“When we contemplate the miracle of embodied life, we begin to partner with our bodies in a kinder way.” ~Sharon Salzberg
Your body is not a meatsack. Neither is mine. Even though I have referred to it that way on multiple occasions. (Including on at least three episodes of my own podcast.)
I can’t remember where I first heard this term used and I don’t recall when I adopted it for myself. But I do know that it felt good at the time. Right. Appropriate. Not necessarily a warm epithet, I suppose, but still a welcome change from all the terrible words I had used to describe my body previously.
My relationship to said body was fraught for many, many years. Most of my life, in fact, becoming especially challenging right around the time puberty hit — which, sadly, is true for a lot of women and girls.
In my case, starting my menstrual cycle and navigating the unknown territory of hormones and literal shape-shifts that accompanied this period (no pun intended) of my life left me feeling distant from and distrustful of the physical body within which I felt trapped.
My own physicality seemed suddenly foreign and terribly flawed and outside of my control on so many new levels.
Plus, it had been preached my whole childhood in church that my sexual desires — which I’d been discovering for a few years but which most certainly ramped up after menstruation began — were dangerous and dirty and not to be trusted. And they were most definitely not to be explored. EVER. Even on my own.
So although I began masturbating regularly and entered into a sexual relationship with my high school boyfriend at age sixteen, I did so with a huge side of guilt and shame and secrecy that made a healthy relationship with my perpetually changing body nearly impossible to establish.
Ultimately, I fell into disordered eating, which led to a more serious eating disorder, which resulted in losing my period for almost a full year. I also started self-harming, which was a behavior/coping mechanism that persisted for nearly a decade, well into my late twenties.
I was able to eventually rebuild my relationship to my body (thank God(dess)) — initially through acupuncture, then through therapy and running and strength training and meditation and reading books and SO MUCH writing and many, many tears and (most recently) breathwork. And somewhere along the way, I started to reject every negative thing I had ever said about my body.
I stopped seeing it as an enemy, something to tame or control, a hindrance, a place I was being held hostage, a part of me that would always and inevitably betray me, an aspect of myself to somehow overcome.
And yet. I still couldn’t fully embrace this body as an essential and integrated part of who I am.
So I began to call it my meatsack. It was a way of referring to my physical self that had as much neutrality and as little emotion as possible. It was a way to make some sort of peace with the body I had always hated and fought against and attempted to alter. It was a way to accept my physicality, to separate it from its aesthetics, to no longer be distracted by its imperfections or use its so-called shortcomings as an excuse to stay small.
And it worked. Until it didn’t. (Like a lot of things do.)
Meatsack was a necessary intermediate conceptualization of this body. Because I had spent decades feeling stuck in said body, like a prisoner. The idea that I could jump from that place of total separateness and antagonism to a state of eagerly inhabiting my body in its entirety was just, frankly, asking too much of me at that time.
Thus, meatsack it was. And meatsack it stayed for a few years.
Until this past fall, when I participated in a breathwork workshop with Erin Telford (who is also an acupuncturist and just the most lovely person, please follow her online here) and she brought up this very idea of referring to your body as a meatsack or meatbag, explaining all the reasons why hearing someone use these terms makes her sad and exploring what we might be missing out on when we see our bodies through this lens.
This hit me hard. And I immediately started crying. Because I realized that even though I’d been continuing to use this term, meatsack, it no longer resonated with me or provided me the comfort it once had that I so desperately needed.
I realized that, for probably the first time in my whole life (that I can remember, at least) I felt at home in my body. Deeply at home. Which, to be honest, felt like a goddamn miracle.
Ever since making this realization last year (thank you, Erin), I have continued to cultivate a deeper level of embodiment and I feel like I am actually fully inhabiting my body for the first time since childhood. This has been a profound shift. One I feel in my work, in my meditations, in my relationships, in my movement practice, in the way I navigate the world.
In Chinese medicine, we talk about your Spirit being housed in and carried by your blood and, thus, truly filling and inhabiting the whole of your physical body. I think I only just recently experienced the actual profundity of what this means. And now I want to share it with others.
Through acupuncture. Through movement. Through meditation. Through breathwork.
Here’s what I want you to know:
Your body is not a meatsack, an inert bag of bones just carrying you around.
Your body is a miraculous thing, the vehicle through which everything else is possible, an ally on your (emotional, spiritual, cognitive, relational) journey through this life.
That being said, if the meatsack idea resonates with you and feels good right now, great. Stick with it for a while longer. I’ve been there, too.
But also: Allow yourself to entertain the possibility that this is a mere stepping stone on your way to a more integrated relationship with your body, to a feeling of profound at-home-ness in your own skin.
And remember that this integration of self is an ongoing process. That as we evolve and change and age, we must continue to intentionally cultivate a relationship with our bodies, that we must remain open and curious, and that it is always, ALWAYS okay to have moments of disgengagement, of disconnection, of feeling like more of a meatsack than a fully embodied being.
Because you will. We all will.
Perfection is not the goal. Continually coming home to yourself is. Remembering who you are. Over and over and over again.