The heArt Of My Nakedness

I am naked. I am free. And I don’t care what you think about my body. But it hasn’t always been that way. Sure, I’ve been naked plenty of times. Ask the public safety officers at my university and they will probably roll their eyes reminiscing about my pale ass running around campus on more than one occasion. But like the vast majority of the population, I am often fixated on my body image in an unhealthy way.

I recently had a very profound experience entering a state of slightly altered consciousness. While in this state of free flow I realized that I habitually and unconsciously contract my abdomen. Why? I’m not 100% sure, but I’m sure part of it correlates to trying to appear more attractive. Being on the beach it is easy to recognize this pattern of behavior. Watch a man walk past a woman he finds attractive and his posture becomes more animated; his chest broadens and his stomach sucks in. Continue to watch him after their paths cross and you will likely see his posture return to normal. I used to embody this man like so many others, sometimes consciously but most times unconsciously.

While in a state of complete relaxation, I felt a welling of compassion pouring out through my body and began to explore it with my mind. The biggest difference I felt in my body was that my abs were fully relaxed for the first time in what seems to be forever. I had been holding onto fears and insecurities, physically manifested in my contracted ‘six pack’.

Much of our fears originate in our guts. It is the root of our subconscious. The vagus nerve runs through our guts and is the location of our enteric nervous system, the ‘second brain’ of the body that is so incredibly powerful yet we have only scratched the surface of understanding its implications. When we get butterflies in our stomach or have a gut feeling, we suddenly become aware of the power of this second brain.

As I was riding on my motorbike a few days after my realization, a dog meandered out onto the middle of the road. Nothing out of the ordinary, the streets are littered with dogs and cows here in India. I felt my stomach clench tightly and a small moment of panic washed over me. My near death experience involving colliding with a stray dog in Vietnam was washing over me and holding me hostage. I took a deep breath and with dogged determination (pun slightly intended) relaxed my quivering stomach. Much easier said than done after conditioning my body to clench up in moments of discomfort.

And you know what? My fear quickly subsided. Without the physical manifestation of my fear being active, the fear had nowhere to latch onto. I thought, ‘How many hundreds of hours have I spent on a motorcycle since my accident, squeezing between enormous cargo trucks and weaving around everything from potholes to water buffaloes?’ It is completely rational to have respect for the dangers of traveling by motorbike with little protection from potential harm. It was very irrational of me to allow this respect to become a sometimes paralyzing fear that sabotaged my body and mind.

Upon further introspection I realized that this clenching of my stomach was blocking the flow of energy higher up my spine. The concept of kundalini, raising dormant energy from the base of the spine up to the crown of the head, requires a clear channel to flow freely. I was blocking that flow at my manipura chakra, near the solar plexus. (Upon receiving a reiki session last month, the giver observed that my stomach was resonating very strongly but my heart was much weaker.) I felt that I had so much love to give but this energy wasn’t reaching my heart or my throat for proper expression. Upon making this realization I felt an overwhelming rush of emotion and began sobbing. Those tears weren’t for anything in particular but for everything; the resistance I have held onto for so long finding an outlet. Compassion and sensitivity coursed through my body and it was extremely cathartic.

Afterwards I looked in the mirror to see if I still had red-rimmed eyes or looked presentable for society. Looking into the reflection of my eyes I thought I am always presentable as long as I am true to myself. Whether in one of my tailor-made cashmere suits from Thailand (which have hung dormant in my closet back home for the past few years) or adorned in nothing but my freckles and scars, what lies underneath is where the true beauty resides.

It just so happens that I had agreed to be a live model along with the amazing warrior woman Claire for our friend’s art retreat a few days before (you can read her account of the experience here). As the day approached I realized that this would be the ultimate test of accepting my body image and resisting the urge to suck my stomach in and stick out my chest. I set a personal challenge to be completely relaxed and vulnerable.

I realized that it is much easier to be fully exposed physically than mentally or emotionally. It was actually quite easy and natural to stand in front of a group of strangers, their eyes analyzing the contours and lines of my body. I had nothing to hide, no reason to be ashamed or feel self-conscious. Of course I was conscious of the eyes upon me but I didn’t feel any judgment in those eyes, and I didn’t feel a need to pose for these people, even though by definition I was doing just that.

When the final 45 minute drawing session was finished, the artists burst out in applause and gave their heartfelt thanks to Claire and I for sharing our bodies with them. I felt honored to have done so. They commented on the genuine beauty they saw within us and I knew that they weren’t referring to anything physical. And that’s the way that true beauty works.

I am making it my personal intention to consciously relax my stomach and to present myself as I truly am. Not as I feel I want others to see me. I know that this will not always be the case and that there will be many challenges along the way. But I feel that I owe it to myself to try my best. And I hope that everyone else can shed some of their insecurities as well.

As this kundalini finally moves past my solar plexus and towards my heart and throat, I trust that I will be able to love more fully and express this love effectively. So to all of you who have taken the time to read my blog over the years, who have been along with me for this astounding journey we call life, I send you my love and sincere thanks.

You are all beautiful beings. We are all beautiful beings.