We are born into two cultures: the wider culture around us and our family culture. Both give us messages about what it’s like to have a human body and what we might think about our body in particular – its height and breadth,, the textures of our skin and hair, the way we move and the chemistry of our moods. Into that soup comes the news that we are ill. This ill body will not respond in ways we might expect. Most of the operating instructions on which we have come to rely must fall away.

If you are like me, you respond to the diagnosis by cleaning up your act: no more junk food and increased exercise and meditation. Those are lovely moves. Nothing wrong with that. In my case however, they were bargaining chips. “If I behave,” I was telling the disease, “you won’t have much impact on my life. May be you will even go away.” Deep down, at a level beneath words, I considered the disease and my body as my enemies.

It took patient and tender effort to turn that around.

Friendship is created through exploration and celebration of each other. You spend time together, finding out what you enjoy and sharing it with one another. If one of you doesn’t feel well, you slow down, rest and apply chicken soup and kindness.

Here are five steps you can take to begin cultivating a friendship with your body:

  1. Take a relaxing shower or bath, treating your body to tender loving care.
  2. Wear clothes that make you happy and are comfortable.
  3. Have a tasty meal, complete with lovely colors and interesting textures and flavors.
  4. Spend two minutes dancing or stretching.
  5. Spend time in the natural world. Notice how other creatures inhabit their bodies.

Friendships require continuous maintenance. Happily, our bodies are always with us. Every morning, we wash and clean them. Every day, we feed them and sleep. Each moment is an opportunity to treat yourself with loving care.

Enjoy your body.