I LOVE my Cellulite, don’t you?

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Image Courtesy of Huffington Post

Last week I received a distressed message from a sister in need of support. When I met her, she fell into my arms and cried. Her beloved partner, whom she respects deeply, had shared with her something that had triggered a deep painful hurt – he was unsatisfied with the size and shape of her body. I could empathize with my sister because I had also received suggestions in a past relationship on ways to “improve” my body and listened as my partner voiced his fear of me becoming fat.

The emotions that my sister and I shared are complex and overwhelming…anger and outrage, pity, disgust, contempt, deep sadness, shame and rejection. It brought forth in me the question: When can women’s bodies finally be loved and accepted exactly as they are?

My Story

I attended a small alternative school growing up with only two other girls in my class. These girls were thin and willowy and even at a very young age, I began to compare myself unfavorably. My women role models had body image issues of their own. I observed the restrictive eating, frequent trips to the bathroom scale, exercise programs, crash diets and binge eating and absorbed it all. I believed without a doubt that thin was more beautiful and I began to hide my developing body in shame under baggy clothes and constrictive undergarments. I hated my too round face, jiggly thighs that rubbed up against each other as I walked and cellulite (ughh!). I always felt that if only I was prettier and thinner – like those perfect girls in Sassy magazine – I could finally get the approval, love and attention that I so badly wanted. As I entered adolescence, I had already developed an unhealthy relationship with my body and food that seems to be taking the rest of my adult life to unravel.

I know that my story is not unique. So many women struggle with these issues. We blame the patriarchy, the media, pornography, men and our mothers…but most of all we blame ourselves.

The Journey of Self-Love

I sit here 25 years later reflecting on that child and the tears are flowing. And the question comes again: When can I be loved and accepted exactly as I am? And my heart whispers the answer: Now. Only you can give yourself that unconditional love that you want so badly — so go ahead — love yourself that much.

Our men — bless them – grew up in the same environment that we did. As much as we long for their unconditional acceptance, their own programming may limit their ability to provide it for us. Ultimately, it can only come from within.

Love without boundaries is a romantic idea, but some of us need a little bit of protection while our soft tender spots heal from a lifetime of self-inflicted abuse. For me, self-love includes setting healthy boundaries. This meant letting my partner know that it’s not OK with me for him criticize my appearance, weight or food choices (although praise for my healthy choices is always welcome).

This may sound controlling… and maybe it is. I mean aren’t we all supposed to be taking accountability for our own feelings? As a “spiritual” woman, shouldn’t I be prepared to come face to face with my insecurities, doubts and self-loathing? Maybe the answers to these questions aren’t black and white. I do believe it’s important to discover these orphaned pieces hiding in the dark corners – but throwing all the lights on at once may just scare them into deeper hiding. Maybe with enough love, these rejected parts of ourselves will come out and willingly join the wholeness of who we truly are.

With more self-love, my need for this boundary may disappear, but for now, I am honoring myself where I am. I am not suggesting that my partner deny what he feels, but it is possible for him to be honest with himself without sharing his opinions with me on this topic. Most of us don’t go around handing out our negative opinions to strangers about their appearance – does this make us untruthful or is it just that we realize that it’s more important to be kind?

Shine on Sisters

My love and admiration for the Feminine in all of its glorious forms grows daily as I dive more deeply into this love affair with myself. As women we have these AMAZING bodies. They expand to create and nourish all of humanity and we flow with the cycles of the moon. How cool is that?!? Let’s thank them for all that they do for us by showing them some love, nurturing and kindness. As I look in the mirror each day now, I send my body “I love yous,” especially to those areas that have been under appreciated. Perhaps when enough women love their bodies, we will see that change reflected back to us through a transformation in the collective consciousness that will embrace the Feminine in all of its unique beauty.

Kitchen Goddess

(Photo credit Joanne Tucker)

(Photo credit JoAnne Tucker)

I was at the very end of making a batch of Indian Chai – a very spicy and sensual experience – when I got hungry (after all, it’s noon and I didn’t have breakfast). So put some leftovers in a pot to warm on the stove and as my rice and curry are beginning to hiss, my timer goes off and I hurry to strain my tea brew quickly so that it doesn’t turn the batch into a bitter mess. Somehow I am wearing a white top (why do I insist on cooking in white clothing?) and my straining system is a bit haphazard, so streams of dark, beautiful red brown chai are running down my arm, dangerously close to my sleeves. Meanwhile, my lunch is bubbling away and I reach to turn down the heat and transfer it to my lovely chipped bowl from Hospice Thrift. The tiny kitchen is covered in almost every dish and pot, the cupboards are all open, the countertops are wet and dirty, my sleeve is stained and I take a bite of deliciously spiced food and feel totally blissed out.

This is Life…it’s messy and beautiful. It smells like ginger and cardamom and curry. It feels real in my body…my bare feet on the cold tile floor. It’s full of emotion, pleasure and a pulsing heart. It doesn’t measure up to my picture of perfection, but it’s way more exciting than a clean kitchen. She – Life – Love will not be contained. She is wild and free…

Thank you, Goddess, for showing up for me and as me every single day, whether I acknowledge you or not.

Dissolving Past Tendencies

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Freedom (photo credit)

 

Maybe some of you can relate to this scenario:

I set an intention to make a positive change my life. I often affirm: I will meditate more! I will improve my diet! I will live life with a more grateful and open heart! Sometimes, if my will is strong and I am extremely motivated, intentions do grow roots, but many times I find that I get pulled back into old familiar patterns of behavior that do not support the growth that I am seeking. Other times, strong emotions take me by surprise and I find myself re-experiencing the pain of abandonment, rejection or intense fear from the past.

In yoga, these past tendencies are called samskars. They are rooted in the subconscious mind and can rob us of true freedom, by compelling us to respond in a programmed way. The strongest of these tendencies has the potential to undermine our best efforts towards evolution of our consciousness by keeping our energy trapped.

Through the study and practice of yoga we discover that everything, including our bodies, is made of energy. We can feel the difference when our energy is balanced and flowing because we tend to naturally feel joyful and have more uplifting thoughts. In contrast, when we are experiencing something that we perceive as a negative, we can feel it in our physical body if we tune in and become aware. For myself, I may notice a tightness in the throat or chest, a churning in my stomach or a feeling of tension in my head.

These physical symptoms are evidence of stored energy in our nervous system from experiences that were not properly processed and released. This can happen during a trauma – small or large – where the nervous system is simply overwhelmed. This is not a personal failing – it’s just life. Each time these unconscious programs are triggered, we have an opportunity to complete the experience and release the stored energy back into our system. As we work through this process, we regain vitality and the freedom to live with greater love and expansion.

Yoga and meditation can help greatly with dissolving past tendencies and I have personally experienced long running programs removed entirely through my practice. However, there are some deeper issues that I have noticed return again, sometimes after a long period of dormancy.

Last year, I met a yogini and psychologist practicing and teaching Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and this opened a door for deeper healing. EFT works by activating, through tapping, certain pressure points that correspond to the energy channels in the body. While tapping, you work though a script to help bring these past tendencies up from the subconscious mind so that they may be acknowledged and then released. What I discovered is that by using EFT, I could more quickly and easily work through painful patterns. I encourage anyone who may be struggling to give it a try. Although it can be facilitated in a therapy session, it’s also possible to do it on your own through online resources and videos.

RESOURCES:

About EFT, Brad Yates

EFT Videos, Brad Yates

Energy Psychology & EFT, Lindsay Wagner

Amaroli Therapy

Amaroli Therapy (photo credit to mediterranews.org)

Amaroli Therapy
(photo credit)

Yogini Secret: I drink my urine…let me tell you why

The first time I heard about urine therapy, or amaroli, as it is called in the Hatha Yoga Pradipka, I was a bit confused…wait, isn’t urine a waste product?

Although this is a common perception in the west, the yogis disagree. Urine therapy has been used for thousands of years as a cure all for diseases and to aid in spiritual practice. Urine can safely used topically, as a nasal wash and taken internally. When used internally, according to Yogani, it delivers vital elements that help in immune system support, purification and the balancing of hormones. In addition to healing benefits, the practice also is said to influence the nervous system creating more stillness, higher levels of awareness, and increase natural sublimation of sexual energy.

Something about this practice called to me and I decided to take it on as an experiment. It took a bit of willpower to get over the initial “ick” response (I started by plugging my nose!), but now it is an easy part of my morning routine.

Here are the practical aspects if you are inspired to try it for yourself:

1. Use the midstream of your first morning urine, discarding the beginning and end

2. Don’t use urine therapy if you are taking allopathic medications or if you have eaten unhealthy foods; this practice works best with a sattvic yogic diet

3. Drink urine undiluted on a empty stomach and wait 15 minutes before eating or drinking; it’s fine to brush your teeth afterward to remove any odor or aftertaste

 

RESOURCES:

Drink To Your Health, Urine Therapy

Amaroli Urine Therapy

Rites of Passage

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An Altar for Shiva (The Divine Masculine)

I am a Woman now…I am a Goddess

On the summer solstice in 2013, I participated in a rites of passage ceremony for women at Agama and received my spiritual name. The following passage is my reflection on that sacred night…

The entire process of the Rites of Passage was transformative from the first moment we began preparations. The energy of the sisterhood kept building throughout the 10 days of tapas and the ceremony itself was supercharged. The most special aspect for me was the strong connection cultivated between the women and the Grace that we all received. I felt all the aspects of the process created sacredness for the ritual. The tapas and transfiguration, sacred silence, fire puja, dancing, ritual bath and final ceremony were all extremely powerful. One month later, I still can’t quite explain the shift that happened that night. The intention that we set to step fully into womanhood was heard by the Universe and I feel completely supported in my new role as a strong and confident woman. I feel more freedom, self-acceptance and peace…and I truly see myself as a manifestation of the Goddess. I would encourage any woman who feels called to participate in this life changing experience.

Tantric Yoga

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Lovers at Sunset on Chao Phao Beach

A Letter from Agama…

Tantra is amazing…there is so much I could say, but really it’s only describing the container and not the contents. The rituals are a very powerful aspect for me personally. I am also building my practice of asana and pranayama and deepening my understanding of energy and the chakras. This year was my first experience practicing with a partner and while it does take some conscious effort, it isn’t so difficult to move sexual energy and, in doing so, I’ve experienced extended states of bliss, love and oneness.

There is no “political correctness” around here and there is a freedom and deep healing in letting go of the misguided notions of men, women and relationships. The emphasis is on fully accepting with joy the roles of the Divine masculine and feminine. One is not put above the other. Instead, both are celebrated while acknowledging that the differences are what creates the spark that lights up the world — the dance of manifestation.

Tantra opens it’s arms and embraces everything. You have lust? Bring it. You have anger? Bring it. You have jealousy? Bring it!! Anything you have can be sublimed and transmuted for your spiritual evolution. No part of yourself is too dark or too ugly.

And there are challenges — every. single. day. It’s rare if people aren’t experiencing some sort of purification or catharsis. Working this intensely moves things fast. It’s a strong practice and I am grateful that I can have a spiritual path that allows me to fully open to every aspect of myself…holding nothing back as long as I have the courage to face it all, tear down my ego, humble myself and offer my surrender.

Island Mountain

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Sunset Sky on the Mountain

 

I am on a mountain in Northern California…I’ll be working here for another month. They call it Island Mountain, which is appropriate, because once I am up there it’s like being marooned…just a very thin connection to the outside world. 26 miles of difficult road. Today is laundry day. Weather is coming in tomorrow and I didn’t want to get stranded without clean socks and underwear. I don’t have a phone number at the moment and I haven’t had much of a need to call anyone.

The house where I work is rougher in some ways than many of the places in India. Slanted floors, drafts, mice, flies and an interesting shower situation. We have an doorless outhouse, which has a view of the hills and the stars on clear nights. People sleep in their cars or in tents. I borrowed a van and made a little home for myself. It’s getting really cold now…winter is creeping in. But I assure you that this is not a list of complaints…just an attempt to give you an idea of what my life is like right now. The first few weeks I wondered if I would be able to stay, but now I am getting accustomed to the work and the lifestyle. I can even imagine doing it again next year. Last month I spent time in the gardens, but now it’s sitting all day. I listen to audio books with my friend – a woman I met in India. Amazingly, our 12 hour days flit by. This ten weeks will just be a blip and then gone.

I had every intention of keeping up with my practice here…but my meditation tent keeps flooding and with the temperature dropping, my mind has a 30 minute discussion with itself every morning. Eventually, one part convinces the other part that it must get out of the warm sleeping bag. I remember reading something that Yogananda wrote about Energization Exercises…that if one is stuck on an island with only one yoga technique that it’s the one to choose. Was he talking to me directly? It feels like that sometimes. So, I bundle up and muster as much joy and willingness as I can and go out into the clearing near my camp. The air cold enough now to see my double breath.

My plans now only extend a few months into the future. After this I will go south for awhile and visit friends and then we’ll see. It’s fun to live this way and even though I am still afraid a lot, I am a little bit more comfortable with just allowing the fear to be there and moving forward anyway. A lot of my old dreams are on a shelf…I don’t have as many ambitions or romantic notions about things anymore. I don’t know why exactly, but somehow they aren’t as compelling as they used to be. Maybe it’s laziness or maybe it’s contentment. Sometimes it’s difficult to know the difference…