Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Body Integration

December 12 – Body Integration

This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

(Author: Patrick Reynolds)

Ah, well, this prompt stirs up some not-so-fond memories. First, I hated conducting class when I was in college as a music major. Hated it. I much prefer to express myself through words and am extremely uncomfortable using my body to communicate anything. This made conducting awful for me. I got by because I practiced the mechanics, but I knew I'd never make any music as a conductor.

Second, I was treated for an eating disorder many years ago. I'll never claim to be "cured" but I've definitely reached a point in my life where the volume on the ED's voice is turned way down, into the background. I rarely hear it anymore (have other psychoses drowned it out or am I healthier?). I think the ED was one spectacular way I refused to connect my body with myself.

This year, I began reading and studying Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. To say it changed my entire outlook wouldn't suffice; and I've only just begin to study it all. The main concept is that we, as humans with a physical presence, were created in God's perfect image, and that everything of our bodies is also of God. Self-loathing becomes really tough when I'm forced to accept that my body and the experience of being a physical human is as God created it ... Theology of the Body also gives credibility to urges and hungers our bodies feel. Whether we crave chocolate, sex, a good sweat, or all three, these are God-given urges. Of course, there are expectations for how we are to satisfy or defer our fulfillment of these urges, but they're Godly all the same.

Around the same time I began studying TOB, I resumed distance running after a 9-ish year hiatus, during which I birthed and cared for 3 babies. My first race back was the 2010 version of the last distance race I ran in 2001, the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. I ran it this year with my friend Kelly from college, and it was terrific fun. Each mile, we talked about someone significant in our lives. I dedicated a mile to each of my children, of course. I cried the entire last mile, and was unbelievably happy and proud of my accomplishment. (I just tried to post a picture of us after the finish ... but I don't know if I pulled it off. We'll see.)

The body integration thing, though, happened for me in October, when I finally got to run the Army 10-Miler in Washington, D.C. I had wanted to do that race for years, but never could because of the work schedule (how ironic, I know). This year, though, I was able to do it. Despite a "wardrobe malfunction" (always try on your race clothes a few days before you pack them ... that skort that fit great 7 pounds ago might not work so great on race day!), I felt amazing. I ran the first 5 miles way faster than I had planned, focusing the whole way on being thankful. I was thankful for my health that allowed me to train for and run a 10-mile race; thankful for the father of my children who is capable and willing to be with them for 3 days so I could take a much-needed break; thankful for the perfect weather and thankful for the race organizers. I discovered, too, that it's much easier to find gratitude during the first mile than during the 10th ... but it's during that last mile that the gratitude is most necessary. Such is how life is, too. It's easy to feel thankful when you're rolling around in your blessings, but when things get difficult, that's when the need to give thanks is most urgent.

My feet hurt, my thighs were chafed, the dang skort kept falling down, exposing a fat roll between my shirt and the sunken waistband, but with every step, I gave thanks, and I felt the rare collision of my body and my being. It's an even I hope to learn to duplicate in my day-to-day in 2011.

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