A rather eccentric university lecturer had a clapped-out old Fiat he had christened Clarissa. He enjoyed saying in jest to unsuspecting strangers that he had ‘brought Clarissa with him’, or that “Clarissa would drop them off at the pub,” or “Clarissa knows the way even though I don’t.” The faithful vehicle would backfire loudly, emit hisses of steam and strange chunting noises would come from the ancient engine. The professor spoke of Clarissa as though capable of independent action, and the more the old banger broke down and caused delays in getting him around, the more affection he displayed towards his “old girl”. Sometimes bizarrely, if the professor spoke soothingly to Clarissa after she had once again spluttered to a halt, she would leap into action again, to everyone’s surprise. It really was as though the car was listening.
Most women, and quite a few men, are dissatisfied with their bodies. Even the most physically perfect supermodels will be able to pinpoint a feature they detest and would like to improve. Our body has to live with this unhappy resident – us – from birth to death. This dysfunctional twosome is a kind of bizarre love-hate relationship, where we need our bodies for absolutely everything but don’t particularly like them. Unlike Clarissa, the more our body breaks down, the less affection we seem to have for it, and as it displays signs of aging or dysfunction, we become disgruntled and saddened that youth has gone.
Our minds communicate directly with our bodies, and our body senses how we feel about it. Inventing a name for it (Mildred? The Colonel?) is one way of developing affection for our mortal form, but the point here is to change any attitude of rejection or disgust we have towards the vehicle we inhabit, in order to bring it round to our way of doing things.
Talking to our body when it is ill, asking it what it needs (a special form of food, rest, exercise, massage?) is a fantastic way of taking control of how we look and age. Many people put on weight in middle age, generally around the midriff. The mind-body connection is particularly blatant when it comes to dieting. All dieters have experienced plateau-ing, when no amount of food restriction will get the body past a certain weight it felt comfortable at in the past. Here the power of cellular memory is undeniable. In a hilarious spoof about the theory of cellular memory, Homer Simpson buys a toupee which has been steeped in the murderous urges of the progenitor of the hair, and begins himself to manifest the traits of a killer. Cellular consciousness is now very much part of the collective consciousness. We can harness this same power to turn our bodies into what we want. The body contains all the information required to heal or modify itself, according to our specifications. After all, our bodies are there to serve us. What could be more ridiculous than a servant which is constantly rebelling against its master, upon whom it also depends? And yet this is exactly what happens when our bodies refuse to do what we want them to. To change itself, the body needs the right conditions, and the main one is respect and gratitude.
Using the method the university lecturer used with Clarissa is a powerful way of taking control. Loving our bodies and gently asking them to lose weight where we want to shed it, or to mend a creaking joint or an ailing organ taps into the cellular consciousness of these body parts and suggests a change if such a modification is beneficial. Losing weight may be beneficial to both mind and body for example, so rather than fighting our body’s tendency to get fat, why not suggest a more cooperative approach? You lose weight for me, and I will be a more amenable guest.
It can take decades to start to love our bodies. These bodies were there during bad times as well as good, and hold the memories of hurts, trauma and emotional stress, which our mind rejects and hides away deep inside. Learning to love this body which witnessed our pain and carried us through it is the first step towards healing it.