My body has not always been my friend. Or more accurately, I have not been the best of friends to my body.
As a child I had pretty rotten eating habits. I was a picky eater and dinner was often a bowl of cold cereal. Sugar cereal that is. I ate from one of four food groups: carbs, fats, fruits and sugar. And while I rode my bike and ran around the neighborhood, exercise was a foreign concept.
In high school I developed an eating disorder. I did start eating healthier foods - I discovered vegetables, chose salads over carbs, cut out sugar - I just didn't allow myself enough food. I also became a runner and fitness nut.
While I believed I was finally tending to my body, I was really atoning for the crime of having a body. It wasn't something to befriend as much as something to control, tame or subdue.
When I was in graduate school I had an accident and I broke my neck. I had to spend three months in a halo brace and then months in various cervical collars. While I recognized this "accident" was a call for me to stop living mindlessly - to really wake up to what I wanted to be doing with my life - at some level I believed my body had betrayed me.
Soon afterward this upheaval (I dropped out of school one semester before my qualifying exams, moving to our present location for a new job) I discovered yoga. I began a dedicated practice in which I began to heal my relationship with my body. Or so I thought.
While I tended to my body's needs, cultivating deep listening to its wisdom, I believed I was entering into a new relationship defined by respect and trust. Then my body disappointed me yet again.
The dark secret of miscarriage is the shame one assumes; my body's inability to do what it seeming was designed to do left me feeling deficient or defective and angry with its lack of cooperation.
All these stories came tumbling out of me this past weekend as I worked on my art journal spread for Earth, the first topic covered in The Elements of Art Journaling course with Effy Wild. The prompt was to consider the associations I had with the word earth and from there to look at what words or ideas expressed my experience or sense of my body. The phrase I was to consider being "My body is ..."
I actually cheated. While I had lots of images/thoughts about earth, I didn't think too much about my body and its connection to earth. As my page evolved it came time to take a photograph of myself to use in the spread. I had just taught my Sunday morning yoga class, so I naturally assumed a favorite pose.
After 17 years of practice, my poses have changed significantly. My body has changed and my relationship with it has softened. Where once I had been strict and disciplined, I am now more gentle and accepting. I am not interested in pushing my body as much as listening to it. As I photographed myself in Warrior I pose it struck me, my body is a map of my journey. It is my compass guiding and directing me. It has never let me down; rather, I was not listening to the wisdom it was trying to impart: open, relax, soften, trust, find contentment within this skin, within this moment, this life.
My Body is the compass for my journey ... it is my guide, my teacher, my friend ... it connects me to all Life
My body has been my best friend on this journey, putting up with a lot of my crap and abuse and still she serves me with patience and tolerance. My body is my friend; she connects me to earth, to life, to my animal nature and is the portal to deeper truths and a wisdom accessible only through living through loss and gain, pleasure and pain, birth, death and rebirth.