(Love Your Body) The Belly-Anointing Ritual
I hated my belly.
I had no real reason to hate my belly...
But I did. (Because it wasn't the belly of a Victoria Secret model and that's what I thought I needed in order to accept myself).
And I thought about it a lot-- how much I hated it, and wished this part of my body was different.
The Vigilante in me, the part of me that was dead-set on enforcing the rules, made it my job to hate my belly, because in hating my belly I ensured I would only eat one Oreo and not ten, and that I wouldn't leave the gym without a serious ab workout.
Because we all knew the rules: the woman with the flattest belly wins.
Hating my belly was my insurance that I wouldn't lose control of myself.
Hating my belly also kept me safely sad, because being happy might be dangerous. Being happy might mean I would disregard the Vigilante and rebelliously order a burger and fries because my body craved it.
I lived with unhappiness and I lived with body-hate because I was terrified of the wild woman within me that could be happy without washboard abs. If I let her out, we both would be kicked-out of our tribe.
Everyone in this tribe knows it's more important to be pretty than it is to be happy.
I needed to hate my belly because hating my belly kept my life inline, and it also gave me something to talk about with the other women who hated their bellies.
We bonded over our mutual self-hate. And the woman who didn't play these games with us couldn't be trusted.
Who does that happy woman think she was not to despise herself like the rest of us? Doesn't she know this is the tax every modern western woman paid to belong?
These were the stories in my head.
Then one day I woke up and I realized I didn't feel such a strong need or obligation to hate my belly anymore.
My mind was love-drunk on my baby.
And my baby came from my belly.
Why would I hate the origins of my child?
I couldn't anymore...
Until he got older and I was out of the baby-phase, and encouraged, once again, to engage in the sadistic form of belonging of my people.
The stretch marks. The pudge. Ten extra pounds that wouldn't go away. It was new fodder for us. New reasons to hate and reject our bodies and ourselves.
But I didn't want to belong there anymore. A tribe that engages in body-shaming rituals was not a safe tribe for me to grow as a mother or a woman.
I wanted to fall in love with my skin the way I fell in love with his.
I wanted to see myself innocent and sacred, the way I saw him. Stretch marks, and rounder curves, included.
But I had work to do-- a lot of emotional and spiritual work to do in and with my own body.
Because I wanted to love my belly, but I still cringed when my husband placed his hands on me there.
For years, I asked him not to because the touch of his hands awakened the old need to suck-in, as well as the new desire for healing.
Sometimes when desire is awakened we recoil. Not because we don't want it, but because we do want it, but something in us still believes having our desire would make us unsafe.
I see this tension a lot in the women who come to me for coaching: their desire and the fear of their desires creating a standstill in their life that keeps them stuck.
Together we create the conditions for their whole body and being to feel safe and good pursuing and having the things they really want. So that they can feel more flow in their life and less block.
One of the things I really wanted, and a lot of other women want too, is a genuine love and appreciation for the female body. My own.
We want to be free of the self-hate thoughts and body shame.
We want to invest the incredible amount of energy that goes into our body shaming into other, more creative and productive, things.
(Like dream-building and living intentionally, and creating beautiful things and experiences with our kids and our friends).
We want to feel good, and safe, and self-assured when our husbands place their gentle hands on our belly.
We want to feel about our bodies the way we feel about our children: they are perfect just the way they are.
One of my tantra teaches taught me that there are two ways to awaken the body in love:
One is through breath. The other is through touch.
To awaken the body in love we need to touch tenderly and breathe affectionately.
So that is what I began to do.
- Touching and massaging my own belly, years after it had been home to my children, with the same love I once touched it when my babies were still in my womb.
- Breathing deeply with love and affection, focusing this sweetness on the part of my body I was least fond of. Every morning, breathing with infinite tenderness, to offer every cell the same kindness and nourishment I would offer my child.
We can do this, ladies.
We can learn to love our bellies.
And we don't have to wait till after we have children. There is enough of our own lost child in each of us to awaken compassion.
If you have spent way too many years, and way too much energy, hating any piece of your body, please challenge yourself to this one simple practice (The Belly Anointing Practice):
- Every day in the shower, or before you get dressed, place your hands on your belly in love. Anoint your belly with Ylang Ylang, the oil of the inner child, or Sandalwood, the oil of sacred devotion.
(And if you don't have any essential oils at home yet, use whatever you have on hand...coconut, olive oil, apricot or almond oil with do! Infuse the oil with your intention.)
- Tenderly rub the palm of your hand around your belly as if there was life inside. Because there is life inside, it's yours! (Life force is pulsing through you and it's just as sacred as a baby's).
- And when your hands are on your belly, be with your belly, breathing with love into your belly. (This is not a time to review your to-do list).
Remember: Touch and breath awaken the body. And when we touch and breathe with love we heal the body.
How does it do this?
Touch and breath work on the nervous system and the primal brain.
When we touch and breathe with tenderness and affection, the deepest parts of us register the experience as evidence that our body is worthy of love and attention.
Touch tenderly and breathe compassionately and you will awaken love and trust in the body.
Be dedicated. The healing you are doesn't happen overnight, but it will happen.
Consistency is everything.
Remember that your body is a living thing with a dynamic nervous system and consciousness with it's own memory. Just as it takes time to regain trust and intimacy with another human being, it takes time to regain trust and intimacy with your body.
Your belly must know she is safe.
You must give her time to get over her worries that you will always critique her, deprive her, reject her.
(You will not always do this to her. I know this, because you are here, learning about feminine wholeness with me, but she does not know this yet).
In time, with devoted touch and breath, she will learn to trust you again.
And when she does, you will feel the freedom you once knew as a child; the freedom to have a body, and to feel that it is a safe and good to call it home.
- You will also feel the freedom of a mature woman who is proud of her life and all the ways her resilient body has shown up for her.
- You will know you do not have to recoil from a man's loving touch.
- You and your belly will be friends, and in that friendship gut instinct and intuition will increase.
You will trust yourself again.
You will have new ideas and new visions in your dreams because, psychically, the burden of hating this piece of yourself has been lifted.
You've alchemized the energy of fear into the creative energy of love.
All this from a simple practice that takes no more than 5 minutes of your day!
The Belly Anointing practice is one of the first practices I give my clients who are struggling with self-love and body acceptance. This practice, like all the ones in my coaching toolbox, prepares us to receive more and more love (from self and others) and become greater and greater containers of love (for self and others).
Will you try it this month?
I’ll be returning to this practice, too. Because after spending a few weeks in a swimsuit, I realize I have more work to do.
May July, the month many of us are most likely to see ourselves in a bikini, be a month of hot and steamy belly love.
On my way to Italy for the Sophia Embodied Retreat and thinking of you in a bikini looking oh-so beautiful,
p.s. Happy Fourth of July! As fireworks light up the sky, may each be a prayer of freedom for all.
July 8-13: Sophia Embodied Italy Retreat (Full)
Late August: Fall One-on-One Coaching Sessions Begin (Get on waitlist now)
September 10-15: Nine REVOLUTION: Vermont
September 24-27: The Sophia Experience: Palm Springs (2 spots left)