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What it Feels Like to Be in a Body

This painting, called "Sciencia," is on display now to honor Lassnig's passing. (Image found on
This painting, called “Sciencia,” is on display now to honor Lassnig’s passing. (

Right now I only get two magazine subscriptions.

Birds and Blooms was a gift to my avian from his doting grandma (aka my mom).

Time was yet another attempt to use up those expiring airline miles.

While you can probably already guess which one I find easier to read all the way through, Time does have the occasional newsworthy highlight.

For instance, this week’s edition shared the passing of an Austrian painter named Maria Lassnig.

Lassnig was an artist who spent much of her career exploring the felt experience of existing within a body (a style she termed “body awareness.”)

I found this quite intriguing!

In fact, I’ve been pondering Time’s little blurb about her for the last week or so. The question on my mind is this:

What DOES it feel like to be in a body?

In Lassnig’s work, she would only paint the parts she could feel working.

So some portraits were missing certain body parts at certain times.

As well, the colors she chose shifted according to her translation of what that body part felt like, which reviewers noted would occasionally result in what they termed “unusual” color combinations.

While I am not a painter (unless you count fingernails and toenails) I can already think of so many things that might influence what it feels like to live in my skin – and how I might paint that out.

  • The time period of my life and my age.
  • My recovery progress (from an eating disorder).
  • Whether I am alone or with someone.
  • Whether the person I am with is someone I work with, know personally, am partnered with, or am related to.
  • The time of day, season of the year, geographical area.
  • Whatever is going on in my life at that moment.
  • Whether I am engaged in an activity or sitting quietly or sleeping.

For instance, right now I am sitting in my office chair typing away on the laptop sitting on my desk. If I were to paint out how it feels to be in my skin right now, “Lassnig style,” these are the body parts I would highlight:

  • I can feel my fingers and hands working hard.
  • My back hurts a bit (especially where the neck meets the shoulder blades and right below my waist in the center of my lower back).
  • I can feel my parrot, Pearl, sitting on my bare right knee and shifting about (he wants me to stop typing and scratch his neck feathers).
  • My ears pick up the hum of the a/c unit under my window, and my hair is blowing a bit under the circulating ceiling fan.
  • My spine cracks as I stop typing for a moment to think.
  • I can feel the pressure of the floor under my feet – specifically near the arches.
  • My mind is going a mile a minute (so in “body language” that would denote my “brain,” which I suppose could be considered a “body part.”)
  • I feel my chest move up and down as I take a deep in breath….and notice I haven’t taken one of those in awhile.
  • My eyes are focused here and there as needed, without any real sensation from them at all.

So that is what it feels like to be inside my body right at this moment.

I can’t imagine cataloguing all that all day every day! It’s a lot to be aware of all at once!

But it is nice to be able to focus in and BE so aware, without any thoughts of size or shape of said body part or whether I like it or I don’t like it or I should really do (or not do) this-or-that to alter it…..

Today, sensing what it feels like to be inside a body – MY body – is so vastly different than it was during the eating disordered years.

I am so glad!

Today’s Takeaway: What is the experience of being inside a body like for you? Have you ever stopped to think about it before? Do you find if you do stop to think about it, that your experience is colored by other variables (for instance, a societal obsession with shape and size, feedback from others, your own desires or discomforts, et al)? I would love to hear your thoughts and insights!



What it Feels Like to Be in a Body

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2014). What it Feels Like to Be in a Body. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Jun 2014
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