This summer, I have spent a good deal of time beating myself up and not looking at my body with gratitude. I put on a swimsuit and immediately picked out what I thought were my flaws, sure everyone would see them and then cast judgement. Then, my good friend Karen shared a book with me titled “An Altar in the World.” This passage spoke to me and helped me see things in a new light. I hope it does the same for any of you who suffer from any form of self-loathing, inner criticism, or negativity toward your physical body:
I can say that I think it is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially when you are full of loathing for your body. Maybe you are too heavy. Maybe you have never liked the way your hipbones stick out… It is always something. Then again, maybe you have been sick… You have gotten glimpses of your body as you have bathed or changed clothes, but so far maintaining your equilibrium has depended upon staying covered up as much as you can.
This can only go on for so long…Whether you are sick or well, lovely or irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, “Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.” After you have taken a good look around, you may decide that there is a lot to be thankful for, all things considered. Bodies take real beatings. That they heal from most things is an underrated miracle. That they give birth is beyond reckoning.
When I do this, I generally decide that it is time to do a better job of wearing my skin with gratitude instead of loathing. No matter what I think of my body, I can still offer it to God to go on being useful in the world… At the very least, I can practice a little reverence right there in front of the mirror, taking some small credit for standing there unguarded for once.
This was my wake up call… I love my yoga practice and I love that my body can move with ease. I cannot ask for much more than that. This body (yours, mine, and everything in between) is truly a gift. Enjoy it and give thanks for it each day. This week I am going to practice wearing my skin, unguarded and grateful.