Susan Sands is a clinical psychologist who uses Buddhist meditative practices and yoga with her patients and in her writing. Her focus in The Inside Story is body image and how distorted our focus can become on what others see, rather than what we sense and feel as authentically ourselves.
This message is important for every human being from about the age of five on. Sands aims specifically at adult bodies that are experiencing signs of aging: people 55 to 75 mostly. She fuels her pages with conversations she has had with interview subjects, and she recounts others' stories with frequency.
For instance: “My interviewee Clarissa, age fifty-five, is part of the next generation, Gen X. Her protest against aging is less conscious and acerbic than those of [some others], but it’s still there in what she said to me:
“ 'I often still feel much younger than my age. In my sense of myself, I’m somewhere between twenty and forty, and I always will be. Sometimes I’m shocked when I look in the mirror, depending on the lighting…. It’s like I’m looking at someone else.' ”
Chapter 2, “Triumphing Over the Body,” looks honestly and critically at all the ways, therapies, denials, cosmetics, and illusory elixirs we try in order to stave off the inevitable and the real. Sands offers: “How, then, do we begin to upend these narratives of defying, defeating, or 'triumphing over' aging/death/nature — which are, of course, doomed to failure? It is imperative that we confront these pervasive societal fantasies of overturning the natural order, because they ravage our bodies, our peace of mind, other living beings, and our planet. These narratives make our older years a time of struggle and unhappiness when, in fact, they can be a time of unprecedented freedom and joy.”
The promise of the subtitle comes in the final chapter which begins with this quote from one of Sands’ interview subjects: “I love my body; I feel like my body is my old friend who’s stayed with me all these years.”
Chapter 6, “Building Body Awareness,” is full of spiritual practice suggestions “for strengthening embodiment” from breathing techniques and yawning exercises to chanting practice and Tai Chi. There is much to use and implement in your life here.