Elements of Embodiment, Part 4: Cultivating Self-compassion and Curiosity About Your Body

Person with colorful shirt and sun behind them looking joyful

In our process to make our bodies truly a home, we need to cultivate self-compassion and curiosity about our bodies, our sensations, and our experience of our bodies. I spent many years repressing and disconnecting from the sensations and feelings of my body, because they were unpleasant. I also judged my body because it didn’t look like I thought it should look.

As we cultivate compassion for our emotions and our bodies, we are also able to look at our bodies with curiosity and acceptance. For me, this was a big help in dealing with my dysphoria.

Cultivating self-compassion and curiosity is one of those things that is simple, but not easy, especially if you are still in a place of self-judgement, or even self-loathing. You can start with Metta practice. Also, the first step in cultivating curiosity is to be willing to stop and notice what you are internally saying about your body and sensations. For instance, if you notice a part of your body and think, “I hate that I have this”, first, don’t judge the hatred. Allow yourself to have it, and be compassionate with yourself about this hatred. And get curious about it. What is it that you hate? Why? It’s hard to cultivate your compassion and curiosity for your body if you don’t have compassion and curiosity for your feeling of hatred or dislike towards it.

I know this might sound counter-intuitive – if you are working to dismantle the dislike or hatred of your body, allowing yourself to have those feelings – accepting that you have those feelings – might feel like you’re going in the wrong direction. But you’re not. Any small step in full acceptance of things as they are is moving in the direction of accepting your body as it is in this moment (which is all we have, even if you are planning HRT/surgery, etc.)

And as you cultivate compassion and curiosity about your body and body sensations, something wonderful happens. You start to notice and appreciate pleasant sensations a lot more. Of course, repressing and disconnecting from the unpleasant also represses and disconnects from the pleasant. As you re-connect with your body, you’ll start to notice how everything feels. And you’ll find more joy.

This is an ongoing journey. I still sometimes judge my body, and dislike parts of it. But in allowing myself to have compassion and curiosity for my body, sensations and feelings, I’m so much more open to what’s pleasant and joyful.

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