Body Compassion

Winnebago Rest

This is the post in which a very depressed state of being gets more deeply accepted and channeled into a place of compassion. I hope.

Physically speaking, my body is not in a very good place. Scoliosis leads to lots of chronic conditions and major spinal fusions leave you very few corrective options. I’m recently dealing with increased nerve impingement and degeneration and just learned of an increased risk for osteoporosis. All of this has made it difficult for me to play, hoop, or sleep comfortably; to sit, stand or walk for too long.

Being very much a “fixer” and an avid learner/researcher, it’s been incredibly frustrating to find so few solutions to the problem. (Exercise, yoga, chiropractic…even massage has caused problems.)

There have only been two things that have made a significant impact on both pain and energy:

  1. Gluten-free foods
  2. Grass-fed meat and dairy

The first is not easy to stick to on the road. The second can be difficult to find; we’ve used sites like LocalHarvest.org and farmer’s markets but with less luck than we hoped.

But it dawned on me recently that if I’m not careful, and maybe even if I am, I’m going to end up in a wheelchair within a decade or two. Needless to say, such a thought is enough to knock you down a bit. I spent several days in a serious depression while I processed and talked through my fears and struggles.

Then I read Ronnie’s words on unschooling her body.

Love my body. Love where I live. Love what is. It sounds like unschooling. I could unschool my body.

Wait. Unschool my body? What would that look like?

If I were going to unschool my body…
I would make lots of cool stuff available to it (gear and hikes and massages).
I would spend time with it.
I would have fun with it and do things it enjoys.
I would enjoy it.
I would provide it with a fun and colorful variety of foods.
I would feel good about it.
I would feel good.

I would not disparage it.
I would not feel ashamed of it.
I would not compare it to other bodies in negative ways.
I would not abuse it.

And I absolutely would not let society or any individual tell me what it should be.

I got to thinking about this, about treating my body with compassion, treating it as I would treat my child, with compassion and trust. Instead of focusing on or pushing it towards what I want it to be, simply loving it for what it is…

What might that look like for me?

  • I would regularly point out its strengths.
  • I would show my appreciation for its abilities.
  • I would view its pain with loving compassion.
  • I would actively and insistently seek out the foods it needs.
  • I would be gentle and not push it to do things.
  • I would slow down to its pace.
  • I would find things that made it feel good.
  • I would spoil it with love.
  • I would smile when I see it.
  • I would seek out activities it would enjoy.
  • I would listen intently to it.
  • I would accept it and love it unconditionally.
  • I would validate it and the other people it affects (like my son and husband) without making anyone wrong.

Can I do this? Can I love myself and my body with the same unconditional love and acceptance, giving it everything it needs without excuses or resentment?

Ronnie’s words have been my guidance over the past week as I make my way toward a more authentic relationship with my body, one that is aligned with the way in which we choose to live with each other. Just like our family relationships, there have been less than authentic moments. There have been times of frustration, and even downright body neglect.

But there have also been successes: a new pillow has made for a very happy neck in the morning, almost no gluten has decreased my low back and knee pain substantially, more water has left me with more energy. I was even able to share in the water park fun yesterday while still honoring my bodies limits. And my dear sweet hubby has been instrumental in making sure I’m taking care of me.

But mostly, I’ve been changing my perspective.

I’ve reminded myself that whatever may happen down the road, I need to live fully and authentically in this moment right now. I can’t fully control what the future holds or what this body may be capable of, but I can fully live without regret. I can enjoy everything it will allow me until that’s no longer an option.

Rejoice in the things that are present; all else is beyond thee.  ~Montaigne

What about you? Can you love your body like you love your child?

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45 Comments. Leave new

I struggle with this a lot. I tend to use my body unconsciously, but my back and feet have genetic disposition for weakness and pain. As we have started to reclaim many parts to our life my body has improved. Like you say I need to treat my body like I do my son. I try to listen to my body more, stretch it when it needs it, give up the thought of any desk job (what a shame). I am lucky to be married to an acupuncturist so when things feel wrong I have someone to help me.

You mention that a lot of the methods of working on your body have caused more harm than good. The two things that I have found that work for me are acupuncture and a dry sauna or vapor cave. Neither manipulate the body the way yoga or massage does, and both have a calming affect as well.

Once again, you challenge us with new ideas and new perspectives. I have been thinking on this exact subject for awhile now. Thank you. Come live by me dang it. xxoo

i was also struck deeply in my Spirit by Ronnie’s words – beautifully just what i needed and it sounds like it was the same for you :)

you’re sharing w/ me this winter to consider a gluten-free path led me to attending a workshop about celiac by Shauna Ahern which led me to blood tests which has led to a clear understanding that, for me, gluten is a toxin and i deserve better than to poison myself with it!

so, dear friend, while you travel towards acceptance please also note that you’re sharing of your journey is helping others and i totally believe that in helping others we raise the collective energy of us all – which means you are a healer to not just yourself but us all as we journey into a better world.

thank you for sharing this today and please know i am sending you an ever so gentle and lingering hug please let it wrap you in strength and peace and joy!

P.S. Your photo = Amazing. I want a print.

Beautiful honest words/thoughts/reflections.

I believe you can. I believe it is a process and requires some serious focused intention but I do believe you can heal your body and that you are dead on with your connection of the unschooling spirit. I remember a few years back I read that your body completely regenerates every seven years. As in every seven years every single cell in your body is regenerated leaving you with–in theory a completely new body.

Thinking about that helps me believe in moving towards more health in my body.

p.s. and i hear you on the challenges of living gf. i am much happier/healthier gf, but boy it’s hard to stick with 100%.

what a lovely post, not to long ago I took a writing workshop with SARK and had to explore my relationship with my body in much the same way that you have. I must say i was not nearly as profound, probably because I do not live with chronic pain. Therefore, I may take my vessel for granted, so you have taught me a lesson.

Tweets that mention Body Compassion – TheOrganicSister -- Topsy.com
July 2, 2010 12:03 pm

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tara Wagner and MimAbbyMason, Seeking Satori. Seeking Satori said: RT @organicsister Body Compassion http://bit.ly/d5xYTv “I don't like myself, I'm crazy about myself” ~ Mae West […]

Christine Satori
July 2, 2010 12:04 pm

Have you tried Reiki?

heather cyllus
July 2, 2010 12:17 pm

I love this. I am going to print it and hang it up on my bathroom mirror. And read it. Daily.

Thank you.

Hip Mountain Mama
July 2, 2010 1:08 pm

Oh what a wonderful post! Funny I was just thinking about writing a post on honoring our bodies as I was at the pool today noticing all the different shapes and sizes of bodies. So true that we need to honor and love our bodies and also know their limits! I am going to have to do this post now…would love to link back to this post! Thanks Mama!
Suzy

Hip Mountain Mama
July 2, 2010 1:09 pm

Oh, and I also adore this authentic and artistic photo! Beautiful! :)

I so love coming to your blog. Your words and your journeys always help me see things in a new light. Although I am not dealing with what you are dealing with, I am pregnant (2 or so months to go!) and I have to recognize when my hard working body needs a break, needs time to rest, needs to move a little more slowly, needs to adjust positions, and maybe even waddle from point a to point b no matter how cliche it is!

thank you for helping me see a new way to honor my amazing body and self.

Wishing you healing, wishing you comfort

V~

That Crazy Family
July 2, 2010 2:58 pm

I LOVE this post!! I needed to read it and also need to apply much to my own life!

Tara,
I struggle with scoliosis too and the many recurring issues that stem from my entire spine being literally out of wack. I try to love my body, doing what makes me happy, gardening, being outdoors, pilates, knowing my limits and eating completely gluten-free, no red meat and only organic dairy and chicken. I love your unschooling thoughts and will have much to meditate on this weekend.

Missy

Missy,

I’d love to be able to connect with others who have scoliosis and deal with other problems because of it.

Heather (hmariey on Twitter)
July 2, 2010 3:11 pm

So totally where I am right now. Thank you. This week the kids and I willingly went back on the candida diet after 5 yrs away, knowing it would be hard but knowing that it would help with all the health problems cropping up especially our RA (and hubby ios joining us in a few days). I had forgotten how HARD and how EXPENSIVE it is, especially when everyone is trying to feed us everywhere we go. And so I have been feeling guilty for spending so much on food even though I know it makes a huge difference in whether I can walk or not and will make an even bigger difference down the road for all of us. And it is another reminder to me that I NEED to take time and do yoga as well as some sort of gentle cardio each day becaus emy body needs it to keep moving.

And I am so sorry about your scoliosis. My mother lived in constant pain with a severe s curve and osteo plus multiple autoimmune diseases. It is misery unless you do take the time and energy to take care of your body as it needs cared for.

And finally, stunning photo. It would make an amazing painting as well.

A truly awesome post. I love the ideas and am excited to delve further into them. Also love the new banner.

Namaste

Thank you.

plantainpatch
July 2, 2010 3:50 pm

Your pic and header are just AWESOME!

myFeminineMind
July 2, 2010 5:24 pm

What a beautiful post. Thank you for this. I think so often this culture tries to determine a person’s worth by what s/he is capable of doing. I think those who are weak and ill need, perhaps more than anything else, to know that they are loved and valuable just for themselves, apart from any kind of functionality. Perhaps that is the lesson of illness. You are valuable now, just because you are, and if/when you need a wheelchair, your value will not decrease.

Basic body acceptance is something so many of us struggle with. I look at other women who seem to be comfortable in their skin and wish that for me. I am trying to be happy with the place that I am at, the weight that I am at, the place my skin is in and love it. That can be easier said than done. Add a chronic health condition to it and the challenges multiply. I wish you well in your journey.

I am all about relationships. I work on them so much … with my husband, with my children, with my family and friends, with myself. But my relationship with my body is fractured. I don’t remember ever feeling good about my body … there was the years of exploiting it and allowing others to exploit it which seemed like a good body image but wasn’t.

Recently I went to a chiropractic appointment and though there are some issues, for the most part, I am really good to which I said, “wow, my body is amazing” and I meant it. I am in fairly good health (hope to hear good news next month), I have given birth nine times and still my body is strong.

But I don’t have that connection. In many ways I know the things to do to nourish and nurture my body but it is almost like a passive aggressive self destructive attitude I have. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t over indulge in food. But I don’t actively take care of my body and in doing so I think I am subconsciously destroying it.

I know that more often than not, I am more aware of the limitations of my body than the glorious accomplishments.

So, one of the ways that I am connecting is through hooping … and yes, you are one of inspirations for that. I have been reading recently about your hooping and Sara’s hooping. I just got my first hoop, am ready to make more for myself and the kids (because they keep “borrowing” mine”). Right now, I am celebrating just being able to keep it up and moving on my body. I count the rotations and each day there are more. Never in my life had I had something that I just want to do and I think it is because it is making me aware of my body and it is causing me to celebrate.

Thanks for this post, for your authenticity. It helps to know I am not alone in this journey. I can keep picking up and moving along with others.

Tara, thank you for writing this. I followed all the links and read them, too. So many of us deny our bodies in some way. I see it often in the form of hyperconscious eating–not the adaptations you are talking about which help you to feel better, but the constant dieting for weight and longevity that I see around me. People who forget what actually tastes good to them because they are so focused on what they are told *is* good for them.

Your post also makes me think of aging and body issues there. What if we could accept all the inevitable physical changes with compassion instead of horror? This is a huge challenge for me, but I know that ultimately I am going to have to make a complete shift. I’ll try to remember the analogy of treating one’s body as one’s child–it’s a good way of bringing unconditional love into the picture.

Reading this really made me think of a lot of things.

For starters, I’m so sorry that you are in pain and having to go through this.

I wish I could take the pain away for you. It takes me back to when we were younger and makes me feel

like I should be able to bare the pain for you, the way a big sister should be able to bare, protect

or simply prevent it altogether.

Those are not realistic thoughts I know, but that’s what my heart tells me.

You make me think. Think about all the things I’ve put my own body through.

There are actually complete memories that others have that just aren’t there for me any more.

One being is how you saw the world around us when we were younger.

You described it to me once as feeling like I abandoned you when I left home at such a young age.

Until you said that I really had no idea, I didn’t see past me.

And once again you have made me think, about just how blessed I am. I have taken advantage of what I have been given.

With all the things I’ve done that are bad for me, some how I still have my health and my children and it has come

easier for me than you. Makes me want to stomp my feet and yell at God “SO NOT FAIR”!

I know he has a plan and a reason for everything, but I’m human and cant stop myself from questioning him.

Over the past 6 years of life’s we have had some good times and some bad, and although the bad were bad, I wouldnt change them.

They have helped to make us who we are today and who we will be in the future.

And the person you have become is someone I find myself looking up to more and more everyday.

You are strong the way I want to be, you are true to your beliefs and dreams the way I strive to be.

You have opened my eyes to new ways to look at things when it comes to parenting, and because of that maybe I wont screw

up the next two.

I am proud of you! To call you my sister, my friend, my blood!

I do believe “That witch does not kill us makes us stronger” you and I are living proof!

And I know the physical things you are dealing with are for a reason, even though they suck and cause emotion turmoil as well,

you have to know that from them you are becoming an even better teacher and role model for so many of us out here that, well lets just say

it.Dont have the brain power you do!

I love you and miss you like crazy. I wish every day we hadn’t wasted any time. But I know we still have a life time if memories to make.

And I want you to know that If I could give you my spin, I WOULD! If I could give you my womb, I WOULD!

You have made me better person all around and I love you for that!!!

Love always,

your friend

your sister

your confidant

leah

A Green Spell
July 3, 2010 11:31 am

What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing – I’ll post this on my FB fan page to share with readers.

I can totally relate! I also have scoliosis as well as I was in a motorcycle accident 20 years ago and became a right leg above-knee amputee. With missing a leg, my pelvis is a wreck and now its popping, cracking and grinding whenever I move. My shoulders crack when I move them. My whole spine is crooked due to the scoliosis and my lungs are being squished by that too. Sometimes its so hard to be patient with my body and where its at. I hate being “limited” and I want to have a body that functions so that I can dance and move and feel free. Learning to be “zen” with myself is a process and a path. Some days are better than others. :) What makes it easier for me is that I always feel there is a reason I am going through what I am… that there is spiritual growth as well as teaching others through walking my path. Best of luck to you on your path…. :)

Loving my Body « A Life Profound
July 3, 2010 7:27 pm

[…] this week, Tara wrote about body compassion and it has become so clear to me that this is my journey to take as well. It’s time to really […]

Sorry to hear of the discomfort you are in, but thank you for sharing your thoughts to process that to a more empowering place. I will pick bits out and ponder them for my own relationship to my body…thank you. I loved Leah’s comment here too…beautiful!

So much of this resonates so incredibly loudly with me right now. Thank you for sharing this.

We walk a lot as a family and I recently told my husband that if at some point I can’t walk, I’ll be grateful that we’ve done so much walking while I could. He’s skeptical about that, but I really am grateful that my body can accomplish this thing that seems to mundane and natural, but that I know isn’t possible for everyone.

Other than our walking, we’re spending time in the pool and on our bikes and eating much better (for the most part) than usual. I’m trying not to force too many changes on myself at once. And, I’m not setting up any “rules” for myself, as I’ll most likely immediately break them. (I put “rules” in quotes because, really, there isn’t anything official about arbitrary restrictions I set for myself.)

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I think it’s fantastic that you and your family are so caring toward and supportive of one another.

Wishing you luck, health and happiness.

Tara, this is beautiful :) – unschooling the bod – love it – so inspiring. And sending you the best thoughts for your bod.
It’s cool you have tried what works diet wise.

Olivia (Green Junkie Living)
July 4, 2010 2:50 am

This is such a great post. As a Celiac, I can relate to the frustrations of traveling while maintaining a gluten free diet. I’ve written about how I live a somewhat nomadic life while staying healthy here: http://crazysexylife.com/2010/a-celiac-in-seoul/ If you ever want to swap pointers–or just need some encouragement–drop a line. Hang in there, and I hope you find some relief.

I think I may already be in the process of unschooling my body. Getting pregnant, having a child, suddenly feeling like I’ve aged 10 years in the past two…I’ve struggled, come to some level of acceptance, and have realized that I do need to take care of me. Maybe it will take more work for me than for some, but I need to do it so I can feel good.

I understand the frustration of having limited options and not being able to “fix” a health condition. I understand the necessity of eating good foods in order to function well. I understand not being able to do everything you want to do. It’s hard when you just want to grab life and run with it, but you can only walk.

thank you for sharing this part of your life. my 15 yr old son also has scoliosis. he shot up at an unbelieveable rate one summer topping 6′ in a short period of time. he now sways to the right. he’s in constant, nagging pain. we tried bracing and it helped for a short time – until he became self-conscious and refused to wear it then grew right out of it. he’s now seeing a chiropractor and getting some relief. his pain impacts everything he does from how well he sleeps to his interactions with his brother and sister. i hadn’t thought if removing gluten from his diet (or all of ours for that matter) it’s something i want to know more about. watching him suffer breaks my heart.

Toni's Treehouse
July 6, 2010 6:09 am

Just wanted to tell you what a fantastic article this is. So great, in fact, I included as part of my weekly Reading Roundup on my blog! (Direct Link http://toniturbeville.typepad.com/tonis_treehouse/2010/07/read.html)

I am loving this idea! :) This is the message I so needed to hear right now. Thank you for sharing.
On a side note I am intersted in how it works out with the gluten free and traveling. We are dreaming about traveling however we are gluten and dairy free. Since we have been eating this way for 8 years I am OK at home but wonder how it would play out on the road.
Thanks for sharing your life on the road.

I’m just wondering if you’ve considered Ayurvedic therapy? I’m not sure if they could do anything about the fusions, but Ayurveda has done wonders for people around the world… and luckily you no longer have to travel to India for treatment.

I can’t pretend to understand that kind of pain, but my boyfriend lives with constant pain after having his back fused from a couple of logging accidents. Unfortunately, he won’t have anything to do with alternative therapies. :(

Good luck, and I hope writing this post helped you clear your mind…

Juliana Crespo
July 7, 2010 5:17 pm

Tara, I understand what you mean so well. I have always struggled to love my body, honor my body and its needs. This has not always been so easy. I had numerous health problems several years back, and lately I have been reminded of them as I struggle with my diet (I, too, try to refrain from sweets and gluten for health reasons). My mother also has many health problems that are related, I believe, to poor diet, lack of exercise, and depression. Needless to say, I’m still learning how to approach my body and my health, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately alongside my more spiritual quest.

Your approach is beautiful, really beautiful, and it inspires me. Be proud of yourself. You are a strong woman for facing up to these things.

Juliana Crespo
July 7, 2010 5:19 pm

I am going to start a series on self-portraits, which you might be interested in. I think it would be so interesting to photograph ourselves weeks for an extended period of time.

Charis-Amber
July 8, 2010 6:43 pm

Thank you so much for your post. I was totally caught off guard and tears welled up in my eyes. This is almost me. I have scoliosis. I wore a back brace and got away with out back fusions but I can pretty much expect to be a hunched over old lady before my time. I live with pain. I have gotten so frustrated that no bed is comfortable, no pillow the right one. I can’t wear my babies when I want to, can’t even paint the play house with my kids or scrub a tub without a headache in a day or two. My back spasms throughout the day. Anytime I have tried to condition my muscles I have been punished by my own body with weeks of successive migraines. Yet, to think about loving my body and how to mindfully go about with that purpose is completely paradigm shifting. I am on board. This is what I was looking for, without looking for it. Thanks.

I Am Not Broken – TheOrganicSister
July 14, 2010 11:56 pm

[…] be honest. I’ve been utterly failing at my attempts for body compassion. For the past week I’ve been in so much pain that I’ve had a difficult time loving this […]

Garden Pheenix
July 15, 2010 3:28 am

I have Adrenal Fatigue and Fibromyalgia and this post rings within me in a serious way. A close friend told me of this same concept except she put it in different terms. She said you do so much for your daughter and make sure her needs are met and that she is loved unconditionally – do the same for you and your body. It caused a huge “light bulb” moment for me. I still struggle tho ;c)

Linda Sullivan
July 23, 2010 5:20 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your story. We are try eating healthy too as a family so that my husband can avoid elevated levels of cholesterol. Runs in their family, they are genetically predisposed so we are always careful.

I would love to contact you if there is any way at all. I’m a friend of Jessica Rozga Deboni and she shared the link to your post on FB. I have similar issues and I rarely come in contact with someone who shares that. I too have scoliosis, had 14 vertebrae fused, etc… and was told I could end up in a wheelchair in a decade or so. Last March I had a horrible episode with pain. I shared my email above if you can contact me that way. I home school and try to eat healthier…it’s a process…

Charis-Amber, I’d love to talk with you as well. I haven’t even finished reading the article or comments, but intend to do both.

Thank you for sharing this. I too have a battle raging inside my body (MS) and this has really given me something to chew on when dark moments rise.

Tara,

I recall reading this, and again, find it so powerful. I’ve been working through digging deep, as I mentioned on my blog, and then it probably seemed as if I stopped…I didn’t. but there is big heavy stuff its “helping” dredge up and I’ve gotten myself into a place that I need a counselor to help me as I don’t think it is healthy for me to do it alone. I have helping in quotes because, honestly, its HARD to feel all the emotions and things I do right now. but it is helping because its making me a better, more loving and accepting of myself and thereby being the mother I want to be to my son.

she said something that is very powerful to me – your ceiling is your child’s floor.

what this means to me in regards to your article is if we don’t love our bodies…our children won’t love theirs. no matter how much we talk and think we show them, they intuitively know we are not being honest and they will internalize that. and they will, potentially, grow up with the same issues we thought we had made it so they wouldn’t have.

so…thank you, for stating this. for digging deep, which really does have me digging deep. and I’m sorry if you are in pain. I hope it goes away.

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