Respecting the Body

As we grow older, we realize the changes in our body – not the minute they pop up, but the minute they can no longer keep up with the pace of the mind. It is then we reflect and think we are old. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way though. The body is a beautiful thing, if treated well it can work just as fine even as the years go by. I remember one of my teachers who told me, 

“Think of the body as a machine, over time it will need repairs and it will breakdown one day for good. The only thing we can do is try to maintain it in a way that postpones the repairs required. Now think of this machine being fed with sugar instead of greasing oil, what do you think will happen? Sugar is not required by the machine and it doesn’t help the machine function in any way. It will not only hinder the current operations of the machine but perhaps also spoil it for later use. That is how the body is, treat it right and it will work for you.”

It is true that the physical capacity will deteriorate over time and we cannot prevent it, but we can surely slow it down.

This explanation was an eye-opener for me. It is something so basic and yet I never thought of it that way. It is true that the physical capacity will deteriorate over time and we cannot prevent it, but we can surely slow it down. 

There is a Buddhist story which highly relates to being respectful of the body. When Lord Buddha left his palace to become a monk and attain enlightenment, he found meditation to be the answer. He decided that he would stop nourishing his body with food and he would just concentrate on his meditation. Time passed by as it would and Lord Buddha kept getting weaker and weaker. At times he would hallucinate and his meditation wasn’t getting him the results he hoped for. He decided that starving was not the way to go and that a healthy mind cannot stay in a weak body, so he decided to eat and nourish his body well before he meditated. When he had a hearty meal, he realized that overeating was causing him to be lazy, sleepy and sluggish.  He understood his body, hence he understood the two extremes were not an ideal path for him. He chose the middle way, he ate enough to fuel his body and not his desires and cravings. An appropriate portion of meal ensured his mind was alert and the meditative states were easier to achieve. Following this as one of his guiding principle Lord Buddha attained enlightenment in approximately 6 years of his meditation practice. 

This story has several lessons that I cherish, one being appropriate nourishment for the body. And the most beautiful thing is you are the only person who can truly love your body – by what you eat, what you drink, how you exercise, how you process your emotions and thought patterns. The body is not just physical existence, it is an interaction of several layers – food, thoughts, emotions, karmas, genetics, soul purpose. The soul is larger than the physical body, yet it is bound to the body on the Earthly plane – and without the body, it is not bound to this world.  

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