Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings.
I was 21 y.o. when I got my tongue pierced. I didn’t even have my ears pierced yet. I was spending some time in Virginia Beach, visiting my best friend who had just had her first baby. We wanted to do something together. We got our tongues pierced down at the beach front. It hurt, but only for a second. I talked funny for weeks. Having a tongue ring was against the ORU rules so I felt like a rebel.
I was completely unaware of my tongue before I got the piercing. When I read Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Women Warrior,” I felt akin to the narrator. She writes about her mother cutting her tongue. (Probably symbolic.) She writes about how difficult it was to use her tongue, to be able to communicate with others.
I love having my tongue pierced.
I was 22 y.o. when I got my first tattoo. My brothers and I had been talking about getting one for awhile. My youngest brother designed the tattoo. It is a trinity symbol with the phrase “a three-fold cord is not quickly broken” in Latin. Getting the tattoo hurt immensely. I got it done on my lower back and I got so nauseated that I had the tattoo artist pause so I could go to the bathroom. I sat on the floor for several minutes. I thought I was going to puke.
Totally worth it.
The tattoo symbolized the bond I have with my brothers, but it also made me aware of the small of my back. I had never known that backs were sexy before. I had never thought that my back was sexy. Now it was beautiful.
Tattoos are scars, of course. The symbolism of the scar on my back was clear to me. It reminded me of the legendary scars on Christ’s back. I thought of the story that Kingston tells of Fa Mu Lan and the words carved into her back. I would carry the love of my brothers on my back no matter how far away my journey took me.
* * *
For most of my life, I’ve hated my body. In religious dogma, this was supposed to be noble. A sign of a true spiritual person is that they put the spirit first, above the desires of the body. In a letter to the Romans (according to Christian tradition), St. Paul writes:
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
I strove to kill the flesh so that I would please God. I worked hard to suppress physical desires, ignore “unnatural” thoughts and fantasies, and even despise my weak body. I thought that my body was keeping me from being spiritually minded.
I poured negative energy into my body. I didn’t enjoy anything about body. The result caused real damage to the way I perceived my body and my body in connection to other bodies. This created a real fear of the body. I did not want to know anything about male and female anatomy. I was ashamed of my own, messy female body.
(Fingerlakeswanderer recently wrote a post about the Christian view of the female body. It really spoke to me.)
I wasn’t aware of any of this until college. I was not very self-aware. Due to my interaction with wonderful gay friends, nursing students, and close relationships with girl friends, I slowly saw my body as a beautiful thing. But I still did not feel particularly proud of my body. I still felt ashamed of what my body did and of what other bodies did. Sex was messy and frightening.
“Man is the sole animal whose nudity offends his own companions, and the only one who, in his natural actions, withdraws and hides himself from his own kind.” ~Montaigne
* * *
The journey towards body awareness continued when I moved to San Francisco. There is an amazing energy in the City of Lights. It is intoxicating. I fell in love with that city and its people. I fell in love with the idea that nothing was to be ashamed of, nothing was embarrassing. You are good. Being with others is good. Sex is good.
That’s when I met David.
I won’t go into the details because I’m writing under my real name. (Sometimes family members read this blog.) I will say that the way I was raised negatively impacting my sexual life. It was a very slow and long process for me to relax and enjoy what had previously been ingrained into me as a sinful and disgusting act.
I continue to experiment with the idea of enjoying my body. One of the best things I did was to start the practice of yoga. My first experience with at Funky Door Yoga on Polk St. It was affectionately called “Sweaty Door Yoga” because of how hot the room was. I could only go for about a month because it was so expensive. But I continued to practice at home. I am not the best yoga practitioner. I get lazy. I’ve been known to skip months before starting again.
But yoga makes me feel one with my body. Instead of constantly fighting my body and trying to make it into something it’s not, I become one with it. I know that sounds silly because obviously I can’t get away from my body. But when I do yoga, I no longer want to get away. I enjoy it. I am aware of it. I pour positive energy into it. As a result, my mind expands and I discover so much about myself and the world around me.
Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.
Breathing out, I know
As the in-breath grows deep,
The out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in makes me calm.
Breathing out makes me ease.
With the in-breath, I smile.
With the out-breath, I release.
Breathing in, there is only the present moment.
Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
* * *
I continue to celebrate my body in different ways. Over a year ago, David’s birthday gift to me was to take me to the body piercing place. I adorned my belly with a navel ring. It didn’t hurt much, but it took over six months to heal. I’ve never liked my belly, but I’m starting to accept it and enjoy it. I decorate it and have stopped trying to hide it.
I’ve always liked my hands. I have long, piano fingers that are delicate. I wanted to get a tattoo on my left hand to match the red star on David’s right hand. Once again, David’s birthday gift to me was to help me decorate my body. I have a little blue star on my hand. Now, when we hold hands, our stars connect.
* * *
I want to spend the first month of the new year and the new decade, exploring how we relate to our bodies. So many people are going to try to force their bodies to be different. They are unhappy about their bodies. They want to look different, feel different. I want to concentrate on being aware of my body. Not judging it. Not being angry with it. Simply celebrating it.
I want to be more aware in 2010. I want to see, feel, touch, taste, love, and let go in 2010. Like Sylvia Plath, I want to “Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I've taken for granted.”