the time in my professional life. Now I see that I’ve focused so much on weight, it is no wonder that that is what I’ve got! Suddenly, I realized that the “rock in my sack” was no small one, but actually a boulder, and it wasn’t about forgiving someone else, or letting go of what someone did to me. It was about forgiving myself and letting go of a frustrated mania that is not at all serving me.
I thought of that man cherishing his one moving finger. Ninety-nine percent was wrong with him, but he could focus on the one percent that was right. By doing so, what was right, grew. I felt so ashamed. So much is right about my body, and I focus only on the one thing wrong with it.
If everything I did was mostly right, and I did one thing wrong, I’d still get an A. I’d take to task someone that wanted to call me out for that one wrong thing, instead of appreciating all the good present. But that is exactly what I’ve done to myself about my body for all these years.
I have much more than a finger that works. I am blissfully healthy, pain free, vibrant, and energetic. I have stamina, strength, flexibility, balance, and intelligence. I see and hear and smell and taste and feel. I’ve cared for my teeth. I have good skin and hair. I’ve been able to have babies, and have never needed surgery. I sleep well, have exacting fine motor control, and have no food allergies. I can swallow, digest, eliminate, and breathe deeply. Wow. So much to celebrate, bless, and be grateful for!
So many people have so much less from their body. How ungrateful I have been when I’ve only focused on my dissatisfaction, instead of all my blessings. I want to focus on what is right and get more of that. Let that attitude expand and blot out anything unlike good.
I have plenty of reasons to continue to eat right, like purity, balance, moderation, nourishment, without it being about my weight. I have plenty of reasons to continue to exercise– actively rejoicing in what my body can do– without it being about trying to overcome a problem. I can focus on spiritual truth and whatever is worthy and good.
I’m ready to put this debilitatingly heavy rock down and stop carrying it. I don’t want to pick it back up again. I want to focus on what works, and the blessings I do have. I’m going to try to forge new thought patterns, forgive myself this myopic detour, and get on with embracing the realities of present good. Let this focus on good overtake its opposite, like light flooding in a darkened room, chasing the shadows away.
I just want to love my body and bless it. I want to live in a constellation of gratitude without getting sucked into this black hole of feeling like there is an objective justification for self loathing. There is plenty of reason to rejoice in my body. Why should I love unconditionally in every other way than that? I want to put down this fixation with what I weigh.
I know now what to do, and there is a sense of relief to that. But now I just need to do it. Like an addiction, this redirect may not be easy, but I am going to stop. And in this new territory, I know God will continue to help me, steer me, champion, and protect me.
Thanks for listening, and please join me in setting this type of rock (weight) down if you need to!