Body exploration

Confronting your inner critic

STEP 1

Bring to mind a part of your body experience that you have difficulty accepting. It could be a body part, and area of your body, or a global aspect of your embodiment (e.g. your fleshiness, your gender, your height, your sexuality, your symptom, etc.)

Bring it to mind right now. As you focus on it become aware of the inner chatter that’s going on. Listen for the voice of your ‘inner critic’ as it judges or reprimands you for your flaws and inadequacies. Give your critic two minutes of uncensored time to do its thing to you.

Now write down everything you remember hearing. Read the list back to yourself and, as you do, see if you get an image of this inner critic. Draw a picture of it. Give it a name that fits its character.

Just the act of personifying your critic makes it easier to deal with. As you go through the day, continue to listen for your critic’s voice. Keep a running list of the kinds of things your critic says to you and the life situations that propel it into action. Your task for now is to become very intimate with the behaviour of this part of yourself.

STEP 2

Here is an opportunity to begin learning why your Inner Critic behaves as it does. Visit once again with that part of yourself that you met in the previous exercise. Bring it vividly to mind in your imagination, or look at the drawing you made of your Inner Critic. Begin a written dialogue between your Inner Critic and your Centre (the part of you that is the most centered and whole). use your dominant hand to represent the Centre, and your non-dominant hand to represent your Critic. Ask the Critic questions and listen carefully for the answers. (What are you trying to accomplish? What do you want from me? What do you want for me? What are you afraid might happen if you didn’t tear me down?) See if you can discover the positive motives that underlie your Critic’s negative behaviour. Continue the dialogue until you can find more satisfactory ways of accomplishing these ends. (You may have to do this over time).

  • What does your Inner Critic need from you so that it can let up on its critical behaviour? (Be specific about the changes you will need to make in your attitudes and behaviour. Are you willing and/or ready to cooperate?)
  • What needs to change in the way you view yourself before you will be able to stand up to your Inner Critic? What could you do to bring about the needed change?
  • What kind of support do you need in order to deal constructively with your Inner Critic?
  • What are you trying to accomplish through your Inner Critic’s behaviour? (What needs are you trying to satisfy? What are you trying to prevent or avoid?)
  • What new skills, attitudes and bhaviours can you come up with that can satisfy these needs in a healthy way?
  • How and where in your life can you constructively use the energy, power and abilities of this part of you?

What does Happy feel like?

Think of a situation from your recent or distant past that made you feel happy. Recall it in detail as if it were happening to your right now. What is happening? What about it makes you feel happy?

Every emotional state is expressed as a body pattern. Without a body you would not be able to feel emotions at all. Where in your body are you experiencing happiness? What does “happy” feel like? Notice how this emotion transforms your body. Pay attention to your posture, your facial expression, the quality of your breathing, the way the world looks to you. Walk around and experience how your move. memorise the “happy” body pattern. Let it go for now, but later on today “try on” this pattern and experience how it transforms your mood of the moment.

You are what you eat

Today, make a point of going shopping for food in an enlightened way. As you move down the aisle deciding what to put in your shopping cart, try this exercise:

Contemplate each food you are considering following this example:

  • These oranges are going to become me!
  • This dead chicken is going to become me!
  • This bread is going to become me!
  • This fried dough is going to become me!
  • This box of chemicals and additives are going to become me!
  • These fruits and vegetables are going to nourish my heart, bones and organs.
  • These foods that I put in my body will influence my body chemistry, my moods, and my health – and by extension my whole life.

Heavy Cloaks

Your body is a powerful expressive instrument, communicating your innermost feelings and attitudes with the outside world. Your mind affects your body and your body in turn affects your mind. Your attitudes translate into chronic body patterns that colour your experience of being in the world. Think of some of the less favourable attitudes you carry that you are convinced are “true” statements about your body. Make a list of the, (I’m too old, I’m unhealthy, I’m too fat, etc.) Imagine that each of these labels or attitudes is a cloak that you can put on or take off. Choose one to explore right now, and make a commitment to explore the others later.

Stand still and close your eyes. bring to mind the attitude that you will be exploring. Try it on as if it were a cloak of identity, and let yourself really experience it when you identify yourself this way. Walk around with this attitude, exaggerating it a bit to make its impact clearer. Notice how you are feeling – your posture, carriage, facial expression, sensations, thoughts, feelings, body tension patterns, impulses etc. How does it feel to be in the world when you define yourself this way? How does it limit you?

Now take off the cloak and experience what it is like to let go of this attitude. Keep walking, and notice how you feel without it. What changes occur in your carriage, expression, tempo, movement, impulses, thoughts? Who are you without it?

Write about your experience.

Eyes of Love Meditation

This meditation should be carried out in front of a mirror. Read it over several times before carrying it out.

Close your eyes, and take several deep, relaxing breaths. Now bring to mind someone you love – human or animal, past or present. Imagine that you are looking at that love object, and feel the way love alters the quality of your gaze. Notice how the eyes of a lover are soft and open.

Now open your eyes, and look at yourself in the mirror as if you were looking at someone you love. Allow your eyes to bathe your body’s reflection with your gaze, caressing each feature of your body with your loving eyes/ Linger especially on those areas of your body that needs love the most. Remember, when you look at someone your truly love, you do not judge or criticize them. You accept them as a beautiful whole, not as a collection of flaws. Look at yourself now in that loving way.

Look into your eyes. Recognise that this is a holy moment in which you have the opportunity to behold the uniqueness of this particular human being. You. let yourself become aware that behind these eyes are unmeasured reserves or endurance, wit, and wisdom. Become aware of the pain behind these eyes, failure, losses, grief beyond the telling. Consider that there are gifts that are yet undiscovered. Reflect on how these powers could server the world in which you live. open yourself to the depth of this being you see in the mirror and the beauty of the body that contains it.

 

What will it cost you?

Write down ten limiting beliefs that you have about your body. Each day for the next ten days, choose one of these beliefs, and explore what it has already cost you in your life. How has it limited you? What have you held yourself back from experiencing because of it? How has it affected the way you treat yourself and your body? What will it cost you in the future if you don’t let it go? What can never happen in your life as long as you give credence to this belief? In what ways is it absurd to believe it?

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Excerpts from ‘200 ways to love the body you have’ by Marcia Hutchinson…

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