What’s good
for the body —
and what’s not
Fashion. Exercise. Diet.
What’s a body to do?
Why not start seeing yourself
from a spiritual perspective?
By Geoffrey J. Barratt

The practical fact is, nothing is better for the body than knowing what it really is — and what it’s not. In short, what’s best for the body is to divest ourselves of misunderstandings about it. Is the body simply an entity carrying our name through our decades on earth? We may think it’s us, our true identity. But that, from a spiritual point of view, is a mistake.

The body is not the self. Our real self is the image, the reflection, of God; this selfhood has no physical attributes since God has none. As God’s man, our essential identity and individuality embodies only nonphysical characteristics. Not everyone would agree, of course. Those standing in a movie line with us might, if asked, describe the body as a parcel of organs, a blend of mind and matter, a package or a vehicle for the soul. But such opinions and their like are not on the right track. The universality of these views doesn’t validate them.

A false concept of the body has negative byproducts. Living a life dominated by health concerns and anxieties, for one case, is no way to live. Dosing the body, reshaping it, overexercising it, vitaminizing it, are not fundamentally what’s best for it. They’re treatments of what is actually a false mental picture, manipulations of a deluded sense of identity. They’re bad for our higher concept of the body because they distract us from it, and delay our correct judgment of it. Whether human knowledge would call a physique healthy or unwell, young or old, damaged or sound, over- or undersized, it’s better not to focus our attention on corporeality. For more normal conditions, look away from it to something more perfect and enduring.

Here’s a thought-nudging paradox: "If we look to the body for pleasure, we find pain; for Life, we find death; for Truth, we find error; for Spirit, we find its opposite, matter." So what to do? "Now reverse this action. Look away from the body into Truth and Love, the Principle of all happiness, harmony, and immortality" (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 260–261). Through a scientific and metaphysical understanding of what we really are — the embodiment of spiritual qualities derived from our Maker, God — that reversing action works for our better health and vitality.


What if we’re incessant seekers after fashion, trying to grab some passing style before it fades out of the spotlight? Is that terribly mistaken? When it comes to the bigger issues in life, questions of whether we’re more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt or an Armani suit, whether we’re dressed by this designer or that, border on irrelevant. What’s our motivation in pursuing fashion? Personal ego? Vanity? Response to the blandishments of advertising copy, photographs in glossy magazines of celebrated models with whom we’d dearly like to identify? Christian Science doesn’t pro-mote asceticism, but the priority we give such transients as fashion on our ladder of values is definitely relevant. What’s key is that we keep permanent things — spiritual issues — on the highest rung we can. It’s important that we not be chasers of passing fads, but instead be conveyors of what’s significant and worthwhile: items like economy, generosity, service to others.

That we clothe our thought in a spiritual style can be our uppermost objective. The Bible speaks of Deity this way: "He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10). In today’s terms this could suggest that we are empowered to dress up our mentality, so to speak, with integrity, rightness, refinement, the color of Soul-based consciousness, the elegance of scientific truth.


What’s good for the body is to grasp that through spiritual, scientific understanding we can have increasing mastery of it — and then to exercise that mastery. And we certainly should keep active. Some may choose to exercise control of their physique on the treadmill at the local gym. But spiritual exercise is far healthier than joining an aerobics class or swimming fifty laps. It’s exercise of an entirely superior order.

View the body, and deal with it, as though it were a listener rather than a talker. It’s not what the body would try to say — that it’s tired or feverish, for example — but what we accept of its attempts to talk that is significant. The initiative to do the talking lies with us. That’s the key. "Take possession of your body, and govern its feeling and action," Science and Health tells us (p. 393). The more we ponder this advice — and apply it — the more we prove its soundness. The body will tend to express the views we hold of it, as surely as what is turning up on the screen of our word processor is what we’re telling it.


"Think thin" is not the best way to think, but to think of the body rightly is — as the expression of beautiful, graceful spiritual qualities. Obsession with diet and hooking up with ever-changing food recommendations is not very sound. It’s not what we eat that is of top importance but what we take in and digest of the thoughts about the body, and about life, that come to us through the day at mealtimes or whenever. And that’s not idly toying with words: "The recipe for beauty is to have less illusion and more Soul, to retreat from the belief of pain or pleasure in the body into the unchanging calm and glorious freedom of spiritual harmony" (ibid., pp. 247–248). The beauty of that calm and freedom is accessible to each of us.

The wide (and probably age-old) fascination with physicality is exploited and magnified by contemporary media. This is not to advocate ignoring well-being and appearance as of no consequence. But "to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:8) is the healthiest, most attractive policy and the best basis for well-being.

In sum, what’s good for the body is good thinking about it, and what’s bad is bad thinking about it. The good thinking sees further than sense images — they’re of no help in arriving at a better sense of body. The good thinking based on spiritual factors starts from, and finds, man’s true identity as unfleshly and unmaterial, flawless, healthy, and permanent.

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