Reclaiming The Intimate And Sexual Body As Our Own
I knelt on the mat with my backside resting on the meditation bench, palms open towards the sky. Rocking ever so slightly back and forth to the morning chants that streamed through the ashram, my voice began to shake and throat came to harden. Suddenly the morning prayers that I had swam in so naturally moments before had become more deeply turbulent. They had stirred something beneath the calm surface of the water that came rushing through the cracks of my eyes.
Lost within the swirl of voices around me, I was caught up in the turbulence within, trapped in a realization, which, for one reason or another, chose to come to the surface on this morning. Of seemingly nowhere, though evidently somewhere, the realization of my poor physical boundaries became clear. I was flooded with awareness that I had been equating my self-worth to my physical desirability, as determined largely by the male gaze, and was still caught up in behaviors that would satisfy my ego’s desires despite my body and heart’s needs for something different.
Up came awareness of all the times I had engaged sexually when my body did not want it — the times when it was the ‘I’ that is the ego who ruled the show because it wanted to be wanted. Up came all the times I had said it was good for me when it was far less than. Up came all the years I had waged an inner verbal war against my body for fear it did not look the way it should — for fear it was not good enough for external eyes.
It erupted from such depth, confirming that it was a way of being I had embodied for years; in fact, it was embedded within me from the earliest years of sexual experience and intimacy. It was informed by what I had read about women and sex before I was old enough to even wish to engage in activities between the sheets.
Women I would share this moment of awareness with would say, “oh, but we all do that.” I imagine most of us do act this way — or have done so in the past. Yet I also wonder if perhaps we take it all too lightly — the images, roles, and predominant archetypes that are presented to us in magazines and media. Beneath what has been woven into our society and upbringing as ‘normal’ is the truth that we have been misled. We have been guided away from empowered embodiment of our intimate selves. The cost of each article that promises some superficial expression of beauty and sex appeal is disconnection from our deeper self, sold under the pretense that we might become more in touch with it. What is missing from the media that taught us how to groom and how to move is depth. Just as in anatomy we might consider both superficial and deep parts of the body, we, too, embody these characteristics in our intimate and sexual lives.
Within this society that lives on the surface, we begin to equate our worth with exterior approval. We have been taught to seek fulfillment of this need for approval through behaviors that satisfy the ego — and the ego’s of others — but that lack depth and heart fulfillment. We take on roles, contort our bodies, and say yes when something subtle wishes we would say no. Here, on my knees, as a full-grown adult woman, I was overcome with the awareness that I still carried this eager-to-please young woman within my body.
So how do we reclaim our voices and boundaries? How do we explore our authentic, intimate selves in a different way? We begin by reconnecting to the divine body we have been granted and exploring it with tenderness and presence. A rough, quick, goal-oriented approach to our bodies has dominated mainstream beliefs surrounding sex. It can leave us feeling hollow and unfulfilled, with the sense that something was missing from the encounter. If we explore the alternative, which is soft, slow, and process-oriented, we create space to discover what our bodies and hearts truly desire. We allow for the time required to truly connect with ourselves or with our partner.
As we start to explore a different way of honoring the sexual body, we find the energy and confidence to create the relationships and connections that suit our authentic, inner needs. On our own or with an open-minded and compassionate partner, we can explore the potential for fulfilling, deep, and honest sexuality. Harnessing the power of patience, sensitivity, and presence, we give ourselves permission to trust our body and in turn, we allow our partner to do the same.
Inner reflection will arise as we begin to question what behaviors and exterior variables we have tied our worth to. Does our sense of self-worth correlate with our adherence to the unwritten ‘good girl’ guidelines? Has identification with being sexy and sought after become entangled with our sense of being worthy of love? We learn to hold space for whatever comes up within this discovery process. With compassion, we explore what ideas have shaped our beliefs and behaviors. It is with this awareness that we are able to understand ourselves and then confidently express our experiences to those with whom we are intimate. Awareness is the precursor to change.
We will undoubtedly come across an array of social norms that aim to dictate the way we present ourselves. The way we smooth potions and lotions upon our face, the way we remove our hair, and the shapes we crawl into as we toss between the sheets will all be under contemplation of the heart. It is best to stay wary of the judging mind; this raised awareness does not dictate that we abolish all behaviors that our ‘new’ self deems to be ‘inauthentic.’ It does not mean we give right to judge ourselves for styling our hair or shaving our legs. Because those, too, are ideas — products of the mind. Rather, we make the choice to examine, with compassion and self-awareness, these norms that have shaped our lives and ways of carrying ourselves. In each moment, we make our best personal decision to move towards a more heart-centered, self-loving way of being.
Through this self-exploration, we come to declare that our worth is not tied up to another’s opinion of who we are, how we look, or how we move. We become more in touch with the deeper desires and needs of our sexual body. Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote, “A woman cannot make the culture more aware by saying ‘Change.’ But she can change her own attitude toward herself, thereby causing devaluing projections to glance off. She does this by taking back her body.”
So we can call upon ourselves to take back our body. To begin, or continue, the process of listening compassionately to the voice within. To move softly and slowly. To harness patience and presence. To communicate authentically and confidently. By tuning into the subtle voices that whisper from somewhere deeper within us, we begin to align body, mind, and heart. Somewhere within this practice, the tides shift and we open ourselves to a wondrous and authentic intimacy reclamation.
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