I am a body. My mind is just as much a part of my body as any other body part. My thoughts and my feelings are from my body. I am my body. I knew this as a kid. Being me, being my body, being embodied was natural. I liked to play in mud. My body felt good playing in mud, so I felt good because I am my body.
In learning to be part of my human community, I was taught that my mind, body, and soul were all separate. I was also taught that playing in mud was bad because it was dirty. I learned to separate myself even further into what people liked and did not like. I tried to keep the things that people didn’t like hidden, because it hurt me to share them with people. I built an ever-evolving version of myself that was based on protecting myself and being accepted by my human community. Over time, that version of myself was all I knew about me. The hidden part that I was protecting was hidden even from me.
The version that I was living hated my life. I was so cut off from who I really was and could be. I was so split from myself, my body, trying to fit into what was expected. The expectations always changed depending on who was saying them or how that person was feeling in that exact moment. Trying to meet that constantly moving expectation was not only exhausting, it was further and further from being myself. I was trying to be good all the time, so my soul would be safe. I was trying to think about how to do that, so my mind was constantly worried and crushed by trying to contain all of the things I had heard people expected of me. My body was controlled by how others thought it was supposed to be based on one specific part of my body that was supposed to be private, but everyone needed to be sure what it was by assigning me letter grade of F since before I could remember. This controlled what clothes I was allowed to wear and not wear. This controlled what activities I was allowed to do and with whom. This controlled how I was allowed to speak and not speak. And the list goes on.
I hated my life. I tried to cultivate my soul, hoping that when I died things would be better. If I just did enough right things and as little wrong things, maybe my soul would be okay after I died. I thought about that a lot.
The first thing I realized was how fractured I was in all the versions of myself. I realized that the versions of myself I was using to protect myself had actually been taught to hate the version of myself they were meant to protect. I decided I wanted to be myself. But the unwinding took time. It took years. But no other choice I’ve made in my life has been more beneficial. No other choice has allowed me to live my life more than deciding to live it as me.
When I learned body scans, that’s when I started noticing that the mind and the body are one thing. I would focus on my breath and move my focus slowly through my body from feet to head, until I felt connected to every single part. When I learned loving-kindness meditation, that’s when I started cultivating an inner sense of love for myself that I hadn’t felt since those days I played in the mud. I would practice feeling a sense of warmth, as if a sun was glowing from within my body. If I had a feeling that was hurtful, I would surround that feeling with the warmth and nourishment of the sun. At first, my sun was a tiny spark. But the spark felt good, so I cultivated it over years and years from that tiny spark into a sustaining fire.
Most recently, I have been enjoying the idea of humans as animals. I feel like an animal. I know I am an animal. When I allow myself to be an animal, there are no more fractures. I am no longer separate from myself as an animal. As an animal, I am myself. As an animal, I feel that child me come alive. I feel connected to myself and my environment as an animal. I am no longer separate. I am a body that likes to play in the mud.