As an agnostic, for me even a temple is not exactly a temple, that is- a place or fervour, of devotion, of faith, of blind faith, rather. It is a place to question, a place to experience tranquility, a place to suspend fears for a bit while I notice the spark of my inner courage, where I ask the universe some questions- the answers to which I don’t yet have myself. Temples are a space to honor an invincible entity.
When we experience trauma and pain, many of us become convinced that the world, as a charming and earnest Augustus Waters says, is ‘not a wish granting factory’. Far from it, it contains dangers, suffering, shame and some very real moments of loneliness and terror.
For a lot of us it is then that we want to be self- reliant, “atma-nirbhar” if you will. However, this brand of self-reliance is one where we want to never need anyone or anything, be impervious to pain, and become invincible, never to feel small or powerless again. No one will ever harm us because we won’t let it. Because we will keep being vigilant. If we get too close, we shall put fences, if we get too angry, we will take deep breaths, if we cry, we will do so only in private, if we desire, we will always make sure that if it leaves it won’t hurt, we shall look put-together and poised at all times, and we shall control whatever we can- actually we control even more that we can. We try to control everything. We try to fix everything. We arrange things in order, we always follow deadlines no matter what, we make everything high quality, we don’t leave books in the middle even if they’re not interesting, we don’t get out of bad relationships, or we never form one in the first place, we hate being hurt, and we hate being vulnerable.
More internalised perhaps, but highly positively reinforced is what we do to, with and for our bodies. In our bid to control ourselves- we take it out on our bodies the most. Controlling what we eat, how much we eat, we become guilt inducing and downright punitive. Constantly holding our belly, bemoaning how we used to be younger/ thinner/ fitter, and ignoring our bids for wanting a connection with our own bodies.
We begin to exercise with that same basic equation. Hold our bodies with a tight control. Exercise so that we are fit, and we ‘look’ fit. If we are not exercising until it hurts, we haven’t done it well, clearly. If we haven’t spoken about how much leg day is a pain in the butt then are we even doing enough? We’re losers and slobs and we must, at all costs, persevere to single mindedly use our bodies to remind us of “good pains”.
We must take health supplements, and undergo skincare regimen – because if we can’t control our bodies then what else is there? Temples hold ever present, perfect Gods. And god forbid if you ever fall sick. Your body is a well oiled machine that MUST work perfectly. You eat well, take supplements, meditate, have a therapist, workout- what could go wrong, and how dare you? How dare you get unwell?
Unlocking human potential, exploring the mind, our sexualities and making our bodies as strong as possible has led us to commodify our entire being and each person wants their product to be foolproof, perfect, flawless.
Unbeknownst to us, our bodies take on all of our memories – good, bad and ugly – and keeps a score. At some point it has had enough, because we forget that health is not just “keeping ourselves fit and healthy”, it is allowing ourselves to be what we want to be and take responsibility for that without labelling us as “lazy” or “inconsistent”, or just “not strong enough”. Our body will at some point get tired- if not a host of other things including sickness and suffering resulting from injury, anomalies or even old age. In a very normal, cyclical way, our bodies will shut down. That is how we roll. That is mortality. And yet, we cannot seem to let that happen in peace. We fight and resist and rebel. We parent our bodies in the same way that we learn parenting. Punitive, controlling, reprimanding, indulgent, or neglectful, or anxious.
Can we learn to stop hating and loathing, or even ‘tolerating’ it? Can we ever enjoy our bodies as they are, warts and all? Can we love unconditionally? Can we remember that change can be brought on along with that? Can we remember that all control is ultimately powerlessness?
When we make our bodies a temple- I fear that we are unable to envision it as anything less than perfect. When we make it sacred, all that our bodies are that is extremely un-pretty and human becomes wrong. I would rather my body not be my temple, but be my home. It’s not perfect, it’s messy, maybe, but it is what it is. I like decorating it, I like adoring and adorning it, but sometimes the electricity goes, and sometimes the paint chips off and some places there’s cobwebs that I do clean once in a while, but I don’t demand that it be like the houses I see in shiny pages of a magazine. It is my home. And I like it and love it. I have favourite nooks too. But I never think of one of the rooms with all the junk as ‘not mine’. And I don’t leave it when it gets too chilly. I put on extra blankets and my cutest socks. My body is my home. Not sacred, but respected and valued for what it is.
Shreya Giria is a practising psychotherapist. With a Masters degree in Counseling, she is also an expressive arts therapist.She likes to incorporate eclectic forms like behavioural therapy, humanistic approach, art, existential and narrative therapy in her counseling.She is passionate about the meaning we assign to our lives and the human condition, the different intersections that every human being presents, and the power of words in shaping our evolution and helping in the human condition. Through her work in the expressive arts, existential questions and narratives, she looks at the life stories that our words and emotional landscapes create. Her Instagram handle is therapyandpoetry.