When my mother-in-law came to China to visit recently, she brought with her from the U.S. one of my self-proclaimed guilty pleasures–my favorite magazine, whole living. Inspired by their 10-day action reboot camp, I set some goals for myself (run 30 minutes with ease, increase upper body strength, establish a regular exercise pattern!), and began completing their daily workouts. I had remarked to my husband that one thing I like about whole living is rather than the normal “look good by bikini season” slogan, the magazine seems to remain more focused on increasing one’s awareness of one’s eating and exercising patterns, and regularly emphasizes spiritual health as well.
I set myself up to succeed, picking a hotel in Hong Kong with a gym, waking up early, drinking plenty of water…and although it took me more than ten days, I did it! Now I am more in less in an exercise pattern, definitely have increased my upper body strength, and can run forty-five minutes with ease.
But the awareness that this reboot brought me was not limited to my own bodily in/abilities, or what I ate for lunch or dinner, but a profound experience of being blessed to move and exercise with this body that God gave me. I’m a healthy young woman, and most days my body hardly aches and will do what I ask it to, and I thank God for that.
Often when I run the streets of China, people stare at me, and while part of it is the color of my skin, and part of it is that running is more a pastime of my grandpa’s demographic, I think much of it is that people here who work so hard everyday that they don’t have the time, the luxury, or the endurance for taking a brisk jog in the morning. It’s a curse of modernity and affluence that we in the West bemoan our lack of time to “workout,” or our inability to carve a firm line between our work and home lives. It’s not that people here in China don’t have the need to move their bodies or to find some “me” time, but in order to provide for others, many simply can’t find the time to acknowledge, let alone, fulfill those needs. Others toil in the fields for a living: exercise is not a practice of self-enrichment, freedom, or joy so much as a back-breaking necessity that leaves many a body weary and broken at a tender age.
While I recently read an excellent post about the danger of being passive and conflating privileges with blessings, I’m counting this health and the freedom to run and do yoga for just for fun this evening both a blessing and a privilege. I’m thankful for this connection with not only my body, but also the ability to use it for challenge, fun, and doing things that bring me joy. And in the same breath, I’m aware that not everyone has this experience.
Lord, grant that others might feel this joy and this connection, and grant me the courage to work for change in this world.