Three years ago I wrote a blog about acceptance & I guess I thought (or hoped) I had it nailed.
But looking back I realise there was one crucial piece missing – the full acceptance of my body.
I explored my body in Chapter Eight of Finding Joy; ‘What’s That Below Your Head? Reconnecting With Your Body’ & when I started I wrote:
‘I never really thought about my body. It was just the thing that carried me around. I fuelled it, and that was it. It let me down though, a number of times. Maybe I didn’t think this consciously, but I acted as if it was the case. I ate unhealthily and didn’t really exercise. I was ambivalent about it.
Maybe more than that, I was ashamed of it. I mean it couldn’t hang on to an embryo, not once but six times. In my mind I disliked it because it couldn’t do the thing that every other woman in the world can do. Of course, I knew logically that it wasn’t ‘every other’ woman, but in the early days that was certainly how I felt.’
By the time I finished writing I believed: ‘Now? Well I’m proud of it, amazed at what it can do, & I respect and nurture it. I’m not yet ready to say that I love it, but I’m almost there. I also know that it has things to say, and I’m listening.’
In hindsight, ‘almost there’ was an over estimation but today, perhaps I am almost there.
So, what changed?
I’ve found truly caring for my body to be a challenge. Of course, I know a healthy body is the foundation for a (hopefully) healthy & active life but I didn’t treat it with the respect it deserves. Then a few months ago something clicked, I started eating healthier, have lost a few lbs, have been proactive about a couple of niggling physical issues, & I feel so much happier.
Then a few weeks ago in a yoga training course we were discussing anatomy &, rather than talking theory explored how we move & how the different alignments felt so we all laid on the floor & stretched.
Later seeing this photo showing my maximum backbend (back right) compared to 3 friends was a huge shock. I knew I wasn’t quite as bendy as others, but it wasn’t until I saw this image that I realised that my maximum bend is more of a ‘slight curve.’
(For the Yogis & anatomists out there, everyone’s bones are different in size & shape which is one determinant of how we move. When bone hits bone that’s our limit & in this image the spinous processes/bumps on my vertebrae are touching so no matter how hard I push I cannot bend any deeper).
Initially, I was disappointed that yet again my body was never going to do things that ‘everyone else’ can. In the past I may have tried to force it but now I know that my back won’t bend further & trying could potentially cause damage. As much as I wanted things to be otherwise, I had to let go of any dreams I had of things being different & grieve the loss.
Then I decided to take a different perspective
I asked myself:
Instead of beating myself up for all the things I can’t do, what if I fully accepted my body in all its preciousness?
As I write, it’s just over 3 weeks since the training & coming fully to acceptance has been a wrestling match & at a low point, I was ready to walk away from my yoga practice completely. However, I knew this was a sign of resistance so I harnessed my determination & self-kindness & stayed, trusting that there would be huge rewards on the other side. And there were.
My lovely teacher Emma often says that we practice Yin to ‘discover who we are at the deepest level, to find our natural alignment, feel it & follow that feeling ’ & there was a moment last week when I absorbed this with every fibre of my being. At this point of acceptance, I felt a huge wave of emotion welling up inside me, accompanied by a strong feeling of peace.
So what does ‘accepting my body’ mean in practice?
To put Emma’s words in a different way, at the core there are things about us which are unchanging, like our bones. And, once we discover this natural alignment, we know who we are & we can work & move with it.
For me this means:
- Accepting all of my body with its injuries, scars, quirks & preciousness,
- Promising to stop trying to force it into places it doesn’t want to go,
- And instead to nurture it & celebrate what it can do,
There’s a confidence which has come with accepting who I am & an excitement of more joy & exploration to come. All of which feels beautiful.
Can you see yourself in this story?
Maybe, like me you’ve struggled to come to terms with the ‘limitations’ of your body. So what might change if instead of fighting it, you accepted who you are at the core & started to celebrate that instead? How might your life change?
Of course, this also applies to life
Can you see that the same might apply to your life?
Just as with my body, there are things about me & my life which are unchanging. I am childless, an only child who has lost both parents, I was born & grew up in Yorkshire, Northern England, I have a small back bend. These & other things I cannot change.
Almost everything else I can change including how I spend my time & my attitude, whether I pursue what enriches my life & brings me joy, or not.
What often stops us are the stories we tell ourselves about what our body can & cannot do, what we can or cannot have in life. And perhaps it’s time to examine your dreams & let go of those which aren’t serving & those which, in your heart of hearts you know will never come true.
One story I read a lot is that ‘I can only be happy with children’ which has absolutely no basis in fact. There are many, many happy & joyful childless women (including myself & the 19 women in Finding Joy) & if this is a story you’re telling yourself then it’s time to let it go. As I wrote in a blog on letting go, until you let go of dreams, beliefs & stories there’s no space for new ones to take their place.
Of course, I’m not underestimating the loss/grief process you must go through when you let go, but like all grief there’s a huge amount of joy to be found on the other side.
I started this blog writing about loving my body & it’s hard to write, but yes I do. And I also love my life. I’ve seen glimpses of who I am at the deepest level which feels like opening a door to living slightly differently, completely in alignment with who I am.
I also know that joy & peace aren’t found in searching for who I cannot be or what I can’t have in life, but in accepting myself and life as it is now, in this moment.
What about you?
I’d like to end with asking you to take time to consider these questions, they might just make a huge difference to you & your life.
For your body
What would it take for you to love (or accept) your body?
What stories &/or beliefs are you telling yourself which are keeping you stuck?
Could you let go of them in order to move towards acceptance?
Could you shift perspective & instead of focusing on what you can’t do or have, & focus instead on what you can do/have?
And the same questions for your life.
It might just be the start of a beautiful journey.
Thank you for reading. I’d love to know how this resonates with you so please leave a comments below
You can read more about reconnecting with your body, letting go & many other topics in Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness & you can download Chapter One when you sign up to my email list.