Love is one of those words that we tend to use so easily – casually, even.
“Oh I love you!” I might say when someone gives me something I want.
Of course, every time I look at a certain set of feathers or shells, love wells up without me even having to do anything.
After talking with my family or a close friend, I might say “I love you!” before we hang up the phone.
And oh-so-often I attach the now universal <3 as part of my email signature to people I know well.
But I truly cannot remember the last time I directed any real love towards my body.
Some years ago, I attended a workshop on the West Coast. It was a nine-day long workshop and it was very intense. But I had no idea how intense it would get (or I will be honest – I doubt I would have gone!).
I think it was on day 2 that the assistants handed out mirrors to the 500+ people sitting in the hall. We were instructed to look at ourselves in the mirror. Then the stereo began belting out Whitney Houston’s classic song “I Will Always Love You.”
I was a puddle. Instantly. The perfectionist inside me was determined to do the assignment right, so that part of me kept staring into the mirror even though I could no longer actually see my reflection because I was so blinded by my own tears.
Whitney’s song probably only lasted a few minutes, but to me it was like watching my whole life – all of my lives – flashing before my eyes. I saw so much unkindness! I saw how abused and abandoned and shamed and beaten up and unwelcome and unappreciated my physical being had been across the years I could consciously remember.
I suspected there were other even more painful memories locked away – mercifully – that I just wasn’t strong enough to experience.
I hate writing about this experience, by the way. It still brings up the same pain, although not as intensely as the years keep passing.
But my point here is not to go out and get a mirror and download Whitney on your iPod.
Actually, I had another experience today that was much more joyful and helped me realize the Whitney experience had propelled me forward in spite of myself to make a much greater effort to love my physical form and its efforts on my behalf.
I am in the middle of another month-long yoga course, and Adriene, my YouTube teacher, is really all about self-love on all levels. Today’s lesson was about empowerment.
Before we started moving on our mats, she turned her head oh-so-casually and kissed her bicep.
That’s right – she just gave it a little kiss. And then smiled at the screen.
I won’t lie – it rocked my world. All of a sudden Whitney was back and there I was all over again, frozen in time, holding that mirror in front of my own face.
But this time I wasn’t crying.
This time, after a few beats to process the amazing enormity of what I had just witnessed, I decided to give it a try.
So I kissed my left bicep. It felt good. I kissed my right bicep. It also felt good.
By this time Adriene was full-steam ahead, and as I raced to catch up I realized my biceps deserved all of that love and then some for the workout they were about to perform on my behalf.
(On that note, if I could have reached them, I should have attempted to kiss my abs and gluten as well.)
Looking back over my 47 years to date on this planet, I see so much pain – nearly all of it self-inflicted. Years have passed since I moved through the final stages of recovering from anorexic and bulimic-type eating disorder behaviors and into a relatively stable relationship with food and nutrition.
But the stuff underneath has been much more challenging to unearth, examine and heal from. There has been a lot of self-apologizing. A lot of regret and shame. A lot of healing.
There is more where all of that came from too. But today, more than two decades into my efforts, I have the inner strength, awareness, desire and ability to watch my yoga teacher kiss her bicep and smile and follow her good example with happiness in my heart and in my body.
And that – I will tell you honestly – is no small thing.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you have a favorite way to let your body know you love it or at least appreciate its service to you? I would love to hear your story!