Why Loving Your Belly is a Radical Act

I started sucking in my belly when I was 10. Around this time, my father started calling me fat whenever I was overly rambunctious and he wanted me to simmer down. I have this memory of dad yelling at me to get down from a carport gate where I was monkeying around, because “you’re too fat! You’re going to break it!” he yelled. I ran into the house, where my sister started poking at my stomach and teasing “suck it in, fatty.” These memories mark the beginning of becoming an awkward and self-conscious teenager, after having been a feisty little girl. That is one clear moment that I can pinpoint where I started to shut down my power.

art by Ralph Pucci
art by Ralph Pucci

After that, I’d never go back to being a kid with a relaxed belly, naturally expanding on the rhythm of my breath. I learned to suck it in from my older sister. One day we were walking past a store window and she told me to “suck it in,” pointing to our reflections and how much better she thought we looked with flat, sucked in stomachs. After that I tried to remember to suck it in anytime I was out in public. Eventually this became my normal way of moving through the world, belly tightly sucked in. Store windows and glass doors became witnesses to my constant vigilance, lest that shameful protruding belly dare to show itself.

I don’t tell this story to talk shit about my family or to point out how awful my childhood was. It wasn’t. I tell this story because I carried those memories along with a ton of shame for many years, and because I know that I’m not alone in this.

As I became more self-conscious about my body, I wanted there to be less of me. All that exuberant girl-child energy turned toward dieting and obsessing about my newfound terror of getting fat. Getting fat became synonymous in my mind with not being loved. For years, my body hatred focused intensely on my belly area. Even now, anytime I start to feel down about my body, my belly is the first place my attention goes. This is not a quick-fix topic. To learn to love our bodies, whatever our “problem areas” might be, means confronting all the woman hating messages we’ve absorbed, and all the shaming of the feminine and of women as sexual beings.

In fact, the seeds for much of the work that I do now as a women’s coach were planted in those early days when I learned to hate my body and by extension, my femininity, and myself. I believe that healing our relationship to our body builds the foundation for self-love and self-expression.

art by Tamara de Lempicka
art by Tamara de Lempicka

How we feel about our bellies is a great barometer for how we feel about ourselves. How we relate to this part of our body makes all the difference in how we see ourselves, and yes I see it as both a vulnerable and a radical act to choose not to suck it in. It’s radical because it says “fuck you” to the notion that your beauty comes from fitting yourself to the culturally accepted norms. It’s radical because by choosing to  stay tuned in to your body, your feelings, your in-the-moment intuition, you are much more powerful as a woman. Instead of sacrificing all that power for the sake of some cultural stamp of approval, it means choosing to be sovereign in your own body and life. That is radical. Just imagine what would happen to Madison Avenue and the massive diet industry if women chose the stance that our bodies are perfect and beautiful.

Loving your belly is radical. Loving your belly is also incredibly vulnerable. You take the risk of being judged harshly by other women who will project their own body hatred onto you. You may run across men who judge you for not fitting with their pornified ideals of a woman’s body. You will begin to see just how much you have internalized the fear and hatred of women’s bodies. So, why put yourself through all this? Why not keep sucking it in and worshiping at the altar of flat-as-a-board, six-pack abs? Because…

Hating your belly is really hating yourself. 

When you suck in your belly you lose access to your feeling center, intuition, solar plexus center of power. Your breath becomes shallow and you develop patterns of rigidity in your body as a whole. There is a feeling of not being at home in your body and if you can’t be at home in your body then where the hell will you ever truly feel at home? Besides, every time you look in the mirror with critical thoughts, you’re sending your body the message that she is wrong, bad, unloveable.

As you deepen your connection to your belly, you’ll notice that it feels so much better to be relaxed, open, to have strength and solidity, which has nothing to do with your belly being rounded or flat. It’s way harder for us to achieve that “hard body” ideal than it is for men. A truly strong and developed core is not the same as a hard, numb core.

I tried on and off over the years to stop sucking it in. It hasn’t been easy. I understand the feeling of being super self-conscious about your body. The pressure to mold one’s body to the flat-belly model is really strong. But it’s worth practicing. The benefits of an open and relaxed belly are profound and immediate and totally worth it.

Here are some benefits you’ll get from loving your belly and doing less sucking in:

  1. A whole new level of relaxation. Your whole body relaxes. Your breath deepens on its own. This, reduces worry and anxiety, increases oxygen intake and gets your body out of fight-or-flight and into relaxation mode. Ahhhhhh.
  2. Experience your feelings. Not just what thoughts are running around in your mind, but your emotional state in this moment. Along with your feelings, your intuition will also become stronger as you connect to this part of your body. There’s a reason we talk about “gut feelings.”
  3. Know your true needs. Being able to differentiate between physical hunger and some emotional need, for example. With a relaxed belly, you’ll get accurate information. After all there is a whole other “brain” in the belly, as lots of research has revealed. Check out this great piece by Marc David here  ( http://psychologyofeating.com/the-brain-in-the-belly/).
  4. Find your Power Center. In the chakra system, the belly area corresponds to the third chakra or “solar plexus.” Solar has to do with the fire of the sun that is like the fire of our will, the fire of our metabolism, the fire of our resolve.
  5. Rich sensuality. Picture the lovely, powerful undulations of a belly dancer compared to some punishing ab-busting routine. Feeling through a relaxed belly lets you feel more with your whole body so that there is pleasure to be found in the simplest experiences of the senses, from petting a kitten to feeling the breeze on your skin.
  6. Great sex. As your breath deepens, energy is able to move up the central channel of the body allowing you to expand orgasmic feelings throughout your body. Also, as you relax, you are able to shift your focus from how you look to how you feel. This is one of the secrets to better sex, and it makes you more attractive because instead of performing or “posing” you are simply being you while in a state of pleasure.

I could go on and on, but I’ll sum it up like this:

Not sucking in the belly changes one’s entire relationship to the body to one of sovereignty. It’s saying to your body: “I am at home here. I belong to myself.” This can change everything.

bigtimebellydance.tumblr.com
bigtimebellydance.tumblr.com

If  you hate your stomach or any other part of your body, by now you may be thinking this is so much easier said than done. I agree that it’s a process. Even if you don’t fully succeed at all times, you can still choose the radical stance of loving your belly and your whole body. It’s radical to choose not to walk around holding in your power, your magic. It’s possible to not live hostage to the ubiquitous body shaming around us. To change from an external focus based on how we think we are perceived by others, to an inner focus where we move through the world from that place of deep connection to our center.

Try this simple exercise to relax and feel your belly: Take a deep breath, fill your lungs and feel your belly expand. As you exhale, allow your belly to fall naturally. Pause before the next inhalation and just feel your belly. Don’t push it out, don’t suck it in. Pay attention to your breath as you feel your belly and allow it to relax.

You may not be ready to do this while you’re posing for a picture or walking into a party. That’s cool. Try it while you’re driving, or while you’re sitting at your desk. Then notice how you feel. See what’s different. I’d love to hear what you discover, in the comments.

Belly love practices: Belly dancing is a beautiful art form that fosters a positive relationship to the belly. Massaging your own belly with essential oils or receiving belly massage such as Maya abdominal massage is excellent. The simple act of putting your hand on your belly and breathing steadily can begin to shift you into belly and body love.

Let’s talk. If you’re sick and tired of putting your life on hold till you lose the weight. If you feel trapped inside your body instead of loving who you are. If you’re exhausted with the dieting game and the constant worry and dread about food and fat. If you don’t feel like you can have love, intimacy, and connection as you are right now. This can all change. When you change how you feel about yourself and your body, you are free to change your life.

If you want to learn how to trust your body as the ultimate source of intuition, pleasure, and power, I’d love to talk to you. If you know it’s time to feel confident in your skin and begin to live fully and embark on your next adventure, let’s talk. It’s possible. What if it’s easier than you’ve always thought?

Contact me through the form below to schedule a complimentary Deep Dive Coaching Session. This is a no pressure conversation where the focus is on you and your desires. We go deep to what you want, and what is getting in the way. I help you get clear, inspired, and give you tools and practices to start to make the shifts that are most important to you right now.

 

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Are you sure you’re not just a brain in a jar? 4 simple ways reconnect with your body

I watched the movie “Her,” where Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely guy who falls in love with his operating system (OS), Samantha, played by Scarlett Johansson. There’s this moment where Theodore is in bed talking to Samantha. She gets quiet and then her raspy voice sounds pained when she asks him, “what does it feel like…to have a body?” Stop and think about this for a moment. What does it feel like? Because it’s so easy to forget these days! Of course, Theodore can’t give Samantha a satisfying answer. She’ll never have a body. But you and I do, every moment of every day. Forgive me for stating the obvious.

Remember those old movie images of brains in jars? These days we live more and more like disembodied brains and our bodies are suffering. But it’s not only our bodies that are suffering–we end up depressed, addicted, and feeling like we’re not really living.

image from darwinian-medicine.com
image from darwinian-medicine.com

Eventually, the lovers in our modern tale grow closer in their relationship and they want to have sex, or something close to it. Samantha (the OS) finds a human woman online who is willing to be a “body surrogate.” The scene that follows is heartbreaking. Theodore and Samantha are trying to connect through the body of this third character who wants to be part of their relationship. But the awkward attempt ends in horrible disappointment for everyone involved. It’s fiction but it’s not really so far-fetched; people are already finding it harder to connect with other human beings.

In another scene, Theodore walks around the city listening to Samantha through little wire-free earbuds. As he goes down the stairs to the subway, every other person coming up the stairs is talking through their little earbuds, presumably to their own operating systems. Or they are exactly like us today with all our devices? Constantly plugged in, negotiating life through these technologies; each in our private bubble of experience.  The first step in alienation is losing the connection to our own bodies, our own physicality.

Artificial intelligence is here and our lives are already changing faster than we realize and that change will be exponential in our lifetimes. Instead of freaking out about some dystopian vision of the future, we need to cultivate the ancient technologies that can only be accessed through the body, the technologies of human connection to ourselves and to one another. It kills me to think that as computers and machines become smarter and  beat us at our own games (and jobs), that we will allow ourselves to become dumber and duller and more reliant on them to navigate our way through the physical world.

We are suffering with widespread depression and other emotional and mental problems because we have these bodies that are part of nature, that are still connected to millions of years of being wild, and yet we live an almost machine-like existence–constantly indoors, barely moving, breathing just enough to stay alive. We have our senses, yet we barely explore what it means to have so much capacity to taste, to smell, to feel! The thing is, we can’t really separate the mind from the body. We need to learn how to have mind and body play together.

art by Milo Manara

It’s no small thing to smell the aroma of baking bread, to go outside and feel the breeze on your skin. It’s no small thing to hold another person, because touch is a basic need. When we slow down enough to feel something as simple as sipping a cup of tea can be a richly layered experience. And when we are plugged in to this richness of the senses, of the body, something in us begins to open up. Our anxiety starts to release bit by bit. This is no small thing.

If you do sometimes feel like a brain that is untethered from the body (and who doesn’t, nowadays?) what can you do about it? It’s simple though not always easy. It will take changing your habits, and it will be so worth it.

Here’s the key: Learn how to feel again. Get into your senses while using your awareness to pay attention. Body and mind playing together. Yes!

 4 SIMPLE WAYS TO UNPLUG FROM TECHNOLOGY AND RECONNECT WITH YOUR BODY.

Set a timer if you must (use that same technology to help you get free) and go do one of these:

 1. Go for a quick walk. Leave your phone at home! If the thought of that freaks you out, that’s something to ponder while you’re outside feeling the sun on your skin and smelling the air.

 2. Move that body. Get up from your desk or couch and move around. Go slowly so you can pay attention. Crawl on the floor, or dance to your favorite song. Let yourself be silly if this feels silly. How much can you tune in and feel?

3. Find a practice. Whether you take up yoga or tantra or some type of dance, all of these are great ways to develop your ability to feel more and connect to your body. One caveat, find a practice that is more about feeling and connection than it is about looking good or competing.

4. Be kind to yourself. The habits of disconnection are easy to fall into. It seems like everyone around you is on their phone 24/7. The habit of feeling and connection takes practice. It takes deciding over and over, moment by moment, to come back to your senses.

To have a fulfilling life, we need to live through our bodies again. Modern living can make us forget the joys and pleasures of living through the body, not against it. Healing and real transformation happen through deeper connection with our bodies, not by denying that connection.

As a Women’s Life and Desire Coach, I teach my clients how to connect to the body for aliveness and for intuition. We include body wisdom and pleasure, not only in their vision and their desires but in every step along the way. Learning how to return to our natural state as sensual creatures, our lives can quickly to go from black and white to color–life starts to feel worth living RIGHT NOW, not just in some imaginary future that could be dreamed up by that old brain in a jar!

laughingsquid.com/beautiful-flower-mandalas-by-kathy-klein
laughingsquid.com/beautiful-flower-mandalas-by-kathy-klein

If you feel trapped in a life of overwork and way too much screen time, don’t be afraid to get some support. Working with a coach who can help you design a rich and embodied life can make all the difference. You can reach your goals and savor every step of the way.

Contact me through the form below and let’s have a no pressure chat about what’s happening in your life and how we might work together.