Thursday, September 6, 2012

That Ellusive "Ideal"

There is no ideal.

The issue of identity and body image has always fascinated me, partly because of my journey with food and weight, but it is also something I studied in college while taking gender studies classes. If there is one thing that experience taught me, it’s that there is no “target weight” when it comes to Body. I don’t mean literal weight.

I mean expression: expression that bursts forth because of what is inside. Our physical body is a direct translation of what’s going on inside of us, and whether or not we are feeding the soul with what it needs: freedom.

While it is one thing to read long, dry, philosophical theories about the nature of self, it is quite another to live it. To see it. To meet it.

I feel like our culture has overdosed on advice for finding the perfect body, and even yoga can fall to this trap. Sure, there’s that “healthy” ideal that we all strive for, the certain weight range that’s healthy for our height, the BMI scale, but I know at least for me, that can be a mask to hide the truth: we are obsessed with controlling our body and controlling our emotions.

Does that sound healthy to you?

I recently heard someone talk about how she put up pictures of certain Victoria Secret models as inspiration for how she wanted her body to look and be toned. Now, inspiration is great. Inspiration can be life changing; if we are not inspired, there is no creative spark to drive us. But I thought about this. In the past I’ve done similar things, even pulled up pictures of myself from a couple years ago. Here are the thoughts that run through my head, “Look where I used to be. Look where she is.”

It’s not where I am now. I could be, but I’m not.
Shame on me.

Inspiration is great because it gives us a glimpse of the mystery of what is Possible. But what are we aspiring to be if our only source of reference is either in the long distant past, or someone else’s story/body? No matter how hard I try, while there may be many similarities, my body will never be your body. And if I do try to make it so, what am I sacrificing in the process?

I’m sacrificing my relationship with myself as it is now. As it needs to be. I’m no longer interested in what my body needs or wants, whatever I put it through is just a means to an end. I am drawing arrow after arrow, trying to get the perfect bullseye. In the end, it doesn’t matter if I train, if my form is “good,” or “bad,” the time I spend trying to reach my goal is lost to me. And if and when I do hit the bullseye, what then? Does my life only begin when I’ve reached the perfect ideal?

What if, instead of the comparison, we focused each moment on what we need? What does the body crave, what does the soul crave? What nourishes us? If we sacrifice nourishment, in any of its forms (not just food; pleasure, laughter, pain, healing), how will we be “healthy?”

Part of this means slowing down. If we push, push, push, we are still on auto-pilot. Each moment we ignore what we feel, we are disconnected. There is no ideal. There is only what the soul craves, and whether or not we choose to answer the call, without shame and without guilt.

What is the "ideal" you've been chasing?