I often quote these words by my friend, Buddhist nun, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo: “Our mind with its incessant stream of thoughts, memories, opinions, hopes and fears is our constant companion, from which we cannot escape even in our dreams. So it makes sense to cultivate a worthy travel companion for our journey.”
For me, these words ring true, and I have devoted much of my life to learning how to cultivate my mind through the spiritual practices I now teach in my workshops and in my new book, The Practice. But let us not forget the other companion with whom we also spend our entire lives: the human body.
This body of ours is an incredible machine. It may not use words the way the mind does, but it speaks to us all day long through feelings and sensations. We know when our body feels good, when it hurts, and even when something just feels off. It carries us around the world, allowing us to interact on all the physical levels through our senses. It is our miraculous vehicle for accomplishing our great works in life!
So, to me, it also make sense to cultivate this companion, to be kind to it for all it does, so that we can be healthy in both body and mind—and as a result, in heart. When we are in alignment—body, mind, and heart—we are just naturally happier and more at ease with the world and ourselves.
Here are several ways to cultivate a healthier, happier body:
- Eat clean. Clean eating is a big topic these days. This approach to eating generally focuses on foods in their most natural forms and avoiding harsh chemicals and other food additives. It’s not my intention to offer dietary guidelines here, but it’s certainly a good idea to become familiar with the healthiest options in all the food groups so that you can make the best choices at the grocery store and when eating out.
- Drink water. The human body is made up of about 60% water. Every system in our body depends on water to function. Although other beverages contain water and can conceivably replenish our fluid levels, fresh water doesn’t contain any sugar, flavorings, or difficult-to-pronounce ingredients that might have a negative effect on the body. Therefore, make water your beverage of choice as often as possible. Herbal teas and water with a twist of lemon, lime, or other type of fruit are good choices as well.
- Exercise. This is a general term for getting your body moving. Exercise comes in many forms, and finding the right physical activity and frequency for you is a personal matter. My advice here is simple: condition your body so that all your joints, tendons, and muscles have a chance to see some action—after all, that’s what they were made for. If you are uncertain how to begin, check with your healthcare practitioner for suggested exercises.
- Get outside. A cool breeze on your face, the tickle of grass on your bare feet, raindrops on your head, and the rays of the sun warming your skin—this is your body interacting with nature. Being outdoors for at least a few minutes every day is one of the most powerful ways to connect with the earth and ground ourselves in its life-giving sustenance.
- Listen to your body. Your body has a language all its own. As you start to listen to it, you will begin to understand what it is telling you. Sometimes your intuition speaks to you through your body—butterflies in your stomach, a tightness in your chest, a lump in your throat. These sensations could be suggesting that there’s something you need to address. Take these messages to heart so that you can take action.
- Practice relaxation techniques. At least once a day, consciously give your body the opportunity to relax for at least a few minutes. The number-one form of relaxation on my list is meditation. If you are familiar with The Practice, you know that I recommend meditating first thing upon awakening. Meditation is sitting with yourself, to connect within, grounding yourself, and learning how to listen within to your intuition, your body and accessing your heart. Take a minute to check out my Waking Up Meditation, the first tool in my book. We have other types of relaxation as well—for example, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, visualization, and a good old-fashioned bath. With all of these suggestions, the benefits of relaxation on your body are virtually endless.
- Get regular checkups. Visit your doctor, acupuncturist, holistic health coach, etc. as often as recommended for your age and level of health. Staying proactive with your physical health makes great sense.
- Pamper yourself. Be kind to your body by doing something extra nice for it from time to time. Some ideas include taking an aromatic bath, trading massages with a friend or partner, and getting a manicure and/or pedicure. Let your body know you appreciate it by taking a little extra time when it comes to your personal care.
The good news is that all of these steps are also incredibly good for your mind! The mind-body connection is a powerful force in our lives, and when we strengthen one aspect, the other naturally wants to follow suit. So now that I’ve shared some of my tips, I’d love to hear your thoughts for maintaining and strengthening the mind-body connection in your daily routine.