This is a conversation between me and my body. Don’t try to figure out how that works. Just read.
(My words are in plaintext, and the words of “my body” are in bold)
Quit to Win
Body, I’m worried about letting you down. I feel like I do every day. I don’t go outside enough, I don’t move around enough, I don’t exert you enough, I sit too long, I eat too much. What do I do?
You’ve never let me down. Not once. I promise.
Is there any way I can let you down?
All I want is to be here. That is my purpose: to give you life in the physical realm. If we have that, then I am happy. I am satisfied.
I’m just worried I’m on a physical decline.
You aren’t. You’ve learned this through running: it’s much easier to perform well when you aren’t worried about how you perform. Don’t track splits, miles logged, calories consumed, hours slept, or anything like that. I promise, it’s unnecessary. Think of all the other creatures on this earth that have bodies. Do they write down in a journal how fast they ran or how much they ate?
Of course they don’t. I can’t imagine they would care to know anyway, as long as it was enough.
Exactly. They just do those things to the extent that they have to. Of course, that isn’t the case for you. You do things to the extent that you choose to, because you are a conscious being. Sometimes you imagine your choices are based on obligations, but they still are choices nevertheless.
I just want to make the choices that are best for you. I don’t want to let you down.
I told you—you can’t.
OK, well, I don’t want you to get soft, either.
Personally, I don’t mind how I look. It’s OK if I don’t have the biggest calves on planet earth.
What about being in shape?
That is very different from appearance. A person can appear quite average and be incredibly fit.
That’s true. How can I know how fit you are?
Just go out and see what I can do. At the end of the day, that’s the only measure that really matters. If I can do what you want me to do, then I am fit enough.
What if I don’t want you to do much of anything, except press keys and hold books?
Well, as long as I can do those things, then you will be happy. But I think you’d like me to do more than that. Which is just fine, because I can do plenty more than that.
Help me out here. I’m worried that I’m never going to run again. I’m worried that I’m going to sit around and be inside all the time.
Here’s my tip to you. The more obligated you feel to go running and to go outside, the more resistant you will be to doing those things. Think of it like a human relationship. The more you make a person feel like they have to talk to you, the more you will push them away. On the other hand, if you make it clear that you don’t need anything from that person, they will be far more delighted to speak to you. So translate it like this. If you think you have to run, you will push running away. But if you don’t, then you can let it come into your life more naturally. Running is embedded in your nervous system, at this point. You’ve been doing it so long. It really is very natural for you. It’s basically painless. So there’s really no need to force yourself to do it anymore. You got over the physical hump a long time ago. Now you’re just at a psychological hump. The way over it is to, in your words, quit.
Ah, quit… it sounds so peaceful. But that’s precisely what I’m not supposed to do. I’m supposed to ride these things out.
I will tell you: if you do not quit, you will be forced to.
Ah, I can read myself too well… I just know I’m going to quit first.
Good. Take the easier way out.
I’m just worried that I won’t ever sort this out. Every time I get the thought to go running, I’ll tell myself No. And then I’ll never go.
How do you know that?
I’ve been doing it already.
You just have to calibrate to this new mindset. It won’t take that long. You’ll get it before you know it.
I’m not sure that last sentence makes sense.
Oh, believe me—it does.
So what now?
Ok. What now?
Will that always be the answer?
Yes. Quit as completely as you can. Not externally, but internally. Quit.
Is there anything in particular you would like from me right now?
No—in fact, there generally isn’t. I’m fine.
Lesson 2: Everything Physical is Spiritual
OK. Here’s an even bigger problem. Help me out here. I’m so worried about feeding you too much. I know you don’t need half the food I give you. But I just keep doing it. I know I don’t need to eat nearly as much as I do. But I just keep doing it anyway. I feel so gross and stupid and excessive. What do I do?
How can you say that?
I’m just being honest.
But what about all that indigestion and feeling tired…
I’m fine. Maybe you aren’t. But I am. It’s like what people say about the Earth: the planet doesn’t need saving. It is, and will be, perfectly fine. Humans, on the other hand, may perish.
So the food thing has nothing to do with you.
Why would it?
Oh, I don’t know, maybe because the point of eating is to keep you alive, gosh darn it.
Who told you that?
What do you mean? Isn’t it obvious? Why are you saying such ridiculous things? To cause a ruckus?
Eating is purely a mental activity. It has nothing to do with me.
Well then why the hell do people eat? What’s the point of sucking up all these resources if we don’t have to?
Well, it’s like someone I know said: everything is either completely physical, or completely spiritual. Either way, it has a purpose.
Ah. So the point of eating is to teach us about ourselves, because that’s the point of everything.
Good job, kiddo.
Lesson 3: Health is an Inner Game
So, eating… It’s evil, right? Come on. Just tell me that I’m a glutton. Come on.
Well, that’s sort of like your wanting me to tell you that you’re a lazy good-for-nothing because you don’t move around enough. This is like another thing someone I know said: you will never find a sense of security in external pursuits. Security can only come from a consciously-crafted understanding of yourself. True security is internally-based.
So you’re saying that even if I become a breathtarian who lives in the woods and runs 200 miles a week, I still won’t feel good about myself. I’ll still find some glaring flaw that will disgust me.
You mean to tell me that even if I write 1000 blog posts a week on top of that, and I sleep with every beautiful woman on earth, I still won’t feel secure.
Right. None of those things can bring you security.
Then what can?
Seeing yourself in an accurate light, and then living in a manner that is consistent with that light.
So, that translates to, choosing to see myself as a conscious creator, and then living as such.
And if I am a conscious creator, my body in itself is not what matters. What matters is my ability to create my life.
But if I can create my life, I should be able to do all of those big, impressive things.
That’s not incorrect. But will those things make you happy?
No. But who said happiness was the point?
It’s not. But neither is being impressive.
Right. Well then how do I decide what to do—how do I decide what is intelligent?
Well, you are intelligent, so that shouldn’t be very difficult. In fact, it should be intuitive—it is in your very nature to be intelligent. Expressing this intelligence requires the exercise of your consciousness. That, too, is in your nature. It is natural to be deliberate.
A lot of people would disagree with you on that one, y’know.
Yeah, but they aren’t here right now.
No, I suppose they aren’t. But that doesn’t make their perspective invalid.
I never said their perspective was invalid. Only you did.
Oh. I’ve gone and fooled myself.
That’s OK. You do that a lot. But clearly it is not a fatal move to make.
I guess not, eh? Anyway, there’s probably no way that I can get you to tell me I’m evil—am I right?
Yes, you are.
I’ve done so many bad things to you.
I’m fine. Scars come and go—I’m still here.
What about the people who eat hamburgers every day of their lives and keep telling themselves that it’s perfectly fine because they’re still here?
I don’t know. You aren’t them.
No, I suppose I’m not. But I could become them.
It’s possible. It’s up to you.
I don’t want to do that.
OK, then don’t think about it.
Alright, I guess I’ll try to keep the focus on myself here… So, come on man, just give me a little somethin’. What’s my worst health habit?
You really want to know?
Yes. Tell me! I’m excited!
OK, here goes. Your worst health habit is your low opinion of yourself.
What the hell!
Well… No, I guess not. It really shouldn’t be a surprise. Um… Can you please explain?
Sure. When you have a low opinion of yourself, by thinking that you are evil and pitiful and not good enough, you degrade yourself. When you degrade yourself, you feel sorry for yourself. When you feel sorry for yourself, you engage in what you call “destructive” and unproductive behaviors, such as sleeping in and overeating. You observe yourself doing these things, and your observations confirm your idea about your evil and pitifulness. Then the cycle starts over, getting worse and worse each time. It is a positive feedback loop.
Oh. That makes perfect sense. But is that really worse than shoving a wallop of monosodium glutamate in my mouth?
I assure you, it is far worse than anything you can put in your mouth.
Is that really worse than not exercising?
Far worse. It is far worse, because such thinking is the root cause of these behaviors. The behaviors themselves are just effects. The thinking is the cause. The thinking is ultimately what produces the damage. Damage, here, is defined as results you don’t like.
Hey, that’s not fair!
What’s not fair about it?
Damage is an objective phenomenon. If a bear claws into me and rips me open, I’ve been damaged.
What, precisely, is the damage?
The damage is the destruction to my body.
But I told you—I’m fine.
Well, I don’t like my body being destroyed.
Ding ding ding.
Oh. Nuts. Well, how can you tell me you’re fine when you’re bleeding out? You make no sense to me.
I’m not the conscious entity here. I don’t have preferences and fears and whatnot. I’m just an extension of all that. I just do stuff.
Come on—don’t tell me you believe in the ghost in the machine. We all know that Cartesian dualism (separation of mind and body) is an inaccurate way of viewing a human being.
I didn’t say that I have nothing to do with consciousness. My point is that I do what consciousness tells me to do. Everything I do and feel is inextricably tied to consciousness, just as everything consciousness experiences is inextricably tied to me.
OH. I get it now. Just when I think you don’t make sense, you say something very sensible.
Well, that’s what you came to me for—to make sense of things.
Yeah, you’re right. You’re doing a pretty good job.
Changing the View of the Self
So… it’s probably time to stop thinking of all this stuff as evil, eh? No more worrying about how big my muscles are or how much food I eat or how many miles I run? But what if I eat the whole world? Some days I feel like I would indeed do that, if only I let myself.
You are right in saying that you could do that. But you only would do that if you thought lowly enough of yourself to do so (or if you had some nobler motive for doing so, but that’s unlikely and is beside the point here). I assure you that you would not do that if your self-esteem was incredibly high.
No, you’re right. I probably wouldn’t. But thinking that leads me to think that if I eat a lot, I must have low self-esteem. Thinking that I have low self-esteem leads me to feel badly about myself. How could I think so lowly of myself?
Nothing is wrong with the low self-esteem in itself. It’s just your thinking about it. Look at it as though it’s a symptom of a cold, such as a runny nose. You could get very worried about the runny nose. You could beat yourself up for taking care of yourself incorrectly and getting sick as a result. Or you could just say, Oh, look, I have a runny nose, and then carry on about your day. It doesn’t have to ruin you.
Wow. I think you just summed up the entirety of my first book in a single paragraph.
Why didn’t you tell me that 3 years ago?
I did, but you didn’t listen.
Well, I won’t argue with that one. Anyway, I think I know what I have to do here. I just have to take note of that thought pattern- the thought-pattern that tells me that I’m evil- and put a halt to it. Say, “Hey, I’m not going to believe this anymore.” Each day it will get easier to notice, and easier to stop. Soon it won’t be there anymore at all.
Yes, that is exactly what you must do.
And the more I do it, the more consciously I’ll be able to think about this situation. I’ll be able to make new decisions. I’ll be able to imagine this piece of my life anew. I’ll be able to see myself in a new, consciously-crafted light.
That sounds wonderful.
Indeed, it does.
I think I’m all set for now. I’ve come to the critical understanding. All that’s left to do now is to integrate it into my life—to execute on it.
Alrighty. Well, I’m always here if you need me.
I know. Thanks a bunch.
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