When I think of the word “beauty”, visions of nature comes to mind. Works of art, both visual and musical, come to mind. Precious, unique interactions between humans come to mind. When I try to narrow in on a human form that I would connect with the word “beauty”, it is occasionally an image of a stunning female or male in perfect form. But it is also an image of my beautiful 80 year old grandma before she passed away, with all her wrinkles and folds and the beauty that shone out of her eyes. It is an image of my precious nieces giggling and staring adoringly at each other. It is an image of one average person reaching out to help another average person. My perception of beauty, when I stop to think about it, has very little to do with the representations we've come to accept as beautiful, from magazines and movies and media images, but instead, has more to do with qualities in art, in human interaction, in human connection, and in nature, that bring intense pleasure and deep satisfaction to my mind.And I must confess that when I feel a connection with these things – heart-stirring works of art; a deep connection with a beautiful human being; moments beside a waterfall or rushing river – I feel the most beautiful. When I am able to slow down in life, able to take a day or two or three to slow down, to relax, to enjoy the sweetness of life, I feel the most beautiful. It is not when I dress up for work, or have a perfect hair day, or find the perfect outfit. Instead, it is when I get to live life fully. It’s when I get to gather a whole bunch of healthy food and cook a delicious healthy meal to nourish my body. It's when I get a morning to sleep in and luxuriate between my sheets and just breathe into the space of being and not having to rush off anywhere. It's when I have a spontaneous, serendipitous conversation with a stranger or a friend, where deep truths are spoken about and beauty and life shines out of both people.
I am now 38. I would say that as I age, thankfully, my sense of inner beauty affects my sense of my physical body. Yoga has been an important part of my life for about 10 years now, and due to the experiences I’ve had with yoga, I have seen a real transformation about how I feel about my body. The practice of yoga has, wonderfully, increased my sense of acceptance. I still have days where I judge and criticize my body. For sure. But more and more, I sense a kindness toward my body, where it is right now. A few months ago, I had knee surgery. I was unable to do much physical movement for several months. OF COURSE my body changed a bit due to that. Things are softer now than they were when I was doing yoga 5 times a week and running and biking. And I am quietly delighted to sense a peace about this, rather than a harsh criticism of myself. I am able to go inside, and find acceptance. And see the beauty in reality, the beauty in struggle, the beauty in healing. The beauty in loving ourselves as we are, right where we are. Again, not that there aren't days where my inner critic judges the jiggles very harshly. But there is a little more self-love. A little more understanding that “this too shall pass” - our bodies are constantly evolving, and the best that l I can do is accept, and love, and recognize beauty in each stage.The society that we live in makes it really tricky for us to accept and love and value our bodies. The media bombards us with images of thin, uber-fit, cut, ripped, zero-body-fat-bearing models. We see this in men and women. And the truth is, very very few people in our society actually look like that. The ones who do work very hard at it, eat very specifically, and usually have a reason to look like that. They're often models, actors, or fitness buffs who get paid to look the way they do. And good for them. But society, and the media, needs to stop holding them up as the model for how all people should look. We, average wonderful beautiful people, live busy lives with jobs and families and hobbies and interests that may be about more than just sculpting our bodies. And those other things, the families, the interests, the relationships, the experiences, and the human bodies that carry us around through it all, are what make us truly beautiful. Those things need to be elevated, valued, and magnified as ideals in our society, rather than the body images that are given such value in our society.
I was recently part of a photo shoot, in which I had to get naked. This photo shoot, and this piece of writing, are part of this beautiful project that two people are doing, about positive body image. I decided to go for this photo shoot after knee surgery, a time where my body was less “fit” than other times in my life. It was important for me to have the pictures done at this time, because I wanted to explore what it was like to accept my body as it is in this moment. I hoped the photo shoot would be a place where I could experience some playfulness, and freedom, in taking my clothes off in front of a camera, and seeing what would be expressed by working with a photographer who wanted to explore and promote positive body image. I hope that my pictures show some of the ease and acceptance that I'm learning to have about my body. I hope that my pictures express some of the peace and joy that I experience about my body through my yoga practice. I hope that my pictures reveal that a body that has some body fat, and some curves, and some jiggles, is beautiful. It is the container that carries everything that makes me, me. It is the vehicle that allows me to experience the beauty of nature, of relationships, of art, of living. For that, I am deeply grateful for my healthy, strong, always-changing, beautiful body.