Body over mind

A little story from my recent retreat (I promise I will stop talking about it like band camp soon):

A few days in, my back was feeling pretty rough. I had been stretching and moving diligently, but it’s just not in shape for that many hours of sitting each day and I was feeling the cumulative toll. I had anticipated precisely this scenario and set up a chair as well as my floor cushion in the meditation hall at the start of the retreat. But for a few days, I spent each sitting on my cushion. Then came the day when, more than once, a sitting ended with my back aching and I swore I would give it a break the next sitting. I would re-enter the hall after a nice stretch and walking period reminding myself that I was going to sit in the chair. And then I would walk directly to my cushion and think, “maybe it’ll be ok this time”.

It’s absurd, and a small example. But then it clicked. The chair was uncomfortable for my mind – it was unfamiliar, it was different, it required a bit of adaptation. (Yes, we are seriously describing the act of sitting in a chair here.).But it wasn’t my cushion, which is where I sit to meditate at home, which was in the exact spot in the hall that I had grown comfortable in over a couple days’ time. Given the choice between discomfort of the mind or discomfort of the body, my mind threw my body under the bus. Unflinchingly.

Since then, I can’t help but notice how often this happens… This morning, I went for a short little run. But not before I looked longingly at the couch and my mind imagined me wrapped up in a blanket sipping a mug of tea instead. It was a beautiful morning, and it felt great to move. My body appreciated starting the day with some movement, but my mind would have happily skipped it.

Yesterday evening, I found myself going back for yet another helping of easter candy. The sort that is the perfect cocktail of things that irritate my gut and make me feel terrible. But I bought it and continue to eat it because my mind convinces me that the chemical nostalgia will make me happy.

I’ll stop. But suffice it so say it has been eye-opening to notice just how many ways I abuse or deny or ignore my body’s very real needs in order to satisfy the very contrived whims of my mind.