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October 12, 2021

How Swimming Naked in the River transformed my Body Image.

 

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It was warm, and the river looked beautiful and refreshing after a long walk.

The flowing water was inviting, calling my name. The beauty of the rainforest was breathtaking—green, full of life.

I was with a group of women, on a yoga retreat. We were on a break from yoga and enjoying our time, hiking in the wonderfulness of the Byron Bay hinterland in Australia. Nobody had taken their swimsuit on the hike. Swimming was not in our plans.

But by the time I came out from my daydream, a few women had already taken their clothes off, all their clothes, and jumped in the river.

Free. Beautiful.

I was tempted to do the same, but a wave of self-consciousness invaded me. I looked at my body—my breasts, a bit sagging from breast-feeding two babies, and my belly starting to show a bit of perimenopausal cushion.

I was frozen, two internal parts of me debating, struggling to find a compromise: the part that just wanted to swim freely, be refreshed, have fun, and the protective, perfectionist part that was telling me that my body was not perfect enough to be shown in its wholesomeness.

I became aware of my internal talk. I breathed, a bit surprised at myself, realizing I still did not love my body fully, after years of developmental work. After all, I coached women on how to love themselves, their bodies, just the way they are. Perfectly imperfect. Imperfectly perfect.

I reflected on the choice I had made at that perfect moment:

Could I swim naked in rivers?

Could I look at my body, truly look, at every part of her with compassion, love, admiration? The curves, the stretches, her strengths, her weaknesses, the stories, and the knowledge she has to share, the care she requests, the love she deserves.

Or would I hide her, watch her, and compare her to others and feel less or more?

Could I choose the freedom of the moment, the joy, the flow?

Or would I fall and feed society’s created expectations of the women’s body needing to look like the models shown in magazines?

Could I give myself permission to love being me, wholesomely—love being a woman?

Or would I feed the demeaning of women for generations by demeaning myself right here, right now, for a standard I did not create for myself?

Could I show my body right now? Could I show my body to my beloved? My whole body? Without shame? Without restraint? With love, pride, freedom, and sensuality?

Or would I rather miss the joy of the moment, turn the light off, and hide my body in fear that someone would see the imperfections I see in her?

Could I connect to my body and listen to her voice and whispers? Could I rest when she asks me to? Could I move when she needs it? Could I swim if that was what she desired in the moment?

Or would I continue to ask her to shush and move on with the schedule of what I created my life to be?

Could I dance with life? Could I dance when creativity flows through? Could I let music move my body without restraint or embarrassment?

Or would I rather hide with embarrassment and miss out on a moment of freedom?

Could I look forward to growing old together, accepting the changes, and caring for her the way she will need?

Or would I continue dreading the process of aging and despising her transformation?

After a few minutes of internal chatter, my two internal parts found a compromise: I would go in with all my clothes on. And I did. The water felt so good, refreshing, freeing.

The water gave me the courage to come back to my senses and to give myself permission to be free—free from my expectations, free from the constructs of society that a woman’s body should be a certain way to be lovable.

I went out, took my clothes off, and went back in.

I chose freedom. I felt joy. I laughed.

I will remember this moment forever, this moment of choice, this decision I made, this belief I changed. This was the moment I chose to love my body wholesomely.

Can you swim naked in rivers?

Can you feel this sense of freedom? This sense of love and acceptance it brings to yourself?

Or would you rather shrink and hide?

Once you find your own ways to connect with your body, your wild woman, your authentic self, she will open to you in ways you could not imagine she would.

Touch, taste, smell, look, and hear your body. Move and be moved. Nourish and respect your body. Connect with your natural, wild self. And give yourself permission to feel good. Give yourself permission to love yourself.

With love and gratitude.

 

Hearted by and 1 other reader

 

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