The Skin You’re In

The relationship I developed with my body as a young girl was confusing and tumultuous at best; appalling and shameful at worst. It all started out well enough. I didn’t even consider gender or body image or definitions of ‘good or bad’ when it came to my own form until I was about eight years old, and then one day, I looked down at my bare thighs spread wide against the seat of the car and gasped at how…big they looked. I vowed never to allow my thighs to rest against the seat like that again; instead, I would delicately sit with my thighs elevated above the seat just enough so the flesh could hang off my bones, and maintain the slim appearance that I considered acceptable. I have no idea why I considered slim to be more acceptable. Maybe I had fallen victim to the media that surrounded me; maybe I had overheard negative remarks at school; maybe it’s because I didn’t want to take up so much space….who knows how it started. It just did.

This skin I’m living in has been through a lot, and it’s likely that the skin you’re living in has been through a lot, too.

It has likely been stretched, pulled, belittled, reprimanded, ridiculed, covered, shamed, ashamed, disregarded, used, abused…sometimes perhaps by others, sometimes perhaps by you.

And yet…it survives, thrives, rejoices, celebrates, dances, moves, holds, beholds, and most importantly, loves.

And I don’t know why we, as a society don’t talk about the beautiful parts of ourselves, as if it is shameful to even admit that you’re okay with how you look and okay with who you are, but I hope that the conversation might change—that we might not only talk about being okay with who we are as individuals, but to celebrate acceptance, innate beauty and the unique differences that make you, you.

Even as I write, I find a bit of hesitation to admit it—but I can finally say that I love the skin I’m in.

I love the bumps, lumps, lines and wrinkles.
I love the parts that change and the parts that stay the same.
I love that my hands look like my Grandmother’s and my nose looks like my Dad’s.
I love that there is an old photo of my Mother that could be me.
I love that there is herstory and history in my bones; and that I carry the stardust of my ancestors beneath my skin.

I love that I can finally look in the mirror and smile instead of scowl at what I see.

This love did not come through external influences;
There have been no dramatic changes to the shape of my body;
or outside sources declaring my worth and beauty;
I didn’t suddenly get prettier or thinner or stronger….
No, this love did not come through outside influences;

This love came from within.

It came because I was tired of wasting energy on not liking the skin I’m in.

It came through quiet moments of early meditation; sitting in the dark; squaring off with my demons; and discovering that inner truth and peace were never lost; they’ve been here all along, just waiting to be seen.

It came through hours upon hours of focused movement: updog, downdog, forward bend, repeat….movement that would peel away the layers of armor that held me from myself. This movement—sometimes slow and sweet, and sometimes difficult and strong—shook it off, bit by bit, breath by breath. It made me soft enough to feel and strong enough to grow.

It came through constant introspection; policing my own mind; noticing the cruel words; the loud voice; the demeaning demands; sorting out the truth from lies; questioning their validation, and ultimately finding the discipline to drop the things that kept me small and weak…

It came through looking in the mirror, and instead of focusing on my flaws; I declared my own beauty to myself, even when it felt awkward, strange and uncomfortable. I said it anyway; I spoke kind words until it felt real; until it felt true; until it became real and became true.

It came through miles and miles of running that helped to flush out stuck emotions; to process; to breathe deep enough to pull it from the darkest depths, and free it out to dissolve with the heat of my breath as it mingled with the crisp morning air.

It came through writing—sloppy, incoherent, rambling—a dumping ground of words and ideas that had to be released; cleaning out the wounds so they could heal.

It came through cleansing tears.
It came through clearing the air.
It came through forgiveness.
It came through trust.
It came through faith.
It came through each and every moment of my life that begged me to stop resisting and start loving.

It came.

And just because I’ve made peace with myself, doesn’t mean I can stop working at it; the work for acceptance is ongoing—up and down, in and out, with constant reminders and practice, practice, practice.

But the return for my dedication toward acceptance is that I can love and celebrate my body for the beautiful instrument that it is.

I live free.
I share.
I give.
I create.
I love.

Finally, finally,

I am no longer weighed down.
I am no longer ashamed;
I’m not ashamed of my body, and I’m not ashamed to love it, either.
I am no longer holding my thighs above the seat so that my flesh can hang from my bones to maintain a slim appearance.

Finally, finally,

I am in love with the skin I’m in.

And my hope is that you will be, too. That you’ll start with wherever you are by accepting this moment with all of its flaws and all of its imperfections and unknown mysteries and realize that all of that is perfect, too.

That you are perfect.

And that realizing the truth about yourself isn’t about searching somewhere else. It’s about releasing the barriers that hold you back from recognizing your own beautiful image in the mirror.

I hope you’ll fall in love with the skin you’re in;

as it is, right now.

Because, it’s time.

Finally, finally.

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Make it Okay

First, a story:

Long day; the last of too many yoga classes: I was burned out, exhausted and not exactly rooted in my best self.

A student walks up to tell me that she didn’t really like the class; it was too fast, she felt lost, and she liked the other teacher better….ouch.

I was stunned and embarrassed and a little pissed off.

I mumbled an apology, maybe an excuse or two, and she left.

And there I was, alone with full-blown resistance toward myself, the student, and the entire situation. My face was flush, my body felt tight, my mind was spinning, and I just wanted the whole thing to just go away.

For the next few days I went through a series of reactions—I felt sad, irritated, angry; tried to forget it, flung out excuses, pretended not to care, and imagined the things I should have said…

I kept pushing and it kept pushing back.

Finally, after I had grown tired of the wrestling match, I tried a different approach—I invited it in. It wasn’t pleasant and I didn’t like it, but I sat with it anyway. And when I did, I realized that my resistance to the situation was softening. My body softened, my mind stopped spinning, and my heart started to open just a little bit.

When that happened, I started to listen.

What can I learn from this situation?

The student had been right; I was moving too fast, I was unengaged, disconnected, and not teaching from my heart. I didn’t want to accept it, but it was true.
And when I accepted the reality of the situation, I found myself in a space of clarity; a space with options; a space where I could actually facilitate positive change.

And so I did.

The experience became my wake-up call; a call toward positive change and necessary introspection. I reevaluated my schedule and lightened my load. I didn’t love the way the message was delivered, but sometimes it takes a hard hit to get the point across.

My point is this: Acceptance isn’t easy and you don’t have to like it, but if you can drop your resistance to yourself or the situation, you will enter into a space of clarity—a space where you can proceed with wisdom and grace.

If you have resistance toward something; pay attention. Be brave; look at it; invite it in, and most importantly, listen.

And then look at your options with clarity:

“Leave the situation, change the situation or accept it, all else is madness.” –Eckhart Tolle.

Leave it.

Change it.

Accept it.

Whatever you do, don’t let it bind you into a tiny ball of resistance, because when you resist, you’re closing yourself off to the good parts of the experience.

Your practice for the next couple of days is to watch for moments when you slip into resistance—the moments when you don’t like your body; the moments when you’ve been dumped with more work; the moments when you wish you hadn’t said what you said, or heard what you heard. And pay very close attention to the moments that you wish would just go away.

Those moments are the doorways to something bigger—they’re the doorways to greater awareness, greater compassion, greater understanding…..greater versions of you.

Contraction precedes expansion. Moments of non-acceptance aren’t meant to tear you down; they’re meant to teach you how to get bigger; find space; and then proceed from there.

Now it’s your turn. Dive into the work, and see what insights you can find in the moments you wish weren’t there.

And if you can’t quite get to a place of acceptance? Accept that you’re trying and that’s good enough.

Okay