Befriend Your Body

Practice of the Week
Befriend Your Body

Category: WORTH A TRY, or OCCASIONAL, or MIGHT BE YOUR THING: These practices are "worth a try" at least once, or, say, for one week. Beyond that, different people will relate in different ways to the practices in this category. Some of these practices you will find great for "every once in a while" -- either because they are responses to a particular need that may arise or because they are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. Among these practices you may find the one particular practice that becomes your main and central spiritual practice -- or a Key Supporting Practice.
"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." (Jim Rohn)

"And I said to my body, softly, 'I want to be your friend.' It took a long breath and replied, 'I have been waiting my whole life for this.'" (Nayyirah Waheed)

Imagine that your body is separate from you, and consider these questions:
  • How has your body taken care of you over the years? Such as keeping you alive, giving you pleasure, and taking you from place to place.
  • In return, how well do you take care of your body? Such as soothing, feeding, and exercising it, or taking it to the doctor. On the other hand, in what ways might you run it down, feed it junk food, or intoxicate it?
  • In what ways are your critical of your body? For example, are you disappointed in it or embarrassed by it? Do you feel let down by it, or wish it were different?
  • If your body could talk to you, what might it say?
  • If your body were a good friend, how would you treat it? Would that be different from how you treat it now?
Personally, I can't help squirming a little when I face these questions myself. It's common to push the body hard, ignore its needs until they get intense, and tune out from its signals. And then drop the body into bed at the end of another long day like -- as my father would say, having grown up on a ranch -- "a horse rid hard and put up wet."

People can also get mad at the body, and even mean to it. Like it's the body's fault if it weighs too much or is getting old.

But if you do any of these things, you'll end up paying a big price, since you are not separated from your body after all. Its needs and pleasures and pains are your own. Its fate will be your own someday.

On the other hand, if you treat your body well, like a good friend, you'll feel better, have more energy, be more resilient, and probably live longer.


Remember a time when you treated a good friend well. What was your attitude toward your friend, and what kinds of things did you do with him or her? How did it feel inside to be nice toward your friend?

Next, imagine a day of treating your body like another good friend. Imagine loving this friend -- your body -- as you wake up and help it out of bed: being gentle with it, staying connected to it, not rushing about . . . what would this feel like?

Imagine cherishing your body as you move through the morning -- such as helping it kindly to some water, giving it a nice shower, and serving it healthy and delicious food. Imagine treating your body with love as you do other activities such as driving, caring for children, exercising, working with others, doing dishes, having sex, or brushing your teeth.

How would this approach feel?

You'd probably experience less stress, more relaxation and calm, mor pleasure, mor ease, and more of a sense of being in control of your life. Plus an implicit sense of being kind to yourself, since in a deep sense you don't just have a body, you are your body; treating it well is treating you well.

If your body could speak, what might it say to you after being treated with love for a day?

Then, for real, treat your body well for a day (or even for just a few minutes). What's this like? In what ways does it feel good? Notice any reluctance to be nice to your body. Maybe a feeling that doing so would be self-indulgent or sinful. Explore that reluctance, and see what it's about. Then decide if it makes any sense. If it doesn't, return to treating your body well.

If you could talk to your body, what might you say? Perhaps write a letter to your body, telling it how you've felt about it in the past, and how you want to be nicer to it in the future.

Make a short list of how to care better for your body, such as quitting smoking, or leaving work sooner, or taking more time for simple bodily pleasures. Then commit to treating your body better.

Kindness begins at home.

Your home is your body.

For Journaling

For the next 5 days dedicate a part of your journaling to reflecting on the questions at the top of this column.
Day 1: How has my body taken care of me over the years?
Day 2: How well do I take care of my body? Do I soothe it, feed it, exercise it, take it to the doctor? Do I run it down, feed it junk food, or intoxicate it?
Day 3: In what ways am I critical of my body? Am I disappointed in it or embarrassed by it? Do I feel let down by it, or wish it were different?
Day 4: If my body could talk to me, if would probably want to tell me . . .
Day 5: If my body were my good friend, how would I treat it? Would that be different from how I treat it now?

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