How often do you rejoice your body? How often do you feel absolutely at ease in your skin, at peace in yourself and in harmony with your world? For many the answer is seldom. Instead we tend to us put up with the body rather like some slightly cumbersome baggage we carry with us as we go about. Yet all thought, all feeling, every response to beauty and to horror is mediated through the body. In fact your body is the medium for experiencing everything in life. As any healthy two year old knows, when it is fully alive you are fully alive. This aliveness is something we often have to rediscover.
Television, films and advertising are replete with photographs of long legged pencil-thin females who are meant to be paragons of womanhood against whom we measure ourselves. Magazines and newspapers spend a large part of their time giving us advice about diets, clothes, exercise which supposedly will help the bodies of their readers more closely approach whatever shape, size and texture body the general consensus at any moment in time considers ideal. Meanwhile millions of women who, because of the way they are built, their personalities, and their own values (whether or not these values operate consciously or unconsciously) have not a hope in hell of ever looking like that ideal. And they suffer.
This suffering goes deep - far beyond the simple (yet often painful) feelings of inadequacy which come with having been built with broad shoulders, big feet or a flat chest when the world you live in tells you you are supposed to be different. (Some of us alas have the misfortune of being blessed with all three). For implicit in the whole way in which the body is presented in almost everything we do and think are two far more crippling assumptions:
That the body is separate from the spirit or person and that it is ultimately inferior. These assumptions are anchored deep into the belief systems from the Greco-Roman and Christian traditions in which our society has developed. They have led us to view the body either as something not to be trusted - like a wild animal that needs taming lest it gets out of hand or like a physical object outside ourselves to be watched, studied and manipulated.
For most Western women their bodies are things separate from themselves, either to be prodded, criticized, and hidden or narcissistically exposed as a sexual object - something useful in gaining attention or drawing to oneself what one needs (or think she needs). In either case there is a sense of estrangement not only from the body but at a deeper level from ones self. Out of this estrangement comes a sense of powerlessness so that one begins to think that what one needs to be happy, to be complete, to be fulfilled can only be found outside oneself - by accomplishment in the world, or wearing the right clothes, by earning the love of a man or by conforming to some abstract ideal.
So long as one is driven by a sense of separateness from ones body whether you succeed or fail in getting what you want from the outside world is irrelevant. For neither success nor failure bring you any closer to living freely with real health and beauty. Rediscovering the aliveness of the child and the innocence of bodily freedom can. It helps heal the wounds of separation and free a woman to live in the fullness of her own being.