I came across something not too long ago that really struck a chord with me. I was reading about how most people have lost confidence in their bodies. Reading that was like someone had flipped a switch in my head. It made me realize how much I didn't trust my body.
Everyone has their own "feeling baggage." Some people have anger in their feeling baggage, some people have sadness, some people anxiety. We all have that one feeling we tend to have a harder time with. I have anxiety in my feeling baggage. It's what I have to practice being present with. And that's all right. We all have something in our feeling baggage.
And I've realized that a lot of the time, anxiety comes out of my feeling baggage and attack me because I don't trust my body.
Meditation had two aspects. The first aspect is called Shamatha, which is stopping. It's when we step back, concentrate on our breathing, and bring our minds back to the present moment.
The second aspect is Vipashyana, and that is looking deeply. This is when we understand ourselves, how our minds work, and realize that we can let go of the thoughts in our heads. It is insight.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a common type of psychotherapy, one of the main goals is to help the patient fully believe that their fears are irrational. Most people who go into therapy know that their fears are irrational--that's why they seek help. But they don't know how they could let their fears go, because on some level, they still believe that they are reasonable thoughts to keep around. Knowing and believing are not the same. A good therapist helps their patient fully believe that their fears are irrational, so they can let them go.
And that is one of the most liberating feelings. That is insight.
One does not necessarily need a therapist or meditation to achieve this. These aha moments can be triggered by reading something or hearing something that strikes a deep chord with us. This time, the following short Tumblr quote did it for me:
I've spent so much time being afraid of my own body. Fearing that it will somehow turn against me at the most inconvenient moment. If you are familiar with health anxiety, you know exactly what I'm talking about. This quote made me realize how ridiculous that was.
My body is not my enemy who wants to harm me--it is, and always has been, my most passionate ally.
Our bodies do everything for us--we don't even have to think about it. They work all the time to keep us safe. Our bodies are our guardians who always look out for us. And yet, we often look at them as if they were our worst enemies.
Isn't that so sad? It's the same kind of judgement that makes us fear other people. It's the same kind of fear that fuels hatred and prejudice. Only it's not directed outward--it's directed inward.
This realization blew my mind. I believe so strongly in being loving and kind toward others, and yet, I have been so judgmental and afraid of something so close to me--my own body.
Because of this, I didn't recognize my most loyal friend, the one who is tirelessly working for me like a loving parent. Instead of feeling at home and at ease in my own body, I often felt terrified of what it would do next.
And that's not only a stressful way to live, it is also not very smart, let's be honest. Neuroscientists have said that fear is the lowest level our brain can operate on. When we are afraid, we can't be creative, we can't solve problems, we can't think effectively. And being afraid of our bodies that are biologically designed to help us and take care of us is just nonsense.
So this is how I went from knowing that I don't need to be afraid, to fully believing it. This is an insight that is truly precious to me. Because, finally, where I saw an enemy who could cause me harm at any moment, now I see a faithful friend, who works tirelessly to keep me safe.
I'm at home in my own body. I can just relax. I am taken care of.
A guided meditation on the topic can be listened to here.
"If we lose our faith and confidence in our bodies, we lose everything. Instead of panicking or giving ourselves up to despair, we practice mindful breathing and put our trust in the healing power of our bodies. 'Don't worry, I'll take care of you. Just rest.'" - Thich Nhat Hanh