When you tear your ACL and go through reconstructive surgery, there is little that compares to that kind of pain and awareness of your body (at least in my experience). As much as I wish I didn’t injure myself back in January, the things I have learnt along the way, not to mention the importance of Embodiment, have been quite revolutionary for me.
Whenever talking about physicality and body image, I grew up believing and hearing that it’s “what’s on the inside that counts”. Though this is an honourable sentiment, and even true in a lot of ways, it taught me that my body, and all that makes me a human being with flesh on, was somehow secondary to what was “within” me. It only reinforced the dualism that I subconsciously lived out of for so long.
For a long time, I believed that my flesh, my sexuality, my desires, and even care for my body (how I dress, whether or not I wear make-up, how much I work-out, what I eat etc.) was either vain, or “dangerous”. I did not know how to integrate my Christian faith and spirituality with this (major) aspect of myself. I felt fragmented and quite honestly it sent me into a tumultuous struggle of wanting to be “pure of heart” while still being “human”. The thing is, these two things are not mutually exclusive. To pursue one, does not mean you abandon the other. At all.
Unfortunately, many of us (maybe more so those in the Christian community), have believed this, and it has influenced not only our decisions but our view of ourselves, how we believe God views us. Many of us have been living compartmentalized lives, and more and more I am beginning to realize how detrimental that can be to us.
Just from a psychological perspective, this is where I think so many self-destructive behaviours and habits come from. Where self forgetting, self loathing and harmful habits can originate. It’s a breeding ground for shame.
We do not know how to love our bodies. We do not know that they are actually good, beautiful and made for vitality and yes, pleasure! Made for celebration and emotion, made for service of others and self-care. Our bodies are made to experience this wonderful and terrible life in and through.
And so, what if we actually experienced God/ the Divine in our BODY and even in our SEXUALITY. What if we actually experienced a sense of integration. I believe we really would become more loving, more compassionate, and more “pure of heart”; in the most robust sense of the phrase.
I can only speak from the perspective of a woman, though I know men struggle in their own ways with their physicality, sexuality and body image. Asking questions like, “what it actually means to inhabit our bodies in all of their splendour”, is essential if we are to experience healing and spiritual awareness in all facets of our lives.
I have seen in others, and experienced for myself, the harmful ways that this dualism has at times brought. It is something I have grown more passionate about over the years, because for too long we have made our decisions, compiled our beliefs and approached God from a place of fear, rather than a place of love. And how many times have we read and heard, “Do not be afraid.” So, let us not fear any longer.
Here are some questions to consider:
What is your relationship to your body like? What is your relationship to your sexuality like (and I don’t just mean whether one is having “sex” or not, but as a whole)? Do you experience God within these things or separate from them?
I leave you with a piece I wrote in light of this. Peace & compassion to you and your body.
I am my body
Silk and tender, fat and fleshy
like the cut of meat, most flavourful.
‘Feast on the world!’
It is juicy. It is delicious.
I am my body.
Strong and tight,
lean, and a long waited resilience
she speaks up, damnit!
It is brave. It is power.
I am my body.
Seer, taster, toucher and hearer.
Breather, feeler, thinker and yearner
I am my body.
Trauma and healing, lodged between her
Desire and pleasure, cry out of her
Pain and dis-ease, know her.
I am my body.
My body speaks to me. May my body listen
My body speaks to you. May your body hear
Your body speaks to me. May my body receive.
A home for all that is,
I am body.