Should I take care of my body?

Question: I've been struggling with weight loss, and I'm wondering: Should I take care of my body? Should I start exercising and eating healthy? If so, why? What's the use? Why keep the body healthy, which would result in my staying in this insane illusory world longer?

Answer:  Should we take care of our bodies? The short answer is yes, of course.

To expand on that answer, let me address your last question first. Its implication is that by dying, we can escape this insane illusion sooner. But obviously, this can't be so. If all we had to do to escape this illusion was to die, we wouldn't need a course. But Jesus reminds us many times in the Course that death is not the way out: "The world is not left by death but by truth" (T-3.VII.6:11). The only way out of the illusion is to change our minds, to see the world through the eyes of forgiveness. For Course students, this means walking the path of the Course.

An unhealthy body will tend to hinder our progress in changing our minds, because its needs and its pains will tend to distract us from the Spirit:

Pain demonstrates the body must be real. It is a loud, obscuring voice whose shrieks would silence what the Holy Spirit says, and keep His words from your awareness. Pain compels attention, drawing it away from Him and focusing upon itself. (T-27.VI.1:2-3)

I think we can all relate to this passage. When the body is suffering, it does feel awfully real. It does compel attention. The body tends to become our focus, at the expense of our spiritual path. If our body is suffering, we'll find it much more difficult to meditate, to do other Course practices, or to extend to others, as the Course would have us do. I have a friend who has a debilitating disease, and he tells me (with evident frustration) that it keeps him from even being able to read the Course much, let alone do all the other things it calls for.

Now, I'm not saying that someone with physical difficulties can never effectively walk a spiritual path. The world is full of examples of inspirational people who have become great lights to the world despite (and even through the process of) struggling with great physical hardships. It can be done. My point is simply that physical problems will make the path more challenging. The Course is challenging enough under the most ideal circumstances; it makes no sense to add to that challenge by neglecting our physical health.

I want to expand a bit on my reference to extending to others. Extending love and forgiveness to others is our function in the world. Our body is meant to serve this function, to be "kindly used to help the Son of God along the way he goes to God" (S-3.II.2:1). As we learn to use the body for this function, we will no longer be desperate to leave this illusory world; instead, we will "be glad that we can walk the world" (T-31.VIII.9:1). We will be glad to keep this "vehicle which helps forgiveness be extended" (W-pI.199.4:5) as healthy as possible, so that we can more effectively fulfill the holy function that brings joy and salvation to the entire world and to ourselves as well. (In fact, the Course tells us that using the body only for this function ensures its health.)

Therefore, I think we should do what we can to keep our bodies healthy. This would include all of the normal things like diet, exercise, and medicine, and it could include any number of other things as well. Of course, each person has very specific health needs, and I think the best way to determine what specifically we should do for our health is to combine expert advice with asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit. True, the Course says that worldly remedies are magic that only alleviates symptoms, but the Course does not discourage their use. And that symptom alleviation has the huge practical benefit of making it easier for us to walk the path of the Course, the means for bringing about the healing of the mind that alone can end the illusion.

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