I recently chopped my hair off. I haven’t had hair this short since I was 24 and it was a bit weird, looking in the mirror at a familiar look, a look of earlier times. But with this familiarity came a face that looks…well…thirty. Don’t worry I’m not going to go down that annoying road of pretending that thirty is old and woe on about the death of my youth. While looking at this face, freshly exposed by the lack of hair, I do notice a couple of things. First, my skin is changing as skin does. But my face also looks more grown up, more adult and more me.
I can see my ache and joy and humanity radiating out of my face.
I like that. As we get older, more of who we are starts to take shape in our outer bodies. How old we are, what our lifestyle is like, how happy we are, what we’re concerned with, our bodies show it. They show it in obvious ways and then show it is subtle ways.
Our subtle body is the one that flutters and moves in and around our gross body. By gross I don’t mean disgusting. I mean big, like French ya dig? Gross body is the one that we see and easily feel and critique and inject shit into to freeze it up to perpetuate our denial that we’re mortal beings. When you have shooting pain in your back, you’re aware of your gross body. Aching muscles after a day at the gym, gross body. The measurement of your hips, the length of your hair, your bulging biceps…gross body.
Acupuncture pokes at the gross/subtle border, impacting both. When you feel anxious as hell and your solar plexus is on fire or rushing up and down, that’s your subtle body. When you sit still and feel vibration or shuddering or simply tiny movement throughout your form, subtle body. Lighter energy and radiating joy after the gym…subtle body.
We know we need to take care of our gross bodies. Nutrition, exercise and sleep really affect our health in either direction and we can readily feel the impact of these practices in our gross bodies. We also like to decorate our bodies with clothing, colours, accessories.
We also like to do stuff to our bodies that are not good for it at all in terms of health, but serve it aesthetically like colouring our hair, chemically peeling our faces, injecting into some parts of it and sucking out other parts of it and cutting things up and moving them around.
The overarching emphasis on body care in our culture is about how we’re left looking, with a bit about how we’re left feeling. But many of the gross body practices that we engage with have the opposite long term affect than we may actually be seeking.
Some gross body practices serve our subtle bodies. Some gross body practices totally mess with our subtle bodies. If we’re going to move towards inclusive health, we may want to consider both bodies when choosing what to engage with. Becoming more aware of, tuned into and caring of our subtle bodies will support us immensely through life. We will get cues faster in terms of managing stress, dealing with illness and getting older.
If we’re putting toxins into our body or freezing parts our body or putting our body through demanding and stressful activities, not only are we doing violence to our gross and subtle bodies, we further disconnect from our subtle awareness and are further away from being able to deeply take care of ourselves.
Our beauty practices and our health practices needn’t be in conflict. When I am engaged with subtle body practices regularly, when I am meditating and sleeping deeply and receptive to my emotions and aware of my arising experience and can relax into that, I’m prettier. Period. It’s almost funny how concerned our culture is with beauty and how we do cruel things to ourselves to try to be more attractive. We greatly underestimate the aesthetic impact of deep self-care, subtle body awareness and loving attention.
Our state of being becomes us.