My ultimate goal in my work with all women is the same: whether a woman is trying to get pregnant, dealing with diminished health or chronic illness, a teen girl suffering from a painful period or even a woman just wanting to feel a bit more at ease as she ages, my intention in every interaction is to allow space for each woman to connect with and hopefully find a little bit of peace in the energy of her own body.
It might sound simple: connect lovingly with our female body. But unfortunately, it is more common for a woman’s relationship with her body to be far from peaceful. Most women connect with their body only with a sense that it is somehow betraying them; not losing that ten pounds, not being “fertile,” by aging or being sick or tired or in pain.
Relationship to our body
I see this toxicity almost every day, and not just in my treatment room. I hear it in conversations and dressing-room dramas with girlfriends, almost every time I go out to eat with a friend, in discussions with friends who are moms of girls and of course, I recall it easily from my own decade plus of body-loathing. Our relationship to our body is often bordering on (if not decidedly) abusive.
We might mask it by believing we are focusing on diet or even exercise. We might tell ourselves we would love our body if it would just cooperate: lose the weight, not feel so exhausted or pained all the time, maintain a pregnancy. But the reality is that we are born into an ideology about a woman’s worth, and like the air we breathe, that ideology permeates every cell of our body.
It’s essential to begin to look at how we exist within the Capialistic/ patriarchal system in which we have been raised. Consider the diet and even the wellness/fitness industry. It’s typical for a woman to spend her entire life striving for a better, fitter, healthier body. Consider how we view getting pregnant. Most women distrust their experience of their body, their ability to get pregnant, and often fear miscarriage for a large percentage of their pregnancy. Consider how we labor. Our national Cesarian section rate in 2017 was 31%, far above the international average.
Even when a woman does not experience overt self-loathing, it may feel impossible to not internalize at least the energetic of a culture where a woman’s body’s value is so clearly defined, sexualized and, as a result, demonized, feared and ultimately controlled.
I was first aware of feeling sexualized when I was 12. That was the year that I started going to my friends’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and while my typical dress of choice was a fuscia dress with sleeves as poofy as its skirt, I found a fitted dress that I fell in love with, and decided to wear it to a less-formal daytime event. I suppose it was “body-conscious.” I suppose it was “slinky.” I admit that I was probably seeking a little bit of attention and approval from whichever 12 year old boy on whom I happened to have a crush that week. What I remember instead was a discomfiting attention and energy from some of the men there, men who were my parents’ age, men who had known me in Kindergarten, men now appraising my body as if it didn’t come attached to the child they had watched “grow up” (although I was far from grown). My mom later told me that one of these men told her that “I had the body of an 18 year old,” as if that were something of which to feel proud.
The part that is perhaps reflective of the bigger, cultural problem is that it did make me feel proud. I felt validated, although disgusted in a way I didn’t quite understand. It lent a sense of power. I believe that it took only a moment, maybe a handful of moments like this, to solidify the belief that my value, or at least a large part of it, came from my ability to be fuckable.
It makes sense, although it didn’t at the time, that so much of the next 10+ years of my life revolved around trying to lose weight while simultaneously binge-eating and hating my expanding body, a body that refused to fit into the little shiny box to which it that had been assigned.
I’ll skip over all the bits, save them for another time (there are some juicy ones) to pregnancy. I was already an acupuncturist, already adept at feeling into other people’s bodies, although how I did that without feeling into mine is still a mystery.
In attempting to tap into what the little being inside of me needed, somehow, by default, I had to tap into my body. My womb. I started looking at my body with love instead of loathing. I started feeding it what it needed, lovingly. My pregnancy was a healthy one. I had a home-birth. I learned to trust my body, its ability to be both nurturing and fierce. My breasts, which had once felt so much for male consumption, were now nourishing a life.
I created life. I was sustaining life. I tasted a power that resonated so much more with an actual purpose.
I wish I could say that once I felt connected to my womb, to being in my body, that I was able to maintain that feeling forever. But old habits die hard. Once my babe was about a year old, I felt like I should get my body back. I was tired of living in yoga pants. It was hard for me to not equate exercise with fixing, eating well with restricting. I actually gained a few pounds when my son was 2 and decided I should just get pregnant again, deal with losing the weight after I was done having babies.
This time, knowing that my second pregnancy would probably be my last, I knew that I had to work harder to not lose my connection to what felt like creative force. It occurred to me that a strong connection to her womb is what makes a woman fertile, not just fertile in terms of reproductive health, but fertile in all senses of the word: in her ability to create, to feel connected to her purpose, to feel at peace in her body, at peace on the planet, able to form and sustain healthy relationships, able to break free from unhealthy and restrictive relationships… even an unhealthy relationship to herself, to her body, to a cultural oppression of the feminine.
For me, it’s an ongoing relationship, a relationship with good days and bad, with gentle reminders and sometimes fierce “take a look at yourself” moments. I wish that sharing this ability to connect were as simple as just telling you exactly what to do, but it’s a process that can take months, years, maybe even a lifetime.
Connection to oneself
Although it may be difficult, it feels essential. Not only do I believe that this connection to oneself as a fertile being is every woman’s birthright, I also believe that it is this connection that will heal our civilization and, ultimately, our planet.
Here’s a short list of some things you can do to start to connect with yourself as the magical being you are, to your body as the temple it is. I urge you to really let each suggestion permeate your body. See how it resonates. See which ones you resist, and perhaps begin with those.
Take time each day or even once a week to sit in silence and in stillness and feel. Bring your breath and your attention into your body, into your womb space and just be. This may be HARD. But keep at it. Notice. Bring no judgement or criticism to what you feel or don’t feel. Just witness.
Pay attention to how you speak to yourself, and unless it’s as lovingly and as gently as you would speak to a child, shut it down. This takes practice. Every time you hear yourself being self-critical, hostile, aggressive… shut it down. Be kind. Be loving. Words are energy and energy is harmful when it is negative. Choose kindness every time.
Make time to love your body. Do loving things for you body. Baths, massages, rests, gentle movement and exercise, etc. What helps you connect with your body? Do that … dancing, even touching yourself pleasurably (yes, I mean that kind of touch). Practice loving your body, treating her as you would a new lover.
Pay attention to how you feed yourself, how you nourish yourself. Do you restrict? Do you binge eat? Do you create beautiful, healthful meals for yourself? Two great books if feeding yourself is challenging: The Tao of Eating and If The Buddha Came to Dinner. Feeding your body should be a soulful and nurturing experience.
And then, I encourage you to start to think about the messages you have received in your life about your worth, about your body. Just begin to consider how those messages may have shaped your sense of your value as a woman.