Anorexic girl… trapped

anorexic-girl-trapped11_wuafbaResistance is the key word for today. Lots of judgement and resistance. I drew the same picture twice. This one is called Anorexic girl…. trapped. This is not my favorite picture, but I can’t help but notice this picture really shows the emotion behind the image.

Her shoulders are tensed up around her ears… all that resistance in her mind is fighting the dreaded realization. She is trapped in the habit of minimizing and punishing or denying the need to nourish her body. Although this is a painful moment, it is the beginning of healing.

Our body reflects the mind’s control and when we see it (this is grace), we can come to realize that we are not this control. There is something else that is not the mind, that can witness this with detachment. Here is where the freedom lies. I can choose to be or do something else. The liberation here is exhilarating. The trick is to stay vigilant, so we do not become fooled again into accepting the mind’s control as status quo.

It’s quite interesting the resistance to anything the mind judges to be difficult or unacceptable, and honestly, it is because of this resistance that I have been unable to draw or write lately. Resistance to exposing myself, fear of technology, guilt because I should be doing something else – anything else – studying, cleaning, working on my relationships, etc.

Thank goodness we are so much more than just the mind that limits and judges. Thank God for the grace of seeing beyond our limitations and for teachers that guide us so well.

-Teresa

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fat girl

Fat Girl; A True Story is the title of one of the most important books I’ve ever read, a memoir by writer Judith Moore. I think what struck me the most was her honesty and her daring to truly be herself in delivering her story of a heartbreakingly difficult childhood and a not so easy life as an adult who was overweight. I was immediately taken in by her introduction, where she is clear that this is not about a miracle cure she survived, it’s just about her life, as it is, or was, since she passed away in 2006. I’d like to quote a little of the introduction, just to give you a feeling for her refreshing authenticity:

“I am fat. I am not so fat that I can’t fasten the seat belt on the plane. But, fat I am. I wanted to write about what it was and is like for me, being fat. This will not be a book about how I had an eating disorder and how I conquered this disorder through therapies or group process or antidepressants or religion or twelve-step programs or a personal trainer or white-knuckling it or the love of a good man (or woman).

I am not a fat activist. This is not about the need for acceptance of fat people, although I would prefer that thinner people not find me disgusting… I will not write here about fat people I have known and I will not interview fat people… I will tell the story of my family and the food we ate. We were an unhappy family…

I mistrust real-life stories that conclude on a triumphant note. Rockettes will not arrive on the final page and kick up their high heels and show petticoats. This is a story about an unhappy fat girl who became a fat woman who was happy and unhappy… But I haven’t always been fat. I had days when I was almost thin.”

As you can see, she has a good sense of humour, but there were some stories that broke my heart, partly because I could identify with them, and partly because I couldn’t, but mostly because I wish this kind of suffering on absolutely NO ONE yet I know that literally millions of people know it.

bodyimagenatureI’m using her honest example as an introduction to continue to expose and reflect on my body image struggles, as I share this self-portrait (not too daring, but it’s a start) which shows me carrying an extra thirty pounds around my middle that I wish would magically disappear. Thirty pounds… big deal. It isn’t if you know what it is to be overweight by a hundred pounds more. But in my mind it is a big deal, and the effects on my self-esteem are not positive.

So let me remind myself, and any readers who may land here, that the point of this blog is to share a practice. Like Judith Moore’s book, which is a truthful exposure of her life and habits (which were not completely isolated or unique – others have similar experiences), we want this blog to be a series of honest reflections on our own body image issues, because we know them to not be experienced in a vacuum, yet for many, these issues are tightly guarded under wraps. Writing about them brings relief from the destructive shame that we carry, while the drawings bring about a change in perspective that is absolutely liberating. Not instantly or once and for all;  it does require a practice that slowly chips away at lifelong misperceptions fed by our culture.

While Judith Moore blatantly talks about “fat” and “fatness” I am less comfortable using negative language towards people and especially people’s bodies, but that is changing. Today, we’re questioning if those words are negative, or simply descriptive. There are fat, and short, and tall, and disabled acceptance movements, all asking to include everyone in body love… so we can redefine what weight all those words carry, neither positive or negative but neutral… nonjudgmental. I continue to wish for complete and total acceptance of everyone, exactly the way they are, freeing us all to be exactly who we are, no holds barred. Draw with us, you’ll see…!

– Colette

Vulnerable Girl

draw-my-body-4 draw-my-body-6

This picture was difficult for me to draw.  I drew it many times and I will probably draw it again.  As I drew this girl, all I could see was the way her eyes and face desperately asked for acceptance.  I could see her painful vulnerability and I wanted to just hug her, as if that would be enough to make her feel some self-acceptance.  When I painted her, the softness and beauty of her proportions and her vulnerablity really touched me.  She looks so anxious and nervous, as if her questionning whether or not she is acceptable is a life or death issue…

Maybe I’m exaggerating what I see in her but somehow I know just how strong this feeling is in her because I  have felt it in myself.  The body somehow knows it is perfect just as it is, I could feel that as I drew her.  It is not the body, but the mind that creates this relentless self-judgment in its search for perfection.  We align that perfection with what is socially accepted as beautiful – and even that changes from place to  place and from decade to decade.  The perfection is already there, we just need to open our eyes to see it.

Looking at these finished paintings, I just love her…I  am not sure if it is because she reminds me of my daughter or if it’s her expression.  She looks so vulnerable, I  just want to wrap my arms around her and tell her how beautiful she is. There is something about her. Her body is full of contrasts and painting them was so much fun, I completely forgot that I have no technique for painting… I just did it.  I  had fun finding the shadows and enhancing the light that is already there.  Thank God for fun and play and the moments of peace we find in play. Thank God for the  grace we receive when we play our way past the harshest inner critic.  I also love the fact that the light is always there already – the light on the body, the light of life, of the sun bring us up from our inner darkness.  We just need to keep our eyes focused on the light.

– Theresa

Modelling nude for artists as part of a self-acceptance process

Lilly_1Years ago  I started an informal figure drawing workshop to allow people to draw the human body, nude. Not from a strictly artistic approach… for drawing practice, of course, but also to practice the way we perceive the body in its many different forms. Unlike in art schools, where the models are screened, trained and paid, our models are volunteers, usually with no previous experience, and we rarely tell them how to pose. We let them find their own poses.

The not-paying of the models was something that happened by accident (lack of funds), but what we discovered was that when someone poses for free, the energy is different from if it was a paid job, because they’re giving us something very precious and vulnerable – their body, and their nudity. Some people may talk themselves into doing it for the money, but when it’s for other reasons, it’s different. We get models who are scared to death and others who are rather happy exhibitionists, but we don’t criticize or overly praise. We let them explore and find their own peace and right movement within their bodies as they pose.

Because many of our models are uncomfortable with their bodies and are challenging themselves to face up to a fear, some weeks, the model doesn’t show up. In that case, we just draw each other’s faces, hands or feet instead.

Lilly_2One week when I hadn’t managed to confirm a model, the regular artists were disappointed, so I offered to sit for them, but fully clothed. That was fine with them, but then I started feeling uncomfortable that I couldn’t practice what I preached, and with a mixture of reluctance and frustration, I took off my clothes and continued posing, nude. It was an important moment for me, too, to break through this barrier, and I was grateful for the presence of those whose pencils scribbled peacefully across their papers, not visibly more or less impressed by me than anyone else they’d seen; yet obviously grateful to have another human body to sketch instead of the endless folds of clothing.


The thing is, all human bodies are interesting! Some of the figure-drawing artists that come to our group have seen more nudes than a doctor, but their gaze remains one of impartial appreciation. I’m sure they have preferences, but the simple fact of being exposed to different bodies more often than most people makes them more accepting than those whose references are restricted to their spouse or the usual media images of the body.

I could feel the difference it made for me to face up to this fear, and the dozens of models that posed for us almost all shared similar experiences. Some told me they felt they stood taller after posing nude, walked lighter and smiled back at themselves in the mirror. And by the end of a session, there is a warmth and closeness with the artists too… if they can look at our naked bodies and not laugh or criticize (the way we do!), then we can all learn to be more accepting of ourselves too.

– Colette

Seeing the hidden beauty in each of us

I am working very hard at learning to love all of myself, a process that reminds me of peeling an onion. I pull off one layer, and uncover another, but I’m absolutely sure that each layer brings me closer to peace with myself. I am also convinced that so much of what I carry – what we carry – in terms of self-hatred, is passed down by our family’s and society’s views on our bodies.

I have a history of self-hatred. I know that I am not alone in this affliction. Some of us are aware of the hatred we carry, while others aren’t sure why they can’t stand certain parts of their bodies. I believe this lack of self-love is something that can be healed. I am certain this path of healing takes you exactly where you need to go, to grow. This gift of self-awareness can teach you compassion for yourself and others. I have worked on healing in various ways, one of which is taking nude photos of myself. I have been both the subject and the photographer. Both roles are healing. Each gives me a softer, more loving way of seeing myself and others.posernue1_wuafba

I am a very skeptical person. I doubt and question everything. I do not put my trust in very many things. I do, however, put my trust in this process for these reasons. The results I see, feel and hear in my own body confirm the healing nature of this process.

The first time I considered taking nude photos, I was working with a very kind person I had met at a health food store. I came to her with some of the health challenges I faced. She began to see me at home because she said she liked to help others. She helped me in so many ways. One, was learning to trust. She often spoke of taking nude photos as healing. She seemed so open and loving, I felt a need to try it. I had issues about pornography and I was very worried that she might turn out to be untrustworthy, after all. It was very hard for me to let go and trust. Yet, there was a chord that was touched inside me that yearned for this healing. I finally just decided to give it a try.

She took her clothes off as she photographed me, as an act of solidarity. She told me to close my eyes and feel the inside my body and to move in the way I wanted to. I had never done any of this before. At first, I felt very self-conscious. I was very aware of what she would think as I moved. Slowly I began to find a place inside me that felt liberated. To really be seen in a loving, accepting way, as you really are, is so freeing. I was exhilarated. I had climbed a mountain of fear and seen the possibility of absolute freedom on the other side.

I honestly felt completely loved and accepted. She did nothing to feed my insecurities or mistrust.

Later, I started taking photographs of other people too. I found that taking nude photos of people in nature gave me the gift of seeing them in a place of love and beauty. When I am behind the camera, I cannot see using my usual judgments. Everything I see is bathed in light, acceptance and love.

I continue to take pictures to explore things I need to love and accept. I have not found a more fulfilling way to touch the body with absolute love and to connect to the bliss of seeing the hidden beauty in each of us.

– Theresa