excerpted from the online workshop Intimate Bliss: Exploring Your Sacred Sexual Self
Judging your physical form as lacking in any way can keep you from happiness, and intimacy with your Self and others.When we are uncomfortable with our physical appearance and afraid of our bodies, we distance ourselves from making true intimate connections. We hide in baggy clothes, or fight to keep the lights out during lovemaking. Some of us even find it difficult to look ourselves full in the mirror.
As so many mystics and spiritualities tell us, the body is a temple. It is the housing for our spirit, and what connects us to the physical world. Whether we are tall or short, heavyset or lanky; whether our thighs start a brush fire when we walk or have a gap like the Grand Canyon – our bodies are sacred, beautiful, and deserve to be honored.
It took a long time for me to come to terms with my body exactly as it is.When I looked in the mirror, I saw the things I liked, but I focused on the things I thought needed improvement. I compared and contrasted with images from Hollywood, with women I considered prettier than me. And every time I did that, I was destroying a piece of my joy in life, and teaching my heart how to love myself with conditions: I would be so much prettier if my chin wasn’t so pointy… I’d be married by now if I was thinner… I’d be happy if only I could get down to a single digit size…
And on, and on, and on.
It wasn’t until I went to a Korean spa in Los Angeles that I learned the true meaning of beauty, and what it looked like to proud of your body. For those who’ve never indulged in the glory that is the Korean spa, let me tell you – it’s a life changing experience. A space solely for women, it’s a self-care center full of hot and cold baths, jade steam rooms, Himalayan salt saunas, and heated jade floors to nap and meditate on. But the catch is, to enjoy this zen inspired bliss, you have to be completely naked in front of strangers. No bathing suits, no towels, and no robes allowed.
At the time, even the thought of being naked in pubic made me nauseous. What would people think, what would they say? Would they find those dimples on my buttocks as gross as I did? Would they point and laugh at the way my breasts sagged once my bra came off?
“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.”
– Jack Kornfield
I was afraid, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I went to the spa, got naked as quickly as possible and with downcast eyes, damn near sprinted over to the mugwort water Jacuzzi, submerging my body up to my neck before anyone could get a good look at me, or me them. I soaked, the hot water releasing some of my tension, and without meaning to, I found my eyes lifting and observing the women around me.
And they were beautiful.
Not Hollywood beautiful. Not what Cosmopolitan magazine tells us is beautiful. But truly, holy, real-life, stunningly beautiful.
I saw stretchmarks, C-section scars, round bellies on thin hips; broad shoulders and flat chests; thirty-stone women and pixie women. 80 year old breasts and 18 year old asses. Tattoos, piercings, bare yonis and hippy yonis. Naked women, of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors – not posing, not sucking in their stomachs, not caught up in someone else’s standard of beauty. Just walking around joyously naked, with an obvious lack of shame, enjoying the spa, enjoying their day. Proud of their bodies, in whatever state they were in.
And every single one of them was gorgeous to me. Because they were comfortable in their own skin. Because they loved themselves enough partake in self care. Because they were brave enough to be naked in a room full of strangers. Because each of them was an individual, and their individual bodies were attractive, in their own way.
It was the most powerful and healing experiences of my life.I was able to see the beauty, the sexiness, the appeal in these bodies, which were so different from what the media told me a beautiful, healthy body looked like. And I figured if I could see the sexy in another woman’s stretchmarks, then it was high time I started recognizing the beauty of my own.
Now, this new mindset didn’t mean I got to be lazy and compliant, stuffing myself with Cheetos and Pepsi, settling with an unhealthy body because “I’m perfect the way I am.” There is always room for growth and improvement, and my body will change as I do, as my lifestyle transforms. I just refuse to continue belittle and demean my body.
I made the conscious effort to change the negative thoughts I had while looking in the mirror:I would be so much prettier if I loved myself unconditionally… I’d be married by now if I recognized my own beauty… I’d be happier if I showed myself love and patience…
And it’s amazing how much my confidence, and my daily bliss has expanded as a result.
“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
― Steve Maraboli