Love and Acceptance with Mindfulness

The message is this …

Love yourself, whether skinny or plump, heavy or light, tall or short, good skin or bad skin, beautifully healthy, young looking hair, or gray and brittle hair. Your feet and legs are beautiful even if they are unattractive by societal standards, simply because they are “your” feet or legs. You are the only “you” that will ever be, and your unique body is a part of that wonderful individuality.

Love Your Body Now:  How to Develop a Healthy Body  Image with Mindfulness

[Dr. Celeste Ruland] Facebook group

I am sure you have seen the commercials. Impossibly skinny, beautiful, slim, trim and seemingly happy individuals hawking everything from alcohol to auto insurance, and watches to weight loss pills. The “Religion of Skinny” preached by marketers chasing your checkbook uses fear and judgment in the hope that you will join in their chorus. The message is everywhere, you see and hear it all the time, in a relentless, endless onslaught that attacks your power of reason and your emotions, in an attempt to make you feel incomplete, less than human, and both personally and socially irresponsible if you are overweight.

This is not a healthy religious movement for anyone to join.

How about moving to compassion and away from judgment when you look at yourself in the mirror? What’s wrong with recognizing and observing who you are, what your body looks like, your feelings and thoughts about your body image, without casting judgment? A multitude of marketers and businesses want you to judge your unique and beautiful self by their standards. Does this make any sense at all? They don’t even know you. They don’t know you are. They want you to conform to a “cookie-cutter” model for the human body. But you are not the same as anyone else, you are unique and positively individual.

They believe that men should look like this, and women should look like that. Their hope is that you will believe their tainted message that purchasing their products will make you a happy, complete and full person, able to realize all of your dreams and desires. They also preach that if you do not buy their products and believe what they say about body image, you are a failure as an individual and a member of society, and you should feel shame and regret.

By the way, “get skinny or else” was not always the prevailing message of the day regarding body image.

In the early 17th century in Europe and elsewhere, women who were voluptuous and overweight or even obese by today’s standards were considered beautiful and desirable. Sir Peter Paul Rubens lived then, and is considered one of the most celebrated and prolific European artists of his time. His premier focus was painting women who were “attractively plump”. Women of this body shape were known as Rubenesque because of the painter’s proclivity to paint women true to the prevailing idea of the day that big was beautiful and thin was definitely not in.

Today’s skinny supermodels, actors and celebrities would have had a difficult time in Ruben’s world.

So the question remains … who is right? Were the men and women of the 17th century correct to vilify being skinny and celebrate “big”? Are today’s money-hungry marketers right to shame you into hating every ounce you weigh over slim and trim”?

The answer is … they were both right, and wrong.

The norm of body shape, size, weight has changed over the years.  Beauty should be found within, because when we accept who are we, and remain healthy inside and out, this shines through as beauty more than six pack abs.

Another important fact is to remain healthy – eat whole nutritious food, exercise, sleep well, avoid overconsumption in food and in toxic ingredients.

Being comfortable with who you are is a trick. Those beautiful women over the centuries felt beautiful because they were comfortable in their skin.  They were mindful of what they looked like to themselves, and to others. This confident “I am who I am and I accept it without judgment” feeling they had was, and is, attractive. When you truly accept and embrace your body, you give off an air of desirability. Humans are attracted to confidence, no matter the body shape or size. You feel good about yourself, so everyone wants to be near you.

That isn’t to say that you must be desired by others to feel good about yourself. 

The opposite is true when you love and accept who you are. You accept and love your body and your mind without judgment, and you care very little or nothing at all about what others think. But humans were meant to socialize. We are drawn to those we consciously and unconsciously see as having traits we would like to possess. This means your love of your body can help you have a full, happy life emotionally, spiritually, financially and socially, whether you are big or small, fat or skinny, or somewhere in between. You can change the norm!!! It doesn’t matter if you have amazing hair or every day is a bad hair day, and whether your skin is healthy and young looking or you proudly where the age spots and wrinkles that have been well earned. Be confident. Stay confident. Confidence = Beauty.

You also serve as a wonderful role model to others, spreading the message of “you are perfect as you are” rather than “get skinny or be unhappy”.

Gregory Peck, Richard Roundtree, Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando were male sex symbols when they were both fit and overweight. Beyonce now and Sophia Loren then are and were curvaceous and round, and the image they broadcast of being happy with themselves certainly didn’t hurt their careers. On the contrary, their confidence acted as a magnet to others who wanted to be around those positive women.

The message is this …

Love yourself, whether skinny or plump, heavy or light, tall or short, good skin or bad skin, beautifully healthy, young looking hair, or gray and brittle hair. Your feet and legs are beautiful even if they are unattractive by societal standards, simply because they are “your” feet or legs. You are the only “you” that will ever be, and your unique body is a part of that wonderful individuality.

Don’t let society tell you what is “right” or “wrong” about your body. Nothing is right or wrong. You are who you are. Becoming truly aware of the self-image you have of your body with acceptance and recognition, rather than shame and judgment, leads to the happiest, healthiest you in both mind and body. Mindfulness can help you reach that understanding.

5 Simple Steps to Mindfulness

There are a few very easy ways to make peace with your anxious brain. Celebrated Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a healthy 90 years old and has lived that long partly because he has accepted he is the human being he is. Total acceptance is peaceful. It removes stress and anxiety from your life. Stress is at the root of so many mind and body diseases and illnesses. When you use the following 5 simple steps to being more mindful that are personally recommended by Thich Nhat Hanh, you can “create a moment of joy, a feeling of happiness, at any time of the day.”

1 – Breathe Mindfully

Don’t overlook the power of this simple tip. You can improve your self image, and how you feel about your body, simply by enjoying a mindful breathing exercise. When you breathe in, recognize that this is the air you are bringing into your body. Express it as such. Hold your breath for a short moment and then release it. Understand that this is the breath you are putting back out into the world.  If counting works better for you, breath in on a count of 4, hold for 4 seconds, then breath out for a count of 4, repeat 4x, do this through the day.

2 – Learn to Concentrate

When you breathe, when you walk, when you eat … concentrate on exactly what is going on. This makes you aware of the present existence you are living. That is all there really is in life, by the way. There is only now. Your home is “now”, not yesterday and certainly not tomorrow, not 10 seconds ago and not 10 seconds from now. Concentrate on right now and look at your body right now. Be aware without judgment, continue to be mindful each present moment, and this leads to an uninterrupted mindfulness of who you are.

3 – Be Aware of Your Body

Let’s look again at breathing. As you recognize your in-breath, tell yourself that, “I am aware of my whole body as I am breathing in.” Do the same when you breathe out. Understand that your body is “there”. Constantly bringing your thoughts back to your body in the present moment, without judgment, blends your body and mind together in your present reality. This is the only honesty in your life, who and what you are in the present moment.

4 – Release the Tension

Becoming aware of your breathing and then your body reveals where you may have built-up tension. It matters not whether you are standing, sitting or lying down. You can be driving your car and become mindful of your body while you are also mindful of your driving. Once you recognize tension, tell yourself, “When I breathe out, I exhaust the tension from my body.”

5 – Mindfully Walk to Meditate

Being aware of your breathing leads to an awareness of your body. As you literally breathe in positive energy and breathe out exhaustion and tension, begin to put one foot in front of the other. You will soon become effortless in your ability to be mindful of everything that goes on in your body when you walk. Every step is a joy, whether it is difficult or easy. The joy is in you experiencing that step in the present moment, not in whether it is simple or hard. (I meditate while I am doing the dishes “Active Meditation” – I am doing something, staying active, but only concentrating on that one thing as well as my breathing).

How to Add Mindful Meditation to Your Daily Routine

Practice those 5 steps for just a few minutes and you will feel a sense of calm and peace wash over you. That simple practice can lead to so many positive feelings of who you are and where you are in the world that you will look for every opportunity to practice mindfulness. Here are a few tips to help you add mindful meditation and acceptance of your body to your daily routine.

  • Noted American Buddhist teacher and author Jack Kornfield recommends creating a meditation space. While you can practice mindfulness anywhere, there should be a specific, quiet, calm, meditation-friendly environment you can retreat to regularly. After time, simply entering this space prepares your mind and body for mindfulness.
  • Create a mindfulness schedule. This can be at work, home or in your meditation room. Science agrees with meditation experts that creating a regular schedule and sticking to it boosts your chances of success at any endeavor.
  • Sit with your back upright and your face forward, sitting straight without being rigid. “Feel” your body as you practice the breathing techniques mentioned earlier and begin recognizing your present moment.
  • If your mind wanders (and it will), that’s okay. Recognize whatever thought that is taking you away from being mindful, then put it away and focus again on your in-breath, your out-breath and your body.
  • If your breathing speeds up, slows down on remains at a constant rate, recognize this. Don’t influence it. Let it be. Make your home “right now” in mind and body.
  • Perform a body scan. We will show you in this next section exactly how to develop a powerfully positive and accepting body image in just 10 minutes.

How a 10 Minute Body Scan Can Boost Your Body Image

Performing a body scan doesn’t necessarily mean x-rays or cat-scans. There is a different type of scan you can perform on your own body that leads to a mindful recognition of who you are as a unique individual. As arguably the world’s leading mindfulness expert, Shamash Alidina calls the 10 minute body scan “… a good excuse to simply lie down and do nothing.”

You truly get in touch with your body, and you release any thoughts about responsibilities and things you have to do.

Negative emotions are pushed away, and you train your attention to different parts of your body in turn. This practice teaches you to move back and forth from a very narrow focus to a wider awareness of your body. You will understand individual body parts as small as your toes, while also being aware of your entire body simultaneously.

Many find themselves falling asleep while they are performing this body scan, the process is so calming and peaceful. If this happens, that’s okay. Don’t become angry at yourself for nodding off. When you awaken, take a deep breath and begin again. Move and “shake out” your arms and legs, relax, return to a comfortable lying position and go through the scan once more.

How To Perform a 10 Minute Body Scan

It is up to you whether you begin at your head or your feet. What you are going to do is slowly scan through your body from the top to the bottom, or in the other direction. You will become aware of each individual body part as well as how it connects to your entire body. It is highly recommended to seek professional guidance during your first few scans. There are wonderful videos online that walk you through this process, or you can enlist the age of a professional meditation and mindfulness expert in your area.

Be aware that if you don’t have 10 minutes, you can have a shorter body scan which is a little more intense, in just 3 or 5 minutes. Once you become adept at this self-awareness practice, you can improve your body image and mindfulness of your physical being with a 15 or 20 or 30 minute scan.

The body scan can be performed seated, but in the beginning, find a comfortable spot to lie down. To help focus your attention and cut out external distractions, close your eyes gently. Begin by taking a few deep breaths. Expand your diaphragm fully, experiencing every part of your in-breath.

Hold your breath for just a second and then release. Be aware of your out-breath. Just 2 to 5 repetitions is usually all that is required to move you from your previous state to the present moment. Remember, you are only existing right now. You are entering the present, and to do so, you must be aware of your breathing, something that usually happens unconsciously. Becoming consciously aware of every single breath makes you aware of your body, since breathing is just one of many automatic body processes you undergo thousands of times a day.

As you move into the present, begin to get an overall sense of your body. How are you seated or lying? You may fidget around until you get comfortable, being aware of every part of your body that is contacting the floor or your chair. You are not being specific here, and focusing on any one body part. You simply want to get an overall “scan” of your body and how you feel.

Do you feel tension in any part of your body? Are you tight or loose? How is your body “feeling”? Is your body trying to tell you anything? In this process you will often times discover that this focused awareness on your body reveals some physical health condition you want to mention to your doctor later. In the rushed, excited, hectic, “go, go, go” life you probably experience throughout the day, it is sometimes difficult to be aware of health problems that are trying to get your attention. Those issues are sometimes revealed during a mindful body scan.

Understand that your body, mind and spirit are all connected. This means you should take a moment to recognize and accept your emotions. Are you frustrated? Do you have a neutral feeling? Are you happy, sad, and looking forward to something, regretting something you did? Try to focus on the present moment. Even as you are scanning your emotions in the present, past and future feelings and expectations may arise. Experience them, recognize them, and then return to the present.

Now you want to scan your mind. Is it restless? Is it calm, clear and focused? Bring your mind to a current acknowledgment of your existence right now. When your mind, body and emotions are existing only in the present, you begin a detailed body scan.

Without judgment, begin to recognize your head. Use your mind and your spirit to experience your head from your crown to your chin, through your forehead to your eyes and ears, your mouth, chin and throat. Recognize each part individually and focus on it, while also being open to how your entire body feels.

Move down into your shoulders and chest, through your sternum and into your stomach. Continue this scan down through your hips, thighs, knees and calves, and into your feet and toes. There is no correct or incorrect amount of time to spend on each body part. If at first you plan a 10 minute scan, because that is all the time you have available, and you don’t make it entirely through your body, that is fine.

It will take some time for you to develop an unconscious “schedule” for scanning your body this way. Eventually, you will find that you can enter this state, perform the scan, relax for a minute after the scan, and do so in a 10 minute time-frame. Alternately, you may start at your toes and move up through your body.

Truly getting to know each individual part of your body, and your body as a whole in relationship to those parts, leads to a better image of self. This process also calms your spirit, mind and emotions, and makes you more aware of who you are as a complete entity. This also helps you shut out unhealthy body image messages the world tells you that you should listen to, and allows you to appreciate and love the individual you are.