As a young girl me and my body were friends. We climbed trees, did cartwheels, danced and swam. But as the teenage years hit, things started to change.
I got my period, which I was taught to ignore. I didn’t understand my body’s rhythms so I became estranged from her. I also came to understand that she was a commodity, desired by men. Conditioned to please, I entered into situations that I didn’t feel totally comfortable with. As a commodity, I viewed my body harshly, I judged her hairy bits and wobbly bits, bits that were too big or too small.
At school I learned to sit still, to ignore my body’s need for movement, and to spend all my time in my head, in my rational mind. I felt dull and bored by life.
Then I began to practice yoga, tai chi and martial arts, being schooled to ‘drop in’ to my body. I was taught to sense my feet on the floor, to try and open up to an embodied awareness so that ‘the body becomes all eyes’. In this heightened state, the world is alive and vibrant, the colours more radiant. I learned to feel my body from the inside, rather than judge her from the outside.
I trained 3-5 time a week for 2 years and my sense of my body irreversibly changed. I began to FEEL. Feel the wind on my face, the deep pleasure of simply moving. I made peace with body’s appearance too. I decided that since this was the only body I was ever going to have, I might as well love her. I accepted all her wobbly bits. Except, she was having problems. She had acne and digestive issues.
I believed now that while I was OK with her appearance, there was something wrong with her from the inside. I sought to heal her. I took conventional medicine for the acne – antibiotics and roaccutane. These didn’t solve the problem but they did give me other issues with my liver and an unhealthy gut.
I tried Chinese medicine and herbal medicine and nutrition and juice fasts and Ayur Veda and meditation and yoga. All of these helped somewhat but not completely.
I learned about sex. After a beautiful week of juice fasting in Goa, India, I allowed my body to enter into an act that didn’t feel comfortable for me. For the last time. From a deep and fierce place inside me, I vowed to never, ever, ever let anything happen to my body that I was not 100% comfortable with. No one was ever coming near me again with anything but complete and total love for me, my soul, the person on the inside.
I realised completely and utterly that beauty and attraction are about the energy you put out, not the quality of your skin or the fit of your clothes.
I found complete and total love and came to understand that my body was utter perfection, that the acne and the digestive issues were not malfunctions but my body’s very clever way of attempting to achieve balance within her. I learned that I actually didn’t need healing, that all of me was whole and complete. From this new place of respect, I worked with a nutritionist and my digestive issues and acne went way.
I became pregnant. And now my body - who I had come to know and love – was changing. She was growing to accommodate a living being. It was frightening and wondrous.
I came to realise that the medical profession, in their well-meaning way, were absolutely terrified of the process my body was going through. They subjected my body to a never ending assault of tests, each midwife appointment leaving me with a sense of fear as they performed their duty by warning me of everything that could go wrong.
I learned about medical procedures at birth and how there is often a ‘cascade of intervention’, where one procedure creates effects that necessitate another procedure leading to emergency invasive surgery. I read about the dance of oxytocin – the cuddle ‘love’ hormone in birth and how this is the fuel of the process. I read that it is shy, it doesn’t like strangers and that adrenaline slows or halts the labour process. I couldn’t help but feel the midwives I was speaking to didn’t seem to understand that their fear was creating the very hormone that would interfere with the birth.
I became my body’s fierce gate-keeper. I trusted myself, I trusted my body. I birthed two healthy babies and the raw power of my body in labour took my breath away. She was magnificent.
I came to understand that my birth experiences were unusual- calm and natural. Almost everyone I spoke to had received intervention they felt uncomfortable with. Often, they felt powerless and traumatised.
And then I came to understand in a much greater way about my cycles, about menstruation. About the times of peak energy (ovulation), when it’s great to get things done. I understood that after this, my energy would start to wane and I could alter my schedule accordingly to fit in with my body. If I took responsibility for my own self care in this way, my mood and energy levels were much higher and healthier and my whole family benefitted as a result.
I never again wanted to work to a schedule that could not accommodate my body’s rhythms. I wanted to honour her – this incredibly complex collection of heart and lungs and digestive processes that allow me to feel and see and love and dance. What a spectacularly amazing thing to have a healthy body!
I learned of the deep, restorative power of menstruation, how it is the most potent opportunity to connect to my deepest wisdom. People pay vast amounts of money to learn meditation or have massages to relax and once a month, women have this opportunity to surrender to their bodies and receive deep nourishment and intuitive guidance if we can let go and retreat from the world. My cycles, rather magically, started to line up with the moon. I felt like a fairy goddess warrior queen.
I came to look at my body and at the earth and see a microcosm within the macroscosm.
The way we treat our bodies as women is the way we are treating this earth. We ARE the earth. Her bounty becomes our food, which becomes our bodies. Her air becomes the oxygen that runs through our blood, her water in our veins.
We have raped her of her sacredness. We have treated her as an object we are entitled to use as we please. This is not the truth. She has life inside her that is precious and beautiful and sacred.
In this crisis we find ourselves in, I believe that one of the first things we can do is start to honour our bodies. Get into her. Feel what she feels. Open to her pains, her longings, her tiredness and nourish her. Grow to understand her cycles and honour them (Love your Lady Landscape by Lisa Lister is a good place to start).
Listen to yourself. Put away the scales for good, drop the diets and eat what will love your body the most. Women’s way of being in the world, standing powerfully in the truth of our experience, is sorely needed right now and our bodies hold the key.
She has riches for you. She has the capacity for a juiciness and pleasure that is not normal for our times. She has an incredible radiance and a capacity for love that will blow your mind apart and break your heart open in the best possible way.
But we must learn her language, her rhythms and what she feels like from the inside. Become your body’s fierce gate-keeper and let nothing but love pass.