WHY COULDN'T I CARE FOR MYSELF AND WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH SPORT?
Why couldn’t I care for myself and what does it have to do with sport?
Clue: sport was king, and my body was a lowly servant.
Growing up in New Zealand I absolutely loved sport. I played netball from little, tennis from pre-teen, and volleyball as a teenager. Now I know that netball is touted as a ‘non-contact’ sport, but I can assure you all the pushing and shoving to get the ball is most definitely contact. Volleyball is also ‘non-contact’ but probably the most violent assault on my body that I have ever inflicted. I regularly counted 20 plus bruises on just one shin as well as 10 plus on my forearms. That ball was hard! You were expected to get to the ball and keep it in play at all costs, but the body was the biggest cost with it being thrown at the ground, to roll and crash into benches; whatever it took to keep that ball off the ground. The coach used to cry ‘commit to the ball’ – and I did! I loved being part of a team and loved that aspect of both netball and volleyball. I was super competitive, my mother not needing to ask if I had won or lost a game as it was written all over my face.
My mother was not into sport at all, but my father was a pretty typical kiwi Dad, into rugby and softball. He connected with me through sport and would train with me for hours and I loved that time with him.
I did not understand sport for social reasons; for me I had to win at all costs. I repeat ‘at all costs’ because it has only come to my attention at the age of 48 what the cost was.
Beginning to address the cost
I have been looking after myself with more care for about 14 years now, ever since I was introduced to the Gentle Breath Meditation where I experienced for the first time that how I breathe and the quality that I breathe in can change my whole body. I also learnt that the quality we do things in is more important than what we do. Along this path, the development of self-care was the steppingstone to self-love. Yet I struggled to do this in any meaningful way. Others seemed to be able to bring this practice to their lives without struggle, but for me it was like I was never aware enough to care.
Until one day in a meeting about the body I suddenly realised I didn’t care about my body because for a large part of my life I was raised to not care about it, and in part, this was due to the national and cultural love of sport. The body was to be used as a machine, something to be trained through hours of practice to do what I wanted it to; it was to be pushed through. Once I had an asthma attack during a game of netball. I ran off to the side and took a few puffs on my inhaler and got back on the court.
The game was king, my body was its servant. I literally used and abused it in order to win.
I felt the body was a nuisance, something that needed to perform better, and when it did perform well it was not it that got the praise, but me. I was totally divorced from my body, but it kept on talking to me, trying to be heard. Asthma plagued my youth and I regularly had two weeks off during winter with chest infections, sinuses, and hay fever; all of which I no longer suffer from. This could be dismissed as change of climate when I moved from New Zealand to the UK, but that argument does not stack up as I had initially lived in the UK for 10 years with all the same symptoms. It was only after I made a lot of lifestyle changes, including my diet and having a variety of healing sessions, that I now live free of all those dis-eases.
Discovering the joys of a hot facecloth
About 5 years ago a practitioner asked me to spend the next two weeks, before I saw them next, doing things my body loved. I literally had no clue what he was talking about, so he helped me by saying things like, ‘Keeping warm, your body loves to be warm’. Oh, does it? I hadn't noticed! So off I went confused but ready to explore what my body loves. All I came up with was every night before bed and after brushing my teeth I would put a really hot facecloth on my face and my whole body would say, ‘Ahhh that is lovely’ – and sometimes audible gasps of joy would be expelled from my lips. ‘That is soooo good’. Initially I thought this was pretty hopeless, but what I hadn’t appreciated was the impact this very simple act of loving my body was having on my whole being.
The big ‘aha’ moment
About a month later I was in town. I got off the tube only to be going up the escalator and feeling disorientated as it did not look right. Then I twigged. I had got off the tube one stop too early. I shrugged my shoulders and figured I had time to walk instead. I was stopped in my tracks by the loving narrative in my head, as this was a very new experience. My usual barrage of critical thoughts was simply not there. I pondered why was this? And the only thing I realised that I was doing differently was the hot facecloth. It was then that I realised how important the smallest of loving actions can be. My body was loving the care and my thoughts were reflecting my actions.
I have continued with the hot facecloth ritual every night, and often mornings now too. But like I said, it was another five years until I realized that I had resisted deepening my self-care due to the unconscious conditioning of how I was with my body due to the early years of my life being influenced by a nation/culture that does not care about the body, but rather cares more about a score on a rugby field or netball court over the love and nurturing of the body.
I share this understanding and realisation as I feel a large proportion of New Zealanders are operating from a similar conditioning, a dismissal of the body.
For me, our body is a source of love and divinity and to only look after it for the function of being able to kick, catch, or hit the next ball is such an ‘own goal’! Through the process of my inner journey I have discovered that to fight against our own body has dire consequences for our health and overall well-being, physically, mentally and emotionally, whereas taking care of ourselves results in a body that is not only is stronger and more vital but that our thoughts towards ourselves, and others, are much more loving and honouring.
In a country which places sport at the top of the list of importance and the enduring state of the bodies playing the sports further down the list, it would it be fair to say that we have set up a society that, in the main, thinks it’s normal to dismiss and disregard our bodies while at the same time has us wondering why so many of us are being affected by physical as well as mental health issues. Maybe this focus on function of the body as servant to the desire to win at all costs actually costs us a lot more than we are willing to currently be aware of.
We are missing out on so much when we live without love and care for our body as a house for our Soul.
Our body is king and deserves to be treated as such.