I have often been very unkind towards my body. I frequently trap myself in negative thoughts and only see its imperfections. I fail to see the miracle that it performs every day simply by pumping blood through me, being healthy, and keeping me alive. Sometimes, I treat my body quite inconsiderately.
This past weekend, I participated in Relay for Life—a fundraising venture to fight against cancer. Raising money for a good cause was something that I love to do; for my recent half-marathon, I raised money for an orphanage in Haiti. Thus, I was happy to participate in an event in which I could feel the effort I was making as well as the impact of my actions. What I did not expect, however, was the event to shift my indifferent perspective towards my body.
As the hours stretched throughout the day and I continually walked in circles around the track, I became slightly hypnotized by the monotonous circles on the field and the rhythmic movement of my shoes hitting the ground. A strange sensation fell over me.
I became conscious of my body as my feet hit the grass—I could feel my bones holding me up, and my muscles propelling me forward. I felt my lungs expand and contract evenly, and my heart unfailingly pump life throughout my body. I could hear the noise from the voices around me and from the music pouring forth from the speakers. I breathed in the smells coming from the Twisted Soul vendor, tempting me away from my laps. I felt the refreshing wind blow pleasantly through my hair and the warmth of the sun on my skin as it occasionally burst through the clouds.
It was such an incredible moment in which I felt completely connected to my body and the earth around me. The world and my body seemed infinitely beautiful because I was aware of both of them and all their wondrous facets. With this consciousness came a profound sense of gratitude. I reflected upon the millions of people in the world who could not walk, could not see, could not hear. They are often forgotten in our society, in which ableism is often a socially acceptable form of discrimination, and in which physical and emotional health are often waved away by the public until it directly affects them.
Walking around this track, I realized the importance of solidarity with people with disabilities, whether through sickness, injury, or mental disorders. Unfortunately, this unity and understanding is an easy thing to write off or ignore. But working together to create opportunities and futures for all human beings struggling with disabilities—whether with cancer, depression, paralysis, autism, or countless others—is crucially important.
The first key step in this process is becoming aware of your privilege. As you are reading this right now, you are privileged with the ability to see the pixels on the screen and process the words on it. In a few minutes, when you get up from your chair to go about with your life, you have the advantage of the physical and mental capacities of movement. If you are currently not experiencing any sort of illness, either mental or physical, then you have the priceless blessing of health. Once this recognition is made, then perhaps you, as I did, will feel an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. Your privilege adds innumerable benefits to your life, yet there are also millions of people who struggle without those benefits.
With this newfound appreciation and realization, you can then begin to live your life more mindfully and aware of the beauty of your body, as well as your ability and your responsibility to help others who do not have the same abilities as you. There are many ways that you can help raise this same sense of awareness. It may involve walking around a track for 10 hours, it may be reaching out a hand (literally or figuratively) to someone in need, it may be addressing ableism when confronted with it in society. The important thing is to realize your potential and to act on it; it is one of the most fundamental and vital things that we can do, either communally or individually. It is a humbling and enlightening realization, but undeniably a critical one to be made if we hope to change our lives and those of others for the better.
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” – Haile Selassie.