The Journey Starts with Self-Compassion, Part 1: The Animal

Think of the most beautiful, graceful, awe-inspiring animal you can imagine.

Now imagine that you have one of these animals in your care. You’re responsible for everything it needs, and it loves you and wants to please you.  (If caring for an animal doesn’t attract you, imagine being responsible for a radiant, affectionate child.)

For me, the animal is a jaguar. Her name is Tulum, and I met her at the zoo exotic animal rescue facility in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

2016-05-07 12.06.07

The staff described her as friendly and playful, sharing their lunchtime fried chicken and sitting on their laps. When I looked at Tulum’s shining coat and taut muscles, I saw effortless agility, confidence and pure power.

If I were responsible for Tulum (and had the means), I would feed her the best species-appropriate food, build her a huge habitat with stimulation and room to run, and work toward releasing her, so she could live as she was meant to live and use all of her powers.

I do have custody of a powerful, agile being that loves me and wants to please me.

It’s my body.

I need to have compassion for this amazing creature that makes it possible for me to live in the world. I need to treat it as well as I would treat Tulum.

If someone kept Tulum in a small cage and fed her starchy and sugary food, and she became weak and flabby, I wouldn’t look down on her. I’d try to free her and give her what she needs.

The modern world tempts us to stay in our cages (car, desk, couch) and eat highly processed food. If you realize now that you’ve neglected your body, as I had, think of the radiant animal you imagined above. It’s not too late to let it out of its cage.

2018-04-19 13.35.24
This is as high as I got, due to a continuing fear of heights, but I’m working on it!

I will have compassion and awe and respect for my body, as I do for Tulum. I will keep setting it free, letting it joyfully use all of its powers — walking, running, swimming, jumping, climbing, throwing, and lifting heavy things. I’ll feed it the real food from nature that it evolved to eat.

I will accept my wrinkles, spots, loose skin and other flaws with compassionate affection, as I would show for Tulum.

I hope the animal (or child) you imagined will help inspire you to love your body, no matter its shape or condition right now, and to set it free to use its powers, as much as you can.

More articles

Stress Management

Physical Movement

Fun & Joy

Food & Nutrition

My Healthier Things

My Healthier Things

Why did I write a song in January 2023 about "My Healthier Things"? During 2022 I typically enjoyed 1-2 units of alcohol per day (they sell Belgian beers at the Total Wine store), BUT I know that the health recommendation for women is zero to one. I decided to do...

read more
Five Ways to Release Racing Thoughts and Sleep Better

Five Ways to Release Racing Thoughts and Sleep Better

So many factors can interfere with the restorative sleep we need, like light, noise, caffeine, alcohol and hormonal changes. But one of the most common complaints I hear (and deal with myself) is racing thoughts. Our busy minds resist surrendering to sleep, or they...

read more
Herbs and Spices, Not Sugar and Fat

Herbs and Spices, Not Sugar and Fat

Healthy, single-ingredient whole foods like vegetables and plain yogurt can seem bland and boring. Fortunately, it’s easy to add plenty of flavor (along with an extra boost of nutrition!) using herbs and spice blends.

read more
Five Easy Ways to Get More Out of Walking

Five Easy Ways to Get More Out of Walking

Five easy ways to add more health benefits to our walks: add a backpack or weighted vest; use walking poles to involve the upper body and core; gradually increase step count; vary the terrain and movements; and exercise and stimulate our feet

read more
Water Aerobics and Aqua Zumba: Keep Playing in the Water This Fall!

Water Aerobics and Aqua Zumba: Keep Playing in the Water This Fall!

Water exercise and Aqua Zumba classes build aerobic fitness and strength (more than you might think!) without joint stress, are super-fun with music and social connection, and provide additional health and mood benefits just from time in the water. Here’s my take on them and some interesting (I hope) tips and info!

read more