The Buddha said that everything we need to awaken is right here in this fathom-long body, but most people I know have a lot of difficulty being in their body. That presents a bit of a problem. If the main teaching is here in the body, and we can’t be with our body, how do we access that teaching? How can we start developing a relationship with our body that is kind, friendly, and curious, so that we can learn from it?
I’ve learned a lot from my body—how it changes, gradually ages—how it goes through its natural cycles—how it gets sick and heals again. This body knows that it comes from the earth and will return to the earth, and there’s a peacefulness in that.
When we think that our body should follow our wishes, we’re setting ourselves up for dukkha. We don’t choose the kind of body we get, and while we can make a few changes through what we eat, how we exercise, and how we take care of our body, basically, it is what it is. If we expect our body always to be healthy and strong, to stay vibrant and to live forever, we create suffering right there. When we’re aligned with the natural process of things, there’s peace.
In our youth, as our body is growing and changing, the sense of identity grows particularly strong. As time goes by, we get to watch the aging process. The tone of the skin changes. At some point, our hair starts to go gray, things start to wrinkle and sag. Things that we once relied on—a good digestive system, clear eyesight, a sharp mind—no longer work in the same way.
The body is always giving a teaching of impermanence and not-self. If we can accept the changing nature of this body, we no longer have to fight with that truth. Then we can appreciate it as a teacher.
This reflection by Ayya Ānandabodhī is from the book, Leaving It All Behind, (pdf) pp. 24-25.