Recently a friend and I were commiserating about waking up in the darkness during this time of year… At one point, she happened to offer how grateful she was for that darkness when it came to getting dressed in the bathroom every morning.
“Why’s that?” I asked, intrigued by the image that came to mind. “Because then I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror!” she answered.
At first, I assumed my friend was exaggerating, but after exploring further, I learned she was dead serious: She had become so “disgusted” by her aging body that she refused to look at herself naked in the mirror, even when the natural light permitted.
I was stunned by her confession. Then as soon as I mentally registered that reaction, my thoughts shifted to my own self-deprecating remarks in front of the mirror. Aging ain’t a pretty process, by and large. Let’s face it: Especially after enjoying an attractive or at least reasonable shape for most of our lives, one that, frankly, looked tolerable-- maybe even appealing-- both in and out of clothes, it sometimes feels brutal watching that body deteriorate with age, despite our best efforts to stave off the advancing process and evidence.
That said, our body is such a miraculous gift. Scientists can’t even agree on its countless functions. While, in youth, we focus primarily on how our body looks, in our later years, our accrued life experience (and hopeful wisdom) reveals another option: We can focus more often on what our body still does for us.
Believe me, I have to remind myself of that option more frequently these days! When I observe myself in the mirror, the changes-- expanding wrinkles, jowls and cellulite… increasing slackness of skin… thickening waist, once so enviably narrow—are unpleasant to confront. But I have gradually learned, greatly through my mindfulness practice, the indescribable value of focusing on the present and on what I can control rather than ruminating about the past and what I can’t (control). Sometimes when I catch myself scrutinizing in the mirror, I stop, wrap both arms around myself and say, “Thanks for being here for me!” My mind and heart always feel happier after those few seconds of experienced and expressed gratitude. And since I know research has proven that every cell in our body hears and responds to the messages from our brain, I’m grateful to realize the rest of me is happier too!
A mindfulness practice for the shower:
Stand under the showerhead and suds up your washcloth or, if your skin can tolerate it, a soft yet stimulating loofah. It can be fun to imagine the water as a healing waterfall that’s cascading over your body, cleansing and comforting at the same time. If it feels safe to do so (without compromising your balance), consider closing your eyes as you visualize this waterfall flowing down your body… Starting with your face and gradually washing your way down to your feet, focus specifically on that particular area’s function—how it serves you day in and day out. Instead of recalling past abilities or appearances, keep returning to the present and send thoughts of genuine gratitude to that area’s existing abilities and dutiful service. For emphasis, try closing your eyes as you send those affirming sentiments (again, if it feels safe to do so). When you’re finished washing, stand still under that glorious waterfall again and take a few moments to honor what your body is currently doing to literally keep you alive… allowing you, in literally thousands of ways, to enjoy all your other blessings. CELEBRATE your body as you conclude your shower.
I guarantee your mind will wander dozens of times during this meditation. Just keep bringing it back to the washing and thanking task at hand. I also guarantee your shower time will feel longer and fuller than before. And with frequent practice, it’ll be easier for you to tolerate and appreciate your wondrous servant, even out of the shower.
There are numerous meditations—original and existing—that help cultivate body awareness and gratitude. If you’re interested in exploring further, I’d love to share them.
May I, we & all beings celebrate the miracle of our bodies, no matter what their age, appearance or ability.
My best, Deb~
Deb Langhans has worked in the wellness field as a coach/counselor, writer & speaker for over 25 years. She currently owns & operates Journeys to Healing on San Juan Island where she offers "wholistic" life coaching, mindfulness & grief recovery coaching, reflexology, Inner Journey Collage© & a developing line of products designed to encourage healthy habits.
Most services are available in Deb's studio or via phone or Zoom. For more information or scheduling, please go to www.journeystohealing.com (website). firstname.lastname@example.org (email), or 360.317.4526 (texts preferred).