Why your body is your greatest teacher
Hands up, who is really happy with their body? Really and truly content, with every inch, every wobble, every blemish? I wish I could put my hand up, I really do. I wish I was able to fully and truly radiate in my physical body and love and cherish it for all it brings me.
But I can't, not fully. As much as I have learnt - and am learning - to respect and honour my body, its cycles and changes, its ability to move and sweat and rest and relax, I am still a child of this culture which tells me that there is something not quite good enough.
Perhaps its the belly, and the rounded flesh there, or maybe it's the wide shoulders which don't seem feminine enough, or maybe it's the fine hair which is a long way away from being a lustrous mane. If I wanted to I could find fault with nearly every part of my body, because I spent pretty much all of my teenage years and beyond doing just that.
I don't say this to get compliments or reassurance. In my heart I know my body serves me, that the soft round belly is a sign of my femininity, that my broad shoulders have helped me carry the grief and loss I received as a child when my main care-givers, my grandparents, passed away and I was left living alone, aged 16. I know my fine black hair has been given to me by the ancestors in my family, and that the grey which is beginning to shoot through is a sign of wisdom.
I am learning, each day, to love and respect my body, for it is my body that teaches me most. If I listen to my body the way I absorb my favourite books then I am gifted with so much; the knowledge of when to rest, of when to sweat, of which yoga postures help me to embody strength and adaptability.
And when I wobble, when I feel like I'm failing because my body isn't Instagram perfect, I remember that all those beliefs about what it is to be beautiful have been sold to me by a patriarchal capitalist beast that thrives on my inability to feel good about myself. And when I invite in feelings of love and bliss and contentment, I get the opportunity to re-learn that all I need is already inside of me, inside of this body, this weight and height and size, just as it is.
How do you feel about your body? As a messenger from God? Or something to be despised, reviled and changed to something more sexy, feminine, more 'normal'?
That we live in a time when we cannot find bliss in our being in so sad to me. That I have spent so longer trying to beat my body into something my soul cannot survive in is deeply sad, because I know so many other men and women have done the same.
Our bodies are our connection with spirit. Our bodies give us the messages we need to hear in order to live out our purpose in life. It is sad to think that we all have a unique creativity to offer to this world, and yet so many of us spend our energy not on discovering and then pursuing this creativity, but on trying to chip away and conform our body to an image we have been sold as being the acceptable way. It's exhausting, it's unattainable and it's deeply damaging to our soul.
"Without body there would be no sensations of crossing thresholds, there would be no sense of lifting, no sense of height, weightlessness. All that comes from the body. The body is the rocket launcher. In its nose capsule the soul looks out the window into the mysterious starry night and is dazzled." Clarissa Pinkola Estes
We might not be able to change the images we see in the shop windows on the high street but we can let ourselves looks into the starry sky and be dazzled from the earth of our bodies. Beginning to change our attitudes is not easy work; it requires watchfulness, honesty, support and heaps of compassion. It requires changing the way we consume media images of the female form, to instead look around at all the versions of human form we are presented on the streets around us, and to recognise them all as beautiful and divine. Many of us will need to look at how we eat - not to cut out food groups or calories, but to try and remember when was the last time we ate something with abandon and joy and pleasure, and felt good for it.
To do this work is courageous. But it is also so vital if we truly learn to accept ourselves, our genetics and ancestory, our quirks and traits, our soul's purpose for being here. Yes by all means embrace being healthy - but a healthy which involves your spirit as well as your body.
Most of all let yourself be guided by how the body feels. At first this might involve a lot of tears as you start to stretch out and acknowledge suppressed memories, emotions, beliefs. When we learn to receive our full range of emotions without labelling them as good or bad, we start to discover the magic in feeling and discovering the beauty not only of the body but in the body.
I would love to hear how you get on.