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Written by: Kat Woods from hope heal cook.

One of the hardest things I’ve done as part of my Whole Self recovery has been to come home to my Body. It  wasn’t until I starting moving back, little by little, into my truest home–this amazing vessel–that I realized  how absent I’d been from it. My up bringing and culture taught me to see my Body as something separate and problematic. As a girl, I internalized certain messages about what it meant to have a feminine physical form, and what I had to do in order to control it’s organic wildness.

Like many of us, I was never taught how to honor my Body’s beautiful and functional uniqueness. As a result, I ended up cultivating a dominating and punitive relationship with the body that was sustaining me. I came to hate my Body, and as much as possible, I remained removed from my partnership with it. As I grew older, this dissociation from my physical self became increasingly habitual. I had no idea what it was to be at peace in my skin, to be in awe of all of my magnificent organs, or to feel an exhilarating pride at the potential of my muscles. What I knew well was how to internalize physical inadequacies as personal failures for which my Body was assigned the blame.

As I strengthened the tendency to ignore it, my Body became increasingly persistent in its attempts to awaken me to its needs. Unfortunately, at that time, this only served to further distance me from physical self. When I was finally knocked down flat by end stage Autoimmune Lyme Disease, my Body was screaming. What had started long ago as whispers and pleas had become a relentless roar that I experienced as blinding systemic pain. At last I was ready to listen. I had no choice. If I didn’t, I was terrified to realize, the body that I had taken for granted and long railed against, would not survive me. Suddenly, and at the core of my being, I knew this to be true: I was dependent upon my Body for life. And so I began to relearn how to listen to the hardship and wisdom stored within my cells, and my healing journey began in earnest.

When we notice uncomfortable sensations we tend withdraw from them instinctually, and this is natural. However, when this becomes our auto-pilot response to any discomfort, we end up conditioning ourselves to detached from our bodies. In doing so we are unconsciously abandoning a large part of ourselves, for we are both Mind and Body, joined by Spirit. Each aspect of our Whole Self has needs and requires attention. Picture a three legged stool: what happens if you remove a leg? It will topple. When our health gives way, as mine did, we are being given the opportunity to learn this powerful lesson. Thankfully, we can also learn how to create a new foundation for wellness by returning to our Bodies, honoring their needs, and trusting their wisdom.

The first step in moving out of a place of compartmentalized consciousness (I am my Mind, my Body is separate) is to notice we do it. For me, cultivating bodily awareness began with noticing how often I wasn’t aware of my Body. Have I been breathing? Is something hurting? Is part of me hot or cold? How does it feel to have fabric on my skin? Food in my stomach? Tension in my shoulders? I was surprised to experience that my Body is always here in a real and solid way. As I learned to check in with my breath, posture, and simple sensations, I gained the ability to tolerate greater intimacy with my material existence. By tentatively approaching my Body with this kind of “touch and go” consciousness, I began to create a new relationship with it.

Next I became increasingly aware of the harmful thoughts I’d have in response to my what my Body was telling me about it’s needs: I yelled at it, I shamed it, and ignored it. I came to understand, in a heart breaking way, that these were learned responses. I was treating myself and my Body as I had once been treated. Not as I deserved to be treated. The clarity of this realization shook me. Ultimately, it gave me the freedom to choose to respond differently. Equipped with this insight, I chose to respond with Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness.

What does it even mean to have Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness for your Body? What does that look like? Feel like? At first I wasn’t sure. So I started with the basics. When I became aware that my Body was thirsty I drank water. When my Body was hungry, I ate healing foods. When I noticed exhaustion, I allowed myself rest. I started with these baby steps, and then I began to incorporate special rituals and practices to strengthen the tender new relationship I was forming with myself.

The practice of using Affirmation Self Massage is one of these deeply healing rituals. It has helped me to reconnect with my Body and to appreciate the way my Body tirelessly supports me.  With time, this practice has powerfully shifted the way I experience myself as a physcial being. I begin by preparing some body oil for myself. You can use any body oil or lotion you resonate with, though I have always enjoyed creating special and seasonal blends using a variety of oils that I mix intuitively. After doing this for some years I’ve found that I am instinctively drawn to specific oils during certain seasons:

Winter months invite me to sooth and nourish my skin with deeply moisturizing butters like Shea and cocoa, and anti-oxidant rich extra virgin olive oil. The Over The Moon essential oil blend is the perfect addition during these colder months as its reminds our Spirit that we still have the ability to bloom in all seasons.

Spring inspires our Bodies to detoxify so I include a larger percentage of castor oil at this time to help draw out impurities. I also like to add vibrant omega-3 rich oils like flax and hemp. These anti-inflammatory oils also support detoxification and lubricate skin cells for fresh radiance. Use a few drops of Breathe into Spring for systemic support as Mother Earth reawakens with abundant new growth, and its burst of pollens.

During Summer I use coconut oil as my primary carrier, which according to Ayurvedic traditions is cooling. Avocado oil in another excellent choice as it’s full of vitamin E and other anti-oxidants that nourish and repair sun-stressed skin. Adding jojoba oil will cut down on the oiliness of your blend for a light and breezy moisturizer that absorbs quickly, protects, and softens. Essential oil recommendation: mix in a bit of Smile. It’s the scent of sunshine.

In Fall I relish in using oils made from high quality nuts like macadamia, walnut, and sweet almond, which feel grounding and help replenish and rejuvenate our skin after a season in the sun. For additional wellness support, I recommend adding essential oils that boost immunity and create a protective layer on the skin like the blend Renew. These oils also serve as a reminder that even though the leaves are falling, we will have the ability to restore and start anew.

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After preparing or selecting a body oil or lotion, create a space in which you can be fully present with yourself. Light a candle, put on some soothing music, and get comfortable. Starting with your toes, mindfully apply a small amount of the oil and while speaking loving affirmations. I commonly use affirmations such as these: “These are my Toes. My Toes are beautiful. My Toes are strong. My Toes support me. I love my Toes.” Next move onto the tops and bottoms of your feet, massaging the oil into your skin, and repeating your chosen affirmations. Let yourself experience each precious piece of yourself: the feel of your skin and the muscles and bones beneath. This is you! You are here! Continue up your whole body, applying oil and repeating affirmations as you go.

It might be that this experience is completely new for you, even scary. It certainly was for me. In fact, the first time I dedicated myself to being present with my Body in this sweetly attentive way I felt truly panicked, and began to cry! However, with time this ritual has become one that I look forward to and use whenever I need some extra grounding, centering, or Self Love. It is an exquisite pleasure to live in a body, even one that is experiencing un-wellness. Thanks to self care rituals like these, I can now say that I treasure and love this precious Body that I have been blessed to reside in. I invite you to come home to your truest home, and live fully in your one and only miraculous Body. No matter what you and your Body have been through, you have always been together, and I promise you this: Your Body Does Love You. May you come to love it in return.