Try a Little Tenderness

11.26.07: How I learned to stop worrying and love the blob


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.

Hillari's Chakra-Based Gratitude Meditation

Find a comfortable seated position, preferably one where your butt can come into contact with the floor (try cross-legged, with a folded blanket underneath just the edge of your tailbone to prop you up a bit). Close your eyes and take three deep, full breaths. Bring your awareness to the present moment—which is to say, simply, be here now. Stay focused on each chakra for a minute or two before moving on to the next; if you're visually oriented, you can envision the color associated with each chakra as you do the meditation.

1st Chakra: Red

Bring your attention to the first chakra, at the base of the tailbone; this is your connection to the earth, and represents your ability to provide stability and security for yourself and your family. Breathe, and give thanks for all the ways your body is able to provide sustenance and support for YOU. Your body, your shelter. It allows you to skillfully care for yourself and others.

2nd Chakra: Orange

Move your attention to the second chakra, at the navel. This is the seat of your sexuality and creativity. Give thanks for your body's ability to reproduce and to produce. You are an amazingly expressive, emotional, inspiring creature. If you've recently had a baby, pause for an extra moment or two to wonder at the miracle you created. Yes, a miracle—one YOU created.

3rd Chakra: Golden yellow

Next, draw your focus to the solar plexus, the area just below the rib cage. This is the third chakra, home to our source of power in the world. Here is where you draw on your executive ability to get things done and interact skillfully with other people. Thank your body for the ability you have to meet your responsibilities and handle your human interactions with grace, generosity, and character.

4th Chakra: Green

The heart chakra lies at the center of the chest, and is the seat of love and compassion. Love is a universal feeling, but remember that it's your body that lets you feel it, and connect to it. Give thanks for your ability to remain open-hearted on even the most challenging days, to allow joy into your life, and to give and receive love. Your body lets you have the best, warmest, yummiest, cuddliest, most loving parts of the mommy experience. It deserves a big virtual hug.

5th Chakra: Sky blue

The fifth chakra is all about communication. Holding your attention at the base of your throat, give thanks for your ability to organize your thoughts, express yourself, and speak your truth. So long as you can speak clearly, you'll never be lost in translation.

6th Chakra: Indigo blue

The so-called third eye, the sixth chakra is centered on the forehead between the brows. It is our source of intuition, ability to sense what's unseen, and connection with life's larger themes. Give thanks for this built-in source of insight. Mommies just KNOW things... Now you are in their club.

7th: Chakra: Violet

The seventh chakra isn't on the body, but is hovers just over the crown of the head. It is a source of bliss, and—if you believe in such things—our connection to god/goddess/source/void/higher power. Let this come as a relief, and give thanks for that. Realize that bodies come and go. You are part of a bigger design, and the shape of your thighs is probably of no consequence. Appreciate the now.

—Hillari Dowdle lives and writes in Knoxville, Tennessee.