After taking a sensual bath or shower, share your experience. Were you able to see yourself through eyes that only perceive beauty?
By the way, this is a safe place where you can celebrate your beauty and body without shame. Just as we carry shame about our trauma, we also carry shame about our beauty. Women are simply not encouraged to celebrate their power, and maidens are not taught to be queens. This is the place to allow yourself as queen to shine. You don’t have to make yourself small! So even if you only experienced one moment of noticing your beauty, I encourage you to share it with us here.
It’s empowering and courageous to share what you love about your body.
I start the process of reclaiming and celebrating my body, today, exactly as it is.
This is the first bath I’ve taken since having a c-section to deliver my son. That thought arose as I stepped into the hot, foamy bubble bath I had drawn, and my eyes pricked with tears. I don’t quite know why. Perhaps because I am strong, and my body is strong. Perhaps because I am grateful that my body bore a healthy child. Perhaps because the last time I bathed was to relieve the discomfort of a swollen, heavily pregnant body with a round, 8-month belly and this time my body, to some degree, is my own again.
As I lowered in, the hot water washed over my still-tender scar, and I felt a split second of fear wondering if I were healed enough to be in the bath before I remembered my 8-week checkup where the doctor had told me I healed perfectly and was cleared for any and all activity. Even swimming? I asked. Yes! she replied. Even running? Yes! she replied, everything! This body. This body is the one she was talking about. This body healed ‘perfectly.’
Once in the bath, I thought of my teenage self. Growing up in a chaotic home with a volatile mother, I tried hard to take care of my younger siblings. Afraid to leave them alone with our parents, I took to staying home as much as I could rather than going out with friends or significant others like my elder siblings did. One tradition I made for myself was to take a bath on New Year’s Eve. I hated the New Year with its punishing expectations of resolutions to be better this year in every which way that would fail by February. I hated the year end with its unforgiving accounting of all I hadn’t been or done that year, all my goals I’d failed to achieve, all the self I hadn’t lived up to.
But each NYE, in the wee hours of the morning, I would draw myself a bath, light a candle or two and lower into my own private sanctuary, thinking about the ending year and the year to come. I’d shave my legs and wash my long hair and relax, just letting the water wash over me and listening to the stillness. With one bathtub/shower for such a large family, it was a rare luxury to soak uninterrupted. Today in the bath, I felt connected to my younger self.
As I looked upon the same body that brought that teenage self to where I am now, I thought of all the things I have hated about my body and how silly that has been. One small example: I always hated the shape of my big toes, how they bump out on the side and are not long and lean like those I had seen on the narrow little feet of other girls and women. As a teen, I used to fantasize that I’d get up enough money and have surgery to cut off the side of my big toes and reshape them to look feminine and dainty. Now, thankfully, I see what an absolute absurdity it was to worry about the shape of two of my toes. How absurd all my body part hating has been! I lay in the bath and thought: these are the feet that donned $1 flip flops and cycled hundreds of miles with my sister during my favorite summer adventure of my life. These are the toes that helped me climb high into tree after tree as a child. These are the feet that walked along the sandy beach to the ocean’s shoreline where I had my first kiss with the first boy I loved. These are the feet that walked me across the stages to receive my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees. These feet with the funny toes. These feet that have served me so well. These imperfect, beautiful feet. My feet. My beautiful feet.
This belly I hate for being too thick, too soft, too wide is the belly that has enjoyed deep, guttural laughs of joy, that has been filled with delicious meals shared with loved ones, that has soaked up the sun on tropical beaches… this belly, this chubby, fleshy belly–my belly–is beautiful.
And so I went, running my eyes and my mind up my body working to replace my years of criticism, rejection, and disgust with a new story written through acceptance. Why hate myself and my body for what we are not when I can love myself, love us, for what we are?
Why, indeed? What a brave and powerful share. We so rarely read about women accepting, loving, and celebrating their bodies. On the contrary, we’re inundated everywhere with images and messages about how your body doesn’t measure up, how you need to tuck this and change that, how inferior and inadequate you are. How can we expect our sexuality to flourish uninhibited when shame and discontent live in very pore and fold and so-called blemish?
We allow it to flourish when we reclaim what is rightfully ours, from how we see our bodies to excavating the shame stories and broken beliefs that we absorbed from the culture. If you would like to join a group of passionate learners and guided along this path, please join us for the fourth round of Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day course to heal body shame and ignite desire. The course will begin on Saturday, January 12th, 2019, and this will likely be the only time I will run it this year. I look forward to meeting you there.