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My pregnancy, for me, was a magical time. It was the only time in my entire life that I actually LIKED my body. I loved it really—it was producing a fetus that by every measure seemed to be (and in fact was) healthy and thriving. I took to petting my large ripe abdomen, taking time to extend to it my appreciation and thanks every single day. "Good job," I'd whisper to my belly. Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I'd think, "Beautiful."
This was a MAJOR reversal for me, given that I'd spent most of my life feeling like a total loser for trying and failing (and trying and failing) to measure up to the whippet-thin version of beauty that predominates in our culture. After all, I was 39 when I got pregnant, and I'd been feeling fat since around age six, when a mean grandma, who always said I liked to "eat like a horse," helped me make the connection between the X in my size 6X to extra-chunky. That's 33 years of self-loathing undone by my pregnancy, a minor miracle—a gift.
But that state of self-acceptance, too, came crashing to a halt with my delivery. I required a C-section—not what I'd envisioned, not what I wanted. My body had betrayed me, I felt. Worse by the time I left the hospital, it was bloated up with post-surgical fluids. It was slow to bounce back from the surgery and embrace the gift of my perfect new baby Truman—I was worn out, depleted. In my post-partum state, my body was flabby, saggy, baggy, and just plain ugly (read my post-partum beauty rant here).
Long story short: I was angry with this post-delivery body. Baby out, the beauty was gone—forever, it seemed.
That's where I am now, still a good 10 to 15 pounds overweight, and struggling to lose it. The extra weight I'm carrying seems to have tentacles now, so that even my most zealous efforts don't so much budge it as move it around.
I recently was whining about this to my husband, as I frequently do, and he made an observation that was so astute it actually stopped me in my tracks. "You are so negative, so hateful toward your body," he said. "Why would you expect it to cooperate with you?"
Ouch! I do get so focused on what's wrong with it, I forget to acknowledge that, hey, my body is what's keeping me alive! It's what allowed me to bring Truman into the world! It's what lets me play, eat, sleep, read, write, walk, shop, drink a glass of wine, watch "Grey's Anatomy," gab with girlfriends, do what I want when I want. It is really my world, even if it's a little rounder than I'd like it to be.
Coury, my husband, suggested that I spend a little time trying to develop a little gratitude for everything that's right about my body, rather than huff away—as I'm much more prone to do (sorry, but I'm a Virgo)—about what's wrong. "Try a little tenderness," he said. "Maybe you'll feel better."
Huh. To that end, I reached into my bag of new-agey tricks and started doing this little chakra-based meditation each night. It's a mish-mash, really, my own thing—though I must confess I owe a debt of gratitude to Anodea Judith (author of "Wheels of Light") and Joan Harrigan (author of "Kundalini Vidya").
I let the theme of each chakra—security, creativity, power, love, expression, intuition, and bliss—prompt me to look for the ways my body is getting it right. I share my meditation with you, in the spirit of the holiday season. Maybe it can help you feel centered, grateful, and tender, too. (We can all get back to self-loathing on January 1, when we make our New Year's Resolutions.)
See Page 2 for Hillari's Chakra-Based Gratitude Meditation
—Hillari Dowdle lives and writes in Knoxville, Tennessee.