15 August 2014

I am my Body

I'm sorry, but I just can't stop talking about bodies. I'm utterly fascinated by them. So many shapes, sizes and colors. So much political and societal pressure. Such potential for joy and heartbreak. I feel pain and power through embodiment. I am in awe of incarnation.

Our western culture has so divorced our bodies from ourselves. We talk about it with distancing language. We do things "to" our body and our bodies "to" us. When we're dealing with cramps, I've heard many women (myself included) complain that our uteruses are attacking us. We so often say, "My back is killing me." Not, "I'm in pain." We accuse our body as if it is some third party.

I've dealt with a lot of gastrointestinal issues and I used to get mad at my stomach for doing this to me; never considering I was just trying to warn myself that something was wrong. My stomach didn't hurt - I hurt. I've spent so much time trying to beat my body into submission - to bend it to my will. I never considered working with my body. I always considered pain something to be overcome, not a warning from me to me.

I'm taking a body alignment class and it is so fascinating. We're learning to really tune into our bodies and pay attention to what is hurting and what needs rest. We're learning how best to walk and stand and sit. Most of what I'm learning, though, is that my body isn't something to be overcome. When I push my body to move a certain way and it hurts, that's not something to push through, but a warning that I need to pull back.

For me, the very idea that physical pain is not something to push through, but rather something to listen to is revelatory.

When something makes me feel sad or something is painful to think about, I listen to that feeling and stop doing that thing. Not to say that I avoid sadness or pain, but I pay attention to it and give myself a break when I need it. If I can have this grace for my mind and spirit, why do I struggle to offer this grace to my body?

I think part of it is that it is easy to own my mind and my spirit. Claiming them feels natural and right. Owning my body feels like a whole other thing. And not owning it in the sense of possession, but owning it as an integral part of Me. Not something I control or operate, but, just as my mind and spirit are, a third of my whole being. A vital piece of my Trinity. It is my firm belief that we are created in the image of Trinity: Mind, Body and Spirit. All three equally me. I am my body.

But my body has been a source of such shame and fear - Is is so surprising that I struggle to claim it as myself?

Part of how I know that I am my body is that my body feels what I feel. When my father died, I felt it in my chest. Like a hippo just sitting there for months. The first time I heard Led Zeppelin's "Bron-yr-aur" my chest swelled and I got weak in the knees, taken by its beauty. The first time I got dumped, I got a rash and a migraine. Recently, when I saw Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art I audibly gasped and my stomach jumped, overjoyed at the very sight.

When I claim my body as me, taking care of it gets so much easier. Eating healthy and exercising become as important as learning new things and writing. Paying attention to my pain rather than powering through it just makes sense when I internalize that pain, rather than treating it as something happening to me.

I am my body. What affects my body, affects me. If my body hurts, I hurt. If my body feels good, I feel good. The more I take ownership of and pay attention to my body, the more whole and happy I can be.


  1. I needed this today; thanks for your honesty and sharing your insights on body. Really good and challenging at the same time!