A Body-Love Practice: Arizona Lesson

Part of my work in cultivating more self-love has been the practice of loving my body as it is right now in this very moment and not waiting until I'm satisfied with my body fat percentage, how much I can lift, how clear my skin is, or what my blood sugar norm is.  Here I share a narrative from an experience I had while I was traveling in Arizona in April, where I had a particular moment of despair and how the magic of the hiking trails reminded me of an important lesson: 

It had been a long day of travel.  Going to bed late the night before and weird sleep schedules earlier in the week that caused lingering fatigue had me sleeping through the 6am alarm, so that when I woke at 8 with a start, swearing as I leapt out of bed with sleep still in my eyes, I was shocked that I was supposed to be at the airport right then instead of in my pjs with sleep marks still fresh on my cheek.  Thank goddess for uber cars and for the woman who put me through priority cause despite choosing the slowest security line and my gate being the farthest one away, I was last to board 5 minutes before take off. 

By 8pm that night, after a harried start, not getting my usual amount of caffeine straight away, and with my body three hours ahead still on New York time, I was EXHAUSTED.  The only thing to do, I mused, was to take a hot bath in the gloriously deep tub in the place I was staying, to wash the weariness and travel away, before slipping into bed for a good night’s sleep.

As I disrobed my clothes and glanced at my naked body in the huge bathroom mirrors, disappointment and frustration swept through my emotional body.  It was about a year exactly since I looked at my reflection in this specific mirror and I had hoped I would’ve seen more progress in my physique.  More defined muscles, tighter abs, stronger glutes.  I stepped into the tub and sunk down into the warm, soapy water with my paralleled sunken optimism.  “You preach about loving your body and here you are hating yours,” an inner voice said to me.  Ouch.  That critical and disapproving voice was right and it hurt.  As I submerged myself beneath the suds of bubbles and scanned my figure as it went under the surface, another much more kind and wise voice said, “You have the body of a goddess.”  With a sigh (and a roll of the eyes at how OF COURSE my inner wisdom would say something cheesy like THAT!), knowing that much of the disappointment was due to utter exhaustion, I gave myself the task of practicing self-love, especially because it felt REALLY difficult to muster in that particular moment. 

So I took time lathering, shampooing, conditioning, shaving, pondering.  When I emerged from the tub feeling clean and warm and soft, after gently toweling myself dry, I began to moisturize my entire body, but this time, with intention and purpose.  With each place that I slathered on and rubbed in my lotion, I whispered to myself what I loved about that body part, no matter how difficult it was to come up with something.  No matter how simple the reason for the love.  Not moving on until I declared something and truly felt it.  Without my glasses on, so that my view in the mirror would be softened with a new type of vision, I began from the bottom and made my way up:

I love my feet because they walk many miles and connect me to my mother the Earth.  The arches of my feet make me feel sexy when I’m barefoot and I adore having my toenails painted a sassy red.

I love my calves, my ankles, and my large knee caps because they remind me of my dad.  I have my dad’s knees.  My dad’s legs. 

I love my muscular thighs and glutes because they are thick and strong and sturdy.  They help me lift heavy things and carry me throughout the world with ease and grace.

I love my wide hips because they are child-bearin’ hips.  My hips help hold babies on them.  My hips allow me to express my sensuality when I sway, dance, swivel, strut.  My hips hold my pelvic bowl – my place of feminine power and creativity.

I love my soft belly because (and this was a hard one) she graciously has been a landing pad for all of the needles that are necessary for my sweet nectar, my insulin. 

I love my core muscles that lay under my soft belly because they are strong and allow me to move my body in expressive performance storytelling. 

I love my breasts because they make me feel womanly and soft and nurturing and sensual. 

I love my chest because my heart is there.  My tender loving raw human heart.

I love my arms because they hold space, hug, carry, lift, support, serve, express.

I love my hands because they are healing hands.  Hands that bring light, hold broken hearts, create flow, restore balance, touch.

I love my long neck because it reminds me of my mom.  I have my mom’s neck – a luscious, feminine, throat-chakra-holding neck.

I love my lips, my mouth, my freckled cheeks, my nose, my blue eyes, my pale skin, my wildish strawberry blonde hair because they make me feel beautiful.  Sometimes glamorous beauty.  Sometimes natural beauty.  Always expressive beauty. 

And by the time I finished, I felt better.  More beautiful.  More patient.  More loving and understanding towards myself.  And with the promise to be more gentle with my self-judgment, I slipped on my pajamas and pulled down the covers for restful, rejuvenating, comforting sleep.  With a promise to work at loving myself right now in this moment exactly as I am.

As the days followed on my vacation and as I clocked in 30 miles of hikes with my man, the trails on the mountains reminded me of an important lesson in patience and self-love.  My tendency on the hikes, and sometimes in life, is to rush out of the gate and only be focused on getting to the end FAST (many times complaining about the difficulty and the burning in my thighs the whole way! Ha!).  But as I spent each day hiking and connecting to nature, I found that it was more about the path and the time spent BETWEEN the start and the finish.  The time to breathe deep and enjoy the scenery around me, the sweat on my brow, the company of my love, and the simple, deep fact that, despite what I thought I saw in the mirror on my first night, I AM stronger and I HAVE made progress.  The point of this life isn’t to sprint into the grave, but rather to enjoy the climbing of hills, the downhill depths of the valleys, the slow strolls, the restful spots, the joyful dances, AND the hardcore sprints (when appropriate) through this glorious and precious life.  And when I'm enjoying the JOURNEY rather than the DESTINATION, I can begin by loving my body in this moment.  In this breath.  Now.  And now.  And now.