Six months ago I shared how regularly practicing naked yoga slowly stripped away shame around my body and built inner acceptance in its place. So, when my body confidence plummeted recently it side swiped me to say the least. Hadn’t I already ‘gotten over’ this? Cue heaps of guilt for feeling self-loathing toward my body, on top of the loathing itself. What a brilliant shame spiral.
Backstory: I’ve been having some gut-health issues lately which I feel uncomfortable about. I realised that I feel uncomfortable because I cannot control it. Yes, I can influence my gut health by what I eat, what I drink, my stress levels, etc…but I can’t control it. I can’t just make it stop. Now take that unease within my body I was feeling and pop it into a trip to Byron Bay, Australia where the scene is effortless beach beauty, casual abs and instagram everything and you can see my trigger. With each sunset in Byron I became increasingly body-conscious.
The truth is, I feel like I’m supposed to love my body unconditionally but at this point in time part of me just doesn’t. I stopped going to naked yoga a few months ago and I noticed my body confidence dropping with each class I didn’t attend. It makes sense that when I stopped the practice which built up my confidence that the confidence began to wane.
Your Two Minds — The Ego and the Observer
Last month I wrote about stepping into the presence of being the quiet observer. From this place, firmly rooted in my ‘higher mind’ there’s a couple important observations to note. The observer:
Doesn’t see myself as my body, but rather in my body (I.e I am not the body, but rather the soul animating it).
Sees my body as b-e-a-utiful right here right now.
The connected observer, the eternal witness above the ego, loves my body for it loves everything as it is. Indeed, because it doesn’t identify as the body (like the ego does) then my value as a being is not tied to my perception of my body. (Side note if this really doesn’t make sense go back and read the article on the quiet observer for context).
The ego mind, rather, is the one that’s running evaluations through our heads each day, pulling us into temporary states of elation or depression (good day or bad day). This aspect of us is the one we are tuned into the majority of the time. This is the mind that judges us insidiously, and indeed judges our body. As a human being, right now at least, I am still influenced by this ego mind and this ego mind tells me that my biceps aren’t big enough, my skin isn’t clear enough and my curly hair isn’t damn bouncy enough. I often listen to it because its voice is loud. Some days it’s easier for me to pull myself out of the ego and into the loving presence of the observer. Often though I keep falling into judgement.
Your Two Minds In Action - Self Improvement and Body Image.
If you plant an apple seed, and nurture that apple seed, chances are it will grow into its fullest abundant manifestation — an apple tree. By having the desire to grow the seed into a sapling though, and then into a tree to bear fruit, does that mean that we don’t love or value the seed itself? Life experience suggests there are two ways to view this:
A. We plant the seed wishing it were already a tree and until the day it is a tree (if that day ever comes in our lifetime) we long for the seed to be a damn tree already. The seed has limited perceived value. Ego
B. We love the seed when we plant it, we take care of it, and we trust that through this loving attention it will become a tree. We value it regardless of where it is. Eternal Witness
This split between how we see the seed is always going to be there. We get to choose for ourselves how we relate to self-growth (and therefore how we relate to our bodies). Both choices can be tuned into at any given time, however the the ego mind typically defaults to choosing the painful viewpoint.
What if this seed grows into a tree but it never produces any apples? What then? We could be pissed off about it and scowl at it every day, maybe we could chop it down, or we can sit underneath it and enjoy its shade anyway. Being honest about it I think our ego mind will always want that fruit to be there. Our eternal witness though will continue to enjoy the shade. Both exist at the same time. Which one do we choose to subscribe to? Which one do we listen to more?
I think it’s important to note that although what I’m saying is reminiscent of the ‘there’s a good wolf and a bad wolf — the stronger wolf is the one you feed’ metaphor, when it comes to our two minds they do exist at the same time however they don’t exist on the same playing field. The ego is the default, the go-to, the easy choice. The eternal witness sits behind. It will never ask for your attention. You have to tune into it.
In schools like yoga, we teach a path which anchors the practitioner into the space of the eternal observer. Yoga encourages students to accept themselves for how they show up. Assuming that the ego/ observer mind split is always going to be there, the yoga practitioner rides the mental highs and lows associated with life by standing back far enough to watch them and detach. They maintain caution and awareness to notice when they are being pulled in so that they can stand back again.
Let’s apply this to my body-image situation. My ego mind is not satisfied, for it is never permanently satisfied (fluctuation is its natural state) — it’s desiring the damn apples. My higher mind (observer) accepts where shit is right now and basks in it — it’s chillin in the shade of the tree. The two both exist right here right now. I get to choose in each moment where I draw my attention to. Sometimes I’ll choose ego, and my hope is that through my yoga practice I will choose the observer more and more.
I think the reason my body confidence declined after stopping my naked yoga practice is because it was easier for me to listen to the ego when I wasn’t actively practicing tuning into the space of the observer. Our world runs on the ego. We need to actively cultivate our own sense of presence. To reiterate: it is not the default; it requires ongoing awareness. When I was doing naked yoga, I was experiencing the benefits that yoga already has and they were becoming associated with my body-image because that was where I placed my awareness (it’s hard not to be focussing on the body when you’re naked). I believe that this is one of the reasons why naked yoga is such a great way to learn to love your body. There is such great freedom in knowing that I am not crazy for both loving and hating my body at the same time. Power comes from knowing that both states of mind exist, that my ego mind will drag me towards the self-hatred, but that with practice I can choose to come to a place of kindness to myself.
My hope for everyone reading this who experiences body confidence issues (aka almost everyone) is that we accept and embrace our bodies where we are now and that we simultaneously acknowledge our desires for where we would love to be. May we honour that at any given moment the ego will be telling us to improve our bodies, and that the observer accepts what is (for indeed that is all that is). May we be conscious enough to tune into the observer as much as we can and forgive ourselves when we forget.
Namaste for now,