Learning How to Be in My Body: Step One

I don’t really know how to be in my body. To feel comfortable inside the physical being I use to take up space in this world. I know how to use it. To numb and block emotions I don’t want to have or thoughts I don’t want to think. To get things. To become invisible. But to simply be with and inside it? Not so much. I feel disconnected from this stuff that is my body. I don’t love it or hate it because more often than not, I am simply ignoring it. I haven’t really accepted it as my own, let alone applied a label like beautiful or ugly. Instead, I live inside a theoretical body that I have imagined. With no distinct shape, size or color, it is acceptable but not distinctive.

I don’t really know what I look like beyond the sketchy basics: height, eye, skin, and hair color. Until I’m forced to take a picture, and then I see my body. Not as others see it— I have no idea what anything looks like through their eyes—but as I see other bodies. Pictures, frozen in place and time, these bodies I see become available for scrutiny. Others, and my own. They become a pattern of parts and attributes disconnected from the person that occupies them. And when it is my body, I search for recognition. Is that really me? It is and yet it isn’t. The me that is not my body cannot be pinned down there.

I could see all this as an enlightened view: recognizing that the soul is not the body and this physical world is only an illusion. But I know that’s not the truth of it. Because the result is that my body is doing everything it possibly can to demand my attention. It has been pretty, skinny, athletic, strong, attractive, sick, in pain, and now fat: growing and swelling to demand my focus with its sheer size. Pay attention to me, please! How can you not see me when we take up so much space? But the answer is that I don’t know how.

I have spent my entire life buried in my mind. Learning, struggling, seeking salvation there. The challenge of unknotting my wayward mind seems like enough of a burden for one lifetime. But I know it’s not, because knowing is what I’m good at. What I don’t know is how do I deal with my body in a way that is not forcing it to become smaller? I’ve learned that that only works until my attention strays and my body cries out for attention, growing big and painful to bring my attention back.

I don’t have an answer. I don’t yet know how to understand my body, but I think maybe the first step is to let my body speak in the language it knows: movement. I will offer my body gentleness and listen for the messages it needs to give me.

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