As a culture, we are encouraged to have only a distant relationship to our bodies, and sometimes to have an actively adversarial relationship with them. We are taught to relate to the world around us primarily through our rational brains, allowing them to dictate what our bodies should or shouldn’t do, and frequently denying, or at least controlling, the natural expression of our body’s responses and needs. This is a recipe for exactly what we see happening around us: an awful lot of people who are completely alienated from their bodies, failing to listen to them, and forcing them to do what the rational brain (fed by the culture) tells us they ought to be doing, which is frequently to our detriment.
Since we’re all individuals with our own bodies and our own needs, blanket shoulds and should nots don’t work. We all need to learn to relate to our own bodies and listen to the specifics of what they are telling us. Most of us rarely listen unless the message comes in the form of extreme pain – and even then the first thing we usually do is dose ourselves with painkillers so we don’t have to listen.
How can we learn to listen to our bodies, and what does that really mean? The first step is understanding that your body is a sentient organism with its own intelligence: it knows what its purpose is—to make you happy—and it knows what it needs in order to do that. It’s always trying to please you and do what you ask of it. But it’s a finite physical form that needs regular care and feeding In fact different bodies need very specific kinds of care and feeding, and you can tell if you are giving it what it needs because it will feel good if you are, and it won’t feel good if you are not. Of course it’s not quite that simple, because sometimes there is just one thing missing, and your rational brain isn’t getting what that one thing is. That’s when you really do have to listen to your body. It can tell you in many different ways: maybe you feel drawn to a particular food, maybe you wake up one day thinking about it, maybe three different people tell you about it in one day although you’ve never even heard about it before, and so on. (I realize you may think that is not your body speaking—but consciousness works in strange and wonderful ways). The most important ingredient here is simply your intention. Set the intention to listen to your body, and then pay attention.
The bottom line is that you need to see your body as your friend. Many people see it more as their enemy: an unfortunately vulnerable machine on which they are dependent but determined to deny that dependence. It is not a machine. It is an incredible organism, a miracle of life, and it needs to be appreciated in the same way that all life needs to be appreciated. When it feels loved, it glows with delight. It will heal faster and last longer. Make friends with your body. Sit with it a little every day, simply feeling it. Stroke the back of your hand and be amazed at the tiny hairs. Feel your feet on the ground as you walk, lifting you up and setting you down in a constant rhythm. What parts of your body are involved in that movement? How wonderful that you can do this without ever having think about it.
Scratch your head. Think about all the cells that are stimulated when you do that, and all the nerve endings that are firing off. And your hair – how does it grow the way it grows? Why does it sometimes not grow? What makes that happen? It’s a natural physical change as we get older, you think. Hmmm. Something doesn’t quite gel about that. Why does it happen for some and not others? Perhaps our bodies have their own ideas about what should be what.
Feel that little niggling pain in your foot / arm / chest, wherever. You’ve been carefully ignoring that for a long time. Go right into it now. Go inside it. What is it saying to you?
The question behind all this contemplation of the body is this: who is in charge of this body? Is it in charge of itself? Are you in charge of it? What part of the you that you are is in charge? One might say that we each have several “bodies:”at least an emotional body and a mental body as well as the physical body. These days plenty of people would agree that what we are feeling (which is our emotional body) affects our physical body, and so does what we are thinking, which is our mental body. And I would argue that there is a certain self, which some might call the ego, or the character, which is yet another kind of body. It doesn’t really matter how many bodies one decides to define. What matters, since we are discussing the need to appreciate and love the physical body, is simply understanding that there are many aspects of self that can affect its well being or otherwise. If you want to be well, and are willing to be present in and for the physical body, then give it love. Allow yourself to feel love for it. Think loving thoughts towards it. Be grateful for what it does for you. Apologize to it if you push it to do something it finds hard. Set the intention of being gentle with it. Feed it what it needs and let it rest when it needs.
A body that has just had a delightful sexual experience is a happy body. If you really want to give it a loving gift, then allow it to respond to sexual touch and desire exactly as it wants, which may be not at all, or may be much faster or slower than your rational mind considers appropriate. Never force it to go anywhere or do anything when it is saying no. Let it be the one to make up its own mind. Yes – our bodies have minds of their own, and they are often much smarter, in an animal-like way, than the minds we use most of the time to make our way through our world.
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Wild Geese, Mary Oliver.
Mikaya Heart (mikayaheart.org) is an award-winning author and a teacher, using shamanic methods to help people how to operate from a place of trust instead of fear. Her last book was The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women; her next book is Life, Lies, and Sex: A User’s Guide to Being in a Body.
Taking a break in India
Where I live, it is almost expected that young adults travel to some far-flung place after serving in the compulsory military service. After three years or so of the rigid military framework, where they are told when to get up, what to wear, how to act, young adults feel the need to “let go” and many of them do so by travelling to exotic places and hiking their hearts out.
One of the favorite destinations for several years already is India. The stunning scenery, the feeling of absolute foreignness, a different culture and language are all aspects that draw the young adults. Many of them find peace in the teachings of the Indians and come back enriched by their time spent there.
What on earth is she speaking about?!
A good friend who also travelled to India came back speaking about Chakras, their colors and their influences. I had no idea what she was speaking about and decided to educate myself through the wonderful gold mine of information that is the internet…
Chakras as centers of life force
Chakras, according to Hindu metaphysical tradition, are centers of life force. There are seven Chakras and each corresponds to a different point in the physical body. The word Chakra is actually from the Sanskrit word for “wheel” or “turning” but is better translated in yogic context as “vortex” or “whirlpool.”
The Chakras are the energy centers of the body- if energy gets “blocked” in our Chakras it is believed that people can become ill. Adherents to this tradition believed that keeping the energy flowing through the Chakras if therefore vital.
Chakras and Judaism?!
At this point, I must admit that I was slightly discouraged- I am a religious Jewish woman and find much fulfillment in my own religion. I am interested in learning about other religions but have no reason to go “digging” into other traditions because I feel that my own rich tradition provides me with enough to be getting on with. For the sake of enriching my knowledge and admittedly because I found an array of articles on the subject of how the Chakras and Hebrew mysticism (Kabbalah) are related I decided to forge forward…
The Chakras in a Nutshell
Representative of foundations and feeling grounded
Located at the base of the spine/ tailbone area
Related to survival issues such as financial independence, food and money
Representative of our connection to others and experiences, as well as our ability to accept them
Located in the lower abdomen
Related to a sense of well-being, pleasure, abundance and sexuality
Solar Plexus Chakra
Located in the upper abdomen
Related to issues such as self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem
Located in the center of the chest
Connected to our ability to love
Related to issues such as love, inner peace and joy
Located in the throat
Connected to our ability to communicate
Related to issues such as expression of feelings and truth and communication
Third Eye Chakra
Located between the eyes
Connected to our ability to see the bigger picture and focus
Related to issues such as the ability to make decisions, to think, to be intuitive, imaginative and wise.
Located at the top of the head
Represents the ability to connect spiritually
Related to issues such as inner beauty, outer beauty, bliss, spirituality
I noticed after carrying out my very superficial introduction to Chakras that they feature in pieces of jewelry that I’ve seen sold here. I think that the idea of combining these fascinatingly deep, mystical ideas with jewelry is interesting- it certainly adds another level to our adornments! I recommend reading more of the material on Chakras that is out there- it’s a wonderful subject and who knows- you may even want to treat yourself to a piece of Chakra jewelry in order to balance those life forces out!
Udi Fili is one of the partners at Canaan-online.com. Canaan-online holds a wide category with Chakaras related items such as the one at: canaan-online.com/Bracelet_by_Amaro_Sacral_Chakra_Collection_p/b678grg.htm .
Since it’s Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to suggest that we all give thanks to our bodies. That’s actually something I recommend on a daily basis. Most of us take our bodies for granted, frequently forcing them to do all kinds of things that they really don’t want to do, running around all day long instead of taking time to sit and relax. We need to develop a good relationship with our bodies; we need to learn to listen to them. We are partners for life with the body we were born into, so make the best of it. Our bodies want to please us but like everything else, they need love and attention. One of the best ways to give them that is to make love. There is nothing like a good orgasm to make the body happy.
Sex always involves the body, and good sex requires that you are absolutely present in your body. We are energetic beings as well as physical beings, and some of us are not in the habit of having both in the same place. While the physical body is on one side of the room, your energetic body may be on the other side. (Really, that happens.) One of the wonderful things about sex is that when you start feeling sexual desire, you become absolutely present and integrated, and nothing else matters. You are all in one place with one focus. It’s good to have that experience of being absolutely right there, being fully in your body. We need to learn to do that more in our lives. We often think that sex is the only way to get that feeling of “right there-ness” but in reality, it can occur whenever we are totally concentrated. All great artists know that feeling—it’s about allowing the energy of creation to move through us, only it doesn’t have to be about making babies.
Another timely topic is childhood sexual abuse. I bring that up now because it’s classic for people who have had unpleasant sexual encounters to leave their bodies as soon as they start having sex. I know, I was one of them. Because of that, I have a deeper understanding of sexual abuse than many people, so let me correct a couple of misunderstandings: sexual abuse is not more common than it used to be, it’s just that until recently everyone covered it up. The shame and secrecy were more powerful than the desire to tell the truth. Although people still cover it up a lot, it’s beginning to leak out around the edges. That’s a good thing, a very good thing. Sexual abuse can’t keep occurring if the victims don’t keep quiet about it. But it does require courage to talk about it, because it’s such an intense assault on the psyche that it creates a deep sense of shame.
The other misunderstanding is that it happens as much or more to boys as it does to girls. It’s just that we hear about it more from boys, they are more likely to talk about it. Because of the way that sex has been used to threaten women since the beginning of time, women grow up with a deep subconscious awareness that sex can be used against them and that many men see them as prey. Until the last hundred years, our culture hasn’t considered that a problem at all, and women who complained got no support from the status quo. It takes a lot of generations to change those old cultural ways of thinking, and most girls still won’t talk about it.
The good news is that it’s possible to heal—once again, I know, I did it. An understanding and loving partner is huge plus, because you have speak about it openly, and you have to give a voice to those feelings. We can’t have good sex without our feelings coming up, anyway—at least it might be possible for men, but not very many women can cut themselves off from their feelings and still have great sex. Sadly, some women are never able to be very present for sex, often because of past sexual trauma. We need to educate all our children so that they understand they have the right to dictate what happens to their bodies, making sure they know that if any kind of abuse ever occurs we will be there standing behind them one hundred percent. And that goes for sexual abuse that happens when we are adults as well.
Let’s all start talking about sex in a real and open way. If we talked about sex as much as I think we should, this would be a different world, and sexual abuse would barely exist, because it couldn’t be hidden and we wouldn’t tolerate it. And, by the way, we would have at least twenty different words for different types of orgasm.