Body Image

In our culture, looking good is a big deal and there’s a boatload of efforting and suffering that goes into trying to measure up. Inundated with images of young, thin, beautiful people, you assume that you should look that way too, and then advertisers sell you all manner of products to help you accomplish this impossible task!

Before you get your AK-47 to eliminate the young, thin, and beautiful among us or your violin to play a victim dirge, know that you do our part as well. It’s not enough for the culture to tell you that you should look a certain way, you have to believe it. You do it to yourself by buying into the story that you have to look perfect forever, if you’re ever to lead a happy, successful life.

The answer to this messy predicament is simple: finding a wise relationship with the body, one that you don’t suffer over. But how the heck do you accomplish that when images of perfection are everywhere? Not only is it possible, but you can create that relationship, right now. It’s possible to experience it in any moment.

Close your eyes and  imagine how it would feel to not suffer over how your body looks. “Hold on just  a minute,” you say. “You mean to tell me that I can stop suffering over how my body looks, just like that?” I know it sounds like a tall order when your realize that how we think about the body has been the source of endless suffering for so many of us! But the bottom line is: yes you can. The trick is a shift in perspective.

If we can learn to relate to the body from our own innate wisdom, rather than from ego, we can sidestep all that nasty, body identified suffering stuff. The most important thing is to move the notion of body from an intellectual understanding and into the direct experience of the “beingness” that you are. From that place, from the experience of yourself as being, the body is seen for what it is, a wonderful, beautiful, useful vehicle. More than any of the other Five Steps

or any of the other Skinny Thinking teachings, coming into a healthy alignment with the body is an experiential exploration, rather than an exposition from the mind. Huh? Just stay with me, here.

Take a moment to experience your beingness. What is your experience of looking out from your eyes? What does it feel like to put your attention there? We are so used to identifying with the appearance of the body and imagining how others perceive it, we forget that we are that which is looking and experiencing everything, rather than only what is seen. What does it feel like to be the looker rather than the seen?

When you experience looking out from your eyes, when you have an experience of your beingness, the role of the body falls into its right relationship, the right perspective. When you practice this you get taste of how Essence sees the body. From Essence, your body is beautiful, useful, and loved for those things. But Essence also understands that your body is a vehicle and not who you are.

From the ego, how your body looks and the shape it’s in are hugely important and are the basis for all sorts of overblown stories. “My body being this size means it I won’t be loved, I won’t ever be happy.” That pesky ego spins out nasty stories to keep us suffering and keep itself employed.

Essence, on the other hand, doesn’t need job security. It’s who we are so we can’t fire it! From Essence there is just a right relationship to the body. It appears the way it does and you’re grateful that it functions, and yes it’s different from someone else’s body and that’s okay. It’s not important. From Essence, what you’re body looks like has nothing to do with you’re lovability. You are precious to it no matter what. It’s like an unconditional loving parent, delighting in you no matter what you say or do or look like.

The ego has another shtick altogether. To it, the body is all about looks, an image of what it’s supposed to look like, what it means, and the story that you tell yourself if it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to. That’s how you create suffering: focusing on the belief that the appearance of your body means something about you: you’re a good or a bad person, with self-control or not, whether you’ll be happy or sad, whether you’ll be successful or a failure in your life. There’s a whole story that we tell ourselves based on appearance—and it’s false.

From Essence, there’s no story telling. There’s just appreciation, a love for the body because it functions, it’s useful, it gives you experience of being human and serves you. Dis-identifying from the body means seeing the difference between how the mind treats the body and how Essence treats the body. When you’re identified with the body, you’re mind or ego is treating the body in a way that’s not loving. Essence doesn’t do that.

From Essence there’s no comparison. Essence doesn’t say, “His body looks better than mine or wow I wish I could look like that in a bikini.” Notice how the mind’s always comparing bodies My body should be this way and it’s not. Whenever you compare, you’re in the ego, looking at the body.

When there’s no comparison, but a simple looking out from the eyes, there’s just a seeing of the vehicle that the body is. It is just as it is, with no judgment or characterization. There’s just noticing, “This is how this body looks now.”

The bottom line is that focusing on outer beauty is suffering. So why would you choose that? When you’re at the check out line at the supermarket and you see the magazines with bikini-clad women on the covers, they play right into the ego’s body identification and it’s need for your body to look good relative to other bodies. So my answer is: don’t look at them. Instead, say something lovely to the cashier. Be in the moment as the loving being that you are looking out of your eyes, recognizing that ego is in the magazines.

The ego can be anywhere, but if you’re coming from Essence, you’ll bring that out for someone else. Put your attention on being Essence in the midst of the egos all around you to help them connect with their own Essence. You can serve others in that way.

Here are some steps to take to help you begin to dis-identify from your body:

  1. Practice experiencing your beingness. Get intimate with what is looking out from your eyes, the experience of seeing rather than identifying with the seen.
  2. Stop looking in the mirror or at least make looking in the mirror a very quick experience. Just do what you need to do and move one. You know how they say, “ the devil is in the details?” In this case “ the ego is in the mirror.” The ego, through its “Critic” sub-personality, uses the mirror as a platform to tell you all the things that are wrong with your body. You can choose not to give it this opportunity by not spending a long time looking in the mirror.
  3. When you see your body and other bodies, notice where your noticing is coming from. Are you noticing from ego or from Essence? When comparison and judgment are present, “you know who” is also present and that’s where your seeing coming from. Luckily, the very act of noticing that you’re coming from ego plunks you right back in Essence. It’s as simple as acknowledging, “Oh that’s just the ego prattling on,” and ignoring it. Because the minute you buy into one thought, it has another one waiting for you and pretty soon it’s written a novella and dumped you right into a mind-created hell world.

Armed with these three steps you have the tools to experience the body in a whole new way, how the wise part of you or Essence has always known it. Thankfully, you can begin to honor and appreciate its service and marvel at its miraculous existence as consciousness manifest in form rather than bemoan its warts. In this way, you wake up out of body identified egoic hell. Good luck with creating the new habit of experiencing your beingness in each moment!