It was a freakishly warm day in Boston for early March. My schedule freed up last minute, giving me the afternoon off. I decided to take advantage of the weather and put my sneaks on to walk around the reservation near my home. I felt no desire to be “plugged in” I didn’t want to listen to music, a podcast or call a friend, I just wanted to be with myself and nature. I didn’t feel alone, as I sometimes do in the quiet moments between clients; I felt a deep sense of belonging. I began to enter a state of reverie, reflecting on the topic of body image. A topic that makes a frequent appearance in my consulting room.
Something about the rhythmic sound of my feet in the dirt and the birds flying overhead was so simple and yet so magical. I began to question why we ever spent time on a stationary bike with music blasting in our eardrums. It began to dawn on me that I was far more connected to my physical body when I was out with nature than in any yoga class or bootcamp. “Why is this?” I wondered...
The answer that came to me was simple. Consumerism. The word in and of itself implies a need to take in, absorb, digest and swallow something outside ourselves. In what way is consumerism making our appetites larger and mitigating our ability to feel satiated? Why do we need a gym membership when we can literally step outside our front door and find mother nature? Consumerism tells us that a walk outdoors is “not enough” exercise, or “doesn’t count as real exercise” and we literally ingest this idea, eventually believing that we ourselves are “not enough.” When we are in a self-state of “not enough,” we look to consumerism to tell us where our deficiencies lie and what needs to be corrected. Consumerism is predicated on the belief that human beings will spend to alleviate suffering. Yet, the human psyche remains unsatisfied because there is always more to be bought, new ideals to aspire to, and therefore new ways to feel inadequate. As we continue to look to consumerism to feel fulfilled, we grow further and further away from ourselves and our bodies.
Consumerism breeds competition, which breeds inadequacy. In an exercise class encased by mirrored walls, how can one be expected not to compare their figure, flexibility, and strength to those around them? Mother nature provides no mirror, only the shadow of the human figure cast on the ground beneath her.
I began to wonder if the dis-ease of body image would even exist without the presence of a mirror. If we cannot critique, evaluate and judge every blemish, every imperfection, every particle of fat, would we be able to live in our bodies rather than shun certain parts of it? As this thought came to me, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of sadness. The endeavor to help the vast majority of us relearn body presence seemed so lofty and nearly impossible to me in this moment. After all, we are up against the insatiable hunger of wanting it all. I chuckled at the notion that I would want to come home and pull out my laptop to journal this reverie, which I would then post on my blog, for others to consume and digest. My fantasy was that perhaps, it might inspire those who often fall into the gaping abyss of consumerism to find moments in time to be in your body, with nature’s unconditional acceptance and love.
Not long after I came home to write about my musings, I was sent this video. If you are left speechless and deeply emotional, as I was, perhaps we can consider it progress that there are spaces in our consumer-driven world that are safe enough for us to speak the truth.