Imagine yourself standing naked. Behind you stands your mother, naked as well. And behind her, your grandmother. Behind her is your grandmother’s mother, and behind her is her mother. (You can, in fact, in your imagination follow this linage all the way back to the very first mother.) All of them are naked.
If you zoom out for a moment and look at this row of bodies, their shapes and sizes, you will probably see that your body has forms similar to the women behind you, and that they have similar body traits to the women behind them. These are the shapes that have been passed down through generations.
From this perspective we discover that the shape of our body has a whole other purpose than just conforming to the fashion of our decade. It was created a long time ago and passed on. When we judge our body and compare it to cultural dictates of what a perfect body should look like, we are also judging our feminine lineage. To compare it with today’s fashion is to judge a perfect evolutionary unfolding that serves a purpose far more profound than the immediate need to fit in.
Maybe the women standing behind you judged their bodies too; maybe they didn’t fit their times’ ideal of perfection either. Take a moment to feel all these bodies, how they did their best, hearts pumping, lungs breathing, all the cells and blood working hard for so many years without being appreciated, because we all are trapped in a hypnosis of comparison.
We don’t judge our inner organs so readily. We don’t make the same insane commentary on the rest of our bodies, only on our outside appearance. Judgment, criticism, and comparison are all thought patterns and programming we have received from the outside, and unconsciously we keep reinforcing them. They are the result of our deeply ingrained social and cultural tendency to make the body into an object.
It is natural to love and be attracted to beauty. It thrills and fascinates us. When someone recognizes beauty in the color of our eyes or in the curve of our thighs, it can feel nourishing and vitalizing. This does not automatically close us to presence; on the contrary, it can relax and open us so that our radiance can shine through even more. Our suffering starts when we don’t feel our body from the inside anymore, but as an object looked on through the eyes of others.
The French author Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex about how this loss of self from within is a form of “hypnosis” that can repress even groups of people. For instance, when a lower class experiences themselves subjectively in the same way that they are seen by the upper class, as less worthy.
In a similar way, collectively women have for ages been looked upon as objects of beauty and sexuality and on many levels this has trapped us in a distorted sense of self and of beauty. We can see this played out to the extreme in movies where women often are just decoration. We see it in music videos and in advertisements and in the explosive pornography industry happening on the Internet. It is too simple just to point fingers at men as the abusive party in this matter. The problem lies in the relationship to the feminine that we all, men and women, have bought into, and we can start the liberation process by questioning our own beliefs and judgments.
Feel into your body as it is right now. Your heart is still beating loyally. Your cells are so sincerely doing their job. Even if you have an illness, you can be sure that your body is doing its very best to heal. Feel your body from the inside, what a miracle it is. It changes with the seasons and with the cycles of the moon. It is such a perfect organism that with the right tending and loving nourishment will move and grow and love in its own perfect way. However, when we fall into the trance of judgment and comparison we are no longer present in the body. The consequences of this are many.
:We separate from our connection with inner wisdom.
How can we listen within when daily we are treated to a cacophonic choir of how wrong our body is? How can we tune in to the wisdom in our womb, our gut feeling, when we are wearing a belt so tight we can hardly breathe? We lose the ability to feel connected with the laws of nature, from the inside.
:We create poisonous competition.
When we measure the body by fixed standards we lose the ability to see and honor the beauty in each unique expression of the feminine. The sight of a woman’s beautiful breasts makes us shrink and compare them to our own. Drunk on a bitter brew of competition, we also eagerly seek out faults in other women to help ourselves feel better, forgetting that we are judging a unique expression of the feminine. This harms our connection with ourselves, since we start judging the feminine in us as well.
:We limit our sense of beauty.
By seeing ourselves and other women from the outside instead of from within, we lose a total experience of beauty, which is multidimensional and permeates everything. We can recognize beauty through our eyes, but beauty can just as well be felt through the skin, and when opening in laughter and even pain, we can feel beauty as a quality intrinsic to life itself. When we view it only superficially, we are seeing beauty as separate from ourselves, ignoring the oneness in the depth of our beings yearning to be seen.
:We lose our healthy sense of boundaries.
When we objectify our bodies we no longer heed, or trust, when something feels off inside. If a person moves closer to us than what feels okay, we normally feel this as a tension somewhere in the body, maybe in the belly, and we can either move away or express our boundaries. When we are not present in our bodies, we don’t register these healthy signals, and we can end up being violated physically or psychologically. Many women report being so trapped in the image of the nice girl—the spiritual version of this is having an open heart—that they find themselves being busy pleasing even people who act abusively toward them. They cannot feel the no inside, and if they do they do not trust it.
The habits of judgment and comparison often run deep. Once we feel we have kicked them, another layer reveals itself. As we are restoring a healthy relationship to our body, the feminine within is patiently waiting to be revealed and shared. I have found that taking part in women’s circles has provided the most healing and awakening support to me in seeing through these habits.
It takes commitment, gentle support, and ruthless honesty to find our way through the thick forest of beliefs, to move closer to our bodies.
When fully inhabiting every curve of her body, a woman is relaxed, open, and soft. Maybe you have noticed how soothing it is to be in the presence of a woman who is in her body. This healing radiance can emanate through all ages and skin colors, all shapes and sizes. It is the radiance of an innocent heart, of deeply felt feelings. The glow comes from being intimate with the moment itself.
A woman’s relaxed belly makes you let go in trust. Her fully inhabited hips emanate aliveness, and her face makes you remember the love that you once came from. Her eyes look fearlessly into the darkest corners of your being. A body like this doesn’t activate your comparing mind, because your heart is involuntarily touched, and you are subtly guided back to the deeper waters of existence.