Body Love – A Practice of Deep Reverence – Ryan Couples Therapy Tacoma WA

Body Love: A Practice of Deep Reverence

Body Love. A practice of deep reverence for the container that holds our spirit, heart, and emotions.

In addition, to holding our spirit, heart, and emotions, our bodies have the capacity to express our sexual desire and our sexuality in ways unique to each of us.

Body love is an essential ingredient in the cultivation of a sexual practice that is both rooted in our lived, embodied experience and opens us to the experiences of our heart and spirit.

Body love allows us the freedom to explore joy and pleasure in their fullest expressions. And allows us to infuse our actions with authentic, unique expressions of our most vulnerable selves.

Now, more than ever before in my life, I am practicing body love. I am learning how to respond to my body with compassion; prioritizing it, listening to it, honoring it.

I am respectfully paying attention to how my body’s wisdom is a portal into the wisdom of my heart and spirit.

I am practicing moving in synchronicity to the rhythms of my body, which are mostly connected to the rhythms of nature, the seasons and my soul’s desires. To be in this synchronicity requires moments of silence, solitude, mindful awareness, full presence.

When I practice this synchronicity I am more able to celebrate my body, just as it is. I am learning how to be more present and more in it, rather than just running through my days oblivious to the whispers which are calling me to pay attention, alerting me to what is missing, guiding me to be more gentle, tender, loving.

I am realizing that in order to truly embrace a sexuality that is celebratory, life-affirming, and a true, vulnerable expression of the creative force living deep within my soul, my body must be held in reverence and unconditional love.

All of this is the practice of body love.

For 56 years, my body has never given up on me. It wakes my heart and spirit every morning. It is always the protector, always the nurturer, always going forth carving out the path so that my heart’s desires and my spirit can thrive. Even when I have not been kind or compassionate to it, it continues to pump life’s blood through my arteries and veins.

Our capacity to create deeply meaningful and sacred sexual experiences, informed and inspired by the bones of our life experiences, requires us to engage with our bodies in compassionate and mindful awareness.

Body love is not always available to us if we have experienced trauma or abuse. It is not always available if we have lived in a culture that has objectified bodies (and this is ALL of US). Living fully connected to our own bodies and holding our bodies in deep reverence often requires us to engage in a soul-filled journey of healing and transformation.

My Personal Story

I have not always been as loving to my body as I am practicing today.

My body has been abused (both from external sources and self-imposed).

I have ignored it, pushed it, criticized it, shrunk it, starved it, indulged it, cursed it.

I have compared it to other bodies and wished for a different one.

I have received abuse from others in the form of objectification, and physical aggression. 

I have suffered greatly throughout my life because of my tendency to accept, without question, negative narratives about my body; negative narratives coming from our culture, from the media, from other people, from my life experiences, and from within myself.

My Mother’s Messages

I absorbed my mother’s hatred toward her own body and learned from her how to disrespect my body. Her body hatred spilled onto me effortlessly. I observed her abuse her body with narratives of hate and fear, with food, and with valium. She lived disconnected from her body, and carried deep shame from sexual trauma that was never acknowledged or healed.

She taught me to be afraid of my sexuality and to stifle it at all costs. In many ways she was a lost soul, drowning in her generation’s disregard and ignorance of women’s true reality. I followed her example and it led me to disconnection and pain.

Out in the World Experiences

In addition to my mother’s influence, I struggled with experiences of being objectified and abused by others out in the world.

I developed breasts and curves at a young age and so I got attention from boys at school that I was not emotionally capable of handling nor did I understand. I had no capacity to deal with what came my way on a daily basis.

I was shunned from the girls who were jealous of me. I was either inappropriately pursued by the boys or painfully excluded from the girls. I had no one to share this pain with. I dreaded school and anything that required me to be social.

As I entered junior high and high school, I continued to have sexually-charged interactions with others that were overwhelmingly scary, denigrating and abusive. I did not realize that others were crossing boundaries. Boundaries and consent were not words in my vocabulary. And as a result, I experienced things I did not want and were greatly damaging to me.

My parents stood by as I was abused by sons of their friends; they did not protect me or acknowledge the abuse.

The World of Dance

I threw myself into the study of classical ballet. While this helped me escape the social pressures of school, it added to my body distress ten-fold. I experienced intense and unrelenting pressure in the world of classical ballet. This world continually criticized, monitored, and judged my body.  Every time my body did not live up to the expectations of the dance masters who were teaching me, I became less of a person.

A dancer’s body was not my natural body; I was too curvy and full-breasted to ever be seriously considered in the dance world. I wanted so much to be a professional dancer, so I silently signed a contract with myself that allowed me to abuse my own body so that I might achieve this goal.

I starved it, denied its hunger, pushed it beyond its limits, expressed anger at it for needing rest and for not looking like the other dancers who were getting the praise and adulation I so wanted. I ignored injuries and danced with intense pain. I learned to become numb to my body’s sensations and to be completely dis-embodied.

When I left the dance world in a desperate attempt to escape from increasingly overwhelming pressure, depression, anorexia, and self-hatred, I embarked on my bulimic journey. I suppose, it was at this time, that a part of me wanted to be punished for failing at dance. The bulimia lasted well into my young adult years and was my companion when my mother died and I was deeply embedded in grief.

Disconnection from my body helped me to disconnect from my heart and spirit. In my life as a lonely, grieving young woman, this seemed like the only option available to me.

Body Objectification from our Culture

The messages and experiences of body objectification from the larger culture added to my personal distress as it does for all women. I bought into the messages that tell women to be skinny, small, quiet and waif-like in order to be seen as beautiful and worthwhile, and ultimately to be loved. These cultural messages reinforced my personal experiences.

Sarah Durham Wilson states this about body objectification and our potential to heal from it.

The societal stipulation on womxn’s outer beauty is a calculated source of division & distraction: distracted & divided, the feminine will never rise. 

But at the river of midlife, we take stock of what has fulfilled us & what has drained us. Focusing on our external beauty & being inconsistently praised or not praised for it left us empty depressed & anxious: we were adored or exiled for something we never had any control over. And even if we had it, it was temporary, it would eventually slip through our hands with the sands of time.

The dissent from the culture that praises the outside over the inside is a descent to inner beauty & there we root to bloom. Our soul cannot be exploited, objectified or diminished & only blooms greater with time. And it is the wave of womxn choosing a soul lead life over an ego-driven, societally dictated life that might just shift the course we’re collectively on. If every woman rooted into soul & bloomed whole, attuned to her destiny, infused with feminine creativity & healing, we might pollinate a dying world back to life.

In my course, “Wild Belonging: how to how to honor the intimate connection between sexuality, compassion, and the cosmos,” we will learn how to honor our own rhythms, to celebrate our sexuality and body, to cultivate a well-spring of compassion, to awaken our connection with the powerful, cosmic magic that is waiting to bestow its wisdom on all of us.

Healing and Transformation and New Life

For me, the first steps of “rooting into my soul, blooming whole and being infused with feminine creativity and healing”, came with my first pregnancy. This was the first time I slowed myself down and began to listen to my own body and its needs. This was the first time I took small steps to be respectful, to accept my body as it was, to marvel at its immense capacity to nourish a new life into being.

This was my first understanding that true beauty comes from the life force running through our bodies and not from our outer appearance.

My three pregnancies over the course of seven years became opportunities to acknowledge past abuse and to invite healing and transformation into my cells.

I began to cultivate love for myself out of deep reverence for how my body continued to love and care for me, even when I showed little gratitude, little respect, and little compassion. But, as my body demonstrated its power to create new life, I felt empowered by its immense potential. And this empowerment contained the seeds for my transformation.

Three Significant Messages from Breast Cancer

After pregnancy and while raising my children, I worked hard at consistently healing from body shame and hatred. I cultivated a healthy sexual relationship with myself and my current partner.

I became stronger in my belief that women’s bodies are beautiful because of the stories they carry and the life they live, not because of what they weigh or how they look in a bathing suit.

When I got breast cancer, this was another awakening toward cultivating body love and empowerment.

Breast cancer was a hugely transformative event in my life in terms of healing my relationship with my body. As in any crisis, we are given the opportunity to learn and be transformed, and breast cancer helped me to once again, pay attention, in a deeply respectful and compassionately responsive way, to what my body needed.

A bi-lateral mastectomy slammed me back into believing the cultural messages that one’s beauty is based on surface appearance. There were three separate events that took place in the days during which I was healing from breast cancer that stand out to me as the most powerful healing experiences in my recovery. Not only did these events offer me healing from breast cancer, but also from the residual body hatred that still lingered in my cells.

The first was when my daughter came to help me and my husband after my surgery. One day I was extremely frustrated at the slow progress I felt my body was making, I was in pain, extremely uncomfortable in my body’s changes, feeling angry, and a deep sense of loss.

My daughter, sitting by my side, turned to me and very lovingly said: “Mom, your body is working so hard for you right now. It’s been through so much, it needs your kindness and love in order to heal.” Immediately, her words centered me and shifted me from a hateful, angry response to one of compassion. Yes, my body was working so, so hard and it needed that acknowledgment and gentle, tender loving care.

The second was when my husband removed my bandages, post-mastectomy, for the first time. I was overwhelmed with fear and grief and did not want to look at my body. My husband steadfast and centered, and in the most calm, confident and strong voice, looked me directly in the eyes and said: “You are beautiful”.  His complete affirmation and unconditional love in that moment reminded me that I must always respond to myself with such affirmation and love.

The third was when I went to a body healer to strengthen my upper back, chest, and neck that were tight and restricted in their movement since the surgery. As the practitioner worked on my body, my eyes filled with tears, unresolved grief showing itself, and she gently stated: “Oh your body is still holding some grief; isn’t it so amazing that your body shows you what you still need to attend to?” At that moment, again, I felt such love for what my body had been through, and how it was holding vigil for my unspoken grief until I could honor the grief in my heart and spirit.

My body deserved, and will always deserve, my respect, my care, my love, and my awakened presence. It deserved this and needed this so much when I was a little girl and a young teen and I disrespected it and the world disrespected it. It deserved this when I was a woman recovering from breast cancer. It deserved it when I have betrayed it time and time again throughout my life.

Your body, also, deserves your respect, your care, your love, and your awakened presence too.

Healing and Transformation is Possible

Whatever your circumstances. Whatever your life story. Healing your relationship with your body is possible. You can learn how to be in deep reverence with your body. You can offer your body unconditional love and accept your body just as it is. You can heal from trauma, abuse, and cultural messages of objectification.

As you offer this kind of love and healing to your body, you will also begin to truly embrace a sexuality that is celebratory, life-affirming, and a true, vulnerable expression of the creative force living deep within your soul.

If this is something you have been wanting to experience, I hope that you will begin today to seek out the support you need. I invite you to reach out to me for help and healing. I invite you to honor your deepest desires of living a life of true freedom and body love.

I invite you to listen to your body and to come into a deep reverence for its messages, its needs, and its desires.

I invite you to take this radical step of using your most painful experiences to create the most empowered experiences of renewal, re-creation, re-claiming, and transformation.

A New Way of Thinking for the New Decade

Together, we can create a new way of thinking about our bodies on a collective level as we enter the new decade.

As each of us learns how to honor and love our bodies, we can create a collective, new energy that defies the messages and the culture of objectification and abuse.

Together, we can move into the new year, and into the new decade with love, reverence, and freedom for our bodies. We can learn how to integrate our love and reverence for our bodies with our sexuality. We can create sexual experiences that are rooted in our lived experiences and move us expansively, organically and erotically into the spiritual.

We can celebrate the joy, pleasure, and freedom our bodies feel when we honor and love them just as they are in all their glory and infinite beauty that goes beyond the surface and is found in a “soul-lead life”.

And we can make an impact on this world as we love our bodies and demonstrate that beauty comes from unconditional love, resilience, healing, and transformation.

2020 is going to be the year in which I offer more opportunities for you to do this work with me, both individually and in groups.

Please stay tuned for more news and information from me about new offerings as the NEW YEAR and NEW DECADE unfolds.

Peace in this journey,

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Jane Ryan

Jane Ryan, M.A., LMFT, is a Licensed Couples and Family Therapist with twenty years of clinical experience. She specializes in intimate relationships, sexual challenges, sacred sexuality, and helping clients embrace their true erotic nature. She supports women in discovering their most radiant, vibrant and powerful feminine essence.