How would it be if someone gave you a big bag of bones and told you that your job would be to carry them around for your whole life? What about if, on top of that, you had to be very careful not to break one. This does not make life in the body sound too good does it? Actually having a body, if you really pay attention, is at times a very humbling thing to have. The innocent honesty of children in relation to the body can be a lovely light reminder also of how embarrassing the body can be.
And yet looking after the body with mindfulness can be just like looking after another person’s body – except that we can directly feel what is happening.
In developing such mindfulness it can be enormously valuable to nurse others. When we look after another person’s body the absence of direct feeling can show us the bodily predicament very clearly and make caring for another a deeply contemplative experience. We can reflect on what it is like to have a body without the feeling element that tends to affect the mind so much one way or the other. We get a very neutral sense of the body as distinct from feeling. This can really help the mind to calm down over the bodily experience yet, of course, we are concerned for the feelings of the other person at the same time. We are concerned for feeling but not directly effected by it.
This can also mirror the ideal in terms of our relationship to our own bodies, training us to care in a calm and peaceful way.
Also, from such a calm perspective, we can find that looking after another person and looking after their body can be two very different experiences that we shift between. This helps us to see the mind and the body as two different things although they are dependent on each other. This deepens our sense of a healthy, caring detachment where we can look after ourselves or others with compassion but without suffering.
I offer this for your reflection