By Kelly Wright
When my kids were toddlers, we spent a lot of time playing on the floor together. While the playing was fun, getting up off the floor, for me, was not. My knees were so messed up that I felt like a 30-year-old in an 80-year-old body.
After the pain got too much, I sought medical care. When medication didn’t work, my doctor referred me to a brilliant physical therapist, who quickly diagnosed my problem. After a few minutes watching me walk on the treadmill, she gave me the news: I walked with too much intensity.
I was both grateful and perplexed. I had an answer, but how do you correct thirty-plus years of incorrect walking? (spoiler – cloth tape on the back of my knees for 3 days ended up doing the trick!)
As an 8 on the enneagram, intensity is the fuel that drives me. I literally hit the ground running and have since I was a little girl. I feel things intensely, I ‘go big or go home’, I am all in, and unknowingly, I walked with such intensity I was damaging my knees.
I was also a intense counselor. Not so much on the outside that my clients would notice, but the intensity was internal. I struggled with over-responsibility and setting good boundaries (as I’ve confessed in previous posts).
This internal intensity often took its toll on my body. As I counselor, I sat too much, ate on the run, and pushed my bladder past reasonable limits. I treated my body poorly by forcing it to take a back seat to what others needed from me. I silenced my physical needs to care for others and over time, my body let me know that wasn’t okay.
I’ve gotten much better, but I still struggle with treating my body with the importance it’s due.
My physical well-being is not just a part of me that I can take for granted, but instead contributes to the whole of who I am.
We know that our bodies need proactive and intentional care. Sleep, water, nutrition, exercise, deep breaths, relaxation, and so many other great physical deposits, give our body what it needs to keep going. All these ways of caring for the body are like going to the gas station to fill your car when it’s empty. And as we pour into body, we care for self wholistically.
The body isn’t just a part of who we are, but it contributes to the whole of who we are.
When we don’t care for the body, it impacts us emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and mentally.
Stephanie Paulsell writes, “The Christian practice of honoring the body is born of the confidence that our bodies are made in the image of God’s own goodness. As the place where the divine presence dwells, our bodies are worthy of care and blessing…It is through our bodies that we participate in God’s activity in the world.”
Sadly, I didn’t care or honor my body, but instead pushed it past healthy boundaries. When I was struggling to get up off the floor, my body was letting me know there was something wrong.
David Benner writes, “Any attempt to distance yourself from your body will always be at the expense of your humanity.”
If your body could talk, what would it tell you about the condition of your whole self?
Are you exhausted and needing rest?
Are you relying on caffeine to keep you going?
Are you experiencing aches and pains that need attention?
Are you needing to move your body through exercise and leaving your desk to walk for a few minutes each hour?
I encourage you to find ways to connect to your body instead of distancing yourself. Your future self will appreciate the kindness of caring for and listening to your body today. Remember you don’t just have a body, instead wholistically, your body is a place of divine encounter and experience in the world.