How do you get to a place where you’re content with the skin that you’re in? Mindfulness is one of the strongest and most effective tools in your toolbox.
My body hatred began as a child. I was teased for being fat, called fats or fatty by my peers and family members and it didn’t take long before I hated my body. You could say I carried this particular karma with me from a previous life – I had some lessons to be learnt.
I was at my heaviest body weight when I carried a ton of emotional baggage. I didn’t want to feel the pain of loss, of the taunts, of inadequacy, so I stuffed it way down with food.
It took many years for me to begin to unravel the layers of negative emotions. I removed and regained weight throughout this process and was never at ease with my body. It was always a battle.
I also reached a point in any weight loss programme where I’d begin sabotaging myself; it didn’t feel safe to lose any more and I’d put it back on again and then some.
By my early forties I had certainly done a lot of work towards uncovering the emotional traumas that had contributed to my being seriously overweight but I still didn’t like my body; it was still a battle. I removed a lot of excess stored body fat eventually through a very regimented dietary and homeopathic protocol. It worked in terms of helping to restore some balance to my completely out of whack hormonal system and this in turn definitely helped me to remove weight.
But the body loathing was still there. There was always more weight that could be lost. Like all forms of craving – and the ‘ideal’ body is a craving – there is no end to it and it’s impossible to feel satisfied.
After the death of my father a couple of years ago I decided that I didn’t want to end up with cancer and that I needed to do everything in my power to be as healthy as I could be. It certainly helped in terms of my ongoing weight loss but it didn’t overcome my craving for the ‘ultimate’ body and so my body loathing continued.
Then my mother-in-law died suddenly not long after my father. That completely knocked me sideways. I returned to my old safety net – food. I grieved for a year. I ate a lot of food and gained a fair amount of weight again but then, through that grieving process, something else kicked in; a desire to walk a different path.
It wasn’t about health this time. It was about finding peace. I didn’t want to diet ever again. I’ve done that – every diet imaginable. I wanted to find peace with my body, that is, my physical body as well as my whole being.
I’d practised yoga âsana (postures) intermittently for years. I’d been through a life-coaching programme based on the ten principles of one of the forefathers of yoga – Patanjali (thanks to Jackie Dumaine and the Yoga Code). But at the time it didn’t really click for me.
I knew there was more to yoga, that meditation somehow fit in and that what I’d learnt through the years of dieting and uncovering emotional baggage was also important. I began to delve more deeply into the yoga sutras, the ‘gospel’ of yoga if you like, as written by Patanjali.
And I found it. Somewhere between the fundamentally simple practice of watching the breath to still my mind and samvega – disillusionment – and the kleshas (afflictive mind states), I realised that I have the perfect body already; and the tools to break the kleshas that bind me, to find santosha (joy and contentment in this exact moment).
It was about the emotions after all – feeling them. It was about feeling the craving, breathing through it on the good days, and watching it pass.
It’s about mindfulness. Some days the cravings, the negative self talk, all the rubbish that triggers feelings of unworthiness, lack, loss (the kleshas), they grip with fierce determination. That’s when I remember ahimsa (non-harming).
There’s no point in berating yourself on those days because it’s just another learning experience, another layer of emotion, another chance to identify a trigger and breath through it, so that it releases its hold over me.
As you practise being mindful and integrate yoga’s basic principles into your life, your perspective changes. You see with different eyes. All those tools I’d accumulated over the years also come into play – they work alongside every aspect of the philosophy and path of yoga.
And somewhere along the way you do finally find peace – you find joy and contentment. You find santosha. Having battled with my body image for most my life I’ve finally found the keys to being content in my skin.
If you’d like to know more email me to find out about my life coaching programmes: firstname.lastname@example.org