A few weeks ago I was reading Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein yet again and realized I haven’t talked about one of the realizations this book gave me while reading it.
The book has so many things that I would like to share with you but today I only want to focus on one.
In the book, Joseph quotes Buddha who talked about the body and its anatomical parts:
Again, monks, one reviews this same body up from the soles of the feet and down from the top of the hair, enclosed by skin, as full of many kinds of impurity this: in this body there are head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, bowels, mesentery, contents of the stomach, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spittle, snot, oil of the joins, and urine.
Joseph goes on to explain how these words by Buddha help us see our body as it is. Attractive as a whole, but when looked up close and seeing body parts independent from the body we are reminded of how unattractive they are – we don’t lust after a nose or a finger.
We put a label on breasts and other parts to see them as one way or another – too small is ugly while big is beautiful, and the other way around for other body parts. And although biologically we do get more attracted to a fuller figure on a woman – as we see her as more fertile – that doesn’t really help us when trying to accept our bodies as they are.
We are taught that certain body types are more attractive and lustful than others and so we grow to resent what is too small or too big, even though if presented with that particular part of the body on a plate, we wouldn’t lust after it no matter its size.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of our bodies and strive to be fit and healthy, but at one point we need to realize that some things cannot be changed through a workout or really good contouring. Many of us get plastic surgery to look prettier but some things just can’t be changed – we can only operate so much.
I grew up with very bad self-esteem. I fantasized of a nose job when I was no more than 10 years old and I hated the way my body looked as soon as I saw other girls grow boobs and grow tall. All of them were getting prettier, while I was praying for a smaller nose and 5 more centimetres.
As much as I hate to be that person that demands more representation of the so-called real bodies – which is the term I absolutely hate as all bodies are real bodies-, I do tend to lean towards those who ask for diversity when it comes to bodies and, well, noses and boobs. Some of us just didn’t get the memo that noses are supposed to be small and boobs are supposed to be big.
Seeing my body as a collection of body parts helps me step back and see everything I dislike about it as a part I need to survive and function. As soon as I see my nose as an organ for the smell, I am less likely to hate the way it looks, because that’s all that really matters at the end of the day – that I see my nose as something I would hate to live without, no matter its size.
There is a lot of work that has to be done for me to one day achieve peace with the way I look, but I am committed to loving each part with my whole heart. I know that any type of surgery won’t make me smarter, kinder or better in any way, so I don’t want to imagine how I would look with a different body.
I don’t judge dogs by the size of their ears or cats by the size of their belly. Why would I judge myself when I too am an animal and no different than other species? I doubt bonobos, fish and rhinos hate their bodies.
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