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My entire life had been filled with a self-hatred that ran so deep there were times I would shower with my eyes closed so as not to have to see myself.
As a child, I wrapped my body in cling film, as I had seen someone do this on a movie as an effort to lose weight.
This didn’t change much into my adult life. But my strategies shifted slightly. I ditched the cling film for alcohol and over-exercising, finding them an effective way to escape the discomfort I felt with being in my own body.
Eventually, though, this unsustainable approach ran thin. I could no longer numb what I was experiencing and so instead I turned in. Open-eyed. And began a process of healing.
And as I began my journey of meditation, reflection, and embodiment, I began to find residing in my own body much more bearable. With each exercise, it became more and more bearable, until eventually I truly enjoyed being in my body.
I even grew to enjoy the softer edges that formed and the dissolving of muscles for a more curvaceous tone. And this is why it was so alarming to recently feel the old shadows reemerging once again. Although I felt I had healed this war with my body for good, I had a small glimpse back into that old life.
Fortunately though, as I pulled on my resources and tools, I was enlivened by how quickly I was able to move back into a place of connection with my body.
Here is what I shared on Instagram:
“Exploring a new city by bike
Has me residing in the muscles
And I find it interesting to watch
The associated feelings and sensations that arrive from this place
Two years ago I left the muscles for flow
For the softening and easing
Prioritising the creation of space over the building of muscular tone and shape
But as I explored once again an old terrain of my body
I observed a heightened awareness of my belly
An awareness of the trapping sensation
As though I was caught within the wall of fat cells
There was a sense of the old me
Considering fat as a negative
As something to change or remove
But with a growing acceptance and love of the body
I began to meditate on the support of the fat that surrounded my muscles
Allowed myself to feel into and identify as the fat
Rather than being on an opposing team
As I identified with and embodied this part of myself
My awareness once again shifted into one of wholeness
One of acceptance
There is no other
This or that
The fat is a part of me
Just as are the bones
This is all me and I choose not to escape
Or change a single thing <3″
And so I want to share my top tips here for moving back into connection with your body when you feel the body image shadows rise:
1. Observe your thoughts.
By observing them, you are already beginning to separate from that which creates the divide. Listen with curiosity to the voices in your head who tell you that your body is anything but perfect. These thoughts have come from conditioning. They are there to protect you. So thank them, but politely tell them you no longer need their protection.
2. Notice the sensations.
With each thought and moment, there is a bodily sensation. Tune into this. What does it feel like in your body right now? Where is your attention drawn to? For me, it was the areas of my body where my mind was judging. My belly, my thighs. The outer layer of my body felt like a pulsing and tingling as though these parts of my body were being gently nudged with a thousand tiny pins.
3. Allow your awareness to rest here.
Be with the sensation if you can, without judgement. See if you can be with what is without a need to change or escape. We often do anything we can to not feel. As humans we have all sorts of strategies to avoid being with what is. See if you can begin a new pattern by being with instead of moving away from. Inviting the breath into awareness too will help with this.
4. Notice the areas of fatty cells and recognise them as a part of you.
I know this one seems hard, but by accepting them as a part of you that is offering support, you begin to shift from separation into wholeness. From it and you, into me. This will shift you from viewing this part of yourself as something to escape, and instead, recognise it as a part of you that grew as support—emotional, mental, or physical.
Explore what it feels like to move with your awareness on the fatty cells from a place of acceptance. You might put music on and dance or simply walk around the room, allowing them to be invited into your awareness in a nonjudgemental way. See if you can be curious around what it feels like to move with this part of you as you. This will begin the process of inviting this part of you back into the whole and healing the divide of it and me.
For some, these steps might be simple.
For some, they may be incredibly challenging.
Our bodies store many unprocessed emotions and traumas and so our ability to feel into the body can be dependent on how much lies within our cellular memory.
If practicing the exercises above feels at any time overwhelming, or you find you are unable to make contact with the felt sense of your body, you may wish to reach out for one-on-one support.
A journey into the body is an enlightening one, with many gifts resting within the soma (body) but the nature of the journey is dependent on the terrain and sometimes we may need a guide along the way.
Check out Claire’s website to sign up for her free meditation course and to learn more about Somatic (body-mind) based therapies.