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The Body Beautiful

Published : November 10, 2015

My body is a temple. I repeat it. My body is a temple.

By Danielle Benda


Again and again, this is my mantra, I say the words to keep time with my thumping heart and feet as they slap slap slap against the cold morning footpath: My bod-y is a tem-ple, A temp-le is my bod-y.

I am trying to convince myself this is a good idea, this forcing myself along these roads at this time of day, sweating and puffing and blowing like a forgotten kettle.

Again I say it; Tem-ple bod-y, Temple body, tem-py bod-dle ... I am a bit addled but I need all the encouragement I can get.

You see I’m trying a new approach to this getting fit business. A positive reinforcement type of approach.

My body is a temple. While the less generous might agree that it does somewhat resemble the crumbling, ancient edifices of say, Angkor Wat*, what I mean to instill in my mind is an appreciation of my body as a fine thing, a worthy home for my mind and soul.

It is deserving of respect and good treatment. It is a marvellous creation of nature. Or God. It is a strong, useful and graceful thing. Well, graceful might actually be pushing it a little.

And so I say my mantra to myself as I thrash up and down the swimming pool, my arms flailing, feeling about as powerful as little matchsticks whirling through the water.

I say it as I push a heavy pram up an extremely heavy duty hill, the muscles on the back of my legs screaming out for a break. They are apparently not used to being the buttresses of a temple yet either.

I say it as I stride down the chocolate aisle in the supermarket and speed past the fast food shop, car windows firmly wound up against tempting aromas.  

I tell myself that no longer will I view my body as a convenient receptacle for all the sugary, salty, fatty foods my brain thinks it wants. No, my body is a sacred receptacle for my spirit.
And I will take care of it.

No more will I let muscles atrophy, bones become brittle and layers of fat build up in alarmingly inconvenient places - like just where you want to button up your trousers. I will be strong, I will be fit, I will be the best I can be. My body is a temple you see.

But it’s not easy being a temple. I have to change years of bad habits, of thinking of my body as a disappointingly shaped, annoyingly clumsy and certainly not very beautiful thing.

I must practice thinking positively about the dimply thighs and the wrinkly face as hard-earned symbols of my journey through life.

From now on I will remember that these droopy breasts and this stretch-marked tummy are reminders of the tremendous job my body did creating, bearing and then nourishing three perfect children. Instead of contemplating a boob job, I tell myself I will contemplate the miracle of new life.

These hands of mine are a bit scarred and rough but they have prepared thousands of meals for my family, have nurtured gardens, cleaned things, built things, fixed things. They have spent hours stroking bothered little foreheads and days banging away at computer keyboards to make my living. Yes, I think I’m getting the hang of it now.

These bunioned feet have borne me many miles. These long-sighted eyes have peered at a lot of life. This grey hair ... well, luckily l’Oreal is on the job there. There is only so much a temple can justify.

And so with the 4km stretch of the City to Surf fun run as an immediate goal, I take to the streets running a few mornings a week, reminding myself all the time why this is such a good idea.

I manage to complete that challenge and, fired with the enthusiasm of success, I sign up for a beginners’ triathlon which will be held in March. Meanwhile I plan to do an open water swim across Rottnest’s Thompson Bay.

So, repeating my mantra I have been down at the pool slowly churning up the water a couple of times a week for most of this year, taking brisk walks with the baby when I can and staggering around the nearby streets in the early morning. I try­ with varying degrees of success ­to avoid eating too much.

And while I have lost a couple of kilos and think my thighs and upper arms are a little firmer than they were. You can’t really tell I¹m a temple yet. I am not exactly looking divine.
But who cares? What you can’t see from the outside is how much more divine I feel on the inside.

I have heard others say it but I am still surprised to discover that there actually is something about looking after my body and feeling better about my physical self which has made it a much nicer place for my spiritual self to live in.

I have found that after a good session in the pool or a long walk on a bright morning, I feel great. And not just physically great. I feel positive, I feel open to possibilities, I have energy to tackle problems, I have optimism, I have good ideas. I am happy.

Most of us know how important it is to do little things which are good for our souls. We nourish our spirits with music, with good books, with art, with beautiful gardens, with walks on the beach.

But now I’m starting to notice that my soul and my spirit are also gaining great nourishment from hanging out in a temple.


*Flourish Note

Angkor Wat is an ancient temple spread out over 67 kilometres around the village of Siem Reap, about 325 kilometres from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.  The temples of Angkor were discovered by Henri Mahout in 1860, opening up this ‘lost city’ to the world. Visit www.angkorwat.org

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