Feeling bad about your body over 40? I know I sure do at times. Aging and seeing your body getting older isn’t easy. If you feel like I do, you might find this guest post by Dr. Baruch Halevi tremendously inspirational. While I do believe we all still need to take care of our bodies, the reasoning behind why we need to do that isn’t so that we can look like Cindy Crawford at 47, but to keep our bodies healthy so that we can enjoy the best quality of life as possible. And as Halevi says in his post, the self really is worthless. It’s the soul that truly matters.
YOUR SELF IS WORTHLESS BUT YOUR SOUL IS OF INFINITE WORTH by Baruch Halevi
My journey to becoming a rabbi, spiritual counselor and life-coach was anything but direct. In fact, growing up I would have been voted least likely to ever get there, or frankly to arrive at anything remotely spiritual. My life was literally as far from “spiritual” as you can get. It was all about the body, not the spirit. And although I would eventually find my way to Buddhism and meditation, Hinduism and yoga, Judaism and Kabbalah, for me the first of all the “isms” was “hedonism.” And I was the most devout hedonist you’d ever seen.
Hedonism, of course, is the focus upon the material world, the physical and the body as the end all be all. It isn’t that this is part of the focus, rather it is the entirety of one’s focus. That was certainly the case early in my life. And this pursuit peaked (or bottomed out as the case were) when I was in my late teens.
My dream at that time was definitely not to become a bible scholar but a body-builder. My temple was the gym and the only Bible I needed was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. I worked out day and night. I ate like a bodybuilder. I trained like a bodybuilder. I did whatever I had to do to be a bodybuilder. Initially what began as a pursuit to transform a pudgy teenager body into a muscular man, eventually slipped into obsession and addiction. That’s when I started using steroids. First I would take pills. Eventually, when the effects began diminishing I started injections. As I moved closer toward my dreams of “perfecting” my body, I was losing my SELF in the pursuit of the perfect “self.” Like all hedonist ventures, it was a never ending, insatiable and destructive pursuit. Although I was growing leaner, I was also growing meaner and violent due to the drugs. I was getting into fist fights with the boys, treating the girls in my life like objects, alienating my family and totally neglecting my school work, and most anything and everything of true worth. Although I was growing in muscle mass, I was also growing more shallow, superficial and becoming a real jack ass.
Thankfully, one day, my mother caught me as I was in the act of popping the pills. After a family intervention and some therapy, I began the process of getting back on track, off the steroids and restoring a healthier relationship with my body and my “self”. I found myself to the healthier and more fulfilling “isms” and found my way back to my authentic self, my soul.
The truth is, I’ve never shared this story publicly. It felt too shameful and superficial to share, particularly given my later spiritual awakening and professional choices. However, I no longer feel shame around it. Maybe it’s because I have enough distance from it, or perhaps it’s because I have come to feel gratitude for it, as well my other less than soulful detours along the way: underwear model, bouncer, bartender… Ahh, the good old days.
Now, however, I look back upon those body, image, materialistic pursuits as a tremendous learning opportunity, and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to experience them. At a relatively young age I woke up to the emptiness, liabilities and destruction that can happen when we forget who we are, confuse our self for our body, and the devastation that eventually ensues when we neglect our soul.
As a spiritual guide and life coach, I see the consequences of this all the time. When we come to believe that we are our body, we are our appearance, we are the face staring back in the mirror, we always end up suffering. We begin placing too much, if not most of, our attention on these insatiable pursuits and spend our days futility chasing after an illusion. If we work more, if we eat less, if we become this, if we meet Mr. Right – our stock will rise and our self will be of greater worth.
But it never works that way. Never.
The money is never enough. The things are never enough. The relationships are never enough. And gravity is going to win – every time. No matter how much Botox we inject, how many implants we put in, or how many nasty green smoothies we suck down, it can not stave off the drooping, saggy, wrinkled and baggy forever. Things fall down. The flesh suit eventually wears out. And sometimes relationships fall apart.
If you live a life of body, outward focus and material orientation, then you peak in your mid-twenties and the rest is downhill from there. Worse than that, the curse of living an outward oriented, body focused, material driven life, is that we are never satisfied. Our physical appetites and bodily desires are insatiable. Body, image, food, sex, money…. it’s a bottomless pit. The more you throw at it, the harder you work, the faster and deeper you sink. It was true for me, and it’s been true for the vast majority of people I’ve guided, counseled and buried over the years.
I’ve done so many funerals for physically stunning women who went to the grave feeling they were genuinely ugly or men who were insanely rich, but truly felt like failures as the money was never enough. If our worth is tied to our self and our self is defined by our body or material possessions or outward achievements and appearance, then we are doomed to living chronically feeling inept, inadequate and unworthy of love and life.
Thank God, however, our self, our authentic self, is not the flesh suit. As it has been said, we are not merely physical bodies, from time to time having a spiritual experience; rather, we are spiritual beings, here for a period of time, having a bodily experience. Or, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
When we stop believing our self to be our body, and begin to understand that we are a soul, we set our self literally upon a worthy path. When our true self is our soul, and that soul is part of the Infinite, then who we are is literally of infinite worth. As we feel this worth our hunger for outward approval and validation disappears. The inner voices of ugliness fade. The feelings of futility dissipate. And our need to find our self within someone else evaporates.
And our whole life shifts.
The sagging and bagging and creaking are not only bearable, they become meaningful. The suffering of our divorce becomes purposeful. The loneliness, the sorrow and the return to the insufferable dating process becomes essential to returning to who we are, to our real purpose for being here, to our authentic self. When we shift our focus from outward to inward we begin to remember that we are not our bodies, we are not our looks, we are not our marriage, our divorce or our external circumstances. We are a soul. We are on here for a short while on a journey of growth. And though your body, circumstances or life may not feel all that worthy at the moment, your authentic self, your soul, and your being is literally of infinite worth.
Dr. Baruch Halevi is a life coach, grief guide and spiritual counselor which he has infused into what he calls, Soul Coaching. Baruch has helped guide thousands of people through some of life’s most difficult transitions. He is the creator of The Way soul coaching program, and co-creator of Mystical Mourning, an 8-day grief guidance program. To learn more, visit his site.