“The body is our general medium for having a world.” ~ Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
To say that my relationship with my body has been strained is to understate the reality of things quite a bit.
In fact, this relationship has probably been the most challenging and heartbreaking and life-changing relationship of which I have ever been a part. Talk about spiritual transformation.
As a teenager and an early twenty-something, I put a lot of energy into actively hating and abusing and trying to fundamentally change my body. And for a very long time, there was absolutely nothing about it I liked or appreciated.
To me during this time, my body was completely separate from the rest of me and was in no way connected to anything happening above the neck (i.e. my brain space, where I tend to spend a lot of my time).
Mind-body connection? I thought not.
Which is why I treated my body like shit much of the time – mostly in an effort to shrink it and control it and make it as inconsequential as possible.
But also perfect. Or at least some arbitrary version of perfect I’d created in my head, but never could have articulated in words.
Because (spoiler alert) PERFECTION ISN’T REAL, you guys.
And so, for much of my life, my relationship with my body consisted of seeking to emotionally disconnect from it entirely while simultaneously giving it the power to define and determine my worth and value in the world.
A dynamic that ultimately set me up for failure (and frustration and disappointment) on a variety of levels.
And in a maddeningly repetitive cycle.
Because I was chasing an illusion and wasting valuable energy in the process – energy that could have been better spent pursuing my dreams and loving myself and nurturing friendships and enjoying the hell out of life on a more regular basis.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun during this time. But my experience of life was always – and I mean always – tainted by intense dissatisfaction with my physicality and constant discomfort as a forced inhabitant of my own body.
Honestly, being in my body felt like work, like something against which I had to continually struggle, like an absolute hindrance to everything I wanted to see, experience, and accomplish in my life.
And yet, being in my body was an inescapable reality. Obviously. Constantly fighting against that? An exercise in futility for sure.
About seven years ago, on the cusp of turning 25, I began to realize that my body itself was not in any way impeding my ability to fully engage with and enjoy life. Rather, it was the way in which I was relating to my physical self – my inability to align and integrate body and mind, my failure to see my body as ally instead of enemy – that was holding me back in several significant and devastating ways.
Still, in spite of this realization, I had zero clue about how to actually begin changing and healing and transforming this relationship between my emotional body, my mental body, and my physical body.
Until I discovered acupuncture.
For me, acupuncture was the catalyst that jump-started my journey towards body acceptance, integration of the physical and non-physical aspects of being, and the capacity to inhabit my body comfortably and contentedly regardless of how imperfect it might be on any given day.
Acupuncture introduced me to my body’s inherent awesomeness, and showed me that my body is actually kind of amazing in its capacity to feel and express and communicate with my emotional self and my analytical brain and my intuitive instinct.
I began to experience my body as a vehicle for self-expression, as an instrument for self-awareness and understanding, and as a kind of canvas upon which my feelings and emotions manifest in informative, therapeutic, and enlightening ways.
Which I know sounds totally hokey, but is actually entirely true.
And, no, acupuncture has not healed my relationship with my body completely on its own. I’ve done a lot – and I mean a lot – of other work on myself to actively and consciously engage in this process of rebuilding and rewiring. Meditation, writing, yoga, running, ridiculous amounts of reading, therapy, progressing and regressing, repeating mantras, practicing gratitude, shedding about a million tears – I’ve done it all.
And continue to do so.
Because learning to love your body is – for me, and for many of us, I believe – a constant process. One that requires intentionality and patience and forgiveness and choosing daily to focus on something other than your physical imperfections and shortcomings.
I know this is not always easy. In fact, some days it feels effing impossible.
But I believe your relationship with your body fundamentally affects how you interact with and inhabit the world. And that feeling at home in your body enhances your capacity to be present and engage and immerse yourself in every experience the Universe offers you.
We live in a society that places a premium on what bodies look like rather than what they can do.
This is sad and unfortunate and totally undercuts just how amazing your body is – in countless tiny and not-so-tiny ways that have absolutely nothing to do with its appearance.
And this is a huge part of why I do what I do. Because personal experience has told me that acupuncture is an incredible tool for helping you realize that your body is actually kind of rad. More than kind of. And that it’s your ally.
And that, ultimately, your body is always communicating with you and for you in pretty profound ways. But if you’re busy hating it and fighting against it and treating it poorly, it’s going to be difficult to hear and participate in the conversation.
I know this all too well.
I also know that your relationship with your body is complicated and dynamic and constantly evolving.
And that where there is body-loathing, there are also a slew of other messy emotions that are entirely unique to you.
In my case, for example, body-loathing was a mask for some very deep-seated fears. It was easier to focus on specific physical flaws and berate myself for not looking a certain way than it was to get real with myself about my emotional wounds and the intangible anxieties with which I was daily struggling.
And although my relationship with my body is far from perfect, I have actually figured out how to accept and love and appreciate my physicality in all its flawed and (sometimes still frustratingly) imperfect glory. To treat it with respect and feed it well and exercise it lovingly and pay attention when it’s trying to tell me something.
Most days, anyway.
Which has enriched and enhanced my life in such a surprisingly powerful way. And has enabled me to more deeply engage with, well, everything.
And this ultimately improves my capacity to affect change on a larger scale. Which is kind of the point, right?
I’m here to tell you that your body is amazing. And absolutely beautiful. Seriously.
I work with bodies every single day and am continually blown away by their capacity to heal, to express emotions in subtle and often unseen ways, to quietly (and, yes, sometimes loudly) but effectively communicate imbalances and illnesses, to respond in big ways to seemingly small inputs like essential oils or one tiny acupuncture needle or a single word spoken at just the right time.
Your body is a microcosm of the Universe at large, and of the world in which we live. And our world could use a little love and thoughtful attention right now.
Personally, I believe that healing our relationships to our bodies – and changing how society relates to these bodies, with its emphasis on superficiality and appearances – is part of how we heal our world as a whole.
And that any effort towards feeling at home on the planet and learning how to appreciate and care for it properly, might be profoundly amplified if we start doing so in and for our own bodies.
Because it’s all interconnected, you guys.
Deeply and intimately.
And something ostensibly insignificant – like how much you love your body – might just surprise you with how far-reaching its effects can be.