Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.
—RABBI ABRAHAM HERSCHEL
The practice of giving thanks for your body is particularly difficult for women, because our relationships with our bodies are fraught with so much difficulty and dissatisfaction. The media reinforces such an impossible and singular image for young girls and women to live up to, and places so much emphasis on appearance, that virtually none of us—even if we happen to match the ideal—comes out unscathed.
Eating disorders, plastic surgery, billions spent on make-up and clothes—we all know the price that is paid. And all indications are that the obsession is spreading to boys and men, with calf and biceps implants, hair replacement, face lifts, and the use of steroids to build muscle mass on the rise.
Nothing helped me get over this issue more than a book done by photographer Francesco Scavullo [Scavullo Women], in which he photographed the world’s most beautiful women. There they were, page after page of breathtaking women, teamed with comments from the women themselves. Not one of them was satisfied with the way she looked. Everyone complained about something: their nose was too big, hair too thin, mouth too wide. . . .
That’s when I decided once and for all to stop being dissatisfied with the way I looked. If the world’s most beautiful women couldn’t be satisfied, no one could, and so I might as well get over myself.
The truth is, no matter what we look like, we are all given bodies that keep us alive, and for that fact alone they are worthy of our appreciation.
My friend Andy Bryner is the best teacher I know of how to live in a body. When he does yoga, he specifically thanks each body part for how it is doing.
When he stretches his leg, for example, he says something like,
“Thank you, leg, for holding me up so well when I went windsurfing this morning. I appreciate your being able to stretch this much. Perhaps some day you won’t be able to go this far, and so today, I really enjoy your ability to go this far.”
As he stretches, he goes body part by body part, noticing with exquisite particularity what his body has done for him that day and what it is able to do in this moment, without wishing or hoping it could be different.
You can try the same thing the next time you work out. Or you can do it in bed some evening. Body part by body part, inside and out, give thanks for your incarnation: kidney, liver, lung, stomach; arms, eyes, neck, toes. Think about what each does and how well it does its job.
©2017. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life
by M.J. Ryan.
Gratitude can be a powerful agent for change. Research has confirmed its many emotional and physical benefits. This book will encourage you to begin, commit to, and celebrate gratitude so you can experience more joy in life. Replaces ISBN 9781573244114
M.J. Ryan is one of the creators of the New York Times bestselling Random Acts of Kindness and the author of The Happiness Makeover, and Attitudes of Gratitude, among other titles. Altogether, there are 1.75 million copies of her titles in print. She specializes in coaching high performance executives, entrepreneurs, and leadership teams around the world. A member of the International Coaching Federation, she is a contributing editor to Health.com and Good Housekeeping and has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, and hundreds of radio programs. Visit the author at www.mj-ryan.com
Watch a video: Letting Go of the Torturing Mind -- M. J. Ryan
Another video: Giving Thanks (with M.J. Ryan)