You are given one life, one body. Regardless of your belief in an afterlife or reincarnation, how will you take care of it here and now?
As a family physician, it breaks my heart to witness the evolution of dis-ease in patients, family members, and friends. I understand that suffering is part of life, but wonder what would happen if workplaces stopped rewarding energizer bunnies and penalizing sloths. What if familial demands were balanced with time for self-care? How much of your pain is inevitable, and what part of your suffering is optional?
We often treat our bodies like rental cars. The keys to our ignition, our power is borrowed. After relatively short trips, the upholstery is stained, the floor is trashed, and the gas gauge is dangerously close to running on empty because there was no time to refill. When we return to our own car, we might take slightly better care of it. Though we take it in for scheduled maintenances to the dealership, we’re still puzzled by random warning lights of low tire pressure, oil leaks, or airbag defects.
Diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds affect concepts and possibilities of self-care. Self-care is further strained and limited by work and familial demands. One of my favorite things to do at work is gently remind patients about self-care. “What will replenish your fuel tank?” I ask. “Where could you schedule some time for self-maintenance? What would that look like?”
Think of at least one thing you can do for your wellbeing: going to bed thirty minutes earlier, taking that creative class you missed in college, adding some practical, enjoyable exercise to your schedule, connecting with someone who adds meaning to your life regularly. Jack Kornfield said, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” As you hold other people’s stories inside your heart, please make some space for your own story.
During the week of Thanksgiving, give thanks for your body, for all it has carried for you, all it has done for you. Though it’s not exactly the way you want it to be, maybe it is doing the best that it can. Maybe you are doing the best that you can. This body is a mosque, synagogue, temple, chapel - your connection to The Divine. Please care for it as you would care for The Divine.
You are given one life, one body. How will you take care of it?
Note: This post is meant to be a gentle inquiry. If you find that judgements arise after reading this, please stop for a moment. Close your eyes and think of someone who loves you, who genuinely wishes for your wellbeing. Take in their care and concern for you on the inbreath, and release any judgement on the outbreath. You can also place one hand on your heart and the other on any part of your body that is hurting, sensing the stream of their love flowing through you. This Thanksgiving, may you celebrate the joy of being alive.