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August 2, 2017

How to Love our Body after Years of Abuse.


My body is tough. Like, really tough.

She took a sh*t-kicking for years and kept coming back for more. I pumped her full of drugs and alcohol, gnarly food, and “herbal cleanses” for decades, and she kept showing up for me.

I tried to turn my body inside out. I forced her through spin classes and dumbbell kickbacks. I squeezed her into compression garments and push-up bras like a toddler dressing up the family dog. I prodded her resentfully onto the bathroom scale every morning, never truly satisfied regardless of the number.

And still—she showed up for me.

My body loves me like nothing else on this earth. While I have tried my best to deny that love, my body has only ever wanted the best for me. She has been infinitely patient as I knocked her about, trying everything in my power to make her into something she could never really be.

Yet she never resented my attempts to alter her. She never wished for me to be anything than what I already am.

Her love for me has never wavered to this very day. And finally, I have had to begun to admit a reluctant affection for her in return.

Like one of those ridiculous movies where a cop and his prisoner (through some arbitrary plot device) find themselves shackled together, I recently began to see my body through the lens of begrudging, tentative courtesy. “You’re not so bad, I guess.” I somehow was able to admit one day a few years ago, with a slow climb since.

And my body, being the wise creature she is, didn’t push me. She just stayed steady as she went. With that same loving, unwavering presence she has always had. There was no celebration. No rushing delight.

It was that steadfast, unhurried, open love for me—just as I am—that became my invitation to at last connect with my body. I sat at her feet, just to listen. Eager for her wisdom and hungry for her calm, steady presence.

Buddhist nun and spiritual teacher, Pema Chödrön once wrote, “You are the sky, everything else is just the weather.”

I see now that my body is my sky. She always has been. She can hold everything in me and remain unaltered. As I grasp this, a profound sense of debt wells up in me. The rabid dog of my self-regard fights an impulse to offer abasement or penance to my body for insulting, neglecting, and disregarding her for so long.

I feel ashamed of how I’ve treated her.

But when I come back to my place at her feet, leaning into her stillness, I appreciate the complete absurdity of that impulse to atone.

My body is not punitive. She is forgiving. What’s more, she knows that nothing exists outside of the right now, so thoughts of penitence and punishment or apologies owed are just that—thoughts.

My body has no use for my thoughts.

They are just the weather.
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Author: Jude Temple
Image: Lucas Pimenta/ Unsplash 
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social editor: Catherine Monkman

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