All this sheltering-in-place has made some of us soft and flabby. Now that we’re taking off our masks, we’re also sucking in our guts.
It’s all those snacks we ate out of boredom or anxiety or to lift our sagging spirits. All those microwaved meals scarfed down in front of the TV because we were burned out working from home or playing teacher for our kids. It’s the lack of gym access or motivation to get off our duffs and do some squats and planks and brisk walks that has morphed us into something doughy.
And don’t get me started with cable news. We may have gorged on that, too, digesting angry words from talking heads who spouted their opinions over the airwaves. Poison to the brain.
After digesting these poisons, we might have loaded up on supplements to keep us out of doctor’s offices. Pills for heart health and brain health, pills to keep our joints mobile and our hormones balanced. We may have even reached for Zen in a bottle, when all we really needed was to turn off the television and get moving.
Others among us managed to resist the lure of treats and television, opting instead to ride a bicycle, walk the neighborhood and climb actual or metaphorical mountains. These more adventurous souls braved the Farmers’ Market, prepared their nutritionally dense food while classical music wafted over the airways, and ate their meals seated by a window with a garden view. You’ve seen these people. They radiate calm, as if lit from a candle within. Zen in a body. Maybe you’re one of them.
I strive to be like that. While my landlady chows down in front of the television watching her angry television shows and I’m in the kitchen preparing my dinner, I strive hard to remain calm. Sometimes I succeed. I hum uplifting tunes to drown out the angry voices. Or I quietly close the door between the rooms.
Other times, I find my blood pressure rising, my heart rate accelerating, my stomach muscles clenching and I’m chopping my vegetables a little too harshly, banging the pots and pans a little too loudly. When she cranks up the volume on the divisive rhetoric, I find myself trumpeting my own opinions from the peanut gallery.
I can choose not to be in the kitchen. In my own room in my cottage I can eat muesli and fruit from my Japanese bowl, drink Tulsi tea from my palm-sized cup. I can fortify my softer self with something that doesn’t require kitchen use. Bite-sized brownies, for instance. After all, my landlady has a right to her entertainment choices.
Although, when I glance at her thirty bottles of supplements lining the counter—including the bottle of Zen—I want to offer my advice. Turn off the TV.
Instead, I retreat to my cottage to eat in peace. I tune into soothing music rather than the news. I make an effort to start the day with a meditation and end the day with inspirational texts, and in between, walk in nature. If I succeed fifty percent of the time, I try not to scold myself for the other fifty. I can’t change my landlady’s behavior to suit my comfort levels. All I can do is try to be an example of what I’d like to see reflected in other people.
You may have seen the bumper-sticker version of Gandhi’s quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
What Gandhi actually said is: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
I can let my anger fuel me into trying to change my corner of the world. Or I can be the candle burning brightly. To preserve my health and sanity, I choose to be the candle, to start by changing the world within.