In my mission to live with less (and have more), I came across an unexpected pleasure… me.
Okay, bring your mind out of the gutter for a minute and follow me down this path; it’s actually a LOT cleaner than you might expect.
I (this is Michael, by the way) used to use a washcloth, loofah, or one of those plastic spongy things to shower with. I would lather the sponge and scrub myself from head to toe as if I was trying to power sand an art deco textured wall.
I do not have a job or hobby that gets me so dirty I need to scrub a layer of skin off, so I thought I would try a week of just using my hands and a bar of soap, 1970’s hippie style.
After a few days of washing with my hands instead of a piece of cloth or plastic, I began re-learning the shape of my body. I am not a well-chiseled muscular guy, but I must admit it was fascinating to feel where my muscles are–I never check them out and most of them I didn’t even know were there (I had no idea how muscular the back of my calves are, for example). It was also interesting (and maybe a bit disheartening) to find the not so muscular areas that used to be thin but are now… well, let’s just say “padded”. Re-learning the contours of my adult face and those hard-to-reach areas of my back, I felt like I was meeting my adult self for the first time.
Skipping the sponge is also an opportunity to feel the areas I want to improve and gently remind myself to treat my body with respect and support the changes I expect from myself.
When I treat my body respectfully, it tends to respond in kind. When I grow ignorant of my body, it pays no attention to me either.
If I want to lose weight, for example, I might find the simple act of showering without a sponge to be an easy way of measuring progress or reminding myself what areas to exercise.
The Greeks had it right: “Mens sana in corpore sano” (“A healthy mind in a healthy body”).
These things–mind and body–it seems to me, are not mutually exclusive. If I value my mind (that is, my intellectual capacity and ability to think sharply, quickly, and clearly) then I must acknowledge the mind’s resting place is not in an intellectual ether but rather in the body surrounding it.
My body, like any machinery, requires regular maintenance and upkeep. The quality of the maintenance also determines the life expectancy and performance of the machine–eating vegan and exercising intentionally is like running on high-octane and never missing an oil change.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Give it a try. As part of your regular physical maintenance, toss out your washcloth. Try it for a week and see what happens when you shower or bathe while paying attention to your body. I think you will find your body also pays attention to you.
Oh, and remember to keep it clean.