Self care: Treat yourself better than you would an old teapot
Recently I was listening to an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast that featured Colin Hudon (the episode is here). Colin is a physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Taoist Arts. At one point in the show he tells an allegory to do with he perceived value of objects and its effect on us.
Basically it goes like this. Imagine you were sitting down to tea with a friend. That friend places a cup and a teapot down in front of you and says ‘have as much as you like’. It’s an interesting looking teapot so you ask there your friend where he got it. ‘Ikea,’ he says, ‘you wouldn’t believe how cheap it was.’ His answer to that question has now given you a perceived value of the teapot. As you handle the teapot you won’t feel the need to be overly cautious while using it. It is a simple thing of little value. It's not like you will go out of your way to damage it since it's still your friend's property, but you won't feel any pressure to take extra care.
Now let’s imagine his response was different. ‘That teapot was given to me by a teacher of Chinese traditional medicine, it is over 1,000 years old and he believed that it would infuse any tea brewed inside it with good fortune for whoever drank from it.’ Now how do you think you would handle the teapot? Had you never asked about the teapot in the first place you would be blissfully unaware of its rich history and would have no reservations about picking it up and pouring your tea. Now, however, you would probably feel a little uncomfortable handling it.
Every object has a perceived value and this affects the way in which we interact with it. In the case of our teapot the physical item itself mattered less than the story attached to it. The perceived value is in its history. I'm sure you can think of many physical items in your life that have some sort of sentimental meaning to you. Whose value is in more than just it's physical being. This doesn't just have to be an inanimate product either. What about your own body?
That’s immediately where my mind went after I heard his story. The value of our bodies. These biological machines that have evolved over millions of years to reach the point where I can type this on a computer and share it with the entire world. Every person alive right now is a product of millions of years of our ancestors surviving, adapting and evolving. If you think about it, you’re here because some one or some animal survived against all odds to reach reproductive age, reproduced and protected their young. We all have that in common. Ancestors that survived. And they didn’t just survive by getting a job and earning enough money to buy bread at the local shop. They survived out there in the elements, against predators, through drought and famine, through environmental catastrophes.
We are made of of millions of cells and millions more bacteria, all working in harmony to allow us to think, move, sing, create, laugh, love, shape our environment and explore an infinite expanse of possibilities. The very atoms within those cells come from the matter created by stars that exploded somewhere in the universe over the course of billions of years. Or if you prefer to think more spiritually about it, this body is a gift from the universe, or God, that houses your soul. Each individual human body is unique and capable of amazing feats, and cannot currently be replicated by technology.
So what is your perceived value of your body and how does that affect the way you treat it? It is a physical thing after all and like all physical things it degrades over time or if improperly cared for. This is something that I never really thought about. Everyone knows that being sick feels bad and we all want to be healthy, but do we give our bodies the care they deserve? Or even our individual organs? The brain is the most complex structure in the universe that we know of. Our heart rhythmically pumps blood full of oxygen to our muscles and brain so that they can function and pumps toxic carbon dioxide laden blood to our lungs for disposal. Surely these things need to be cherished and cared for above all else.
The great thing about the body is that we can feel when something is wrong and when something is right. If you don't nourish it with nutrient rich foods then you will feel tired and sluggish. If you don't exercise you won't be able to move comfortably or efficiently. Bad skin, excess weight, headaches, fatigue, constipation, cramps, stiffness. These things are often symptoms of a failure to care for the body properly and can be addressed through diet and exercise alone. Through taking care of this valuable thing we all posses.
This allegory about the teapot really struck a chord for me, and now when making a decision that could affect my long term health and fitness I like to think to myself: