At work and in my personal life, I make a conscious effort to “practice what I preach”. I love my job in that it allows me to offer support, encouragement, and tools to my clients to help them create a more fulfilling, balanced and enjoyable life. Much of what I talk about in sessions with clients is “self care”, which is a practice of taking care of yourself through activities and rituals that nourish and foster relaxation and healing.
This, admittedly, can be difficult at times if you’ve struggled to have an accepting relationship with yourself. “Oh, it’s so much easier to take care of others than to take care of myself”, is a common excuse to avoid practicing self care. Yes, I agree that focusing on ourselves can sometimes be uncomfortable and unsettling, however the mental, physical, and emotional rewards of such practice is undeniable and incomparable.
I believe strongly in congruency and authenticity, and feel that I cannot appropriately suggest to my clients to do things that I myself am not able or willing to do. So, I try to maintain a regular routine of self care in my own life. This typically involves exercise, mindfulness practice, gardening, spending time with loved ones, and volunteering.
Yesterday I gave myself a gift of something I’ve never done before, and I have to admit, something I was a bit unsure about: an hour in a floatation tank. A floatation tank is an enclosed, insulated, sound- and light- proofed tank filled with water and 1000lbs of Epsom Salt. I entered the room which held the tank and was told that I would be retrieved again in one hour. “Sometimes that time goes quickly, sometimes it feels like it goes very slowly”, I was informed by the woman working there.
Then she left me. A jolt of anxiety and nervousness rushed through me. I gingerly entered the tank and closed the lid. Pitch blackness. No sound. And I was floating as if my body was weightless. With sensory deprivation this intense, my mind started to freak out a bit. “What if I can’t get out?”, “What if they forget I’m in here and I get stuck?”, “How am I going to just float here for an hour? That seems like an ETERNITY!”, were all thoughts that raced through my head.
After about (I think) ten minutes, I noticed my mind begin to settle down. I tried to actively practice mindfulness of where I was and to notice any thoughts that came into my mind that took me away from the present moment and to put them in a balloon and let them float up to the top of the tank for the time being. I tried to do something that has been a difficult practice for me for my entire life: to let go.
When your mind can’t get data from what you see, and when it can’t register information from what you hear, it feels quite deprived. It’s lost two of its most reliable sources of data which can tell it if it needs to feel a certain feeling: fear, excitement, joy, surprise, or if there is some sort of threat. At some point, the struggle to try to control the experience lifted from me and I was able float, aimlessly. As my mind quieted, I was left with only the sensations that my body was feeling — body talk. I felt fully, truly present in my body.
This type of experience taught me so much and in reflecting back, I believe it could be very beneficial for anyone who feels stress. I think it could especially be powerful for people who struggle with issues related to body image and disordered eating because for this hour, your body is completely weightless. You must trust it, as it is your only source of information and awareness. It challenges you to re-evaluate how you perceive and feel in your body without using visual cues to determine this, and it gives you a sense of being in your body in a whole new way.
Here are the Top Ten Benefits of Floating
And more, depending on your personal goals!! Read more about floatation here.
From the perspective of a professional in the mental health field, I would add:
After my session, I felt rejuvenated, relaxed, and also slightly discombobulated. I felt like I had been on a different plane of existence for an hour — a refreshing to “get out of your head, into your body”, and embrace a new perspective.
I’d encourage anyone who would like to explore a new way of being in your body, a refreshing way of experiencing your mind, and to experiment with “letting go” and trusting your intuition to sign up for a session in a floatation tank. You’ll walk away feeling much different than you did before you went in, and this experience is unlike any other!
This is the first year of a big project I like to call “Garden Overhaul!”….I planted a massive vegetable garden in an old plot that had never been touched and was full of weeds and dirt that was basically hard clay. I now have plans to tear out much of my grass next year and cover my front yard with native water-saving plants, herbs, trees, and shrubs. Big project, but big reward! Talk about reaping what you sow I can have the most stressful day in weeks, but the second I set foot in my garden all is calm. It is truly my meditative oasis.
If you read my previous post about hail damage on my freshly planted garden, you know about the trials I’ve experienced (and any gardener does) in “letting go” of what I cannot control and embracing hope that my garden would be resilient…which it has been! I love the metaphors that can be found between gardening and self-care, mindfulness, and acceptance. I am putting together a Mindful Gardening Workshop this Saturday that will integrate so many of the concepts of weeding, planting seeds, nurturing, harvesting in gardening and also in our own lives. I can’t wait!
While preparing for this workshop, I have been utilizing two wonderful books: The Art of Mindful Gardening: Sowing the Seeds of Meditation by Ark Redwood, and The Meditative Gardener: Cultivating Mindfulness of Body, Feelings, and Mind by Cheryl Wilfong. Both are written by master gardeners and seasoned mindfulness practitioners and offer so much wisdom from buddhism, psychology and gardening about the natural healing tools available to us in our natural world.
I am now contemplating. . .
What Would It Be Like To Accept Our Inner Weeds Instead of Eradicate Them?
We all have those parts of ourselves that we would rather not spend too much time with — perhaps they are filled with pain, remorse, shame, guilt, or discomfort. Or perhaps we just don’t know them very well and they seem dark, looming and scary. These could be called our “Inner Weeds” and our first impulse could be to rip them out. When looking at our garden, planted with beautiful herbs, colorful flowers and budding vegetables, it can be an unsightly eyesore to see weeds popping up and trying to push out our lovingly cultivated bounty.
I have spent hours pulling weeds out of my garden, and let me tell you — it feels good to get those buggers out! It’s a therapeutic treat to yank out the “intruders” to my garden (though the are just as natural and organic as anything I have chosen to plant). . . .but they come back even if I pull them out. It reminds me of that saying “what we resist, persists” . . .or, on the other side, “what we water, grows”. When we water our garden, we inherently water the weeds in it as well. Why fight them?
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says:
“There are already trees and flowers in our garden. There may be some weeds too. The gardener does not hate the weeds. The good gardener knows how to use the weeds to fertilize the fruit and flowers. The practice of mindfulness does not mean hating the imperfections in ourselves. The practice is to attend to what causes us pain and suffering and use it as fertilizer to create the most beautiful garden possible. ”
This reminds me strongly of concepts of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which borrows a piece from Buddhism that acknowledges that there will always be some form of suffering in life — but asks us how we choose to approach it. Do we struggle against it and the emotions it brings and try to weed it out? That is A LOT of effort. Or do we work to accept it for what it is and let it help us fertilize the other parts of our garden — our life — as well?
Can you learn to love your inner weeds, the parts of yourself that you wish weren’t there, and which you are forever trying to pluck out?
Until we can accept their presence inside of ourselves and value them for what they are, they will continue to persist and cause us more pain and suffering.
We have a choice as to whether we water those seeds or not, the seeds that may grow into something we see as a weed. But, if we don’t water those seeds at all we cannot just turn our backs on them because they are part of what makes us human, what makes us whole, and what makes us beautifully imperfect. Just because we don’t want to water them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
So, speaking without metaphor, I ask you now:
What parts of yourself do you try to pluck out, or turn a blind eye to? The one who judges yourself and others? The part who feels ‘not good enough’? The part who feels jealousy of another?
For a moment, try to let yourself contact those parts of yourself that you have spent so many hours avoiding. Try to let yourself offer that part kindness, understanding, and acceptance instead of avoidance or judgment. Let it be. Notice that even though that part is there, flowers can grow all around it. Flowers that are joy, resiliency, creativity, intellect, and love may even thrive while co-existing with those “weeds” and it feels like so much less work to let them all live together.
Off I go into my garden. Sure, I’ll pluck a few weeds. But I’ll also notice them as a part of a bigger picture, that they are just as natural in my garden as the vegetables are, and that they do their part to make my garden a whole, messy, imperfect, and magical retreat for rejuvenation.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
― Brené Brown
Do you know that feeling of putting on your pajamas or your favorite sweats, snuggling up to your most loved movie, and feeling so safe and content? Doesn’t it feel great? We all crave that sense of safety in our lives and feeling that place of contentment gives us a sense of security, coziness and comfort despite the stressors that we face each day.
But what if we get stuck there? What if it’s not serving us to stay there?
I’ve recently been reflecting on this concept of a “comfort zone” and how, while it feels so nice and non-threatening to be there, staying there can actually keep us away from what we’re really needing and yearning for.
In my work with clients, I believe one of my greatest strengths is empathy, active listening, and being present. I could empathize all day long with my clients’ struggles.
However, if I don’t help push them forward, if I don’t challenge them to embrace vulnerability and connect with their greatest self, they stay stuck. They may find themselves lost in that messiness that is a part of life, that “mud” which is perhaps comfortable but not helping them connect to that inner warrior who wants to fight for true inner peace.
So, what keeps us stuck in our comfort zones, and how can we push past them to realize our true potential?
1.) Fear of the unknown. I think we can all relate to this fear — “if I change, how will I know what it’s like? What if I can’t predict what will happen?”. This is very common, and yet change is happening all of the time. We have a choice to embrace it or to resist it. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy a common mantra is “embrace your demons and follow your heart”, meaning can you allow yourself to feel your emotions and fears, to not resist them, and to follow what your heart truly desires? I feel that if we are willing to take that leap we can learn that we have more resiliency than we may think and that we can cope with just about any change that can happen. And who knows, that change may be the thing we really needed to feel more connected to ourselves!
2.) Fear of failure. Oh boy, this is a biggie. So much of the time we resist change or trying something new because we are afraid of failing at it. Have you been there? I have. Why are we so terrified of failing? We cannot succeed all of the time, nor is it even healthy. Failing at something helps us learn more about ourselves and embrace that life is full of ups and downs. Pushing out of our comfort zones may mean “failing”, but there is always another chance to try again or to try it a different way. By failing we learn what actually works.
3.) Fear of rejection. I feel this is closely connected to #1 and #2. One of our greatest fears is to be rejected, as that could trigger feelings of shame or being unworthy of love, belonging, connection. Researcher Dr. Brene Brown so eloquently states: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable — to take that step outside of our comfort zone — we can deepen and nurture our sense of worth.
4.) Fear of success and progress. Yes, I know that might sound strange and counter-intuitive. However, if we can’t really predict what it feels like to change and to push out of our comfort zones, sometimes it can feel overwhelming to actually get to where we want to be. Have you ever made a big change in your life, one that you feel is a positive one, and yet still have trouble embracing or owning it? For example, many people who are working on recovery from an eating disorder may truly, desperately want to get out of the struggle with the disorder. However, letting go of it (making “progress”) might mean giving up something that has comforted them for so long and being vulnerable or “naked” without it can actually be quite terrifying. Helping ourselves see that “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” (Brené Brown) can give ourselves the grace to be our authentic selves.
Whew, I notice quite a few “fears” listed here. It’s interesting how fear can keep us so stuck, so disconnected from our values and what really matters to us, and allow us to stay in our comfort zones — places that don’t always serve us in a meaningful way.
Where are you stuck in your comfort zone? What is one step you can take to push out of it, embrace vulnerability, and be willing to accept whatever comes next?
I’m happy to share today an inspiring guest blog post by Julie Larkin of Perfectly You Integrative Coaching & Energetic Healing. I love Julie’s fun and quirky writing style and in this post she invites us to look at the parts of our lives that give us a ‘squirrelly’ feeling (and I am not a fan of squirrels, especially when they eat my garden!) — which she describes as ‘That restless feeling that has you contemplating any number of life adjustment(s) from quitting a job, to moving to another state, to leaving the relationship, to utterly altering your lifestyle, to a trip around the world …’
Julie and I connect on a similar vision: helping people connect to their authentic selves and supporting them to live a life that fulfills those unique values, goals, and joys. Julie is an Innovative Coach and Energy Practitioner and she loves to help people live more Perfectly-You on this adventure called life! She integrates forms of energy healing with coaching practice which I think is such a cool way of helping clients access all parts of themselves as a whole being and integrating them into balance. Check out her website at: www.perfectlyyoucoaching.com.
That restless feeling that has you contemplating any number of life adjustment(s) from quitting a job, to moving to another state, to leaving the relationship, to utterly altering your diet, to a trip around the world …
(Okay, okay. That may just be my level of squirrelly. Ha! The ‘let’s do this and let’s do this BIG’ variety … Yeee Haaaaw!!)
Regardless, if you find yourself sitting with some pretty significant restlessness; with feelings that you need a change … well, by all means, make a change!
Ahhhhhh, but practice a bit of mindfulness prior to jumping (if you’re the jumping type).
So very often, it’s the small adjustments that make the BIG difference. It’s why you so often hear that the move to another place, relationship, job, etc. eventually results in more of the same. DAMN IT! (wink)
WHAT SMALL ADJUSTMENTS WOULD ALLEVIATE YOUR LEVEL OF SQUIRRELLY?
Wait, that’s such a broad question. One that might get your anxiety levels up in addition to the squirrelly-ness. Sorry!
What small adjustments would alleviate your level of squirrelly AT WORK? AT HOME? IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP? RELATED TO YOUR SELF CARE? RELATED TO YOUR NUTRITION? RELATED TO YOUR HAVING-FUN FACTOR? ETC?
(Oh, and … this is scientifically proven. The butterfly affect of chaos theory. Read on science geeks!: The Butterfly Effect: This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened.A more rigorous way to express this is that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results. Our lives are an ongoing demonstration of this principle.) Awwwww Yeaaaaaaaah!!!
Many of the clients that I work with report feeling “disconnected from”, “at war with”, “disgusted by”, or “dissatisfied with” their bodies. To me this says that there has been some form of trauma that has caused a rift in the natural mind-body connection. This could mean an actual traumatic event in one’s life, or, more commonly, it could mean that some form of internal experience (feelings) has felt too painful or too disregulated and we must disconnect from it. Our bodies can be a battlefield for our emotions. Castlewood Treatment Center defines one’s body image as:
‘Body image is comprised of how one sees their body, lives in and experiences their body and perceives how others see their body. Negative body image can serve a protective function to distract clients from painful feelings or emotions held in the body.’
To heal from this disconnect between mind, body and soul, we strive to become more “embodied”, to literally attach ourselves to our bodies once more, as we were when we were born. To find a way to be accepting of our internal and experiences and thus more accepting of ourselves.
What does it mean to “be embodied”? Being “embodied” signifies:
Here are a few ideas for beginning to implement these and be on your way to “becoming more embodied” in a safe, accepting, nonjudgmental, and joyous capacity.
1.) Bring your focus to the daily essential tasks that your body performs for you. Have you ever noticed how many muscles, bones, and ligaments it takes to walk effectively? It’s not just our legs and feet that need to be involved; our whole body is on the job as we walk down the street and keep us balanced. What about all of the steps it take to take a shower? Have you ever slowed down and tuned into each step? Your body does so much for you — much of it out of your consciousness — and you may not realize this. By bringing attention and focus to the physical tasks it implements for you, you can begin to feel more present, grounded, and appreciative of your whole body and the miracle it is.
2.) Draw a body image timeline. What is the story of your body? What would it say to you about its life if it could speak? Begin with a large piece of drawing paper and some art materials. Draw a line from your earliest memory of your body to the present. Fill in each of the events that stand out to you (for example: ‘felt self-conscious in my bathing suit at the pool party, age 13′, or ‘gave birth to my first child, age 33′). Use colors, shapes, words to describe the journey your body has been on until this point. Add influential people to the timeline. This is not about weight, but about how it has felt to be in your body. Then, draw a line from the present into the future: how do you want the story of your body to look from here on out?
3.) Pay attention to the messages you send to your body. These may come from both internal and external sources. What kinds of statements do you send to your body? That it’s not good enough? That it’s awesome and strong? That it’s beautiful? That ‘if only I could lose 5 more lbs, I’d be happy’? Write these down in a notebook. Then try to reframe the negative ones to thoughts that feel more accepting, validating, kind, and compassionate — the kinds of messages you would send to someone you love very much. Offer kindness to what it’s been through — pains, injuries, surgeries, etc — and how resilient it is!
4.) Dance, dance, dance! We all can project feelings of awkwardness, uncertainty, or insecurity on our bodies. Have you ever watched someone dance in a way with complete abandon, fearlessness, and joy? Try it! You can begin in your own home. Turn on a song that you love, one that really gets into your soul, your joints, your body. And let yourself dance to it with no rules and no self-consciousness. Fling your arms around; gallop across the floor; jump in the air! Do whatever your body wants to do — just follow it. See how it feels!
5.) Spend a day tracking your emotions and your body signals. We tend to hold our emotions in our bodies, and they can often show up as somatic concerns if we don’t address them. Have you ever had a stress headache? Or shoulder tension? These could be the result of untreated emotional pain you are holding in your body. When we take care of our bodies appropriately (and this means REST as well as movement!), then we send the message to our emotional selves that we deserve to be appropriately tended to as well. Spend a day tracking the messages from your body and your emotions. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, track any emotions you feel that day (sad, angry, lonely, surprised, etc). On the other, track physical sensations you feel (headache, stomach queasy, muscle spasm in leg, tight hamstring, etc). Just notice where these line up next to each other and if you see any connection.
These are only a few ideas to helping you become more embodied in your body, your soul, and your life. This Saturday, March 29th, I’ll be facilitating a full-day workshop on this topic, using some of these techniques and so much more! There are a few spots left, so contact me ASAP at 720-340-1443 to reserve yours!
Leave a comment below with ideas you have tried that have helped you feel more “at home” in your body. What are the daily practices you use to facilitate this? There are more great ideas as Embodiment Training as well.
This is the only body you’ll have. Let’s see how we can celebrate our bodies and pamper them instead of judge and criticize them!
Today I am pleased to offer a guest post by blogger Lizz Schumer, who has known the dangers and pitfalls of disordered eating and exercise, and now advocates for healthy recovery and body image.
Here, she shares her experience with ‘fitspiration’ and describes her journey to balanced, intuitive exercise that fit her body’s unique needs:
I called it the “tyranny of the numbers.” I couldn’t be content to run x number of miles, burn x number of calories or spend x amount of time. The three x’s had to line up, like pictures on a slot machine, for me to hop off the treadmill satisfied. Bingo.
In this way, my compulsive exercising brain held my body captive, tied to a treadmill until one would let the other stop. If I skipped a day, I hated myself, my body, the weakness that I thought resting implied. I counted calories like I counted steps, minutes: obsessively. This was not fitness. This was an exercise in illness.
A person only need spend five minutes on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or even Twitter, to notice the “Fitspiration” trend that’s taking over social media. Slogans like “unless you puke, faint or die, keep going” and “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch,” slapped across photos of tight bodies in tighter clothes flash across the screen in the name of fitness. But what are they really saying?
After years of fighting it, I’ve learned to listen to my body telling me what it needs. My body isn’t a machine and it isn’t a tool. It’s a part of me, and a part that I love and respect. If it’s fainting or puking, there’s something wrong. That isn’t fitness; that’s illness.
And no matter how slow I go, my body still needs rest days. It needs the couch, sometimes. And yes, it often needs potato chips and chocolate, too. And if I don’t give it some off time, my body will break down. Or my mind will, because neither can exist at maximum capacity for long without falling to pieces, because neither were made that way. That isn’t fitness either. But I can tell you what it is.
It’s a culture trying to sell fitness by encouraging shame in our bodies. Fitspiration encourages pushing a person’s body to the limit and beyond, implying that any less is failure. It’s an all-or-nothing attitude that isn’t just discouraging; it’s dangerous. Women are already taught that we’re not good enough. We’re taught that our bodies are imperfect, our efforts are less valuable, our work is worth less. None of these are true, but all of them sell beauty products, self-help gear and yes, workout clothes. We have to look beyond the fitspiration messages and realize that slogans that subjugate aren’t selling us anything we should be buying. That we’re stronger, smarter, better than that.
True fitness, the kind that leaves a person feeling better and living healthier, has nothing to do with fainting and puking. It doesn’t require, or even usually result in, glistening muscles rippling beneath branded spandex. And most of all, real fitness makes a person feel better, not worse. Because my personal fitness level, no matter where it is, is nothing to be ashamed of.
These days, I don’t treat a treadmill like a slot machine, just like I don’t treat my body as a vessel that needs punishing. I put a book over the numbers, cue up my favorite podcast and exercise until a chapter break, the end of the broadcast or my body tells me to. No matter what the numbers say.
Bio: Lizz Schumer is a writer, reporter and photographer living and working near Buffalo, N.Y. The editor of a local newspaper, her work has appeared in a variety of forums. Her first book, “Buffalo Steel” is available from Black Rose Writing. She can be found @eschumer, www.lizzschumer.com and www.facebook.com/authorlizzschumer.
Do you want to read more about ‘fitspiration’, its unhealthy messages, and related topics? You may find out more about why fitspiration really isn’t that inspirational here; or uncover some of the most damaging fitspiration messages here, and read a report about the dangerous effects of fitspiration on mental and physical health as discussed by psychologists here.
With the news of The Biggest Loser contestant who dropped more than 60% of her body weight over the course of the show and fell to an unhealthy weight, The National Eating Disorders Association asks: ‘Who Is the Biggest Loser? All of Us.” A timely topic that we all must confront.
What are your thoughts or reactions? Please feel free to leave a comment below!
Shorter Days. Icy temperatures. Slippery roads. Snow. Do you ever get the ‘wintertime blues’? Do you sometimes feel like you have less energy, are more prone to depressed moods, or struggle to motivate yourself to act? I’ve been there!
While I love the beauty of the snow, the cozy feelings that the winter brings, and the hibernation of the earth, I do find myself getting antsy for the blooms and renewal of springtime. I am also reminded that earth needs winter, just as it needs summer, and fall, and spring. This deep sleep that it takes from December through March help replenish our water sources, nurture our plants’ natural cycles, and prepare for the re-birth of spring.
Psychologists use a term called “seasonal affective disorder” to help describe what some of us might feel during these long, dark, cold winter days. SAD is a clinical term to describe a form of depression that most commonly occurs in the wintertime (but did you know that you can feel effects of SAD all year round?) and is much more than just feeling tired or having low energy. SAD expert Norman E. Rosenthal states that it can affect up to 14 million people each year (or about 14% of American adults), as explained in his book Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Common symptoms include:
Light therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and some antidepressant medications have been proven to help alleviate some of these symptoms. Mindfulness, or the act of experiencing the present moment in a non-judgmental way, is especially helpful in treating forms of depression.
No matter what time of year it is, each season brings its own variety of joy, celebration, and tradition. If you’re finding yourself waiting for the first day of spring, try to allow yourself to be mindful of the gifts of the present — winter — because you might be missing it come mid-August!
Here are a few simple mindfulness practices to ground you in the present moment, receive its gifts, and focus on what’s meaningful to you right here, right now.
If you’re feeling a bit “sad” this winter, you’re not alone! Try to remember what the winter has to offer — and the fun mythology tales that describe our history with the seasons. Spring will come, the sun will shine again, and earth will flourish in greens, oranges, blues, purples, pinks, reds, and every color under the rainbow once more
If you’re looking for a little bit of support to cope with the wintertime blues, I offer complimentary consultations to see if we’d be a good fit to work together. Please call me at 720-340-1443 today!
While immersing myself in texts, articles, conversations and daydreams to begin putting together a body image group coming in January 2014 (updates coming soon!!), I came across a beautiful and brilliant photo book by photographer Rosanne Olson entitled this is who I am. Within the book’s covers, fifty-four women are photographed nude, each with stories to tell to prove that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes:
“The portraits, taken by award-winning photographer Rosanne Olson with a steady, non-judgmental eye, speak loudly to the American obsession of feminine perfection — slim hims and full breasts, high cheekbones and tiny waists, taut skin and eternal youth — and even more loudly to the way real women, with real bodies and real lives, look.”
I was struck by the pure humanness and depth in the eyes and bodies of all of the women represented in the book — women from all walks of life, ethnicities, ages, and with their own unique stories.
Utilizing this book with clients who are struggling with their own various body image issues has proven to be an eye-opening and introspective journey. We have found a richness in exploring how what we see on the outside does not necessarily tell us the true or whole story. When looking at a photo of a twenty-two year old slim, blonde woman, one might be compelled to focus on her body first and assume (by society’s standards) that she is happy, rich, popular, and perfect. Reading her story, you learn that she has had part of her lung removed as part of complications of cystic fibrosis and that she lives with other complications every day. Look in her eyes and you sense a wisdom, perhaps one that delves into her soul and makes her look older than she is. You sense that she knows her story and its twists and turns.
What do learn or assume if we focus on how a body looks as an assessment tool for how happy, peaceful, confident, healthy, wealthy, etc etc etc a person is? How true of a measuring tool is that? What are the consequences to this approach?
Ms. Olson posed intriguing questions to her subjects in her “goal of complete revelation — not hiding behind clothing but exposing both body and mind. What would we learn about ourselves? Would we — could we — become more compassionate? Not only towards ourselves but towards another?” I invite you to peruse through the other questions she posed and see how you would answer them yourself:
She then asked each participant why they agreed to be photographed. Some of the women struggle with eating or exercise problems. Some have suffered from medical issues or illnesses that have affected the way their body functions, feels, and looks. They all have had experiences in their lives which have forced them to become more aware of their bodies — whether in a joyful or painful way.
What story does your body hold? If photographed, what messages about your internal state of being would your body send to those looking at the photo? Is your internal state congruent with the energy you exude out of your body?
I have been journaling about my own journey with my body. It has been through so much with me, and yet here it still stands, walks, talks, and dances, my ever dedicated soldier. I am so grateful for my body, though my relationship with it can wind through sticky paths as well as bright ones. In my own recovery, I have learned that I must take care of my body, and this is not negotiable. My body is unique just to me, a gift. I admire the women in these photos who allow themselves to be vulnerable, naked, and yet to connect to each other and to those who read their stories and see their photos in such a powerful way.
Stay tuned for my Body Image Acceptance Group coming in January 2014! The group will be limited to few participants, so sign up quickly. More info coming soon to my Events page.