I have been thinking a lot about my body. In my work, the body is a key to learning anything. Unless we ‘embody’ new distinctions, we continue to operate inside our habitual worldview and way of being—‘inside the box’. What I can see is that my conversation about my body, like all my conversations needs to change as I grow older. If I attempt to apply the same concepts and tools I learned and used as a young man to deal with who I am today, including my body, then I am going to be trapped in the same patterns. If my life story is any indication, I will push ‘doing it my way’ to the absolute limit before acknowledging it is once again time to ‘grow up’.
For example, when I stopped smoking, it was only after the medical messenger said ‘or else’ after a physical examination. Even then, it took me another six months to surrender to the fact that I am not destined to be the exception to the rules of living and medical science and I finally stopped once and for all. In retrospect, as with all transformations, it looks relatively easy, but at the time felt almost impossible.
I ‘know’ that our relationship to our body and our health is the foundation for just about everything else. Those of us blessed with a good constitution can get away with being in denial a little bit longer but sooner or later we must fess up to the fact that we cannot keep doing what we always did and that if we are going to have any future that is different than our past, we must distinguish between our bodies and who we are. I can choose to take care of my body or I can allow my body and my ego to collapse into an endless circular conversation about how much time I still have before seriously committing myself to a different and more healthy lifestyle including diet and exercise.
The ego doesn’t age, doesn’t make commitments and more or less reacts to everything in terms of personal survival and sustaining whatever self-image we hold of ourselves. Ego-driven practices are always self-referential and consistent with what we believe our strengths and weaknesses to be. If I don’t exercise, it is justified because “I don’t have will power” or “My work is more important”. These sorts of rationalizations are largely automatic, recur like old tapes and inevitably contribute to the persistence of what I don’t want—namely my ‘bad’ habits. If I look closely at my patterns, they are all more or less the same, related to my ‘story’ about the way I am and/or the way it is. The fact is that the only thing the story every does is to justify the continuation of the patterns.
I shared with a group in Buenos Aires that I am reconsidering my life story—not just relating to my body and health, but to everything. I am realizing that my whole life (and I believe we all believe this) I have believed that my past has caused me to be the way I am, for better or for worse. It seems so obvious I don’t even question it. Yet, I now can see that if someone else were to write my life story, it might be very different than mine. How would I or anyone know which story is accurate? I might think that a key turning point in my development was getting fired from my first job, while someone else might say that it was dropping out of college. The point is both stories are valid and neither is ‘the truth’—the story is all ‘after the fact’ assessments about the meaning and value (or cost) of various facts about my life.
Well, if the past isn’t the cause of my present, what is?
I am beginning to accept the idea that the answer is ‘the future’. At least if I think about it this way, my future begins to have a different quality to it and my way of relating to the future becomes a central choice in my life. Do I relate to the future as an extension of my past and the ‘way I am’ given my past? Or is the future (like the past) just a story and the real question is what story am I going to give my “SELF” to? If I give myself to a future of my own design—of my own vision and commitment, then the future is using me and I am living into a possibility of my own creation. If not, I am giving myself to my past and my future will be a continuation of the same story—I will be used by my past.
Either way, it is my story. The question is who is the author. If I think about growing older in this way, it becomes very exciting to grow older, to continuously reinvent who I am and embrace age as the opportunity for achieving not only my childhood dreams, but of inventing dreams beyond whatever limitations I may have experienced in the past.
A big part of this depends upon my body and my health, so now is the time to grow up and stop pretending that I have enough time to make the changes I want to make. Now is the time—the only time I have to commit to the care and feeding of this most precious instrument, my body.