Yesterday, @brandonwilson asked me this question in response to a post I wrote about practising meditation for slightly over 10 years:
Ten years is a long time. What are the 1-2 aspects of your life that you feel have fundamentally changed over that time period that you attribute to your practice of meditation?
Feeling a greater connection to the body is something of a more recent development. I think for the longest time since I started school, I'd always been a bit disconnected from my body. I attribute that to my early years as an athlete in school. As a long distance runner, you kind of have to learn how to switch off the pain to keep going. The body became just a vehicle (literally and figuratively) to win, to fulfil your goal of reaching the end point of the race. After years of sports, that thinking becomes ingrained and bleeds over to work and life. No pain, no gain, they said. Worse - as a member of the male gender, this narrative is actively encouraged.
But wow, that's a sure recipe for the body eventually breaking down. In my 20s, the body could still withstand what you do to it. Working late, eating fast food, sleeping at dawn, pushing your body competitively in work, sports and life. But cracks started to show in my 30s, and now I'm paying for it dearly. I recently recovered from a chronic condition, which I attribute the most part to this mindset. This disconnection to my body.
Thankfully, meditation came into my life in my late 20s. Sitting there on the cushion is not just about witnessing mental phenomena. The first things that come up are physical actually - pain in the legs, pain in back, drowsiness, sweat. So meditation was the start of a looong rehabilitative journey of embodying my body again. I also explored yoga later - where the physical postures also helped.
Learning to listen to the body was the hardest. The ego always wants to achieve that goal, and previously I would enslave the body to achieve it. But now the power dynamics had shifted somewhat. The body seems to have a stronger say, especially after all the pain and scares from my medical condition. It always takes a crisis to change your habits. Now, I try to listen to the early signals that the body sends me, like this one time when I preferred to just do mundane stuff in Kyoto instead of the must-see sights. I sensed that my body simply enjoyed the slower, calmer rhythms of daily living there rather than rushing around checking off a list of different tourist sights. And I did, despite much protest from the mind and ego.
Now that, was the best gift I had in the decade of meditation. The gift of embodied presence to what is before me in the here and the now.