So I’ve decided to completely give up exercise for the purpose of changing my body. Instead, I use physical activity as spiritual practice.
This means, for me, engaging in 60- 90 minutes of walking meditation & light jogging several times a week. And listening to inner guidance from the still small voice. It means realizing that my body doesn’t belong to my ego.
I hate the idea of hitting the gym or exercising to attain a certain physical state. But I love approaching movement as contemplation and conscious union with God.
I’ve also realized that it is only possible to hate your body when you fundamentally misunderstand it.
There’s no such thing as your body and God.
If you understood your body as the miraculous expression of God/dess that it is, you couldn’t help but fall in love with it.
I relinquish my waistline to the All-There-Is. 🙂
I have absolutely no role to play in managing my body. If God can handle the entire Universe, She can handle my wellness.
So, one of the very exciting things going on in my life these days is hot yoga. I’ve been to six (90 minute) sessions so far and I’ve already begun to experience profound spiritual insights – insights that I had already glimpsed before but that are now beginning to settle more deeply as embodied realizations. Now, I’m not a yogi by any means — I’ve dabbled in yoga but have been seriously out of practice. The prospects of doing yoga in room heated to 120 degrees seemed so absurd, intimidating and frankly impossible that I put off trying it for a very long time — until now. Anyway, I’ve decided to do a series of vlogs chronicling what it is like for me to climb this hot yoga mountain. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on combining the physical practice of yoga with spirituality.
This is the 3rd post in a 12 week series of essays on doing academic work from a nondual, spiritual perspective. The idea is to open up a new conversation about academia, social responsibility, compassion and the ego. Most Sundays, I’ll share my reflections on a variety of topics related to writing, researching, teaching and mentoring in the light of teachings from Hinduism, Buddhism and Christian mysticism as well as my own experiences
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Today’s post is about self care and self love. It’s inspired, in part, by the FeministWire’s recent forum on Black Academic Women’s Health. This isn’t a side issue without academic relevance: it’s fundamental. Loving, accepting and caring for the Self is a prerequisite for my being able to show up in the world (and in my classrooms) with equanimity, peace of mind and strength.
To love one’s Self beyond the ego is a revolutionary act. In the video, I share some of my tools and techniques for self-care as well as the nondual spiritual perspective that informs these “rituals of love”. I cover everything from skin-care, hair-care, aromatherapy, body image, exfoliation, self-massage, make-up, meditation, supplements, working out, the whole nine yards. I also touch on a common (and serious) physical ailment among many academics and working professionals: Repetitive Strain Injury.
I’m not so happy about how often my eyes roll back in my head, looking like I need a close encounter with the Exorcist, but hey, it is what it is. The really cool thing? You get to see me in a do-rag. (If you want to skip the beauty segment and hear my rant reflections on body image, spirituality and well-being, jump to 20:52.)
SELF LOVE BEGINS WITH SELF ACCEPTANCE: “Your body is the cloak God slipped into in order to know Itself.”
SELF MASSAGE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – I cannot recommend the Theracane more highly. I’ve used it since graduate school to help with daily aches and pains from typing when getting a massage from a professional, or a lover/friend isn’t possible. Yes, it looks like a sex toy and/or a torture device, but your back, neck and shoulders will be forever grateful.
SELF CARE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE OR TIME INTENSIVE: Many products I use cost $1-$5. It takes me about 30 seconds to do my hair everyday and another 30 seconds to do my makeup. ONE MINUTE.
SELF LOVE IS THE BUILDING BLOCK FOR LOVING OTHERS: “You find that there’s a beauty and a Godliness and a divinity and a sexiness and a sensuality and a gorgeousness about every kind of body. Disabled bodies, broken bodies, big bodies, skinny bodies, big bellied bodies, flat chested bodies. Look at the diversity of how God likes to cloak Herself. It’s fucking awesome. It’s amazing. And so if you can show up in the world having laid the foundations of self acceptance, self love — projecting that same level of acceptance and okayness to everyone you encounter . . . can you imagine the kind of love we can all make together?”
As I say in the video, I feel pretty strongly that it’s absolutely pointless to go to the gym unless you fucking love yourself first. Before you love yourself you have to accept yourself. In order to accept yourself, you must see yourself. So here’s a practice I developed to experience increased body acceptance, awareness and appreciation.
Body Love Ritual
Find a quiet, private, safe place.
Take a chair and put it in front of a full length mirror.
Stand in front of the mirror. Pay attention to your breath. Without forcing, simply focus your attention on the inhale and exhale.
Look at yourself. Behold every inch of your body. Observe the thoughts, critical and kind, that come to mind. Let them be. Don’t try to change them. Just pay attention.
Now sit down in the chair. Keep looking. How do you feel now? Let your eyes roam from your toes to the top of your head.
Now imagine your body is the Buddha’s body. Or the Christ’s. Keep breathing.
Imagine God decided to craft flesh that looks exactly like yours. Let yourself absorb the reality that your body is already divine.
Sit and breathe in the realization of your own divine perfection. Revel in the awe at the fact that every atom in your body originated in the Big Bang. Imagine everything in the universe that had to happen in order for this body to exist.
When you’re ready, do something nice for your body (moisturize, stretch/yoga, self-massage) and put your clothes back on (or not . . .)