“A living body is not a fixed thing but a flowing event, like a flame or a whirlpool: the shape alone is stable, for the substance is a stream of energy going in at one end and out at the other.” – Alan Watts, “Murder in the Kitchen,” from Does It Matter?: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality
When you look into the mirror what do you see? A face with two eyes, a mouth, hair or no hair, a nose, neck and shoulders. Perhaps it’s a large mirror and you see more – the chest and stomach, arms and legs, even down to your feet. Now really gaze into it and look. Does that head and body stay the same? Do you go from looking good to kind of goofy? Do you begin to notice imperfections, or areas that you aren’t be proud of? Look closer. Does it stay the same, or does it change with each breath, each moment?
If you tend to look in the mirror at least once or twice a day, you probably notice that there is a fairly consistent person looking back at you, but it’s never quite the same. Some days your hair is perfect, other days you can’t stand to see what’s looking back. And over time, throughout our lives, we go from a marvelous little being, wondering about the magic of the mirror and what we see, to a critical, aging human; often times ashamed at what we see in the mirror for various reasons. We should really stop that.
Our bodies change over time, depending on the foods we eat and the actions we take. Most of the time we change our bodies, but sometimes they seem to change us, often for the worse. We don’t have our high school or college body anymore; and that frustrates us a bit because we can’t use our bodies in ways we used to, and they certainly don’t look as aesthetically pleasing without serious commitment. However, have we forgotten what happens when we stare into the mirror, where each breath brings about a change in the bag of skin hanging from that egg head I hope not, because that shows you that it doesn’t take serious commitment to produce changes. If you want a different body, make it so, on a moment to moment basis.
I encourage you to take your clothes off, stand in a relaxed posture, and take a picture of yourself. You will probably hate the picture, but you only have to save it for a few moments. Next, standing where you were before, close your eyes. Now take a long inhale followed by a very long exhale. Exhale down, down, all the way out, and as your breath disappears and you relax, feel the muscles in your lower abdomen and buttocks begin to contract. As you begin to inhale again, keep your abdomen tight and press your diaphragm down towards the center of your body, letting the air seemingly fall into your lungs. Exhale to relaxation and, again, flex your abdomen. Repeat this process for a few minutes, feeling the sensation of breath from the bottom of your abdomen rising up through your chest cavity, expanding and uprighting your spine, moving your shoulders back, eventually flowing out the top of your head. Feel the readiness. Your are relaxed, but tensed and ready.
Take another picture. Are the two people the same?
I think not.
Surely, it’s the same organism, the same person, but the way you feel between the two pictures is vastly different. Your feeling is different every day. This is why it’s possible to create and sculpt a body that looks a certain way and can do various movements, tricks and exercises, with very little effort. Sure it will take time, and it will take effort, but not like you would think.
First, look back into the mirror. That’s your clay, that’s what you have to work with. So stop trying to run away from it, or the environment you find yourself in. That face is yours, that body is yours, you brought it to this point. That’s the first step of discipline: realizing what and where you are now, in this moment, and not blaming anyone for it. Take full responsibility. Then, and only then, do you have the power to change it.
You must see it, then you must feel it, and if you listen close enough, you may even hear it.