Wednesday, March 10, 2010

EmBody Talk: Mystical Mommy, Lisa Erickson


(For an explanation of this interview series, go here.)

Lisa Erickson writes the awesome and always thorough blog, Mommy Mystic. I love, in particular, some unique thinking and writing she does around the Chakras, the lower three being particularly relevant to this interview series and the issues that arise around our relationship to our body.

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

The first one that pops into my mind is not really a positive one, but one about facing vulnerability for me and learning to take care of myself. About 6 weeks after giving birth to my first child, I had a severe gall bladder and pancreatitis attack and had to have emergency gall bladder surgery. Then I had a severe reaction to some antibiotics I was given and had to be readmitted to the hospital (on Christmas Eve!) It took several months for me to get my health back, and the entire time, I was dealing with being a new mother, which for me (like for many women), came as quite a shock to my body and energy all on its own.

Up until that point, I had not been sick in many years, and I had always been able to 'count on' my body. I had danced growing up, and then studied martial arts very seriously, combined with some yoga, and was an avid back-country hiker. I was used to pushing through physical challenges. I had had a pretty smooth pregnancy and birth. So this sudden collapse of my health - I took it very personally in some way. I thought I was doing something wrong. I felt betrayed by my body, and angry with it.

Now I look back on that time, and see it was just part of a larger transition for me, part of learning to adapt to the energetic bonds of motherhood, and a much needed lesson on taking care of myself. I needed to learn how to balance my own needs with those of my family and others in my life. Ironically, I had already been doing chakra meditation for many years, and balance is one of the major themes of working with them, but I had lost sight of that lesson for myself. As someone recently said to me, "We teach what we most need to learn."

Do you weigh yourself? Why or why not?

In general, no. I do have a scale and may pop on it occasionally, but overall I no longer relate to my weight through numbers on a scale. That took some time, though. Since I did study dance quite seriously when I was young, I was pretty obsessed with the scale at one point. And I have balked at times during the last few years as I have seen my body begin to sag and paunch. I have never quite taken off all my baby weight, and I would like to, or at least some of it. But I'm not willing to get into a 'diet' mentality to do it. Like for many people, it just never works for me. So I am trying to focus on health rather than weight, on my body as a wonderful vehicle for so many things I love, rather than on what it looks like.

How do you like shopping for bathing suits and/or jeans (or any article of clothing)? How do you feel during the experience and after? What do you typically do about the feelings that are brought up?

Well, this question really made me think, because I am a lazy dresser and therefore a lazy shopper. I tend to just grab things that have fit before in the same size, rather than actually doing the dressing room thing. I could say I am just unconcerned with my appearance because I have bigger things on my mind, but that is not completely honest. The truth is, I don't really like seeing how I look these days in certain clothes, so I avoid it. This is something I would like to work on. I would like to indulge in some clothes that I truly love, that fit my body now, and completely let go of any lingering comparisons I have to my past body or a media-based image.

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 did have unattainable weight and size goals for myself at one point. I think I have finally accepted that I am never going to be the weight or size I was at 25, and that is OK! I have also accepted that I do love sweets, and coffee, and chocolate, and wine, and that banning them entirely from my diet is never going to work for me (all of which I have tried.) So I am focused on balance - filling my diet with lots of healthy foods that I love, but not banning any foods outright.

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

Three things popped into my mind when I read these questions: dancing, pregnancy and meditation. First off, I love to dance, although these days it is mostly around my house:-) And for the most part, I was fortunate to have good pregnancy experiences - I had my share of annoying symptoms but nothing too uncomfortable. Overall, I was awed by what the female body can do, and pregnancy really changed my relationship with my body in a positive way.

And finally, meditation, especially chakra meditation - this is probably my main doorway into my joy, my bliss. I relate to things vibrationally, and for me, exploring energy studies and meditation have helped me integrate the physical/emotional/mental/spiritual aspects of being human in a profound way. I love feeling my body vibrating with joy. I don't really know how else to describe it.


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

Sun salutations! Although I didn't list yoga in the last question, it is a critical part of my life. And I love a good sun salutation series. There is nothing like it for me, in terms of releasing and expanding. And hiking in nature. I walk in nature regularly, and sometimes, I just really need a good long hike to clear out. There is nothing else like that, either.

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

I think it goes back to that idea of physical/emotional/mental/spiritual integration, and that everything is vibration. Lately, I am very into mandalas, and the idea of our body as a mandala, our lives as mandalas. I think of mandalas as the structures through which we experience everything, including our so-called 'highest' spiritual insights. So this is what I am exploring, my body and life as mandalas, and that is the story that is unfolding for me.

Oh! I love that idea of the body as a mandala -- a container for the experiences that are our lives. Beautiful, Lisa!

I wonder in what ways that could change how we think of our bodies? Any ideas out there?

20 comments:

StorytellERdoc said...

Another great interview...

Megan said...

I love the mandala thing... Last week a book I was reading told me to meditate on the idea of courage and then make a mandala to represent it. I haven't done it yet... But my mind jumped right to the assignment with that answer and wondered... how would I draw the mandala of my body? My life? Hmmm...

Great stuff, as usual. Now off to read her blog too!

Yours,
Megan

Lisa (Mommy Mystic) said...

Thanks again for inviting me to participate in this. I was looking at the artwork of Alex Grey recently, especially some of his 'lightbody' and chakra pictures, and this really opened up my perception of the body as mandala too.

I also like to just color mandalas, it's very centering. I haven't yet tried drawing them myself yet though, but that sounds like a wonderful idea. I know Jung used to draw them and/or have patients draw them as part of therapy.

No One In Particular said...

Varicose veins. My one bodily nemesis.

Jan said...

I loved reading more about you, Lisa! You have such a poetic, yet straightforward way of talking about your life, journey, and, here, your body. I celebrate that you have "arrived" at a place of greater peace and love with your body. It is such a journey! I also bow to you for your honesty about where you yet want to grow.

Yes, the mandala piece is very interesting. To actually draw one out as representative of your body could be very healing. Thank you for the suggestion. Well, done, Christine!

(I'll be posting on my blog shortly with an update about how my commitment to "The Year of My Body" is going. I'll link my post to yours.) Blessings to you both! xo
awakenedliving.com)

Lisa (Mommy Mystic) said...

After re-reading this, I decided I had to come back and add something, for the record. It's been bothering me all day! I realized I kind of hedged on the question about body parts I've had problems accepting. It's my thighs!!!

I can handle my post-baby saggy stomach, I have an 'excuse' for that. But my thighs have always been with me. And when I was training in dance growing up, they always bothered me. I wanted long, lithe ballerina thighs.

So that's a new goal for 2010: I will 100% accept my things:-)

Brooks Hall said...

Wow, Lisa! Thank you for your thoughts on these questions. I just feel that you have conveyed so much with your words... In reading this I had this thought like: I feel safe with you. Good job. Well said. Thank you for sharing your connection to motherhood and lessons learned through navigating illness and motherhood. Your words here created a safe womb for hearing your story. Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

mermaid said...

"We teach what we most need to learn."

This is becoming my life story. I have suppressed so much fear, that it's taken up residence in every single part, every cell, every bone, every piece of soft tissue, every organ inside me.

As a family physician I have the curse and priviledge of confronting many people's fears about their bodies. It naturally awakens my own fears about my body.

I'm learning that my ability to be open, empathetic, and compassionate to their stories is a direct reflection of my willingness to be soft, pliable, gentle, and loving towards myself.

Last night in meditation, I allowed every single fear I have ever had to resurface. I tried to hold each one tenderly in my arms, in my heart, like orphaned children.

May I be free of fear.
I care about this fear.
May I hold this fear with kindness and compassion.

I can feel my heart growing. I know that one day it will be as wide as the sky and as deep as the sea.

I accept where I am right now.

Wilma Ham said...

I have to agree with the others who say that your honesty is endearing and very encouraging. The body for me has been an issue for me when I was young. Too thin, too tall, too this, too that. And the funny thing is that I was discontent with things I could do absolutely nothing about. How is that for making me feel powerless?
For me the big turnaround was being pregnant as well. I absolutely was amazed that my body could do a miracle like that. Since then I steadily started to appreciate my body. I never gave that much thought but this post reminds me.
I also have never given mandalas a thought, do not even know what they are, so I will investigate.
I have heard people speak about them but never been curious enough to dig deeper.
As Jan says, it is lovely to get more and more glimpses about who you are. I always like what I see :~)
Love Wilma

Wilma Ham said...

I have to agree with the others who say that your honesty is endearing and very encouraging. The body for me has been an issue for me when I was young. Too thin, too tall, too this, too that. And the funny thing is that I was discontent with things I could do absolutely nothing about. How is that for making me feel powerless?
For me the big turnaround was being pregnant as well. I absolutely was amazed that my body could do a miracle like that. Since then I steadily started to appreciate my body. I never gave that much thought but this post reminds me.
I also have never given mandalas a thought, do not even know what they are, so I will investigate.
I have heard people speak about them but never been curious enough to dig deeper.
As Jan says, it is lovely to get more and more glimpses about who you are. I always like what I see :~)
Love Wilma

Evelyn Lim said...

Oh gosh....I can't believe it!! I was also reading a book on mandalas for the past two weeks and am still on it. I have been creating one or two of my own but have not posted them online. My daughter has also started to get into them! I can't believe that a number of us are drawn to creating mandalas at around the same time.

Kaushik | beyond-karma.com said...

Very illuminating. Thanks for your honesty and openness. Men have body issues too, but particularly in western cultures women's body issues are wrapped deeply in the sense of self-worth, and the whole thing is gleefully promoted by magazines and industry. I remember when my daughters for a long time were wrapped up in clothes and hair and looks and approval in a way which seemed very unhealthy. The cultural pressures are quite acute.

Aurora said...

Great post - I think your honesty will help a lot of people. You gave some good advice.

Mon said...

That was great to read Lisa being interviewed.Lots of good thoughts here.
I love the idea of teaching what we need to learn.

Funny, I drew a zendoodle/mandala yesterday... still filling it in.
I'd like to hear more about the body as a mandala.

Thanks for the interview!

Alexis Ahrens said...

Lisa, I'm so glad a whole new audience had the privilege of reading your wise words! Loved this interview! I could really identify with so much of what you shared - the dance background, appreciating my pregnant body, health issues following birth, and coming to acceptance that my body will never bounce back the way it used to, though there's much I can do to feel and be healthy.

Regarding your point about not being willing to give up chocolate, wine, etc ...I have recently been reading "Potatoes not Prozac" which is actually about sugar addiction. I have never been willing to give up chocolate - it is such a huge part of the joy in my life. I realized through reading this book that "sugar sensitive" people feel this way about sweets due to a chemical imbalance in our brains. She addresses the whole thing from a physiological re-balancing perspective. I have a feeling this could be a huge game-changer for me, my moods, my focus, and my self-confidence, not to mention my body. I also suspect there might be a link between "sugar sensitive" people and sensitive people, in general.

Great to reconnect with you!

Christine, thanks for sharing Lisa with your BlissChick readers. Great interview!

Cheers!
Alexis

Laura Hegfield said...

Wonderful interview girls! I love the body as mandala concept...I visualize light/energy radiating out from my heart as I contemplate this. It is so hard for me to trust my body...this is something I have been working on/playing with for many years...still have ground to cover...being and embodied soul seems to be a process for me.

Lisa (Mommy Mystic) said...

Thanks all for your comments, and to Christine for this interview. I'm glad everyone likes the body as mandala concept, I think the responses here have prompted me to think about writing more about that myself.

Alexis - I did want to respond to you, because I do think there is a strong connection between sensitive people and food sensitivities, and I do think at one point I used sugar and carbs as an energetic 'shield' in a way. But I also think for myself that there is a balance, and that feeling 'denied' just on principle never worked for me. That's not true for everyone though, I do think it is very individual, and that everyone should experiment with foods and see what works. And in terms of your work, as you know, there are some strong connections between children's diets and certain conditions, that all parents should be aware of. Thanks for commenting!

Dorothy said...

The most frustrating comment I hear from women is there need to feel beautiful on the outside and thinking when they are not...they have no worth..I've been up down and all around with my weight all my life and I've always gauged myself with beauty from the inside out..

Looking at people from the inside out is truly what we all should do..their smile, sparkle in the eyes..and who you are is the real beauty of life.

blessings on your journey to who we are..

Dorothy from grammology
grammology.com

No One In Particular said...

I REFUSE to accept my varicose veins. We'll just have to co-exist, grudgingly.