I and my body are two
June 8, 2011
I wonder whether it might be helpful, at the start of a month about bodies, for all of us to get more conscious about the ways we relate to our bodies.
Specifically, I have a hunch that even though many of us identify ourselves so closely with our bodies that we equate our whole selves with them (“I and my body are one“), we simultaneously treat our bodies as though they are separate beings from us, and therefore legitimate sources of indignation when they do things or are things we wish they wouldn’t do or be (“I and my body are partners, and I feel incensed / disappointed / betrayed when my body does not behave or respect or reflect well on me.“).
Here’s why I think this kind of awareness matters:
If we equate ourselves with our physical bodies completely, it becomes difficult to gain enough distance from our egos to observe their work or evaluate their opinions of us with any level of objectivity.
Our egos work tirelessly to assign us a coherent sense of self and to make meaning of the data available to them. When that data conflicts, as often happens when our bodies look or act or feel one way and other aspects of our beings look or act or feel another, they work to flatten out those differences and label that smash one thing: “ugly”, “tarnished”, “defective human being”. They (our egos) can’t hold well the mysterious complexities of all of our parts: the strong and the weak, the healthy and the ailing, the supple and the curmudgeonly, the parts of us that trust, and the parts that fear we aren’t enough or can’t be loved or are disqualified from strength or beauty because of some aspect or wounding of our physical selves.
Our egos, for example, cannot readily compute that excess weight does not demonstrate the mental or emotional or spiritual fitness you might have, or that hair loss or sagging parts do nothing to reflect the many layers of your beauty or tenacity. And contrary to what your ego may say, your diseases or disorders or disabilities are not the total of your strength, nor a depiction of all layers of your choices or character.
Your body and you, so far as I can see, are not completely one, and the sooner any of us can recognize this, the sooner we can see the gap between our physical frailties, wounds, and critical self-talk (aka ego-talk) on the one hand, and our deeper, higher, wiser selves on the other, who are often not represented by our bodies or egos well, and who have the capacity for fierce self-love, healing self-compassion, and gentle arms of welcome for all the parts of us who long to feel (and be!) at home.
I make no claim to understand the mysterious connection between our bodies and our spirits/souls/consciousness/highest selves (what in the world do I call our non-body self??), but I have a strong hunch about this: consciously disentangling our sense of self from being defined by our bodies alone is an enormous stride toward trusting that our bodies are okay (my shame and frustration are far less triggered by a body I’m not equating my whole self with), and is a window flung wide open to the healing breezes of the parts of us that, unlike our egos, can hold and honor our complexities, and see without judgment our shadows and our light.
And what’s more…
When we recognize that we (our spirit/soul/consciousness/higher self) and our bodies aren’t one, but are two, in intimate partnership, we can begin to consciously nourish the kind of partnership we actually want between these parts.
Partners can’t always read one another’s minds. They have differing strengths and weaknesses to honor and work with and around. They unintentionally and sometimes willfully hurt one another and need, for the sake of the health of the relationship, to make amends. Forgiveness and patience are often required. And the hard and freeing work of making peace with the aspects of our partners that we don’t like and don’t have any hope we ever will.
Unlike most partnerships, though, we don’t have a choice about whether we’re in this one. We’ll be in it ’til we die. So here’s what I’m thinking tonight: why not do what we can to make this partnership thrive? Why not move away, as we’re able, from total enmeshment with our bodies (“I and my body are one”), and all the shame and frustration such enmeshment can cause, and begin right where we are today to take ownership of at least one side of the partnership that dwells within ourselves?
I want to think and talk more concretely about what this might mean. But for now I’ll say this: I have a hunch that both moves – the disentanglement and the taking ownership in this inner partnership – might be two of the biggest moves I personally make in my life as a bodied creature seeking to trust that my body is good and a worthy, hospitable home for the rest of me.
This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here
). Click here
to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
June focus: Bodies
June 7, 2011
Hi everyone! I’m so glad to be back in this space! Moving is such an unmooring event that it feels good to have the hand-holds of this work to grab as I continue to unpack and orient myself to a new home and environment (have I told you we have chickens at our new place? Chickens! Five of them!).
I am SO looking forward to our theme here this month! I feel like I have a book to write about bodies, with some chapters lived and consciously thought already, and some yet to be discovered.
But beyond my personal interest in this subject, we – all of us – are such bodied creatures, so connected with the particular skin and bones, hair and muscles, fat and lungs and joints and brains and nerves and genitals and temperaments and aches and pains and marks and scars that all, at least by most measures, are ours and no one else’s.
And as bodied creatures we walk around every day with so much of us exposed – so much of us open to the opinions and responses of other people, and to our own wish to be able to hide or change some part (or parts) of it. Shame, to large or small degrees, pulses through most of us around some aspect of our physical beings (“physical” including things like temperament and body chemistry, too), and where there isn’t shame (and even where there is!), other emotions swirl around our body-thoughts, too: grief, frustration, anger, self pity, bitterness, jealousy, regret. Emotions ripe for trust to soothe and heal and breathe life and peace into.
I get this image of us all walking around with bandages around the parts of our physical beings that cause us emotional pain or discomfort, and honestly see bandages on every last one of us!
So. If you’re up for it, let’s see what trust we can grow around our bodies here this month. In the weeks ahead, I hope to do so by exploring things like:
- The relationship between our essential selves and our physical bodies.
- When our bodies betray us.
- Mood disorders, and how different these are often seen in society than other physical challenges.
- Temperament, and the feelings that accompany introversion and extroversion.
- Breasts, hair, skin, height, weight.
Sexuality is our theme here next month, so for the most part, I plan to leave conversations related to sexuality for then, even though bodies and sexuality aren’t two separate things.
Do you have something you’d like to see covered here this month? Or know of songs or websites that are doing great things related to growing trust and love around our bodies?
If so, I’d love to hear! Please share in the comments below, and if public comments aren’t your thing, by all means, feel free to send me an email. Click on “contact” in the menu bar above for an easy way to send me a note. I’ll be delighted to hear from you.
Here’s to you and to the miracle that is your body. Right now, just as it is. Just as you are.
If you’re new here, welcome! Each month at this site is devoted to tending trust around a different theme. Click here
to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
Loved: A Ritual
February 8, 2011
*For an introduction to this category, click here.
It’s been a long day for me. A long few years, really. This parenting gig is more of a challenge than I ever imagined it would be. And when sleep is getting chopped up by it and by my sense of calling to and love for the work I’m doing here, it only gets harder. I find myself ashamed and disappointed, on one level, by how exhausted and sparkle-less I often feel, and by the ways this effects my cushion for dealing compassionately and humorfully with normal 3 and 5-year-old behavior.
All that to say, I’ve been planning to write up a ritual tonight that focuses on loving our bodies more, as shame around our physical selves is such a deep shadow around our ability to love ourselves and others well. But I think I need to expand this ritual to include other aspects of our beings, too, including the parts of us that are exhausted and beaten down and wishing we could somehow “rise above” more often than we do.
So here goes:
Picture a part of yourself that you find hard to love. Maybe it’s your skin, your breasts, your cellulite, your wrinkles. Maybe you’ve never liked your hair or the shape of your ears or the size of your belly or thighs. Maybe it’s every fat cell on your body, or a cancer you want to survive.
And maybe, like the paragraphs earlier describe, it’s a quality that’s been with you for some time: the way you get cranky on too little sleep, or depressed, or nihilistic. Your tendency to fear a certain thing. Or everything. Your biting sarcasm. Your self that rages at people that you love, or withdraws from them, or shuts completely down when connection and closeness are what you want most of all.
Whatever it is, imagine that part of yourself as somehow floating a distance away from yourself. You might need to personify it to make this work, so maybe you picture your exhausted, cranky self that has a hard time going to bed early even when she knows she needs to (a-hem) as an actual character, complete with crazy hair, baggy eyes, and an unbecoming expression. Maybe you picture your own thighs this way. Or your nose, or that mole on your forehead.
If personifying doesn’t feel right to you, you could imagine that part of yourself symbolically as a colored ball.
Okay, so you’re picturing this part of yourself that’s hard for you to love floating some distance from your body.
Now imagine that part of yourself completely surrounded by love. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be the one extending the love; that very thing is what’s so hard, right? Just imagine that part of you being surrounded by the purest sort of love you can dream up.
Maybe you can even imagine a love so pure that there isn’t any judgment in it whatsoever. There’s no edge of sternness at what you’ve done or not done to get this part of you this way. There’s no assumption that this part of you should have been different or otherwise or nonexistent. There’s no vicarious shame at how ghastly or unappealing this part of you is or expectation that you repay any of its kindness.
All there is is complete acceptance, warmth, and compassion.
Imagine this love like a warm cloud around the part of you you find so hard to love. Picture this cloud whatever color feels most safe and love-like to you. And imagine your unlovable part softening and leaning into this embrace – smiling or actually crying at how good it feels to be loved, how odd and unexpected and unasked for.
Now. Whenever you feel critical of or impatient with or downright nasty toward this part of yourself, take the pressure off yourself completely to love it at all. Don’t even try.
Just go back to your image of it being held by a love that you’re not personally generating – a love you’re only imagining is there at all.
And go back to that image.
And go back to that image.
And go back to that image.
And go back to that image.
Whenever you’re damning or wishing that part of you away, go back to that image.
I’d love to hear what happens if you do.