About finding Peace
with the Body
To come to find peace with and be able to love and embrace my body the way it is, has been a process for years and is still ongoing. I guess, unfortunately, every woman of my generation can relate to this topic in one way or another.
Pretty much all of my adolescence I was suffering from an eating disorder and I only fully became aware of it last year. I was reading old journal entries in which I would write about how much I hated my body and how urgently I needed to loose weight again. (My maximum weight then was 52kg.) I always had the feeling that something was not ok within the relationship that I had with my body; reading these cruel words that I had written about myself many times, over years, was a shock and an absolute eye-opener.
At that moment I did not know what to do with this insight and still there was a big part of me that was denying the severity of it.
In my year living in the ashram things came to a head when I had to face a time of challenges. It was a stressful time and none of my usual coping mechanisms (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs) were an option because they were interdicted and it was my choice to stay away from them. At the same time, because I was sober and practicing meditation & yoga everyday–being super aware of my actions and behaviour patterns, I noticed that I had been eating to deal with the stress and that I had gained weight from it.
The thoughts and judgements that came to surface when looking at my body in the mirror were absolutely demolishing.
But something had shifted: I was fully aware of my destructive thoughts. I caught myself consciously in the moment of being an asshole to myself.
What happened then, I didn’t see coming. I felt, that I didn’t have any power over these thoughts. I wanted to change them, wished them to go away, I wanted to be kind to myself—but I couldn’t. I was unable. With this realization I crumbled. I was crying and sobbing. I didn’t want to be at war with my body any longer and I was scared that I wouldn’t ever be able to love myself.
I had decided many times before, again and again, to love myself but obviously I had failed. That’s what I felt in that moment.
I was completely overwhelmed by these feelings of powerlessness and helplessness, so I went to seek help. I went to my dearest friend in the ashram who was working in the kitchen and who was also quite shocked when he saw me distraught like this. Between the sobbing I mumbled something like “I need to get out of here, I need professional help”. Luckily he had a friend who is Gestalt therapist who we could spontaneously visit the same day.
That therapy session barely had any effect on me because I was too hysterical to even give access to the methods she was trying to lead me through–and I already felt, that this help, that liberation I was seeking, ultimately only I could give myself.
That evening I laid on a blanket on the floor of my room with lit candles around me. I cried, I sobbed, I bathed in self-pity because of my inability to give myself love and I judged myself again for crying, for being weak, for my self-pity… but at some point something magical happened. It was like my consciousness went out of my body and I could observe myself from outside. It was like suddenly I could see myself through the eyes of a loving mother–and it was heartbreaking.
Would a mother ever judge her daughter if she was in a state like this: feeling worthless, helpless and fragile?
In that moment I absolutely naturally wrapped my own arms around my body and told myself “It’s ok my dear, to feel this way. It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok. This will pass and one day things will be different. Be patient with yourself.”
I gave myself the promise, not to love myself, because at that time I still didn’t knew what that meant or how it was supossed to feel like but to take care of myself, be gentle and patient with myself.
It felt like the biggest relief of my life. Just thinking about it feels like this incredibly heavy weight is lifted off my shoulders again. If there was no one to judge my thoughts or behaviour anymore, I could just be me—freely. This insight gave me the permission to be whatever I am in a moment, however miserably that might feel or look from the outside.
By embracing my misery I had eliminated my worst enemy: my judgmental mind.
Through this I’ve learned that in the process of becoming aware of our own (maybe sometimes shockingly destructive) thoughts and actions, the most important thing is to have compassion for ourselves. It is essential that we learn how to be with the mess and the misery because it most likely will not vanish from one day to the other.
Things need time.
Today harmful thoughts towards myself or my body still arise. The difference is, I am aware of when it happens. When we are aware, we have the power to decide what to do. Do we want to feed the demons? Do we want to believe it? Do we want to give power to these thoughts?
What I do when I notice destructive thought patterns nowadays: I greet them gently, say hello, laugh into their face and let them pass. Engrave this in your consciousness: these thoughts are not reality. You are not your thoughts. Your essence is untouched by this. You have the power to not identify with them. Practice letting go. Again and again and again.
What was another breakthough was my experience at the European Rainbow Gathering. While spending a lot of time in nature, alone, naked, already had been such a beautiful cure by being fully present in the body, feeling and using it, rather than judging it’s look–arriving at the Rainbow Gathering felt like arriving in heaven. Never in my life, I would have thought I would end up in a world like this, but ultimately this was coming home. It was not so much the fact that there were many naked people of all kinds of forms, ethnics, ages (which was an incredibly beautiful, wholesome experience) but especially the unconditional love and acceptance I received from people that I had to believed were strangers was what touched and transformed me deeply.
There is a world beyond mainstream, beyond capitalism, competition, exploitation and beauty standards. Yes, it’s not always easy to walk alternative paths. It is not easy to be a 27 year old woman with hairy legs in this sick society with twisted beauty standards. It doesn’t really always feel comfortable to be the freak but I don’t want to live a life dictated by values that are not mine. I don’t want to live a life dictated by my own harmful thoughts.
So I quit … and I practice letting go. Again and again. Finding new ways of being accompanied by values of love, acceptance and unity. Inside & out.
About finding Peace with the Body