Are you unhappy with the way your body looks? Do you pick yourself apart, thinking negative thoughts about how this part of your flesh looks in that particular outfit, or the way that body part of yours should be just a little bit more narrow/wide/tall?
If you’re critical of your body, try thinking about it in this way.
Try thinking of it as a rainbow.
During my last few long marathon training runs, I started listening to AudioDharma, a podcast recorded at a meditation centre in California that explores Buddha’s teachings. Being an aspiring yogi, I decided I might gain some insight by brushing up on the teachings of this often-quoted spiritual sage. I like a lot of the concepts practiced in Buddhism (kindness, gratitude, generosity, mindfulness, etc.), so I thought I might be able to find little nuggets of wisdom I could take away and practice in my daily life while getting those training miles in under my belt.
During my last long run, I was listening to an episode featuring Andrea Fella, who talked about exploring our sense of self. This concept of the self in Buddism is a tricky one to wrap your head around, but I like the way Andrea explained it in the episode.
“What we think of as I am isn’t a thing; is a process. And we’ve misattributed to this process a solidity,” she explains. “Think of a rainbow. A rainbow is not a thing: it’s a process. It’s a set of conditions coming together — there’s the sun, the moisture in the air, the position of the eye; all of these things come together to create the experience of a rainbow.”
So if we were not standing in the right position, or if the sun was behind a cloud, there would be no rainbow.
I know. You’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with being unhappy with the way my body looks?”
Think about it. We are also a set of conditions coming together to create an experience.
“There are processes in the mind where we tend to confuse those processes for identity,” explains Andrea, “and bodily processes are an example of this. Every day new cells are formed, new neural connections are made, nutrients come in and digestion happens. We identify ‘body’ as ‘me’; but almost every cell in our body is replaced every seven years, so even the body is a process. We are a set of conditions coming together and falling apart over and over again.”
We are a set of conditions coming together and falling apart at any given moment. If we think of our bodies in this way, there’s less focus on the physical aspect of what it means to be you. And there’s also a realization that you CAN change the course of some of the processes in your body — size of your fat cells, flexibility of your tendons, strength and size of your muscle fibres — if you so choose.
You are not stagnant. You are not stuck.
You are not your fat. You are not your muscles.
You are a whole set of conditions coming together at the perfect moment to create somethings beautiful. And we are so grateful for the experience.