Category Archives: Body Sacred

Introducing a New E-Book!

I’m quite pleased to unveil a little project I’ve been working on:

A Holy Instrument of Joy: 14 Days of Ecstatic Dance

If you’ve ever wanted to try meditative movement but didn’t know where to start, this e-book is for you.  A two-week program using daily prompts, each with music suggestions and inspirational notes – click on the link or the book cover above to find out more and download the book!

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As the Ink Dries

(4 years ago)

 

Once upon a time, I got a snake tattoo.

It occurred to me the other day that all but one of my tattoos are of animals and the one that isn’t is about animals.  The butterfly was my “I just moved out of my parents’ house to the big city” tattoo; the spider was a reference to my writing, as Spider has been a spirit…helper, I guess is the word, with my work since I wrote my first book, The Circle Within.

I got the Sanskrit word Ahimsa on my neck the year my cat Cosmo died, both to honor his memory and to announce my intention of becoming vegan…even if it took me the rest of my damn life to get there.

When I turned 30, my BFF and I went to get tattoos together.  We both wanted snakes, and both on our arms.  This seems strange unless you know that we were co-priestesses of a coven, and we had become devoted to the Dark Mother, whose sacred animals included the serpent.  She always appeared to me with snakes curling around Her arms, and She and I danced together in a serpentine way, and it felt right, at the time, to mark my devotion to Her on my body.  So we both did, and I have loved my snake tattoo ever since.

It is a reminder of the ever changing nature of my faith – as I shed skins of old versions of myself, new skin emerges, shiny and soft, older and wiser.  Given that my sun sign is the sign of transformation (Scorpio, in case you hadn’t figured that one out already), this tattoo will never lose its meaning, for I will never stop changing, never lose my need to peel away my old skins and discover a new woman beneath.

Of course, once you start getting tattoos it’s very hard to stop, so I’ve been gathering images on Pinterest of ink that I liked, to hopefully inspire me toward the two or three pieces I had in the back of my mind:  I wanted something on my right arm to balance the snake on my left; I wanted a lotus surrounding the Ahimsa; and I wanted a tree on my back…oh, and I want something written in English as well, perhaps a single word inside my wrist, something like “create” or even “love.”

Even though I don’t exactly have a ton of money right now, as soon as I got my Bipolar II diagnosis I knew it was time to balance that left arm.  The snake was a symbol of darkness, and while I have no problem with darkness, if I wanted to bring my life more into balance, I needed to balance the snake with something that to me symbolized light.

I found exactly what I was looking for on Pinterest:  a phoenix whose wings formed a lotus blossom.

A phoenix, the bird who dies in flame and then is reborn from her own ashes…that sounds about right to me.

I knew I had to do it, and I had to do it NOW.  When my BFF asked me about the meaning of the phoenix and whether it meant my life before, or what was happening now, I couldn’t articulate an answer.  Something was driving me toward it, the same feeling that drove me to get the snake.  I can only conclude that God wanted me to get the tattoo, and She wanted me to get it as soon as possible.

So I did.

I handed over the design to the tattoo artist, who added a few swirls and flourishes to balance it out; I told him I wanted some red on the wings to balance the red-and-black of the snake, so that’s what he did.

And it is.  So.  Beautiful.

And yes, it hurt.

It makes me wish I could remove all of my other tattoos and have this guy redo them with his incredible linework.  I’ve actually been considering embellishing the snake somehow for quite a while; now that I’m not working with the Dark Goddess anymore it feels like it needs something, something to help it be part of my current life.

Of course, here’s the tricky part:  when you get a tattoo for spiritual reasons, spiritual things are going to happen in your life that bring that tattoo’s energy up over and over again.  You have to be ready to accept that.

Thus, I got my phoenix both to honor where I’ve been – all the deaths both big and small that have been a part of my path, all the things I’ve risen from even after my life had turned to ash – but also where I’m going, as I take the burnt-out wreck of the last year, the ashes of years of depression, the charred remains of who I used to be, and use them to incubate a stronger, healthier, happier, more successful me.

So shall it be.

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Valentine’s Day: 10 Ways to Show Yourself a Little Love

Today, whether you’re partnered or single, male or female, gay or straight or any shade of inbetween, let’s all take a moment to show ourselves some love – you don’t have to do anything drastic.  Just offer yourself a simple gesture of affection that reminds you:  “I am worth my own love.  I am worth my affection.”

Pick any one, or more, of these suggestions to give yourself a little love this Valentine’s Day.

 1 – Touch your body with kindness.

Being cruel to our bodies is so habitual we don’t even think twice about how we pinch, poke, prod, and push ourselves out of the way; but just for today, when you touch your own skin for any reason, just think, “I love you.”  Reach up and touch your face and feel your skin–that skin that holds you together, that faces the world on your behalf.  Touch your skin gently today.

2 – Drink a glass of water.

Airy-fairy affirmations and stuff might not be your thing, but I bet you a dollar your body likes being hydrated.  Go get a glass of iced water (or however you like it) and just drink it, and with every sip imagine the water running through your body and replenishing the cells that need it.

3 – Dare to eat a peach.

Get one piece of fruit, preferably something that takes a minute to peel and portion, and eat it, slowly, without doing anything else at the same time.  Pick something juicy, something full of life – something you don’t normally buy for yourself, if you tend to go for utilitarian fruits like apples and bananas.  You deserve a papaya today!  But even if it’s an apple, just enjoy it – your body will enjoy taking all those lovely nutrients and making new bits of you out of them.  Don’t eat the fruit as a “swap” or some other lame-ass diet thing – just eat a piece of fruit because it tastes good and your body loves good things from the Earth.

4 – Turn off the TV.

When was the last time you saw a commercial that didn’t try to convince you you aren’t acceptable the way you are?  All you need to be happy is to lose weight, and all you need for that is Yoplait or Special K’s magic granola bars!  Right?  Even those Dove “Campaign for Real Women” ads, which are nice to see because they feature more body diversity, are kind of sad when you remember that the same company (Unilever) makes Slim-Fast.  So turn it off.  Or, at the very least, when you’re watching a show you love, hit “mute” during the commercials, or record it on DVR so you can fast forward through them.  There’s never any reason to watch a commercial – you already have enough stuff, you already know where to buy yogurt.  Even the funny ones get old after the first ten times you see them…so hit mute!

5 ~ Reframe just one thought.

Just one.  Pick one thing you say to yourself often:  “I can’t do ___ until I lose ten pounds,” “I’m a fat porker,” “Look at these jiggly thighs!” “My hairline keeps running away from my face!” and change it.  Whenever you hear that thought in your mind, immediately pause, and very firmly, present yourself with a positive thought about that body part, that aspect of your personality, that issue.  It doesn’t even really have to be related – just becoming mindful of how often you have these negative thoughts can help cut down on how many you have.  Just pick one thing that your inner Evil Auctioneer likes to repeat at you and countermand it. Just one. You don’t have to change your whole way of thinking today; just pick one mean thing to stop saying to yourself.

6 ~ Tuck your tush and take a breath.

One of the fastest ways to feel better, calmer, happier, and more relaxed is something you’re going to do anyway:  breathing.  Because of how we sit all day, our hunched-over posture that puts pressure in all the wrong places, and the constant anxiety we live in, our bodies are stuck breathing in stress-mode:  shallow, up in the chest, the kind of breaths a panicked animal takes.  Stop.  Sit up straight.  Tuck your pelvis under – it’ll help straighten your spine and even out the flow of energy along your spinal column, plus it engages your leg muscles.  Take five slow, deep breaths, focusing your attention on the expansion of your ribcage, your belly moving in and out – just breathe.  Give your body some air!  When you walk, imagine a gentle hand pulling upward through your head to straighten out your spine.  Square off your shoulders.  I call this the “walk like the good guys are marching you dramatically down a hallway” walk.

7 ~ Get up and dance.

If you’re somewhere you can take a moment, turn on one song – just one – and shake it for a minute.  Just get up and move.  Lengthen your muscles.  Stand up and stretch upward, outward.  You don’t have to “do a workout,” there are no reps required – just let your body unkink for a minute.  Our sedentary lives do so much damage to our poor bodies as well as to our emotional well-being; your body was designed to move around!  Let her!  You don’t have to go all Lance Armstrong.

8 ~ Ditch your scale.

This one might be hard for a lot of you, but hear me out.  That number on the scale is not a measure of your worth as a human being.  It should not have the power to decide whether you’ll have a good day or a bad day.  Do not give a household appliance that kind of power over you.  Ditch it.  Let your doctor weigh you if you really need to know, and go by how your body feels.  If nothing else, stop weighing yourself every day – your weight is not a day to day constant, and obsessing over an ounce here and an ounce there leads to MADNESS.  Trust me on this one.  Give yourself once a week or better yet make it so you have to leave the house to weigh yourself.  The best thing, of course, would be not to worry about that stupid number and just move and eat in ways that make you feel good, but even a single step in that direction will help you relax about your body.  And we really, really need to relax about weight – shaming and hating and stressing over it is clearly not the solution, or we’d all be wraiths by now, right?  Go back to #1:  Touch your body with kindness.

9 ~ Look at something beautiful.

No, I’m not going to make you stand in front of a mirror – this is much easier.  We spend a lot of time in really ugly environments – cube farms, offices, assembly lines, industrial kitchens – and deal with a lot of really ugly people (meaning ugly in how they behave).  Switch your attention for a few minutes to something you find genuinely beautiful – a view of nature would be great, but even just a lovely pic on your desktop, a slideshow of images from somewhere in the world you want to visit, a painting you love.  Take in some beauty today.

10 ~ Tomorrow, when you get up, ask yourself, “How can I show myself some love today?”

Ask yourself that same question every day, and whether you pick something off this list or make up your own, you’ll find that giving yourself a little love adds up in surprising ways.

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Spiritual Nomad Preview: Ecstatic Dance 101

You Will Need:

~ A small open area such as a bedroom or living room, back yard, or even an office with the door closed.

~ A music playing device; one with earbuds works best so you won’t disturb others

~ Music – any kind, any genre, as long as when you listen to it you think, “That would be so fun to dance to.” It doesn’t have to be anything new-agey, drummy, or anything; just something that makes you want to move.

Your Wardrobe:

~ Bare your feet to touch the Earth.  Anything else you wear is up to you, although if you choose to light your ritual space with candles, watch out for sleeves and flowing skirts.

In fact, as evocative as it is to dance in a ring of candles, don’t do that, at least not at first.  Keep candles up on shelves that are hard to knock over.

Your Altar:

Your altar is your body, nothing else is needed, and there are only two ritual tools:  a bottle of water and a towel for catching your prayers as they roll off your skin.
Lock the door, turn off the phone.  You need only ten minutes for this practice, or even as little as one single track on a CD – but you do need privacy, at least in the beginning while you may still be feeling awkward in your body.

The Practice

Press “play” on your music and stand, for a moment, in the center of your space, just listening.  Lift up your hands into Anjali mudra, recognizable as the prayer position, palms pressed flat together, and declare your intention either silent or aloud:

“I have come to dance.  I offer this prayer to (insert Deity or equivalent title here) in gratitude and devotion.”

If you like you can let the whole track play through once without doing anything, just listening, letting the music move through your body; but you will probably find that you start to sway a little, and that’s the perfect place to start.

As you sway to the music, visualize the music flowing into your upper chakras and slowly trickling, flowing, running down through your body like water.  Each part of your body that is touched by the music begins to move.  How does your hand want to move today?  How does the water inspire your left arm to move?  Let the music become water, and let that water move you, washing around you as if you stood in a river, lifting up your arms and turning you in slow circles, from your head all the way down to your feet.

Close your eyes if you are comfortable doing so in your space.  Just move.  There are no steps, no effort needed.  You are not performing, you are praying.  Lift up your arms in prayer, spin in circles of prayer like a dervish, imagine the Holy reaching out to take your hands and dance with you.  All of Creation wants to dance with you, because Creation is already dancing – the dance of electrons and protons, positive charge and negative charge, south pole, north pole, everything dances from the tiniest matter on up to the whales in the sea. 

There is no right way, no wrong way, only your way.  You and this song are creating a moment of communion with your body and the sacred in whatever way you perceive it; your beautiful body, this instrument, dances its prayer and lifts up its emotions–if you are sad, dance your sadness.  If you are joyful, dance your joy.  Make love with the music, and between you, create a dance; don’t call it dance, don’t call it anything, just move.  Just let yourself be moved…until you are moved to slow down, and then to stop.

And when the song is over, come back to the center, hands folded in the Anjali mudra, palms pressed together in prayer.  Bow to honor the soft holy animal of your body; bow to honor the music; and lift up your arms in gratitude for the Holiness that Abides within your flesh, within the music, within the world.

Drink some water.  Finish with a prayer if you like.

That’s all there is to it.
If you would prefer a more specific list of songs, here are some that I have found very conducive to an ecstatic experience:

One-Song Ecstatic Dances: A Few Favorites

“Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machine from the album Lungs

“Raspberry Swirl” by Tori Amos from the album From the Choirgirl Hotel

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield from the album Unwritten

“Bruised Water” by Chicane/Natasha Bedingfield

“The Dreamtime Returns” by Shaman’s Dream from the album Dance: Dream: Dance

“Raise Your Glass” by P!nk from the album Greatest Hits…So Far  (excellent for transforming a depressive or negative mood)

“Silence” by Delerium w/Sarah McLachlan from the album Karma

“All Souls’ Night” by Loreena McKennitt from the album The Visit

“Harem Bizarre” by Kaya Project from the album Elixir

“The Sound of Sunshine” by Michael Franti & Spearhead from The Sound of Sunshine

“Nomads” by Govinda from the album O Earthly Gods

“Awakening” by Aine Minogue from the album Celtic Lamentations

“Terra Firma” by Delerium from the album Poem

“Gayatri Mantra” by Deva Premal from the album The Essence

“Eternal Dance” by Gabrielle Roth & the Mirrors from the album Totem

“Namah Shivayah” by Krishna Das from the album Greatest Hits of the Kali Yuga

“Isaac,” by Madonna, from the album Confessions on a Dance Floor

 

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Body Love Resources

I’d like to thank everyone who commented, Tweeted, or Facebooked (is that a verb now?) about how much they loved my last post.  Welcome new readers – I’d like to say all of my posts are that awesome, but I’d hate to mislead anyone.  *laugh* I talk about a lot of things here in addition to fat girl stuff, such as:

  • My novels (my primary focus right now)
  • Spirituality (I am developing an e-course called Becoming a Spiritual Nomad, which you can read more about via the link up top)
  • Ahimsa living (my continued journey toward veganism, which is complicated by my body and food issues)
  • Cooking (I post occasional recipes)
  • Things I Love (which are rather random)
  • The Vampire Diaries (my favorite show, which I’ll be recapping this season so I’ll post about it once a week max)
  • Playlists I create for ecstatic dance (only sporadically these days)
  • Whatever else I feel like ranting and/or raving about at the moment

At any rate, I hope you’ll stick around! I tend not to reply to comments thanks to some unfortunate experiences I’ve had this year, but I do make an effort to at least read them all.  You can also follow me on Twitter and Like my fanpage on Facebook – the FB page is mostly blog updates and novel-related stuff, and my Twitter is even more wildly random than the blog.

Now then! On with the post. As promised, here are some books, blogs, and other resources I love that are devoted to body positivity or Health at Every Size. This list is by no means comprehensive – I only put resources on it that I have read or viewed and enjoyed personally.

Books

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon – absolutely essential reading for larger people (or anyone) who wants to live a healthier lifestyle without obsessing over weight.

The Body Sacred by Dianne Sylvan (Yeah, I’m totally plugging my own book.)

Fat!So by Marilyn Wann

Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body by Kate Harding

Big Big Love, Revised: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them) by Hanne Blank

Megayoga by Megan Garcia

Blogs

A great many of these bloggers are also on Twitter.

Dances With Fat

Body Love Wellness

The Rotund

Two Whole Cakes

Fat Nutritionist

The Adipositivity Project – gorgeous photography of everyday large women (and periodic series of large men, yay!).  Mostly nudes, so not safe for work.

Junk Food Science – analyzing the studies about health and weight – what they actually say, how they were conducted, who funded them, et cetera; no longer updated but a great information source.

Shakesville – a progressive feminist blog that tackles body politics and all sorts of other cultural stuff.

Et Cetera

HeavyWeight Yoga: Yoga for the Body You Have Today  (DVD) with Abby Lentz

 

 

 

 

 

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