Michal Prins

   Published in Nashim magazine, edition 202

The summer vacation is still underway and the month of forgiveness and repentance and the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) are already knocking at the door. Back in the good old days of our all girls high-school, we would return to school on the first of September and, immediately embark on a process of introspection. A soul-searching introspection, more so for some than others. An introspection that the sole purpose of which was to ask ourselves about how we had spent the last year, where we had progressed more and where we progressed less, and to prepare  our resolutions for the coming new year.

At this point, just a few days before the end of the summer vacation and the onset of the High Holidays,  before we return to the welcome routine, I invite you to embark on another journey of introspection and review – a review of the body. A review that, in the words of the famous Holiday Un’taneh Tokef prayer, counts and numbers and examines our last year from our body’s point of view. An introspection of the body in which I don’t measure how much weight I lost and then regained, that doesn’t check my pulse, BMI and blood pressure, but rather, a simple review of how much I listened, how much I connected with and gave, to my body, to myself.

In an introspection of the body we stop for moment and make room for our body. We respect it for its place. Adopting the assumption that the body is not merely the means with which we walk the world. It is not just an asthetic  vessel to be maintained so that we can fulfill our spiritual purpose. The body is our primary form of mediation with the world, via which we feel our way from the moment of our birth, ignoring it’s signals can lead to a significant loss of the signs through which we can learn about ourselves. In a review of the body we return to those moments at which we pushed our body to the limit and then reconstruct the instances we let it regain breath. We ask ourselves about the times during which we controlled, regimented, failed to pay attention, and we remember the resultant price we paid in pain, exhaustion, sadness and restlessness. We recall the day (or maybe days) on which we pushed ourselves to the limit, without even stopping for a minute to eat, of the sleepless nights, the hours in the gym that ignored the building pain in our knees, the painkillers that were intended to get us back on track without stopping and examining the source of the pain, how we propelled the body into the bedroom out of principle and less out of consideration for our body’s needs.

On the other hand, a review of the body also invites us to contemplate those moments during which we stopped to listen. The morning cup of coffee that you insisted upon more than ever, maybe the renunciation of coffee in favor of a move to a vegan/vegetarian/paleolithic diet that lightened the burden on your body, the moment of identifying your ovulation that helped you plan your fertile window, the decision to continue or stop nursing and the signing up for yoga/Pilates/acro-balance/horse-riding that gave birth to hours of quiet, self-investment and a rebuilding of the connection with your body.

The body remembers every movement directed at or against it. It has intimate knowledge of who we are and of our lifestyle. It knows how to conform itself to the shape of the chair at work or the ‘mother of all life’ position we adopt to receive the baby and nourish it after birth. It is a wondrous machine that is capable of signaling when it’s in good shape, when we have exaggerated and taken one step too many – the question is whether we have paid attention.

The beginning of the month of Elul and the end of the summer vacation is a well-timed opportunity to make a change. To make an appointment for the dental hygienist, pelvic floor physiotherapy, a routine breast examination and the gynecologist. It is an opportunity to look ahead, to contemplate on the objectives for my body during the coming year – I want to become pregnant, I want to enhance my pleasure from intimacy, I want to improve my fitness, I want to breathe better and make room for my body’s signals. Each objective has significance, its own way, its means. Many of the decisions involve giving up on other things, mainly old bodily habits.

.Take this time for introspection. An introspection of the body