The question on the table this week: "You were once physically inactive and now are very active. What's changed as a result?"

The top answer: I am more strongly connected to my body.

Some of you may never have felt a disconnect from your bodies. You may never have thought of "me, myself, I" as a separate entity from the body that you inhabit. You may never have thought of your body as a burden that you are carrying, as luggage, as a punishment.

You may never have thought of yourself as a personality hidden deep inside a body you would not have chosen.

But many of us have felt this. Not because we are a particular size or shape or at a certain fitness level — but because our positive identities are connected strongly to our thoughts and emotions and memories, and not to our physical selves. For many of us, negative identity has been attached to the physical self. So we learn to think of our physical self as something apart from — worse than — our "selves."

Moving this body around a lot more has had consequences. I can't think anymore of my body and "myself" as two separate entities. I can't think of my body as the "package" or the "vehicle" for "me." The package is all me: muscle, bone, fat, brain, hormones, nerve endings, skin — blemishes, wrinkles, sags, smiles, voice — and all the electrical impulses: ideas, aches, memories, preferences, pleasures, dreams — it's all one thing. What is "me" is all of that tied together.

I no longer think of my body as a shell that I inhabit. Identity is all one piece, soul and body knit together, indistinguishable. When my spirit hurts, I feel it through my body. When my body feels blissful, I can't tell whether it's body or spirit doing the feeling. "I" am not fighting "my body." And "I" am not "changing my body." I and my body: one thing. One Ann Pai.

How did moving around a lot, persistently, over a period of time, accomplish this? I'm not sure. Sorry about that. But I can tell you this. One morning when I was running, I thought back to my couch to 5K days and how I had to consciously decide to pick up my feet and switch from walk to run. I realized this was no longer the case. There was an instantaneous connection now between wanting to run and the sensation of my body running. The merest whiff of desire had been wired directly to the action and to the sensations of moving. Thought and motion and physical enjoyment had become a single act.

The greatest result is that I can't feel this connection and hate my body. My body isn't separate from the part of me that hates and loves. So I can't despise my body, not any part of it. It would be like trying to use a knife to cut itself.

This has made recovery from disordered eating possible. For me, the disorder was rooted in being ashamed and afraid of my body. I can't be ashamed of what makes pride possible. And I can't be afraid of what displays my courage.


Zoolander said...

So now I'm wondering what the next phase is...mind, body, spirit, earth/environment. What happens when your body is not separate from your environment. Flow?