Last month I went on a retreat in Mexico ( I think I may have mentioned this once or twice ?). My experiences are my inspiration - and this proved no exception to that rule. Whereas the word retreat means to pull away from- in a spiritual context it also implies a coming closer to, or as I like to say- coming home. I find this idea of coming home to ourselves is really big, that’s why you may have noticed I have been talking about it for weeks! It’s at the heart of feeling happy, supported, seen, and comfortable in your own skin. The yogi’s describe 5 bodies to which we are coming home; the physical body, the breath/energy/life force body, the mental body, the wisdom/intuition/inner knowing body, and the bliss body which can be referred to as the soul. The definition that I have been loosely working with is the process of turning inwards for guidance, answers, and power rather than outsourcing to someone or something other than you. But there is more to it than that- when I think of coming home I think of my actual home. You know the one with walls, a bed, a toilet, and a roof. Both the one I grew up in as well as the one in which I’m raising my kids is a place of belonging, comfort, warmth, acceptance, and unconditional love. Those of you that are lucky like me and grew up in (and/or have now) a mostly healthy, happy home probably would use similar words to describe what it means to you. A commitment to understanding and uniting all of our parts opens the potential to experience these qualities of home not just in our own bedrooms, but in our own selves. This week I thought we’d look at what this means for our food body- the one that we can touch, see, feed, and feel.
Whether or not you are a parent- we are all mothers to our own bodies. Our bodies are a gift put under our care for this lifetime- whether you believe this is the only or just one of many. Your body was created from nature itself and is really just yours on loan. It’s easy and common to treat it instead like a belonging or something that you own. As mother to my girls I’m aware of the impact of my words. So that even in the moments that they have chosen behavior that is “ bad” , “uncooperative”, or just generally harder for ….ME- I’m very clear that it doesn’t change how much they are wanted, loved, and needed, or how much they belong. I carefully point out it’s really only the choices that they made that presented difficulty- they themselves are still worthy and their heart is not to blame. Yet as the mothers to our bodies it's often as if the same rules don't apply. I don’t say this lightly, and not only from my inner experience, but also as a professional yoga teacher of 15 years. I ask students regularly if there is anything they want to share about their practice or bodies and when they do have something to say the response is often the same. It’s something along the lines of I have a “bad” knee, shoulder, back etc - as if their body was intrinsically “bad”. Usually negative words are used for the description, as if these parts are less deserving because they require more attention, don't look or act ideal, and as if because of that they somehow don’t belong. This is something I have been working on a lot- doting on the parts of me that I have seen as less than, injured, broken, ugly, or wrong. How can I treat them as the parts that need even more love and a reminder that they too ( imperfections and all) do in fact belong?
Two words- self massage. The ancient practice of rubbing oil into the skin ( abhyanga), and using your own hands to heal is an incredible antidote for separateness and recipe for integration, and self love. I have been doing it on and off for years, regularly for a while, and most recently while thanking my body- out loud.
“Thank you wrinkly belly skin for stretching to carry two babies at once - I love you. Thank you low back- your occasional discomfort reminds me how to exercise and move to strengthen and protect myself. Even when you’re in pain - I love you and you belong”.
It’s the physical act of coming home to this borrowed body and tending to that which relies on all the other parts of me for care. How about you? Are you ready to work on loving the parts you’ve been blaming, separating, ignoring or wishing away? Finally nurturing the pieces that have probably just been asking for attention, acceptance and help to repair? If so this gift is for you, and any friends you’d like to pass it along to! It’s a short video guide on how to use your hands ( oil or not) to follow the path of self massage that can help to lead you home.