On tweaked necks and meat-suits (or a meditation on the physical body)

Most of the time, my meat-suit is pretty happy with me.

My meat-suit and I go on a lot of adventures together. It helped me throughout boot camp, I’ve gone on long runs with it, and it’s my most loyal companion. But every once in a while, I push my meat-suit too far and it gives me a swift kick in the head.

My meat-suit, or physical body, is only one of many aspects that comprise my overall experience of life– there’s my intellectual body that desires knowledge and wisdom, my spiritual body that keeps me centered and grounded, my sexual body that fuels my drive to create art and change the world, and my emotional body that loves and feels the world. Like the organs that keep my meat-suit going, these different bodies work in unison to keep overall Eugene healthy and well.

Of all the bodies mentioned above, the physical body/meat-suit requires the most regular attention and love. This bag of flesh is our method of interaction with the physical world around us– my meat-suit is the most loyal dog companion that a person can have. If I treat it well, with love and affection, then my other loftier bodies can complete their tasks with gusto. If I treat it poorly, such as feeding my body processed foods and sugary beverages, then it is far more difficult for my spiritual body to feel at ease, or my emotional body to feel stable.

I feed my meat-suit good, high quality foods. I supplement my diet with micro-nutrients. My sleep practice is constantly evolving, but I usually wake up refreshed and renewed in the morning. I meditate everyday to help manage the crazy pressures of medical school. I love my physical practices of CrossFit, walking, yoga, and slack-lining; I feel sweating everyday is important for the overall health and maintenance of my meat-suit.

The important bit isn’t what I do with my meat-suit, but why I do it. When interacting with dogs, the only real communication method is body language and vocal tonality: they are highly attuned to intention through nonverbal communication. Yes, a command will elicit a response, but how much of it is the consonants and vowels versus tone, body direction, and contextual clues?

Dogs and meat-suits love walks, but if done while distracted or angry, then it will only confuse them with the mixed emotions. Same with your meat-suit: exercise and a clean diet are ideal, but if it is accompanied with negative thought patterns and self-disdain, then it will practically cancel out the benefits. A healthy, loving and honest relationship with your meat-suit that is the goal, not the body-type or the ability to lift big numbers (although both count as side-benefits)

My meat-suit kicked me in the neck a few days ago, when I sent it some confusing messages. I have been training hard, working my physical body twelve out of the last fourteen days leading up to an exam. Looking back, I should have taken the day off and given myself a chance to recharge and refresh– the stress of exams and school are just as real and take just as legitimate of a physiological toll on my meat-suit as exercise. Instead, I hit the gym with gusto and tweaked my neck during a series of difficult movements on gymnastic rings.

The negative feedback from my meaty companion is important– sometimes I push too hard and it needs set some healthy boundaries. Beyond personal pursuits of athletic performance and an improved sense of embodiment, maintaining my physical body is key for my interactions with others. This meat-suit is my avatar in this world, it is the lens through which others see me, the true Eugene.

Looking around my peers in medical school, I see a broad spectrum of meat-suit love. Some individuals focus so much on their intellectual bodies, which are well-honed like a warrior’s blade, but lack the physical body to support their intense study routines. In many cases, I imagine that they simply do not know how wonderful it can feel to work with your meat-suit, rather than against it. In others, they may believe they are working in harmony with their physical bodies, but are in fact harming it because they do not take the time to quiet down and listen to it.

We’ve been told to investigate the biopsychosocial model of health and wellness, or that there are biological, psychological, and social factors that play into the disease progression of a patient. We know that regular exercise is important for longevity and maintain independence into old age. We tend to fail in implementing knowledge– knowing what to do is not enough. Living the life and tending relationships that we would prescribe to a patient is more important than knowing the enzymatic pathways of a neurotransmitter receptor. Having the relationship with our meat-suits that we would want others to replicate is much harder, and practically impossible to test and standardize.

If the meat-suit is chained up and depressed, then so too are the other bodies. If the meat-suit is happy and vibrant, then the possibility of intellectual, spiritual, sexual, and emotional welness opens up. I want to live in a world where everyone takes care of their meat-suit, not just because everyone would be happier and live longer from a public health and epidemiological perspective, but primarily for the benefit of the world at large. If more people loved their physical bodies and cared for them like their dearest loved ones, then they could reap the benefits of an intimate relationship to their meat-based world avatar– each could better gift the world with their unique and wonderful skills.

I pushed my own meat-suit a bit too far. Sometimes, I need it to snap and bite a bit to let me understand its limits, because it doesn’t communicate through language and words. This tweaked neck is my bite-mark, an aching reminder of my arrogance in the face of a good, quiet friend.


11 thoughts on “On tweaked necks and meat-suits (or a meditation on the physical body)

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