Reclaiming and De-Shaming My Body

We can only love ourselves fully when we learn to love our bodies. A radical act of self-love that goes against the status quo and everything we've been taught, but this total self-acceptance and self-love is where real healing and wholeness are found. Read more at delvingdeepwithin.wordpress.com
Image courtesy of Cocoparisienne on Pixabay.

A playful interaction with my friend involving my favorite Facebook Messenger sticker Tuzki recently led to me commenting how I could do with a bit of toning before “shaking my booty” in quite the same way.

As women we need to love our bodies more wobbly bits and all, for each time we disown them we disown a bit of ourself.
Image source: https://66.media.tumblr.com/bc0369d8c7ca6b61ee0754ef06316e54/tumblr_nace2aKFx91tt3wfao1_400.gif

My friend, in the way friends do, reminded me that we all have our own mojo and that “joy creates extraordinary sexiness in any body.”

Sending her another favorite Tuzki sticker – Tuzki blowing a kiss – I responded, “That’s so true, isn’t it! I’m actually really thankful my body is a beautiful shape. (Don’t tell too many people I said that!!).”

What I find interesting in all of this is the aside in brackets. As if I have to keep it a secret that, God forbid, I might actually like my body.

I mean really, what’s so wrong with that?

The sad fact is that to say we like our bodies has become somewhat a revolutionary statement, particularly for us women.

We are taught to be at war with our bodies; most of us absorbing this message from the influences around us in childhood. Young and too credulous to question if the information being given us is accurate or not, we unwittingly take on the beliefs of the women around us and society at large. Before we know it, the body that was supposed to be our best friend has become our worst enemy and we censure it relentlessly for being too this, not enough that; trouncing it with our thoughts and slamming it with our self-talk time and time again.

As women it is ingrained in us that if our body doesn’t live up to the perfect ideal then we are somehow intrinsically not enough.

I know because I (subconsciously) believed in this hogswallop for years.

In spite of being a sensitive, intelligent and independent-minded woman; despite the fact that l (and every other woman) am so much more than just my  body – I am the consciousness, the intelligence, the love, the compassion, the determination, the vision, the passion, the humor, the gentleness, the fear, the joy, the life that pulse through me and the totality of all the experiences I’ve  lived through – I was letting this reductive notion of who I am and whether that was “good enough” determine my worth; measuring myself against media images of perfection and incessantly finding myself lacking.

For years and years I hated the way I looked.

When I was young I thought my nose was too long and that my acne rendered me repulsive and repellent. I can laugh about it now, but I literally remember times when I wished I didn’t have to go out without being able to hide my face under a paper bag.

Not content with making my face the source of all my problems, I soon got to work on my body. I spent the first half of my teenage years on and off the scales, skipping breakfast and lunch as often as I could in my pursuit of the kind of weightlessness that could only be achieved in Space. That may come as a shock to a few because it’s the first time I’ve openly admitted it, but it was by no means an uncommon problem amongst us young women then and neither is it now. Eating disorders are rife in our society and it has more than a little to do with the unattainable images of perfection we are bombarded with day in day out, everywhere we turn.

A brief honeymoon period in my mid-twenties when the acne (finally!) cleared up was followed by the shock of discovering my first gray hairs, and – the after-effect of too many years of walking my dog without a hat or suncream – my new tormentor: sun-ravaged skin. All before I was even thirty.

I became obsessive – covering my forearms with long gloves and my face with a mask or bandana in my endeavors to “protect myself” from the sun; as if the sun was my enemy too, not the life-giving source of energy.

Throughout it all every time my body failed to live up to my ideal of perfection, I made it “wrong.”

I disowned and disclaimed it; cursed the DNA my ancestors gave me.

Shamed it.

Abused it.

Longed for it to be something else.

Denied it (and me) the joy and pleasure of it simply being what it was.

It has taken me well into my thirties to even begin the monumental process of turning this around.

Now I am in the process of reclaiming my body. Staking my right to define my own relationship with my body, rather than having it determined by the status quo.

I am here for this lifetime in this body. Why would I want to turn against the very thing that affords me the opportunity to experience life in all its splendor?

At long last I am learning to love myself, body and all.

That despite the wobbly bits; the cellulite;  the plethora of stretch marks; the broken veins that traverse my face, that I still – if I let myself – see as marring my skin.

This is pivotal: I now refuse to let myself go there 99% of the time.

 

Instead I am accepting and honoring my body, inundating it with gratitude for its beauty and perfection and all it allows me to do and be and experience.

Far from it being shameful for me to love my body, it dishonors not only my body but the totality of my being and the Source consciousness that breathes life into everything every time I don’t.

So I am dedicating the rest of this blog post to singing the praises of my body and my physicality, and the myriad ways in which I love this most intimate part of me.

I love the gentle curve of my waist and the swell of my hips. I love my slender but strong wrists and ankles, and my long and capable limbs. I love the gracefulness of my neck and the way my hair cascades around my face. I love both the softness and the hardness of my belly, and the strength and power in my back muscles.

I love the way I can stretch my arms high up in the air and place my feet firmly on the Earth and feel how good it feels to be here now in a physical body.

I love the way this allows the power of Universal energy to course through me, so I know my strength and vigor.

I love the way I can consciously drain all the tension out of my body and give it to Mother Earth, allowing myself to feel the joy and ease of being in that ultra-relaxed place where I inhabit my body without tension.

I love the way I can stretch and expand the limits of my body and it rejoices in the challenge – the way it can climb steep hills and small mountains walking through the burn in my thighs and the fire in my lungs. The way it can  open up into greater flexibility through gentle stretching working with the breath, and attune itself to hold balance poses for extended periods of time. I love the way my fingers rise to the challenge of dancing over the holes of my tin whistle faster and more fluently, and my body’s capacity to learn to do new things like snowshoeing, belly dance and making pots on the wheel at will.

I love my body’s tenacity and fidelity.

It is my staunchest supporter – it has seen me through everything. Wherever I’ve been; however much I’ve abused it or allowed others to, it has never spurned me. It has faithfully kept doing its thing, supporting me as I engage in the world.

I love its honesty, the way it tells me when I’ve been pushing myself too hard; neglecting or abandoning myself in some way. I love the way it can never lie, and is an honest reflection of my state of being if only I am attentive enough and aware enough to read its communications in this way.

I love my body’s capacity for restoring itself through sleep and rest; reenergizing itself for the following day. The way it’s always faithfully there when I wake, eager to walk into another day and its adventure with me.

I love the tangibility of my physical presence; the way it can soothe an anguished or frightened child; reassure my aging dog that I am there and she is safe.

I love the way my body is the vessel for me to experience joy and pleasure, delight in the sensory experience of the world.

The warm feeling of the sun on my back, the grass prickling my bare arms. The cool breeze by the river gently caressing my face and tangling with my hair. The feel of soft clothes or warm blankets against my skin. The first drops of rain on my face. The feeling of another’s arms around me, their tongue dancing with mine. The pleasure of touching and being touched.

The joy and fulfillment my tastebuds feel as they revel in the first sip of a Vienna coffee; or their delight in a berry dessert, the bitterness of wild mountain vegetables or the rich creaminess of a gratin or Quattro Formaggio pizza.

The fragrant scent of roses and lavender borne on the wind; the flood of feeling they evoke as I think of my mum’s rose garden out back of our house, and remember my granddad and his garden. The smell of a ripe peach or freshly baked bread beckoning to be eaten. The scent of rain in the air before a summer thunderstorm, and the rich scent of the Earth that has drunk deeply of it after it has passed.

The pleasure of music and the way it speaks to our soul. The joy of waking to bird song, and walking my dog or creating pots to the accompaniment of summer cicadas. The humming of bees as I walk the mountain roads or work in my garden. The orchestra of crickets rubbing their wings in harmony as I gaze up at the star-studded sky, and wonder what I did to deserve to live in a place of such rich abundance.

The marvel and beauty of the world that my eyes are witness to each and every day. The  rich and vibrant red of poppies dancing on the river bank; the diamonds of light shimmering and dancing on the river herself. The ageless grace and beauty of the mountains rising up out of the foothills. The gossamer beauty of dragonfly wings as they flit and hover over the paddy fields. Nature unfolding herself before me in exquisite and unceasing beauty, each season holding a magic of its own.

I love the way my eyes are a gateway to my soul and when people look into them they can see the pure essence of me reflecting back their own pure essence, the opening to real and authentic connection.

I love my body’s capability and its capacity for self-expression. The wonder of creative expression through dance, and the marvel of my hands creating exquisite pots in harmony with the revolutions of the wheel. The joy of voicing and creating who I am through my words, and expressing my pleasure through song.

I love the amazing functionality of my body. The way my heart beats and my lungs draw in life-giving oxygen without me having to do a thing. The way my stomach digests my food, and waste matter is disposed of; and nutrients, minerals and vitamins are sent exactly where they are needed. I love the way my brain creates new neurons and neural pathways, and my body’s amazing capacity to heal.

I love and honor my physical body for helping me to heal on another level; for having been the repository for my pain all these years, storing my emotional pain in its depths.

I am grateful to it for this service; it deserves to be honored. And I am amazed by its capacity to release this pain and the memories of it from my cells as I work on myself and clear more and more from my energy field.

I love my body’s capacity to change – to renew itself and create itself anew, all the time coming into perfect alignment with my vision of who I am and reflecting this back to me.

I love the fact that in my body flows the blood of my ancestors; that I am connected to them and the love that has brought me forth through our shared DNA; that the gifts I have are the ones they have given to me.

I love the sacredness of my womb and the miracle of its nurturing and life-giving force; its potential to bring things full circle again.

I love the fact that the cells in my body are powerhouses of energy, that they store all the information that is needed for me to be the greatest and highest version of myself; that they are relentless in their pursuit of this highest ideal.

I love and honor my physical body in its totality for its sacred gift of life and its intimate connection to all that is and the life-giving Earth.

I love the miracle of life that I am.

I love the miracle of life that is in me and is me; that is embodied in me.

And when I walk the Earth loving my body, each step is a sacred one bringing me home to the joy and divinity that I am.

 

Your Most Important Relationship Is the One You Have with Yourself

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Art by Victoria Kutsuris, 2012.

 

Although I must confess that I know very little about the Chinese New Year, that we have recently -on February 8th, the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice – entered the “Year of the Red Fire Monkey” hasn’t escaped even my attention.

I like blogger/author Noelle Vignola’s description of it the best:

This is the Chinese year whose focus is about letting go, shaking things up a bit and transformation. It bodes of possible chaos, tumultuous turn arounds and the need to go with the flow more than anything else. I suspect for many of us we’re thinking, “Wasn’t that the last five years?”

In my case, more like three years than five perhaps, but otherwise: Yes.

But the Red Fire Monkey has already started to reveal some of its tumultuous turn arounds and sound its clamorous call to chaos as, less than two weeks into the Chinese New Year, I turn my life upside down and inside out; disrupting the flow of my life and others’ with what I can only describe as the single biggest act of self-sabotage I have ever enacted.

I’m leaving the finer details for other posts when I’ve had more time to absorb and process the loose and hanging threads.

Suffice it to say that my initial (fear-based) reaction left me nauseous, clammy, cold and physically shaken for a good couple of days.

Purely by chance, the timing of this coincided with me reading and working though Imagine Self-Love: A Journal, by Reba Linker; another blogger/author friend of mine.

Self-love is actually what my journey these past three years has been all about. Unlearning my outmoded ways of thinking that don’t serve and support me and my greatest and highest good; swapping them out for ones that do.

To be honest, I’m still not sure if the incident in question was more an act of self-sabotage or the Universe shaking me up, giving me a chance to look deeply into what is it that I really want.

Whichever way the ensuing fallout was tumultuous to say the least – real Red Fire Monkey stuff.  Throughout the entire experience of upheaval, discomfort and distress it was the things I’ve learned through my self-love practice that upheld me; giving me the courage to confront the situation head on.

Ultimately, to walk through the combat zone with far more grace,  presence of mind, more compassion for myself and the “mistake” I’d made than I ever would have managed to summon before my journey into self-love.

This translated directly into action that honoured both myself and the other person involved; the result being that however the situation pans out – and it’s still not quite clear – I am proud of myself and the way I interacted with my experience.

There is gold to be found there. I know that I have interacted with the situation with integrity and done my best to integrate the lessons it has brought into my life.

And I am at peace with that.

The timing of it was perfect in some ways, for to my great good fortune I was able to use the exercises in Reba’s Imagine Self-Love book to help me move through the experience.

Reba’s book is a treasure trove of ideas for people new to the practice of self-love and self-confessed self-love aficionados alike. My experiences this past week have, however, reiterated for me that however much work on ourselves we may have done, there are always new practices we can integrate to help us as we expand and evolve into more and more of our potential.

I’d like to take a few moments to mention a couple of the activities from the book – it’s a very practical book and you work on yourself as you work through it, doing journaling and taking self-love action steps – that supported me the most; literally helping me to navigate my experience in more self-sustaining ways.

First, a journal prompt that encouraged me to “look at the themes presenting themselves in (my) current experience… (and) … unravel the illusions and arrive at a core of truth.” The journal prompt being, “My life is asking me to notice…”

Well, as is likely the case when we are experiencing some kind of conflict, my life was asking me to notice quite a lot!

Journaling around this really helped me to get clear on my own feelings about the situation and my motives, as well as empowering me to uncover some deeply rooted patterns of interaction that had been influencing my relationships with others without me even being aware of it. Talk about a good journal prompt!

Now that the light of awareness has revealed these patterns it’s up to me to mindfully – and with great compassion for myself – find ways to interact in ways that don’t repeat the pattern. But you can only begin to do that once you’ve become aware that such a pattern exists. In that sense, this journaling prompt was invaluable in supporting me over the weekend, and it’s one that I’m definitely going to continue to work with.

Second, the action step of taking a mini-vacation “in the midst of your busy life.” I have to admit that I did this one rather unintentionally, only realising halfway through that that was what I was actually doing.

Some customers of a cafe where I display my pottery had asked if they could meet the artist, so, despite the rather climactic nature of my weekend, Sunday morning saw me setting off with some pots carefully loaded in my car and ascending the mountain to reach the cafe at the top.

It was a beautiful day with more than a hint of spring in the air, (for those of you who read my last blog post – again!), and they were the sweetest and loveliest couple. As I talked to them I felt my heart space expand and relax. I decided to stay and have lunch there, and as I ate the delicious and nourishing food and gazed out on the mountains I felt my calm return.

This space I took for myself in the midst of all my turmoil allowed me to return to center. It was a much needed space of self-nurturing and upheld me to such an extent that that night I was able to focus on and finish a work project that had also been looming on the horizon all weekend.

Third, the action step of consciously changing your perspective so that you view your challenges through the lens of “not(ing) your progress; prais(ing) yourself for learning; applaud(ing) your growth; remember(ing) that you are mastering life’s lessons.”

Well, I have literally been doing this all week; celebrating myself for showing up; for being brave enough to acknowledge my shadow side and dive into its depths; for being open enough to learn the lessons it has for me – or the ones I’m ready for at least.

It’s largely thanks to the practical application of this action step that I’m now able to say that although this has been an extremely painful week in many ways, it’s also been an incredibly important one. This entire experience has allowed me to see where I’m still being controlled by my past, and heal and release. I’m glad for this experience now, for it has given me the opportunity to evolve on so many levels.

Hurray for simple, supportive and effective actions steps!

Fourth, another action step – this time about consciously  choosing to manifest opportunity in your life. I loved this one, which asks you to recognise yourself as deserving and actively ask the Universe for what it is you would like to see show up in your life in a written message. I had actually written my request to the Universe and put it on my bedside table before all the “drama” showed up in my life. But I promptly forgot all about it in my absorption in my pain body.

Well, my note happened to catch my eye the next morning. I decided to rewrite my request in the light of the events that had since shown up in my life. “Today I find the opportunity to experience clear and true guidance, and awe and wonder at just how much I’m being supported by the Universe all the time,” I wrote. I read it back to myself and put it in my pyjama pocket, and promptly forgot about it all over again as I got sucked back into the drama…

I didn’t even remember it until the next morning when, back in my pyjamas, I put my cold hands in my pockets again and found the folded square of paper there. Taking it out and unfolding it, I was absolutely amazed at what I saw.

I may have forgotten all about my request, but the Universe certainly hadn’t neglected to do its part.

The preceding day, true to my request, I had received clear and true guidance from both a kind of spiritual mentor and an older friend who has lived and learned and grown and evolved from her mistakes, and is always willing to generously share her wisdom with me.

As if that wasn’t enough, at the end of our time together she said to me, “Julia, do you have any rice? My neighbours gave me some I’ll share with you.”

Only a couple of days before I’d been thinking about how I need some more rice…

What an awesome demonstration of how the Universe loves and supports us in just the way we need. As I’m sure you can imagine, this action step is another one I’ll definitely be using again!

Imagine Self-Love: A Journal is 80 pages absolutely jam-packed with journaling prompts and practical exercises that nudge you towards a deeper understanding of what it means to practice self-love.

As you work through it, you’ll see how much more alive you feel and how many doors open up for you as you begin to integrate more self-love into your life. You can download a free chapter at http://rebalinker.com/imagine-self-love-free-chapter/ and the book is available for purchase on Amazon.

Reba has also been kind enough to put together a self-paced e-course “9 Self-Love Keys to Change Your Life,” which is currently being offered through the Daily OM on a pay what you wish basis. If it speaks to you, check it out here.

I highly recommend both the book and the course, and can personally testify to Reba’s generosity and commitment to helping people experience for themselves what it really means to engage in self-love.

However you decide to do so, I hope this inspires you to consciously embody more self-love in your life.

Do so, and you’ll watch the miracles start to unfold.