“I'm not a body with a soul, I'm a soul that has a visible part called the body.”
― Paulo Coelho, "Eleven Minutes"
I spend a large part of my life helping people strengthen and improve their physical bodies. As a CrossFit affiliate owner, we want to see all of our athletes maintain optimal levels of health. We don’t do it because we want them to look the best or have top scores on the leaderboard. We do it because life happens. Cancer, illness, death, or heartbreak show up on our doorstep, and we want everyone to be ready for battle. But the fight is not actually for our body; it is for something much greater and sacred.
As Coelho states, the body is secondary. The soul is the star of the show. We must care for our bodies in order to best protect our inner selves. There is no better way to see this relationship at work than when suddenly life happens and our bodies fail us in some way. In the moments when we choose to turn arrows into flowers, we transform our obstacles and physical limitations into moments of revelation.
About a month ago, one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She was experiencing debilitating pain in her hands. “I’m scared I won’t be able to write.” The treatments were aggressive and scary with lists of side effects a mile long. But only a couple of weeks into the process, after her reality settled in, she found her stride. Her body has failed her momentarily— literally attacking itself — but her soul has stepped up. In our wounds we find our purpose. She has been documenting her journey and experience trying the wrong doctors and now the right ones. Her story will undoubtedly be a source of strength and comfort for others traveling this path. She is developing compassion for herself and others through this experience.
Another friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She has three radiant teenage daughters. I have followed her story through Caring Bridge, social media and occasional texts. Her body betrayed her and let her down. The physical shell of her being suffered a devastating blow, but her soul is shining. Every picture she posts shows a woman surrounded by countless friends, her husband and her daughters. They reflect the light and love that she has attracted and created in her life. When she shaved off her thick, long, flowing mane (one of her trademarks), her eyes were illuminated. The sparkle is impossible to miss. Her soul will not lose this fight. The daunting arrow that was aimed to bring her down is blooming into a garden nurtured with hope, faith and love — the soul’s tools of choice.
A special warrior in my life recently posted on our celebration board at the gym, “3-26-18 I won the odds on living 5 years today.” She has beat cancer not once but twice. Her body failed her, and every day she lives with a reality that it might fail her again. This scenario might leave some people paralyzed with fear, but this woman is five feet of pure heart and soul. While undergoing treatment, she came
to the gym and lifted the barbell with her bald head glistening with sweat. She came for the community, support, laughter, and for her self. She is a fighter. Arrows don’t scare her, but they leave a trail of petals wherever she goes. Her spunky soul makes my world a better place.
The purpose in keeping ourselves healthy is to keep us living, not just existing. We maintain our bodies in order to be able to focus on the greater things in life. Sometimes the very things meant to break us serve to set our souls on fire.