Our bodies. Our blessed, beautiful, loving bodies.
They go through so much. They carry us through good and bad, through life itself each day. They hold us. They do their best even when we don’t believe in them. They are always with us, even when we forget about them. They cry with us, they laugh with us, they walk with us, and they bear our scars both inside and out.
They move, they dance, they tremble in fear and ecstasy. They are our beloved companions; friends even when we forget to speak to them kindly. They are our shrines, built of blood, bone, flesh, and spirit. Such temples are worthy of honoring, respect, and kindness in return.
And yet we are constantly bombarded by body shaming, body doubting, body bashing, body rejecting, and even body discounting. No matter the body, thin or overweight, male or female, scarred or not, body shaming is real, experienced by all, and present even in the most “spiritual” of communities.
We judge each other—our values, skills, abilities, talents, and identity based on how we look and dress—no matter how open-minded we are. But that’s not something that we can change. So instead, may we focus on how we treat our beautiful temples.
Everyone talks about self-love, but rarely do we talk about why it matters. Well, it’s the most powerful love spell of all.
Caring for ourselves and loving and honoring our bodies allows us to pay attention; and the more we learn to pay attention, the better lovers we’ll be. If we are comfortable in our own bodies, we are better at being creative and imaginative, which is what eroticism and vitality are based on.
Self-love is not about loving ourselves when things are great; it is about how we treat ourselves when things are not great—when we feel rejected, humiliated, ugly, ashamed, embarrassed, or as if we’ve just failed at something. Managing our feelings with compassion and forgiveness is what makes us great lovers both toward ourselves and others. Then, and only then, can we approach our lovers as art, exploring them with presence year after year rather than taking them for granted day after day.
When we know how to best treat ourselves, we’re able teach others how to treat us and, at the very least, we’ll no longer settle for anything less. Self-love teaches us boundaries, discernment, self-value, and respect. And as a result, we learn how to honor these in others.
The more connected we are to ourselves and our physical temples, the more connected we can be to another, and the more meaningful, fulfilling, and long-lasting our relationships will be.
So, how do we cast this love spell?
The thing about self-love is that it is based on self-awareness and self-acceptance. These kinds of words are overused today, but they are not so simple in practice.
To accept ourselves as we truly are, so that we come into our wholeness and blessedness, is a hard task. It is about melting, letting our rigid exterior and boundaries soften to reveal our radiant being within. When we are aware of how we judge our feelings and appearance, only then will we have the choice to let go of these attitudes and open ourselves fully to new possibilities, realities, and love.
This is not about loving more, and that’s an important distinction to make. Love is our essence—our true nature. Love is about wholeness and acceptance, in an unconditional way. All we need to do is devote time, effort, clear intent, and commitment to the art of noticing. We need to pay loving attention. We need to lay ourselves emotionally and physically bare to feel into ourselves (and others) with compassion and awareness, free from judgment and blame. Let’s start with a few questions:
>> What does nakedness mean for you? What does your body mean to you?
>> Is it a place?
>> Is it a place where we go?
>> Is it a place of tenderness? Is it a place of authority, surrender, discomfort, creativity, joy, pleasure, embarrassment, criticism, obsession, or is it a place of shame?
>> How do you enter this place?
These body love rituals are not just about our physical body; they’re about our body as the temple of our spirit—the mirror of our soul.
Just as we use mirrors to look at our external selves, we can also look within to explore our inner world. Essentially, our eyes see through our perspectives, which are parts of our inner world. And if the view is a bit shady, then the image will be a bit shady also.
Looking at external mirrors reflects our visible realities and bodies. It is what it is. We can choose not to look at it, but it won’t change our body unless we ourselves do something to change it, or change our perspective of what we accept or describe as “beautiful” versus “ugly.” Self-love, which is self-awareness and self-acceptance, is about our inner spiritual condition. It is a way of shaping our inner reality as an external image so that we can view a new perspective through which we can gain more insight and make tangible changes.
Below are a few rituals to help us find and enter a space of self-love.
Our body is our home, our temple, and our shrine. It is also a mirror. In many small thousands of ways, our body reflects who we are in the space that we occupy. The thing with mirrors is this: we can only see what we bring. These ritual helps us to understand our relationship to our home within.
You can do these rituals alone or with a partner. I would suggest, however, that you do them alone first. If we are not comfortable in our bodies and lack self-esteem, no matter how much our partner adores us and explores us, we’ll never be able to receive them fully. Additionally, many couples who have been together for a long time find that they depend on their partner for their self-definition. Body love is an entirely different perspective and this is why it is important to begin with yourself.
Turn off the lights in your room and place candles on both sides of a full-length mirror. Light the candles and imagine a gateway. Your view of yourself is now entering the gateway—the temple that is your body.
Stand naked and move around, observing how each part of your body changes a little in the light. Notice how your curves play in the shadows. Dance with music as an honoring for your body. Where do you enter? Consider how you honor your temple. How can you express adoration toward yourself in new ways? How does your perspective change as the light changes? How can you best honor your blessed body?
Turn on the lights and stand fully clothed in front of a full-length mirror. Intend on exploring yourself. Look yourself up and down and notice what thoughts, feelings, judgments, and humble appreciations arise for you.
Look yourself in the eyes for a few minutes and receive yourself with all that is you and arising within you. Remain with yourself through these uncomfortable moments and thoughts, whatever they may be, continuing to look into your eyes. When we remain with ourselves through the difficult, eyes wide open, we connect more deeply.
Begin to remove your clothing piece-by-piece while continuing to look at yourself in the mirror. Receive yourself with your eyes at all times until naked. Look at your body and explore what you like about it.
>> What touches you about your body?
>> What moves you or makes you feel beautiful?
>> What are you proud of?
>> For the parts that you don’t like, for what situation in your life was that part helpful?
Any scars, imperfections, or cellulite (which we all have) are just signs of our personhood, beauty, and strength. As our body changes and ages, every part of it is just a mark of life, maturity, and wisdom. Pay loving attention to yourself. Then ask yourself some love questions:
>> How do I show up for myself?
>> How generous am I toward myself?
>> How do I speak to myself when I’ve failed or looked “bad”?
>> How do I romance myself? What romantic thing did I do just for me, just because?
>> How do I take care of my emotional needs and how do I listen to my body’s needs?
>> How do I fulfill my desires?
Take a shower or a bath. Enjoy the sensations of the water and oils as they caress your beautiful skin. After the shower, start your love ritual.
Stand in front of the full-length mirror and look at yourself. Receive yourself. Rub oil into your full body. As you do, imagine that you are rubbing love and gratitude into it—toes, ankles, thighs, belly, breasts, neck, and arms. Show up for yourself in the mirror and explore your body. With each stroke, think of gratitude and love. Thank your body parts by saying out loud or thinking, thank you legs for walking with me today. Thank you arms for holding me. Your body is a sensual place to be. Indulge it. Nourish it. Enter each caress as everlasting life. Put on some music, dance and move.
Imagine yourself as a beautiful experience of tender love. Because love is not just felt in the heart, it is known in the hands, too.
Confronting our inner selves—our shame and insecurities—can be uncomfortable.
It’s an intimate act, into-me-see. We spend great amounts of energy hiding uncomfortable truths so that we maintain a facade. Yet the more we hide ourselves from ourselves, the more we separate ourselves from ourselves, and thus others.
When we decide to integrate all parts of us that were meant to be whole, we truly begin to love and accept ourselves. And that’s when we can share with others and build intimate, honest, and long-lasting connections of deep, emotional fulfillment. We can only share with others what we have discovered and accepted within ourselves. We can only truly change our so-called unpleasant parts when we have explored them and recognized their needs.
Self-exploration can be difficult, and it may bring up intense feelings of shame. When we feel shame, it is often because we have taken on the beliefs of others that our minds, bodies, or sexuality are dirty and bad, thereby we ourselves must be dirty and bad. This shame is toxic and unhealthy.
When we try to cover our shame, we often cover up with addictions or overcompensate in certain areas of life such as mistaking our overt sexuality for sexual confidence when it actually shows reluctance to intimacy. This is why we need to look at our minds, our bodies, and our sexual organs—to allow ourselves to be witnessed by our own eyes, fully, completely, and honestly. Yes, the feeling of shame may be oppressive and painful. But the rewards of self-exploration are immeasurable.
Every time we reveal a part of us, we let go of an illusion that was never serving us. When we stay present with our physical and emotional experiences, we allow these feelings of shame to move through us, and out of us; to uproot these weeds and come into self-acceptance and whole love. In order to be free, we must face our inner world and remember ourselves. And living a life of self-truth is our most beautiful gift; it allows us to live in peace and self-acceptance. When we let go of our illusions and old beliefs, we arrive at home; we come into our wholeness and holiness.
In Shamanic traditions, it is often said that the greatest adversary to reclaiming our power, is forgetfulness—forgetting our deeper truth and love. However horrible our experiences, belief systems, or childhoods may have been, we have all been touched by love at least once.
Remember yourself. Connect to the inner lover inside you. Connect to the beauty, gratitude, joy and love that is you. Make yourself a body blessed and whole, full of love rituals.
Self-love is a way to be touched by our own souls. As with any other intimate relationship, it requires trust, truth, respect, tenderness, compassion, and dedication.
As we accept and embrace our external self, we also expand our inner landscape.