• Lijing Cobb


In sessions with my clients I talk about body awareness all the time. I think of body awareness as our savior in so many different ways, and so cultivating a sense of body awareness is crucial towards saving us from falling, bumping into things, over-exerting ourselves and causing an injury, burning out and lashing out.

Let me tell you what my body has been doing physically over the last two days. I managed to burn it out on all fronts completely.

First thing Wednesday morning I challenged one of my clients to a tough session, and I did it with her. For an hour we grunted and sweated together, and by the end of the session I knew I was going to be sore the next day.

In the afternoon I went rock climbing with my little one. My arms and shoulders got a pretty decent burn during the process.

At night I went to play volleyball for 2 hours. Lots of deep squats in anticipation of receiving the ball with my neck flexed backwards to see the ball.

Did not go to sleep until past 11pm, and got up shortly after 3am.

Yesterday morning I saw 3 clients in private sessions, and did the majority of their sessions with them. Conservatively speaking, I worked out for 2 hours.

Then I drove 40 minutes to a restaurant, sat for almost 2 hours for lunch and conversation, then drove another 40 minutes to go back home and get my stuff for sand volleyball. Drove 18 minutes to volleyball, played for 2 hours, and then drove another 18 minutes back home.

In the span of 2 days, I worked out for 7 & 1/2 hours, with a 4 hour sleep in between, and sat for almost 4 hours yesterday, killing my back. By the time I got home last night, my low back was in extreme discomfort. I was overwhelmed by fatigue, and all I could do was to ask my little one to take a shower with me and give me a walk-on-my-back massage afterwards, during which I would surely fall asleep.

It could not have been 7:30pm yet, and I crashed hard while my amateur masseuse was still asking one question after another about what else I needed her to work on. “Everywhere!” I mumble without any voice, and pass out.

At 3:10am I woke up to use the bathroom, and decide to stay awake. My body had had the luxury of almost 8 hours of sleep, but it was still telling me in no uncertain terms that it needed more rest. “Your daily ritual, your sacred blog, can wait.” It announced loud and clear through a stiff spine and achy low back. I acquiesced and did a 45 minutes restorative practice. As my body starts to open up through mindful breathing and relaxation, I know that I’d done the right thing to let the body rest and recover.

Aside from physical exertion, my body has also been subject to an inordinate amount of stress through eating over the last week.

Last Friday: went to a birthday/Galentine’s day celebration and had to taste all the yummy foods my girlfriends had brought.

Saturday: my daughter made a guacamole I couldn’t say no to, so I didn’t say no. Plus shortbread cookies from the previous night’s outing that I had brought home.

Sunday: Super Bowl party. Enough said.

Monday: Valentine’s day lunch date with my husband. Enough said again? Not yet. We went out to dinner with the kids later and who could say no to sweet potato fries?

Tuesday: ski trip. We packed chocolate chip cookies and chocolate muffins. We were cold and needed extra calories…

Wednesday: there were a lot of cookies left over from the ski trip. There were also a lot of leftovers in our fridge that needed to be finished.

Thursday: a buffet hotpot. Need I say more?

By 7:30pm last night my body had had enough. It needed a long respite from the madness and chaos.

So body awareness: no matter how aware we think we are about what we are doing to the body, if that awareness is not translated into consistent action to protect the body (and mind) from burning out, the awareness that we do have becomes another layer of stress that we spend lots of energy dealing with. If I know what’s good for me, yet I persistently choose to do the opposite, there must be something wrong with me, and I must hate myself for that. The more I hate myself, the less likely it becomes for me to say no to temptations.

Isn’t it ironic that we can abuse ourselves so much mentally and not say, enough already? Hating ourselves, yet continuing the same practices to add on to and solidify the hate: it is like knowing that the table is there and walking directly into it anyway, over and over again, so that the bruise on our leg never goes away, until one day the leg can no longer handle the bruise and breaks.

But it’s hard to take the body’s message seriously, especially if the exertion in the body stems from passion. One of my friends once tore her stomach muscles so badly during volleyball that she ended up in the hospital in excruciating pain. Before the tear happened, her body had given her clear signals that she should stop, but her love for the sport drove her to ignore the signal, which resulted not only in the tear, but the subsequent mandatory recovery phase where she could not touch a volleyball for several long months.

And it is hard to take the body’s message urgently, especially if there is a consecutive series of significant events in our lives where celebration is called for and we humans celebrate with food and drinks. All the holidays we observe on our calendar, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, farewells, housewarming, new baby, bridal shower… the list is endless. We wait with resignation for the next break in our celebrations, so we can start fresh and really conquer this eating thing, but the break seems to never come (there are so many things to celebrate, and we don’t want to feel like we are missing out!). As the weight piles on to our bodies, so does the guilt to our mind. The more guilt we feel, the less likely we can break free from the malicious cycle.

Weight loss, both physical and mental, is an every day challenge, and it boils down to our respect for our body awareness.

The more respect we have for the signals our body sends us, the less likely we will do damage to the body, whether it’s in the form of physical injury, weight gain, weight loss below the normal threshold, and illnesses. We hear the saying often that our body is our temple. Some of us also believe that God, divinity, the highest form of consciousness, lives right inside of us. So when the body sends us signals, we really should, if we consider ourselves devotees, receive the messages with reverence. We want to protect our temple. We want to make sure that our gods can rest in ease and peace. When the stomach becomes distended because of too much food and drinks; when the skin loses its luster because of lack of water; when the body aches because of over or under exertion, our gods are telling us that change is necessary. If the body is a train getting its passengers to their destination, the conductor must make sure that the train does not go too fast or too slow, that the temperature inside the cabins does not go too high or too low, that the train stays on its track and doesn’t veer off to another track, that the train stays within the tracks so that it doesn’t crash and injure or even kill its passengers.

Simple enough, right? Yet day after day, like moth to fire, we seem to be wired to ignore the messages sent to us from our temple. Day after day, history repeats itself. Give up already, somewhere an ominous voice intones, it’s no use to put up a fight. You lose.

Our wish to be better than yesterday is undeniable. Our desire to be better tomorrow is unquenchable. The problem is, has always been, and will always be, that somewhere in the middle, we forget about today, right now. There is no thirst for today to be the damnedest best day ever. If it falls into our lap, great. Coach, you did a marvelous job. Somebody else pointed us in the right direction. But what, you want me to work for it, right this moment? To say no to this cookie that I want? To say yes to this workout instead of this amazing series I’m bingeing? To spend my money on good, nutritious food rather than a manicure? To close my eyes and get some much needed rest rather than staying up all night playing my video game? To spend time planning my meals and cooking instead of grabbing whatever that’s convenient? No way in hell!

So we languish, in this life, in our personal hell. Not a future hell after this body gives up its ghost, but a daily living hell, because the temple of God is being trashed on a daily basis. The gods are ignored and disrespected, and the demons take the throne, dancing in chaos, recklessness, abandon. Dancing and spitting its acid fire at us, while we take it dumbstruck like some abject fools.

When we disregard and disrespect the messages our body sends us, we annihilate God within us and invite the Devil in.

Serious enough yet?

In writing there is a technique called hyperbole. I’m NOT employing it here. Think about it seriously. How much hate do we have to shower on ourselves before we can love ourselves through this one precious life? Each day, each hour, each minute, we get to experience it only once. There is no yesterday or tomorrow, only right now. Don’t take it for granted that the sun will rise for this body again tomorrow. There is no guarantee in life except for this very moment.

So let’s gather our things now, all the crap we got, and sort them out. Clean our temple. Bow down reverently and repent our ways. Cry bitter tears, beat our chest and wail. Do whatever we need to wake up and exorcise the demon that has its tight grip over us.

Kick the demon out, and marvel at the God within. Amen.

At hotpot yesterday. If only I could have stopped like my friend did, just when my body was fully appreciative of all the good stuff that went into it. How quickly good becomes back when we overstep the boundary!

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