Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Embody Talk: Jan Lundy, Wise Woman

Jan Lundy, of Awakened Living and Awake is Good, is one of those women with whom you immediately feel comfortable. There is a peace that surrounds her and her writing. Immediately upon reading Jan, you will know you have happened upon an authentic soul who has "done the work," as I like to say.

She has come to a place of rational wisdom in her life, and we are fortunate that she shares so generously with us. I have been the recipient of her generosity in many ways beyond her blogs and feel grateful whenever I see her name in my Inbox.

What is the first story that comes to mind when you are asked how you feel about your body?

Wonder and appreciation.

For many years now, I've embraced the notion that my body is sacred in that it provides me with a pathway to the Divine. There is no other way for me to experience the Divine (God) except through this human body. Through my senses, eyes, hands, breasts, womb, feet, heart, brain, and more. Each of these allows me to perceive, feel, and understand the Holy in all of life. (I write about this in my book, Your Truest Self—how our body can be a gateway into wholeness / "holiness.")

I did not always feel this way. For most of my life, I was aware that I had been given a wonderful body but I did not appreciate it, nor take very good care of it. I struggled with it due to health issues caused by stress. I held unrealistic and unkind expectations of it. Not until I pretty much lost my health in 1994 did I create a new and more conscious relationship with my body.

Do you weigh yourself? Why or why not?

Once in a while. I can usually tell if I am off balance with consumption or lack of exercise by how my clothing fits. I have a "set weight" that I feel comfortable at and my body sure tells me when I'm not there any more. For many years, I was enslaved to a scale. I was a model in my teens, then again in my thirties, and the pressure to be thin was extreme. I no longer buy into that notion and don't count calories or measure inches. I trust my body's wisdom to tell me what I need to give it to be well and healthy.

How do you like shopping for bathing suits and/or jeans (or any article of clothing)?

Honestly, I don't shop much. I am now 56 and my body has definitely shifted and changed. I am into "comfort clothing" that feels good on my body. Tight jeans are a pain in the belly! (Ha!) I've also simplified my lifestyle so my consumer consumption has been minimized. I don't "shop" like I used to. I used to be a "clothes hound" in my younger years, but now I have a few good outfits for each of the various roles I play and that is enough.

How do you feel during the experience and after? What do you typically do about the feelings that are brought up?

If I do have to shop for a swimsuit, I try to be gentle with myself. If I hear a critical, judgmental voice, I shush it and hold myself in compassion. I wear a comfortable swim suit at the beach, one more suitable to my age and body shape. I am no longer too worried about trying to look a certain way anymore. I am definitely more comfortable in my skin. I am enough.

What unattainable/unrealistic Rules do you have for your body? (For example, some women believe that only a certain size is acceptable or that certain foods are “bad.”)

I don't, at least I don't think I do. I accept and like my mid-life body. Without extreme effort on my part (at this point in time, anyway), it is not going to look like it did twenty years ago . It is a mid-life body. It has seen five pregnancies, numerous injuries, and health challenges.

I do like being a size 10. It seems that that is my "set size" and has been for many years now. If I go beyond that, my body feels very uncomfortable and sluggish. If I drop down to an 8, it's usually a sign that my body is stressed and unhealthy.

I am a vegetarian, eat organic as much as I can, and don't eat processed food or out in restaurants very often. I eat sensibly and do not really deny myself anything. I do try to watch my consumption of sugar as my body doesn't metabolize it like it used to. (Makes me feel weird.) I don't consume alcohol either. My eating habits are pretty mindful, which supports my mindful lifestyle. Conscious eating works for me. I go with foods that make my body feel good and avoid those that don't. I do not believe in diets. Eating for health and longevity is for me.

When have you felt best about your body? or When do you currently feel best about your body?

I've felt best when I was exercising regularly. Exercise has always been a bit of a struggle for me. I start and stop a lot. When I was doing yoga especially (on and off for 35 years now!) I felt great. A closed head injury a few years ago prohibits me from doing rapid movement now or inverted positions, so finding forms of exercise that keep my body fit has been challenging. I have just recommitted to a daily walking practice and I am loving it! Feeling stronger and more fit every day. (Recently, I wrote about this recommitment on my blog.)

Also self-nurturing is very important to me. (That's what I wrote my first book, Coming Home to Ourselves, on—self-care.) I need good, regular sleep, and plenty of self-nurturing. Solitude, nature, long baths...various things that send my body messages of care through relaxation. My body responds in kind.

What kind of movement does your body crave or do you not notice this craving?

Right now, it's eager to swim! Just waiting for the weather to warm up here in FL so I can begin daily swims in the pool. I love the feeling of being in water. I think my body also might like to get back into weight training.

What story would your body like to tell if you were able to listen?

"Thanks, Jan, for paying more attention to me. I'm glad you've recommitted to taking good care of me. I'll serve you well, I promise."

Christine, thank you for posing these thought-provoking questions. It felt very healing and integrating for me to answer them publicly. May we all continue to embrace ourselves tenderly as we make peace with and learn to like (even love!) these divine bodies of ours!

Like Jan, I believe that our bodies are gateways to the divine and should be treated as such. No more desire for any kind of transcendence for this Chick! I want to sink deeper and deeper into the mud of my physical self and see what sorts of seeds are sprouting there.

How about you? Do you tend to separate your physical life from your spiritual?

(NOTE: Again, if you can't see the comments, simply click on the title of this post. You will then have access. I apologize for any inconvenience; I am working to remedy this (WEIRD and most ANNOYING) issue.)


Kel said...

thanx Christine for asking Jan such interesting questions

embodying is a practice dear to my heart and one which Jan models so well

Jan, as a fellow vegetarian i'd be interested in some of your favourite recipes

sema said...

Thanks for a great interview with Jan.She is one of my favorite bloggers who inspires me a lot.

Jan said...

Thank you so much for having me here today with all these wise women! I feel honored to be here and love the path you are taking us down to embracing our bodies as sacred. As I said in the interview, this has been a very long and bumpy road for me but I am thankful that I am in a place of greater acceptance today. I didn't get really kind to myself, nor self-accepting until my fifties. :-) There is wisdom in aging...

Kel and Sema, so nice to see you here. Today may you bless your bodies with lovingkindness. May we all.

Kel, I am not the greatest of cooks, sad to say. I just cook very simply, shopping at the farmer's market to buy local. Plenty of stir fry dishes, wraps, lots of salads (my husband and I truly LOVE salads of various kinds). Though I do make a pretty good veggie lasagna and chili!

A thought for today:
"Taking joy in living is a woman's best cosmetic." ~ Rosalind Russell

Laura Hegfield said...

Ahh such insightful questions and responses my friends. I was doing really well with learning to love my shape shifting middle-aged body in the past few years, but now have health new (in the past year) health issues, so I am relearning to love my body with it's new limitations...not an easy task. I struggled with an eating disorder when I was younger and chronic pain for many, many years...So for me, seeing/feeling/trusting/knowing that my body is indeed the sacred vessel that allows me to experience Divinity (as Jan mentioned) is the bridge that allows me to cross back into a place of gratitude when I am feeling frustrated or disappointed with my body.

Thanks Christine for posting this series...and Jan for your honest and thoughtful responses.
gentle steps,

Joy Tanksley said...

Jan - I am so glad I followed you over here to read this lovely interview and to discover a great new blog. I loved reading your beautiful answers to these super honest and to-the-point questions.

You mentioned your age several times and commented that your body isn't going to look the way it did 20 years ago. I just want to add that NO ONE at ANY age should feel ANY pressure to have some sort of idealized body. I think that women in their 20s and 30s often feel an undue amount of pressure to look like cover models because we think we owe this to the world - we're young, afterall. I often hear women who are 50 and beyond express this fabulous freedom and acceptance that they attribute to age, but I want the younger gals to know it is YOURS FOR THE TAKING RIGHT NOW! I am a size 10. I weigh 157 pounds. I have cellulite. My tummy is soft and round. And I am totally in love with my body. (Of course, I've done the inner work to get here.)

One more thing - sorry this is so long:
Christine - have you explored the practice of Nia? With your love of yoga and dance, I think you would LOVE Nia. I am totally addicted.

Lisa said...

Great post!

Wonderful wisdom.

Thank you.

Carolynn said...

Hi Christine, first timer here. I feel exactly the same way about Jan. A soul mate for sure.

Hi Jan. I love your answers. Very thought-full.

This is a big topic, ripe with all kinds of paths I could tear off down. Let me just say, for brevity sake:

- I don't believe in diets.
- I tossed my weigh scale years ago. It was creating a harmful environment. I do measure occasionally though.
- Mostly I let my body & my clothing tell me when I've indulged a little more than I'd like to.
- I feel my best when I'm active (not necessarily formally exercising). YET...I struggle with making it a daily part of my routine. *sigh*
- Whenever I find myself being critical of my body, I remind myself that God doesn't make mistakes and I'm beautiful just the way I am, thank you very much. If you don't like the way I look, direct your eyes elsewhere.
- I also remind myself that I will never be "perfect", and I rest in the knowledge that, as long as I'm doing my best, I'm doing well.

I give thanks daily for my health and the health of my loved ones.


Kel said...

the weather is still very warm here, and we're into big salad wraps with various cheese, chutney or dips (gaucamole is a favourite)

autumn equinox arrives here on the weekend and we're christening loghenge - and i will make open pies of roast pumpkin (squash?), sweet potato, fetta and pinenuts

Jan said...

I so appreciate your comment and this new leg of the journey you are on about body-acceptance, especially when you are experiencing such limitations with it. I commend you for working through this with honesty and tenderness to self. You are an amazing role model for all of us. May each day bring you ease. xo

I certainly agree with you that mid-life women feel just as much pressure to be thin and ga-ga beautiful. All we have to do is look at the magazine covers that shout "This is what 50 looks like," and then you realize that she looks like she's still 20! Oy. Talk about pressure. Not to mention Photo Shop. :-) So self-acceptance seems to be just as important at any age.

Hi Lisa and thanks! Blessings...

I love your verve. You are a woman who knows who she is and who she is not. I celebrate that in you, as I do all women who get to the place where we know we MUST live our truth or we will die....Be well and glorious!

Jan said...

Oh the celebrations sounds marvelous, as does the food. May these days be filled with simple pleasures for you.

svasti said...

What a wonderful interview! So good to read something by a woman who has lived through all the years of self-torment and come out the other side with a refreshingly self-loving relationship to her body.

Jan, you still look beautiful today and I much prefer women to look their age and be beautiful than be botoxed and face-lifted into oblivion!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here - it gives those of us still struggling with ourselves some inspiration :)

Kyla said...

i liked this article a lot, thanks for posting this, and for jan sharing<3

Jan said...

Nice to meet you. I appreciate how you said this: lived through the years of self-torment and came out the other side. Truly, I never thought of it in these terms but it is true and I thank you for putting a voice to this for me. May we remember, "self-acceptance is mine, one step at a time." Blessings to you!

Thank you and so glad you were here to lend your voice to this issue... Be well!

jchristin said...

Oooh, I'm *very* late to this talk. I belly dance, and a few years back I wanted to learn sword dancing. My teacher wanted me to be most confident so instructed me in a "my body belongs to me" class. Wow. I learned to love even the parts I'd never even noticed before! My body houses my soul, and I want my soul to have a beautiful home, so I try to give my body the same focus, freedom, respect, as I allow my heart and soul to have. I have to love and embrace all of me to share the same love with and embrace all of you. Life is precious, and we are one precious resource within it.