I grew up dancing from a very young age. I was in recitals and competitions; dressed in tight leotards and tutus performing in front of people. I was aware of my body. I was especially aware of my body in relation to others. I can remember in 3rd grade being weighed by the teacher and our weights being posted on a board. As I was taller than most at that time, I also weighed more. Humiliation. First real step towards the development of the eating disorder which eventually plagued my life for almost 20 years and which will live within me for the duration of this lifetime. Thank you to Mrs. Hirsch, my 3rd grade teacher. So began my lifetime journey of disconnect from my body and my undying search to reconnect.
At 40 years of age, I am committed within myself to live from an embodied place. I am committed to finding my breath in the toughest of moments. I am committed to returning to a place of love and compassion for my body even in those moments of wanting to flee the scene. I am committed to residing from my heart, tapping into that endless flow of energy at the center of my being; especially when I want to shut down and get as far away from that space as possible. As this does sound like a simple and doable way of being, I know firsthand of the complexity of this process and do not take it lightly for a moment. 15 + years into my recovery, I still struggle with my own personal embodiment. And while I am high functioning, there are many days when I am so triggered it is hard for me to “land” in a grounded way in my body so that I am equipped to respond appropriately. This has improved greatly and 90% of the time I feel awake and present to what is alive for me and able to differentiate when there are old triggers and how best to approach the situation. I am becoming more and more aware, as a woman with a lifetime of eating disorders, that I have always felt like my embodiment needed to only be when I was thin or not eating much. I could not be embodied when I was a little softer and relaxed. I only gave myself permission to be in my body when I was working out obsessively, running up trails, doing hours of yoga or dancing. I am realizing more and more that that is literally the polar opposite of embodiment, and to me, is “false embodiment”. There is no veracity to that way of living. There is no level of authentically embracing oneself. This way of “embodying” involves living from a spurious place; lacking in connection to the truth of who you are. Embodiment is when we can actually surrender to what is; how our bodies look and feel without wanting to change them or alter them.
We must be embodied in order to make good choices and live from a centered place. As women with disordered eating patterns and dysfunctional ways of nourishing and living; quite often we are habitually numb to our bodies sensations, our buried needs for true nourishment, and the multi-layered cries for what we are really hungry for. We are unable to differentiate what it is we are undoubtedly seeking in life; which is showing up as an obsession with food as the metaphor for it all; be it love, acceptance, touch, or connection amongst copious other unmet needs. We must be willing to ‘go there’; to really acknowledge that it is not about the food and to find the deepest compassion and holding for that place of ourselves that has so many longings that the food has tried to meet for us with painstaking lack of success. Just by honoring that alone, there is so much potential for healing, growth, and finding true peace in ourselves and in our embodiment.
This is a process of ‘waking up’ our bodies and tuning into the plethora of sensations within us. From that place of aliveness we are empowered to cultivate the ability to differentiate between it’s varying needs, which are ever-changing moment to moment. This ‘process’ is a deep and profound one and requires an infinite amount of courage and support as it involves unleashing many feelings and emotions that have not been palpable to us throughout our lives. It requires patience, perseverance, compassion, support, and a rooted belief in our own capacities to heal. This path is not for the faint or weary. It has the potential to ebb and flow depending on where we are in current life and how much we are able to allow to move and flow. We must titrate our experiences as this process of embodiment is serious business and is not to be taken lightly. To ensure longevity of the recovery and unearthing of our true selves, pacing is key and approaching all of it with gentleness and a willingness to be brought to your knees over and over again; each time finding oneself closer to the truth of who you are at your essence. It is from that place of empowerment where we are able to persevere and continue forward on our path with another layer of determination unleashed.
So, as I am fine tuning my own process with myself, my heart, my body, and my relations; I want to keep that gesture of possibility flowing of holding onto the highest good for myself — I do not need to turn back to old ways of comforting…unless I need to. There are no rules and regulations with this process and we all need the reminder that it is just that….a process. There is no point that you get to where you are complete. It is ongoing, constantly shifting, revealing layers upon layers of yourself in perfect timing, and, I can promise you, if you stick with it there is true peace and grace at the end of the tunnel. No matter how many years it takes to get there….there is unequivocal light and love at the end awaiting your arrival.
and then there came the day when i stopped trying to get rid of myself and started truly embracing myself — warts and all…stopped exercising incessantly…stopped sticking those headphones in and forcing the repetitive motion of my legs on an elliptical….stopped telling myself stories of ‘needing to’ and started checking in about what i really ‘needed’. what was my body actually asking for? what would feel really damn good? what kinds of movements would nourish rather than punish? what foods would feed not only my body but also my soul?
i stopped relying on the mirror to bring me happiness and i chose to find it within…no matter what that damn mirror said. i stopped listening to that loud voice that was so comfortable with punishment and suffering — that incessant voice of defeat and negativity — and i started allowing the voice of loving kindness, compassion, wisdom and maturity to be at the forefront. true acknowledgement of the role that the latter has had on my 40 years of being….i needed her to survive….but, now, she is getting in the way of me living my truest shining light of a life and i do not need or want her around anymore. it is with the deepest compassion that i bid farewell — honoring the past and the incredible journey we have taken together — finding gratitude for the lessons and opportunities that she has provided me….and, now it is time to release and allow the space of transformation and genuine power to emerge. that which has been bubbling. that which has been on simmer for many years — is finally really ready to come to a boil — she cannot be contained any longer.
so it is with the utmost respect, love, and courage that i lean into her….with trust, faith, determination, and an undeniable belief in myself and the power to self-heal. ~Alison Rothman 2015