Embracing our Sacred Flesh: Coming Home to the Body

We are living in times of disassociation. It’s no wonder why so many women feel shame and self-hate towards their bodies. Every institution in some form advocates flight from the body. While the messages range from subtle to overt, the underlying message is the same: The female body is dirty, untrustworthy and to be controlled.

Catrin Welz-Stein.

I have powerful childhood memories of watching my mother struggle with her own body, through self-medicating with food, struggling with diets, etc. I recall being about 8 years old and praying a novena to St. Theresa to please never let me get fat. I felt somewhat guilty for praying not to be like my mother, but there was this fear that I had to protect myself from this thing called “fat” that even my mother was not safe from.

There is a certain heartbreak in watching your mother fill her own need for mothering with food.

Not surprisingly, I too struggled with how to manage food and exercise, mostly adhering to my goal to stay relatively lean. It was a way to rebel against my mother, to never be her. But the vigilance was exhausting. When I became what I considered my “ideal” size and weight, I saw that it was totally empty and shallow. I had this moment of “This is it?” I don’t know what I was expecting but there was this feeling of ‘why the hell did I spend so much energy on that?’ Nothing in my life was “solved” or really that different. Nothing extraordinary happened. I saw how much I had projected onto this goal of having my ideal body. What I was searching for was a feeling of belonging in my own body, not for my body to look a certain way.  I made a decision that I would no longer allow my body to be the battleground for the values of the patriarchy that tell women to reject themselves.

Untitled by Diego Rivera

I changed my approach to exercise. I only exercised when I genuinely wanted to, not when I felt like I SHOULD exercise. This was hard. I remember clearly one day I was struggling with the feeling that I SHOULD exercise, but I really did not want to. I thought I should just go for a walk but something in me rejected this and wouldn’t let me go. I think it’s because my deeper wisdom knew that I was doing it from a place of self-rejection. Something shifted in me. I thought, “I am not going to walk unless I walk for MYSELF,” meaning, I’m not going to walk for the values that tell me that I must look a certain way. I’m only going to walk in support of myself as I am.

As I continued with this process of exercising only from a place of self-love, something major happened. I realized that the fears that prevented me from loosening my rigid approach to exercise were unfounded. I did not instantly gain a lot of weight as I had irrationally feared. And I saw more nuances of what makes me an attractive woman. It was as though layers were peeled away or a veil was lifted from my eyes. I actually started to truly SEE myself accurately and truly. I laughed more. I had more free time. I exercised when I felt energized and excited to do so and enjoyed it. If I didn’t feel like it, I didn’t do it. It was amazing to me how much fear I had about relaxing my vigilance about exercise and how enlightening it was to experiment with facing those fears.

Epiphany by Helena Wierzbicki.

Concurrently, on the emotional level, I had long held the fear of being “too much.” I always knew I was intense and had the capacity to make people uncomfortable. At the time I considered this to be a shortcoming. To compensate, I had a pattern of shrinking or playing small to prevent people from feeling threatened or uncomfortable around me. There was a connection between my desire to comply with the societal message that my body should be small and the message that my spirit should be small as well.

We’re taught to conflate our physical appearance with our value as human beings. 

A liberating shift happened when I realized that my capacity to “be big,” to be large, and intense was NOT a shortcoming. I just happened to be surrounded by some people who felt triggered by my “bigness” for their OWN reasons. It really had nothing to do with me. I realized that I could not continue to contort myself and cater to the insecurities of other people. It was empowering to see that my bigness doesn’t injure others, it actually serves others.

Self-policing our bodies causes our lives to be very small and takes us away from the big life that awaits us.

The connection between my struggles with exercise and my relationship with my mother became clearer with time. I generally felt much more at peace and relaxed about my body since I made the commitment to follow my own inner messages about exercise. However, if I started thinking negatively about my body, I learned that it was a signal that my “mother wound” was triggered and I would investigate. I’ve learned that it is a reliable sign that my child-self needs more mothering and soothing. Once I spend time listening to what I need, which usually involves the need for more rest, more play, less work, less structure, the negative body-focus predictably dissolves and my felt connection with my innate wholeness is restored. This has been a learning process that I am so grateful for because it represents a level of intimacy within myself. I listen to the messages within and act on them.

No outer authority required. I am my own source of information about myself and my body.

Beautiful by Alexandra Gallagher

I recall one day sitting at my desk and feeling awe at how my body carries my lifeforce into the world and how amazing that is. What a gift! I spontaneously kissed my own hands and arms and then wrapped my arms around my own waist and squeezed, sending love to all parts of my body as tears streamed down my cheeks.

 Holy, Holy, Holy Body of Mine, thank you for being you and holding me in this life!

Issues of food are directly connected to issues of mothering. When we were infants our mothers WERE food, WERE warmth, WERE comfort. They were one and the same. As adults, we don’t lose the need for mothering and nurturing. Mothers need to be mothered too. I believe learning to mother ourselves is one of the most powerful and transformational things a woman can do. It takes the projection of the mother archetype off of other people/things and puts the power back into ourselves where it truly lives. Issues of body and mother are deeply complex. It’s not something we can just “get over.” It’s a journey that can be deeply painful but also so rewarding because in the process we can truly know and love ourselves, which is absolutely worth all the work.

The love that we are seeking is not in food, and it is not in other people or things. It can only to be found within our deepest, authentic self. 

Embodying the sacred feminine is about loving our bodies fully—even the things we are taught to dislike about ourselves, such as the sight or smell of our menstrual blood, our ripples and curves, our crooked teeth, etc. But these things are part of what make us who we are; a part of the unique matrix of traits that is the blueprint for who we are and what we bring to the world.

Loving our bodies is a revolutionary and necessary act. Our daughters and the earth itself depend on it. 

dancer

Experiencing the ecstasy of fully living in our bodies is the result of enduring the struggle to re-claim our life-force from the messages of self-hate that we are faced with every day. I invite you to make a powerful decision and say “No More. I will not allow my body to be the battleground for patriarchal messages that tell me my body is not good enough.”

Resist the temptation to let society mediate the relationship between you and your body.

Often when we start to fully enter our bodies, we may feel grief; grief for all the times we have abandoned or rejected our bodies. Grief for the times we expressed self-hate or ridicule. Grief for the times we exercised in order to look a certain way or ate too much because we were lonely. This is natural and part of coming home to the body. Whenever we feel grief, we are opening to greater levels of love. It’s a sign of the heart breaking to a new, wider, deeper capacity for intimacy and connection. It is also the result of old patterns dissolving and leaving our lives so that a more accurate truth can be revealed and integrated.

Welcome this grief, the grief that follows the decision to love yourself and to love your body. Your holy body, in all its imperfections and irreplaceable beauty.

© Bethany Webster 2013

(art credits in order of appearance: Waterlily by Catrin Welz-Stein, Untitled by Diego Rivera, Epiphany by Helena Wierzbicki, Beautiful by Alexandra Gallagher, Narcisse by Leon Bakst)

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So much to say about this topic of coming home to our bodies! I encourage you to leave a comment below! Thanks for reading!

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12 thoughts on “Embracing our Sacred Flesh: Coming Home to the Body

  1. The body is our Temple. The Divine Feminine, housing within us the womb, that most sacred place where all life begins.
    The physical body is the vehicle my Soul has chosen to express itself in physical form.
    My physical body and all aspects of being human must surrender to this Truth.
    Only by ‘over-riding’ the tendency to believe that the ‘reality’ I see around me is ‘real’ can my Soul begin to take charge of my life.
    Keeping the vehicle in physical and mental wellness is paramount.

  2. Wow! Thank you. I too have struggled with this all my life. I watched my mother struggle as well. The struggle continues with me. Just tonight I felt guilty because I did not go exercise. I am going to have to examine this. <3

  3. I resonate with what you’ve written; I know it from my own experience. I’m so grateful that we women can evolve in spite of cultural and religious patriarchy in which we were raised. I remain hopeful for the future because of that.

  4. ANCIENT MOTHER

    She rose from Her slumber
    and stood in the portal of Her bedchamber window
    and She bared Her breasts to the sky,
    the winds lost control of their bearings.
    universes scattered into infinities,
    gaseous masses mingled into each other intensifying thier heat,
    a myriad of great suns sprang from nowhere into being,
    stars snapped their chains and fetters and floated free
    and the constellations trembled and gathered in council together,

    . . . for they had not seen the like of this
    not in all the eons of beginingless time,
    for this is Her moment,
    this is Her time,
    this is the age of The Mother.

    She,
    Ancient Mother of all that is manifest,
    She,
    the indescribable, unmanifest One,

    . . . where are the words,
    where is the tongue,
    where is the voice,
    where is the one
    that can describe Her Ineffable Beauty.

    Tom McFerran.

    • I’m breathless and wordless! You’ve so aptly described the power of the Ancient Mother and women! Thank you so much!

  5. Reblogged this on Lora Lee's Centsations and commented:
    This is such a great post. Everyone can relate. As women we judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else could at times. It is only with age that I have discovered that my body is perfection to me. It has carried me this far. Has helped me carry and give birth to three children. Has stayed strong during this time of building my business, and even though it gives me pains and fits at times. I would not change anything about it. It’s mine. :)

  6. I love bodies.. I have worked as beautician, masseuse, gym instructor, I am an artist and love to draw the human form. I am a Reiki practicioner…and know that healing forces flow through us, so I can’t accept that I cannot reverse the damage I have done to my wonderful body…by living a ‘rock n’ roll’ life style! I am not a mother but I am a carer…. I have neglected myself but I know that given the opportunity this body.. any body..can repair and be strong! It is my home whilst I live on this planet. It is miraculous in its construction and we are made of stardust! But I have had a wonderful life with wonderful people in it…. so now I face a new adventure….getting old…I’d rather not….so I guess I’ll just have to do it my way!!! :)

  7. Thank you for this. I have struggled all my life with my body and food. I was shamed for liking food by my mom who had her own food and weight issues and I have then unconsciously done this to my own daughter and sons. I have done a lot of healing work around this and yet it still is with me. I have been deep in to heal this and though I know I have healed so much I still struggle with extra weight and just not moving my beautiful body enough. I feel that rhythmic movement would heal me and swimming as well. I love to dance and I do. I eat junk food, chips, ice cream even though I’m aware it’s hurting me. I have just recently lost 40 pounds and gained back 10. I’m so tired of the struggle. The weird part is I’ve never been happier in my adult life as I am today! Truly. I’m so excited to be living my life and I feel like I’m more myself everyday. I’m taking back all the pieces of myself that I buried and was told not to be. I’m loving all of myself more easily and forgiving myself for not being perfect and what everyone else wants me to be. I’m guessing I just need to trust that I am exactly where I need to be. Love this article so much! :)

    • Have you ever taken bellydancing lessons? Bellydancing is a beautiful, rhythmic feminine expression…..and great exercise!

  8. Beautifully shared! Thank you!! I would love to have a printable copy for my own resources? being “bigger” was a burden growing up and now looking back at pictures of me, it was never the truth but their own perceptions.

  9. excellent put up, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don’t notice this.
    You must continue your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

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