This Monday is Yom Kippur and the Hebrew word “teshuva” is very much on my mind. It’s often translated as “repentence,” but it’s much better translated as “return.” The idea that we are innately good and we just need to return to that resonates with me much more than the idea that we are inherently bad and must somehow change our essential nature in order to be good. I’ve never looked at a newborn baby and seen anything but innate goodness.
As I was working out this morning, I thought of how often we look at our bodies similarly, as if they are inherently “bad” and we need to punish them into something resembling goodness and health. Similarly, we often punish ourselves for any number of dietary or lifestyle “sins,” vowing that the coming year is going to be the year we fully make ammends and change our ways.
But…what if it’s more like the Jewish idea of teshuva…that our bodies are inherently good and healthy and we simply need to allow them to return to that state? What if our diets and lifestyle always began as good and healthy and supportive and we’ve just gotten lost along the way?
Again, I look at children for an example.
Up until very recently, it was hard to find a toddler who was an unhealthy weight and I believe if we were able to fix our food supply issues, the same would be true. Toddlers don’t generally overeat. They eat when they’re hungry and sleep when they’re tired and they’re naturally active. They crawl and walk and run and climb and are constantly moving. They bend their little bodies in all kinds of ways and delight both in movement and in food. I vividly remember the joy with which my daughter would eat spaghetti. There was no guilt or shame as she grabbed it in both fists, grinning happily as she ate it from both hands before falling asleep in her high chair. Yet, full as her little belly was, it was just enough and she ran it off the next day.
Granted, I certainly can’t eat pasta with that much zeal anymore and expect to stay on track health-wise, but I can learn to leave food on my plate when I’m full which neither of my kids had any trouble doing as toddlers.
What if…we’re not “bad” people if we have weight to lose or have fallen out of shape, but we’re just people that have lost our way and need to return to it? What if we simply need to remember what’s good and healthy for us and what it feels like?
I like that idea much better than beating ourselves up for our mistakes or believing that we have to become someone completely different in order to be healthy.
What if we just return to the healthy version of who we already are?
One thought on “The Idea of “Return” and the Body”
That is a great idea. We change every day as we move through time, we have to do the best we can. Hopefully, we can make peace with the versions of ourselves that emerge.