When I am truly in the swoops of feeling depressed, when despair for the world grows in me, when I want to give up or get out… I come back to my body. All the ways I can move my shoulder blade, the sound of my breath like the sound of the ocean inside a seashell, the strength of my legs to carry me forward: each of these have saved me.
And so when I anticipate difficult moments, like a big project at work, a family or social gathering I’m nervous about, or a change in political administrations, I rest easy knowing that my breath will never leave me.
In fact, I have made a bit of a career out of spreading this news far and wide. Sometimes I joke that I’m like the Lorax, but for bodies and relaxation. I deeply believe and know that bodies are meant to be befriended, that they are our true home, and that they can be the source of wonder and joy.
I want to acknowledge my privilege when I make these sweeping pronouncements – privilege that doesn’t negate the application of what I’m saying, or ignore the journey I went on towards body positivity, but it does give me a bit of a head start on loving bodies.
As we face this wild week when so much seems to be changing, I wanted to write you all with encouragement. I wanted to tell you that no matter what is ahead for you, no matter what happens, you have your body and you can be at home there. You can always take deep breaths and close your eyes and dive deep within.
And while this is absolutely true, I’m recognizing that bodies aren’t as safe as they used to be. I happen to have a body that is cis-gendered, female, and white. But I recognize that transgendered bodies, black and brown bodies, and female bodies may be more at risk than they used to be. These kinds of bodies aren’t always given as much respect as other bodies are. I am genuinely concerned about the state of bodies in the future. Of how certain traits in bodies, like mental illness, physical disability, being of a certain gender, or having a certain skin color, leave one open to ridicule, condemnation, or a loss of rights and liberties.
It would be very easy for me to despair. To recommend that you contract and protect and get small and stay out of the way. Maybe even to numb out and ignore your body – Netflix and junk food, anyone?
But then I remember that embodied practices like yoga and meditation, though often seen as a luxury, are in fact deep and abiding traditions that are thousands of years old. They have been practiced by all kinds of people in all kinds of situations – not because life was so carefree, but precisely because it wasn’t.
Practice isn’t easy because your life is – life is easier because you practice.
With everything that’s changing around us, we need to be at home in our bodies. To be unashamed of our bodies. To learn to wear them proudly in the world and to follow their deep knowing. To bring their diversity and exceptionality into the world.
It might be getting more difficult, but that only means it’s getting more important.
Bodies are where I find hope. Self-care (which is different than self-indulgence, by the way) isn’t just a trend, it’s an actual source of healing and comfort. Whether you take your body on a walk, give it fresh air, draw it a bath, dance with it at a concert, take it to a protest march, quit taking in social media, cook it nourishing food, have fun dressing it, give it much needed rest, let it be your guide. Your body knows what it wants, your only task is to listen and trust its wisdom.
We all live through anxiety and stress. We have to do these practices when they’re relatively easy (like in a class with others, or using a meditation app regularly) so that they’re there for us when things get really challenging.
Get creative, get curious, and get connected. Talk to your body like a friend, listen to your breathing and your heartbeat, take damn good care of the home that you carry with you.
Loving yourself and your body is the most revolutionary act I know.
Acceptance, peace, and wonder begin within. I cry out for bodies because I want to change the world. Now, more than ever.