I’ve come to believe that our capacity to reach beyond ourselves–experiencing mystery or being present to others–is dependent on how fully we are planted in our bodies in all their flaws and grace.” – Krista Tippet
For most of my life, like many women, I’ve struggled to actually inhabit my body. To live in it fully. To make room for all of it’s many sensations, flaws and beauty. To trust it. To be present with it. To appreciate it more than I criticize it.
I’ve had good reason. Living in the world in this way–letting myself truly feel this embodied human experience–is so tender. Exposed even. It’s like standing on a mountain top naked, feeling all of the storms, softness, pain and beauty of being my human self in a human body. It felt easier, and safer, to spend much of my time in my head and try to ignore my body when things got uncomfortable.
But alas, our bodies do not like being ignored and they will speak louder and louder, in the form of symptoms and illness, until we start truly listening.
In order to bring my body back into wellness, I had to learn how to truly embody it. How to relate to it with more skill. And that I can, in any moment, choose to be a curious explorer of my body, rather than staying disconnected. Like really savoring the juicy sweetness of a ripe peach. Or feeling the full weight of grief in my chest. The buzzing of anxiety in my belly. The breath-taking vastness of a sky full of stars. The palpable buoyancy of joy. The tangible grounding of being wrapped in a hug. The subtle sensations of my body asking for rest or play or nourishment. I can make room for it all.
This renewed relationship with my body has gradually lit up my life in a way I could have never imagined–from the inside. It feels like the world opening up for me. It feels like coming home.
And yet, there is no arriving. It’s an ongoing daily practice, an ongoing dance. No matter how much I long to be courageous, it’s a tall order to stay with my body when I’m angry, sad, lonely, nauseous or in pain. But I’ve vowed to keep learning how to be a trustworthy, present, kind partner to my body. To take the perspective that we are in this thing together and both doing our best. This mindset has made all the difference.
I feel more alive and grounded, less numb. I offer my body support, gratitude, and dignity, regardless of the thoughts that come and go in my head about what it should or shouldn’t be. I look to my body to guide me in healing, rather than simply demanding it change.
It’s also helped me become a far better support for others looking to heal. Instead of simply offering diagnoses and recommendations, I spend a good portion of my time in my Functional Medicine practice helping women find their way into a connected and supportive relationship with their body. Amongst all of the other assessing, testing, treating, teaching, researching, and supporting that my work involves–this continues to stand out as the most important, and transformative, piece of what I do. I believe the quality of our relationship with our body is the single most powerful factor in healing. One that is highly underutilized by the vast majority of people and healthcare practitioners. And it’s the foundation for everything else we hope to experience, create, and do in our lives.
Transformation Through Mindset & Relationship
I want to invite you to take on this relational mindset with me. No commitment necessary. Just try it on. It’s a perspective that has been amazingly powerful for myself and many of my patients and clients. I’ve seen it, again and again, transform the way women relate to their bodies and help them reclaim their health.
Here it is: You are in a relationship with your body. To meet your wellness goals and to feel deeply well, you’ll need to develop a really positive and strong relationship with it. This means seeing your body as a separate, valued being. One that needs to be treated with the same intentions and characteristics as the people you care about in your life. You’ll need to envision your body as a partner, a friend, an ally, and an incredible source of wisdom.
If this feels hard or awkward to see your body from this perspective, you’re normal! Due to many cultural influences, it’s often challenging to see our bodies as allies and something to treat with dignity and care. We get so many other messages, from a very young age, to push, pull and use them as tools. To judge them with a critical eye. To dominate them and put them down, rather than befriend them.
Luckily, it doesn’t matter how natural or unnatural this feels. The transformation is in the effort and the practice.
Take Action: A Practice In Relating
When I share this perspective with other women, the first thing they ask is how to begin. There are many ways of course. This brief reflection is a wonderful, simple way to explore a relational mindset and nurture your relationship with your body. I hope you’ll grab a pen and your journal and enjoy!
- Imagine your most important body or health goal right now. Take a minute to really envision what you would like to create. (ie. increased energy, healing a health problem, decreasing pain, increasing your sense of vitality, running a marathon, conceiving a pregnancy, etc). Jot it down in your journal. Then take another moment to envision your body as an ally and friend that can help you move towards this health goal and overcome barriers.
- Now consider which qualities, actions and ways of being would create a solid, healthy, thriving relationship. Think of one of the strongest, most positive relationships in your life. It could be a family member, partner, or friend. In your journal, jot down some characteristics or ways that you treat them or they treat you that make the relationship so safe, meaningful, and positive. Jot down 5-10 qualities. (For example: Non-judgement–The people I feel closest too, I feel like they aren’t judging me when I tell them something I’m embarrassed about. I feel like they are accepting of me and nonjudgmental. I know I can tell them anything and they will not put me down.)
- Pick your top 3. Now you know that all of these qualities you’ve mentioned are really important to you in your relationships. It’s great information. But if you had to pick, which are the top 3 qualities that matter most to you in your relationships? Circle them in your journal. This is exciting! Now that you know these qualities are very important to you, you can practice treating and relating to your body with these qualities in mind.
- Consider some actions you can take that would help you express your top 3 qualities in your relationship with your body. Think of 2 or more ideas for each of your top 3 qualities. (For example, compassion is one of my top relationship values. A few compassionate actions I could take towards my body today would be to plan time for a power nap midday when my energy tends to get low. I could take a warm relaxing bath tonight to soothe my sore muscles. Or I could write a list of things I appreciate about my body.) If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, ask someone you trust to help you brainstorm.
- Commit to taking those actions this week! This is where the rubber meets the road. Move from insight to action by planning a day and time to complete the 6 actions you came up with. And make it happen.
Your body is an incredible source of wisdom and healing information. It can teach you how to heal and thrive with your unique physiology–in ways that no doctor or guru could ever know. Only you live in your body. So you are the expert. By nurturing your relationship with your body, you can learn to tap into this amazing well of wisdom deeply and often.
My great hope is that we can all be a part of the movement changing the way we see and relate to our bodies. And that we can pass this powerful mindset down to the next generation of girls and boys as we lead by example.
What was this reflection like for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Be Well Luminaries!