Feeding the Feminine Soul

23 Jun

The Setting: Huge, airy windows and sun filtering through purple stained glass. Soft lighting from global, Moroccan lamps. Organic, hardwood floors scattered with plush cushions. Calming flute and woodwind background music. Fresh, pink carnations gazing down from a tall vase. The smell of baby powder mixed with woodsy notes and eucalyptus. 

The People: Women of all ages. Dressed in the most comfortable fabrics- loose, flowing, ahh… cotton dresses, stretchy yoga pants, whispy tees. Bright-faced, rosy, healthy glows, too many smiles to count. Instant friendship.

The Mood: Eager and excited. Strong and determined. Joy. Acceptance. 

Don’t you feel relaxed already??? Last weekend I went to a mini-retreat of sorts led by body-image expert, Elissa Shapiro. Called “Feeding the Feminine Soul,” it shed light on how today’s society impacts the self-perception of ALL women, not just those with eating disorders. It was a blissfully quiet and peaceful afternoon, filled with reflection, group discussions, mindful movement(Nia), and lessons on combatting society’s skewed ideal of what women “should” be.

Here are the most important things I took away from the day:

  • The journaling question, “What if you woke up tomorrow and your body was the cultural norm/ideal? What would you change in your life?” I was shocked by this prompt; I had never stopped to consider who decided that thin was in. Though I pride myself on intellect, I have dumbly chased the “thin ideal” for years without questioning who got to decide that was what is beautiful. I was also shocked by how much relief I felt when I imagined this situation. I have wasted such a large portion of my life trying to be the ideal body type. What would I do with all that extra time I have spent and currently spend on improving, toning, losing, obsessing…? So much would change. So what is preventing me from living like this now? 
  • In an exercise where we had to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” and write down the first seven words that came to mind, here is what I wrote:
  1. an explorer
  2. a learner
  3. compassionate
  4. creative
  5. deserving
  6. a daughter
  7. limitless
             Then, we had to chose which one was the most important definition of
ourselves.Can you guess which one I chose?

             I am limitless.

  • I realized how much gratitude I have for addressing my discomfort with body image NOW, instead of dealing with it for the rest of my life. I am working with my entire outpatient team to get to a place where I can maintain a healthy weight- not too thin, not too heavy- and be comfortable there. I feel relief when I think about this ideal because I won’t have to play on the seesaw anymore- up, down, up, down. It’s so tiring, and I’m glad I get to get off the seesaw sooner rather than later. There were women at this workshop that had dealt with poor body-image and self-esteem for 40, 50, 60 years! I am so grateful I will not have to hate myself for that long. I’m addressing it now, so that I can actually LIVE in the future.
  • And finally, this poem was read aloud because it presents an ideal that is so radically different than our modern culture’s:

Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself:

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.
A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself.
A woman who listens to her needs and desires.
Who meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past’s influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates her body’s rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

           – Patricia Lynn Reilly


A woman who doesn't hate some part of herself. Who thinks she is beautiful inside and out. Hmmph... imagine that...
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