Chapter 17 – Health
Let this chapter of my Rule of Life remind me monthly of how very precious my life is on this planet. It is no more precious than any other human life and my own personal belief is that my life is no more precious than any life of any sentient being on the planet. I am not of the belief that humans are more important or more precious to God than other animal life. Had Genesis been written by animals, the story would have turned out differently.
It is breathtaking to consider how my body works with its 37 trillion cells generating, dying and being replaced. It is hard to imagine, without medical training, the 60,000 miles of blood vessels in my body and their ability to work correctly. My brain does not understand how my brain works and yet it seems able to direct my body, store information, calculate problems and consider its thoughts while hosting sexuality, downloading God’s still, small voice and appreciating beauty.
Most of my life has been lived disregarding my body’s needs through a twisted and sick interpretation of centuries of religious thought about what is divine and what is earthly. A work addiction has not helped either, driving my poor, sad body to its brink and occasionally beyond, in a cultural-herding of caffeine, over-work, over-stimulation and exhaustion. Like so many other Americans, I had come to believe that I existed for work and was evaluated by its success or failure.
The Bible’s words about my body being “a temple” sounded like a Hallmark moment and was too easily disregarded, and for too long. But now, after a half-century of life, I find myself willing and able to care for my body and its health. After the workhouse-experience of monastic life I am careful to do the math around sleep, unwilling to give myself less than an 8 hour window for sleep – needed or not. My Rule of Life inclines a rule about alarm clocks too – they are for mornings when I have a flight to catch – but generally I keep them turned off, which means I must go to sleep early enough not to need an alarm clock. I nap more and with less guilt, and I keep scented oils with which to rub down my body on the eve of my sabbath day and its evening as a ritual-reminder that my body has great value and does me very great service on this planet.
Increasingly I am more and more careful about what goes into my body and need to be ever more careful about what I eat and drink. A half glass of wine at night is a gentle kindness I welcome and plenty of water (which bores me to drink) is a habit I need to remind myself will ease my aches and pains. When I can afford it, a massage is welcome to squeeze poisons back into my bloodstream that exit in urine with extra water consumption and I seek a rule which encourages a monthly massage, at a minimum, when I have the funds to pay for one. When I am sick, I will stop and rest.
And touch will be a priority. My dog Kai seems to like touch and will get daily puppy-massages in exchange for the way he cuddles against me at night with warmth and kind connection. My friends will touch my body – holding a hand or laying a hand on my arm or shoulder when in conversation, and I will be intentional to reciprocate. And with the loss of smell and taste, I will be intentional about foods for their consistency and nutrition so that my body gets pleasure and value from the foods I eat. When possible, my one rule about food is that I will spend money to purchase and eat good foods and only good foods. And I will get to know the homeopathic sales-person at my Whole Foods counter – using what she suggests with as much enthusiasm as regular visits to my doctor.