Traditionally, men and women of our parents’ and grandparents’ time did not love their bodies. In fact, they rarely thought about them except when they became painful. This attitude has been handed down through generations and most of us are not even aware of it. We may want to have a skinny body, a beautiful body, a healthy body or a fit body but rarely do we love our body just the way it is.
When was the last time you really checked in with her/him with compassion and understanding? In today’s hectic world we try to fit ourselves into the image of what we are told is healthy or good looking. We also tend to push our bodies beyond its limits and ignore the burnout or symptoms that arise from striving too hard. We go to great lengths to stay in our heads so we don’t have to experience the hurt and wounding that we feel inside.
The rapidly growing spiritual movement over the past few years often encourages us to dismiss the discomfort we feel and learn to meditate or use other practices that may take us further and further from the reality of our own body. I am definitely not slamming these important practices as they have been extremely important in my own life. I am just saying that we cannot use them as a means of escape because eventually we will have to pay a great price.
We may face a life-threatening illness or a severe disability but the body will find a way to get our attention. Emotional wounding, grief, anger and other intense emotions will eventually be converted to bodily symptoms if they are not dealt with.
It is important to know that the cells of our entire body hold the pain of our own personal experiences, as well as the pain of our ancestors. This has to be addressed before we can be truly healed and live a free life. Gabor Mate, MD in his book ‘When the body says no’ explores the connection between emotions and the body. He encourages us to look at physical symptoms as nuggets of wisdom rather than hindrances that need to be medicated away.
Check out my ‘resources’ page to see more books that deal with this important connection.
So, how do we learn to love our bodies? I think this can be a long, ongoing process for many of us.
You can start by checking out this list and incorporating tips that have helped me.
Pay attention to your feelings and honor them. You may not be able to express them freely or appropriately so find a counselor who will help by listening, witnessing your feelings and validating them.
Deal with past wounds and hurt by doing forgiveness processes expressing rage and grief and telling your story to an experienced facilitator. For me, a combination of Jungian therapy, Authentic Movement and re-birthing was the answer and later the BodySoul work of Marion Woodman.
Work with your dreams and dream images and use these images to do active imagination where your body is holding trauma and pain.
Find a body worker you can trust and who is gifted in her/his field. This may be a massage therapist, chiropractor, Feldenkraus practitioner or someone who practices another body modality and understands the body/soul connection.
Pay attention to your nutrition and know that if you are filling your body with healthy, unprocessed food, this is contributing to your physical, spiritual and emotional health.
Develop your intuition, listen to it and act on it. This is your pole star and main guidance tool and it speaks to you through your entire body NOT YOUR HEAD.
Stay grounded in your body. This can be done through yoga, physical exercise, walking in nature and connecting to the earth.
Watch for physical symptoms and in conjunction with traditional medicine, talk to a body worker or body therapist who can help you with the emotional release.
Approach your body as you would a new animal – build trust, watch her closely, speak to her, nurture her and develop an attitude of exploration, inquiry, understanding and compassion.
Don’t forget to DANCE, DANCE DANCE
‘This is your body,
your greatest gift,
pregnant with wisdom you do not hear,
grief you thought was forgotten
and joy you have never known’
— Marion Woodman
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