Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Who am I, inside?

Every morning I do a series of exercises before breakfast. They are simple, not strenuous. They wake me up and they let me know what’s going on inside. Is my body refreshed by sleep or still tired? Is there pain in one knee and not in the other? Is one shoulder feeling stressed and the other normal? How’s my equilibrium? One of the exercises I feel compelled to practice is walking in place for several minutes on some smooth stones in a box; it’s a balance test among other things. I like to conclude with crunches and a sun salutation, but sometimes I don’t have time. Anyway, breakfast tastes better when I’ve worked for it, or rather, when I’ve communed with myself before I eat.

But wait: is the body the “self”? Some would say no, but I feel it’s half the self I’ve got. My other half. Especially now that I’m older, and it’s talkin’ to me every day. In my youth it was silent during most activities. It neither complained nor felt delight. I depended on it unknowingly, like a child depends on an adequate parent. Then it started exhibiting an ego, wanting to dance or run when I turned 30. This was followed by floating anxieties, manifesting in things like plantar fascitis (sore heel) when I was 40. Now my body makes poignant speeches involving entire systems, like the hip-knee-calf, or the shoulder-tricep-elbow. I try to listen. My morning exercises are a congenial meeting with my body. We come to some agreement until the next morning, when we review the situation again.

I am turning into a skinny old lady. I never thought this would happen. But it’s intriguing. The parent/child model has switched. My mind, judgment, experience, compassion, humor (what there is of it), now comprise the parent. My body is the child; fussy, sometimes in need of re-education or attention or simply going more slowly. I actually love my body now. I always did prefer the taking-care-of rather than the being- taken-care-of. I never noticed when my body was taking care of me.

If the body is an expression of the spirit, or even of “god,” then it certainly does carry one through youth, through unseen dangers. Then one gets to return the favor, having learned what it is to be “god” from the body, from material existence. The senses arm the spirit for the adventures ahead.

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