Through-out the years, I have lost and gained (multiple times) over a hundred pounds, healed through severe health challenges, gained the much-earned laugh lines (aka wrinkles), and watched my body morph into shapes that I would’ve never predicted, even with the best of health practices.
And just when I thought I had it all handled, my body changes again. And again. And again. Not because I’m doing anything “wrong”, but because of its natural changing rhythms, needs, and physiology.
Instead of reaching for the elusive “stability” of body and mind, and acquiescing to an image that was never meant to serve my deepest heart, I have learned over the years how to have a relationship with my body that embraces tenderness, refuses media manipulation, and minimizes the insurmountable pressures of outer beauty. Sure, it’s nice to look good, feel good, and feel attractive. But the funny thing is, when you focus on these things as the primary goals, you will never truly discover what really makes you feel good, look good, and feel attractive. You may be successful temporarily, but the body changes, and that’s a fact. If you keep going for that shifting target for a constantly changing body, you’ll end up stressed out, disillusioned, and back where you started from: feeling unloved for who you are, no matter what you look like.
Though people say to me “You look so beautiful!” or “You don’t look your age”, I smile, knowing the dimples, both emotional and physical, that I used to curse about my body. As my body continues to change through menopause, I feel blessed to have her as my wise compass that guides me to truth and true beauty.
So here are 10 lessons and corresponding practices I’ve applied through-out the years (and still do) that have helped me feel loved for every curve, every pound, every stretch-mark, every wrinkle, every age spot, and every bit of cellulite that have showed up through the years. These practices apply to those women who don’t have these things too. I find that the more you love your body, the more your body loves you right back….through increased vitality, joy, confidence, juiciness, and health!
1. You are allowed to take up space. Allow yourself to take up space in this world.
You may feel that you can’t take up space….so you make yourself small, and it often is reflected in food disorders, not pursuing your dreams, or ironically, eat when you’re not hungry, and therefore, gain weight. You may feel lonely, bored, stressed out, so you eat for comfort – an indication that you don’t feel adequate in yourself.
I found that doing full-body breath-work really helps here. Set up a place on the floor with warm, luxurious blankets and any material that makes you feel beautiful, as if that spot was an altar. Allow your whole being to take in each breath, continuously breathing in, then breathing out. The experience is enhanced by having someone gently hold your feet to ground you (or have your feet against the wall). Feel your body being fueled with the warmth of creation and love, and feel your body take up its rightful place. Here, you can feel like you can take up space, and you do….in a good way…a necessary way. The world needs you.
2. Your body is full of pleasure that is longing to be experienced.
Your entire body is filled with billions of cell receptors that resonate with energy. Pleasure is a form of energy that is akin to love, which lights up the body like the rays of the sun. The more you can give yourself pleasure, the more your body feels nourished, fed, and supported.
Find what gives your body a sense of pleasure. Delight as much of your sensory awareness as possible (touch, sight, smell, taste, and sound). Sometimes, women feel shame around pleasure or have some judgment around it. That’s okay – Just start where you’re at. Where-ever you can give yourself pleasure, do it. I like to give myself a warm, luxurious, bath with my favorite scented oils, with candlelight and soft music in the background, and maybe a plate of delectable chocolate nearby. Close your eyes and caress the curves of your body and enjoy each stroke. Inhale each touch as you inhale the fragrances around you. Let your body soften with each exhale, and let go…
3. Your body is a work of Divine Art, a “Picasso” painting of lush landscape.
If you’re like me over 15 years ago, I dreaded looking at my body in the mirror. I would put on clothes and I loathed how I looked in them. Trying on swim suits were the most depressing thing to do. However, if I viewed my body like a landscape painting, with each part of the painting making this beautiful piece of art, I appreciated it more as a whole, rather than just the parts.
To help with this, let yourself be naked in front of a mirror, sitting down on a stool, with a long piece of silk or something beautiful draped over the parts of your body where you feel less confident. Little by little, expose the parts of you that feel more shy, ashamed, or uncomfortable. Instead of viewing each part as separate onto itself, view it as part of the overall landscape…a landscape just waiting to be seen and appreciated. Say “Wow” to yourself and smile while you take in the whole landscape, little by little. Each part of the landscape is essential and part of the integrated whole. For example, I used to think I had stocky legs. But when I view my body as a total landscape, I view my legs as the strength and root of my body like a tree, a beautiful maple or bamboo tree…essential in her nature, built that way for reason. When I see the extension of my torso grow from my legs, I see my torso as the body of the tree and my arms as branches that reach to the sky, and I paint a beautiful landscape with my eyes and appreciate it with my heart.
4. If you view your body too seriously, criticism will become you.
The beauty industry is a billion dollar industry invested in making you feel inadequate so that you buy their products, fashions, how-to-resources, plastic surgery, etc. It’s no wonder we view ourselves as “less than” when besieged by this type of messaging. The result is that we become too critical of ourselves and too serious about how we look. It’s fine to enhance what we inherently enjoy, but to come from a place of inner critic who moves us to “look better” just perpetuates our “not enoughness”.
Having humor with the parts you don’t like is a way to bring another side of us to the fore, as an ally for our body. For example, after much yo-yo dieting, my “golden globes” aren’t what they used to be…far from it (former breast-feeding mamas can attest to this, too). Little did I know at the time that my boyfriend (now “ex”) was secretly unattracted to me as a result, and he attributed the stretch marks (which can look like wrinkles) to our age difference. He did not know it was because of my past weight loss, nor did he have any compassion to understand either. Gone is the boyfriend, and gone is my shame. I now call my gals “Oooo” and “Ahhhh”, happily cupping them, knowing what they’ve been through with me all these years. Anything you can do to bring a smile to your face when facing your body, is a gift.
5. Listen to the reflection of other women, versus the reflection of your bedroom mirror.
Too often, we look in the mirror, ready to notice any slight imperfection on our face or body. The mirror reflects an image only. And that image is clouded by society’s image of beauty. Know that the way you perceive your looks is largely a direct consequence of influences beyond your awareness or control.
So here’s a better mirror: Gather a circle of women – women whom you trust and know your deeper heart. Meet in your living room in front of a fire, or go to a spa where you can reveal yourself, full Monty. Let your friends say what they appreciate about your body. Have them answer the question, “If I had your body, I would….” (e.g. “Sway my hips and let everyone know that the ocean lives in me”, or “Walk into a room, and bring light to everyone’s heart by me appreciating every curve I have…”). And you do the same for them. Appreciate each other. Let the collective heart of woman see and reflect back to you what they see. Drink in their words…let your body be fed that way.
6. The key to loving your body is opening your body.
I know women who claim that they love their body, yet I can tell that their bodies are closed because of the clench in their abdomen, or the way they breathe, or the energy that is restricted in their hearts. If we truly love our bodies, our bodies would feel opened, expansive, and unabashedly present.
One of the best ways to open the body is through massage. Let your body be awakened by touch from a trusted practitioner or loved one. Surrendering to touch, opening to breath, sighing as your body softens to love is medicine for your feminine soul. We can visualize love through our body, but it helps to actually feel it IN the body through touch. It registers that much more when touch is involved. Give yourself that gift of yum. You deserve it.
7. Your body is not a mannequin. She is a source of light.
I love wearing colors, different fabrics, a variety of clothes, etc. But I do it not for fashion-sake, but for the sake of bringing light to my being, and maybe…just maybe….my light will bring an energetic smile to someone else’s body or heart. I do it not to impress or get approval. I do it as a recognition that we are beings of light. It’s natural to want to let our light shine through. There’s nothing wrong with that. But do it for the sake of others, not to stroke your own ego.
Wear beautiful wraps, jewelry, or whatever makes you smile. Let your light shine through…let your body be draped in fabrics that sing to you. Make happiness, not self-seeking adoration, with your clothes. Celebrate your body as a devotee who celebrates her temple. Feel light radiate outwards from all parts of your body, especially the parts you may feel less confident. Let the “shamed” parts of you have their place, too. She wants it…and so do you.
8. Your relationship to your body is your relationship to your environment.
There’s a saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” One of the best ways to love your body more is to open more to your surrounding environment. The more you open to your environment, the more you open to your body. And when I say “open to it”, I really mean OPEN. Then Love becomes you, instead of you efforting to get it.
A great practice is to put on some of your favorite music and move in the privacy of your own space. Dance and feel your body move through the air like warm honey. Or feel the rush of the breeze kiss you as your body moves through space. Or use the floor below you to feel the support of your body against it. Let gravity be your friend, bringing groundedness to your body and letting your body have a relationship with the elements around her. The more you open to all the elements, the more your heart opens…your body shines…because you’re giving her space to love wider within your surroundings.
9. Your body longs to stretch and grow, just as your heart longs to grow.
Our bodies don’t stop growing just because we’re getting older. Our bodies grow in different ways all the time. As time passes, the more our bodies grow in more subtle ways…energetically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s awful when I think of people viewing aging akin to a “cow going to the pasture”. Light wants to expand…always. And as we grow older, the more light passes through our hearts. It’s up to us to continue allowing our body’s light to shine in the ways our heart longs to shine.
I find that yoga is one of the best ways to do this. You may already have a yoga practice and that’s great. However, when you do your yoga class or practice, don’t just do the poses for the sake of doing the poses. Imagine each muscle…tissue…bone…stretching…reaching out…extending…embracing. As you imagine your body as a vessel of light…as a wonderland of love…stretch out as far as your heart wants to reach…reaching for what you long for in your life. It’ll take you much further, physically and spiritually, I promise if you devote yourself to your deepest heart’s desire and let that guide you through your yoga practice, your feminine desires will manifest a lot quicker. Stretch…live…love as much as you can during your practice. Make that your mantra.
10. Shame = Tenderness = Compassion = Appreciation.
I used to view different parts of my body with shame. Shame is a feeling of embarrassment, distancing, or shunning due to a lack of love – either receiving love or feeling okay to give love. I sometimes wonder if the lack of love on various parts of our bodies is part of the reason why cancer is so much more prevalent these days (e.g. breast cancer, uterine cancer, etc.). Could it be related to how we embrace (or don’t embrace) those parts of our bodies as whole, loving, and gifts onto themselves?
Cancer is in my family. I am vigilant on listening to my body and exploring what messages she gives me. You don’t have to have cancer in your family to be moved to listen more. Instead, listen to the parts of you that feel tender…unacknowledged…small. If those feelings are present, she is wanting to be heard. Journaling about the parts of your body really helps bring more awareness to these messages. As you feel these feelings of tenderness, let yourself write in a stream of consciousness. Just put down words on paper – they don’t even have to make sense. Let the words come out, and read what you wrote after it’s all finished. As you read your words, you might feel shame. That’s okay. Just acknowledge that. Then feel the parts of your body that feels shame. Acknowledge them as you would acknowledge someone you love. Recognize the gifts they give you, amidst the shame or distance you may feel around them. For example: I have large veins throughout my hands and arms. It’s helpful to acknowledge them: “These veins bring life blood to my hands which give healing energy to others”. Or my stretch marks: “These marks show the resiliency of my skin, expanding as my body needs to, and contracting when I let go of what I no longer need…Thank you, skin, for holding space for my expansiveness…”
This may seem too woo for you right now, but believe me, when you bring more tenderness to your tender parts, compassion grows. When compassion grows, so does appreciation. When appreciation grows, so does love for yourself and your body.
I hope these lessons and practices help you cultivate a welcoming and inviting relationship with your body. The Feminine longs to connect…be in relationship….When you allow yourself to appreciate and love your body (how she moves, what she longs for, her deepest experiences), your body will love you right back. A synergy occurs that is filled with inspiration, expansion, and heart-filled energy. Try these practices…start with one at a time. See what shifts for you. See how the world shifts with you.