JANUARY 16th: NEW MOON in CAPRICORN
Your Body is a Metaphor for the Cosmos
By Virgie Tovar
January used to be a month that caused great anxiety for me. As a fat woman, I saw the beginning of the year as an important opportunity to focus all of my energy and resources into attempting to force my body to conform to the thin ideal. I saw it as the beginning of a race. Even though I had lost that race so many times before, with each new year I was ready to double down on my commitment to conformity. I confused conformity with success, with love, with power, with meaningful investment in myself. In fact, it is none of those things. The drive to conform is a compulsion born of pain and our education in inferiority and sense of alienation.
I’d been convinced through toxic messaging that something was wrong with me— particularly my body. Even after years of identifying as a feminist, I was still deeply wedded to the misogynist practice of weight loss. I was actively invested in my own actual and metaphorical starvation. My suffering was in part because of the cruel, unrelenting reality of fatphobia (and its cousins: sexism, racism, and ableism) and in part because of my deep, unexamined commitment to maintaining the very system that caused me so much pain. I was both victim and agent.
We carry the culturally imposed sense of inferiority and alienation with us in our bodies. We blame ourselves for what are in fact culturally constructed problems. Fatphobia, for instance, is not about the individual failure to be thin; it is a bigotry ideology that sets us all up to fail. Ableism is not about the individual’s failure to be able-bodied; it is a bigotry ideology that makes us fear the beautiful fragility and finite nature of all human life. Transphobia is not about the individual’s failure to conform to the gender binary; it is a bigotry ideology that imposes inauthentic existence as normal.
January is an excellent time to examine our emotional and psychic investments. What are you emotionally committed to that does not serve you? Where do proactive, intentional divestments need to happen in your life? How do we take invisible or difficult-to-see investments and render them visible so that we can make decisions about their role in our lives?
This year I learned that often the things that hurt us the most are the things in which we have the greatest investment. Sometimes those investments are significant and worthwhile. When we are committed to a person and we find ourselves in the midst of painful conflict, it’s important to audit the investment we have in them to see if this pain is an inevitable part of our complex humanity or a constant source of disappointment because they represent some unresolved hurt within ourselves—a hurt from which we seek relief and redemption. When we are committed to pursuing an idea and we begin to feel emotionally enslaved to it, it’s important to look critically at our relationship to it so we can decipher the frameworks that make this idea precious to us. Is this idea a source of turmoil? What does my investment in this idea tell me about myself? Is this idea a manifestation of my true desire for wholeness or an artifact of unresolved pain?
Often we mistake investments in harmful systems (like misogyny, fatphobia, racism, and classism) for “desire.” Desire is understood in our culture as an instinct that exists in a vacuum, and is therefore above examination or critique. But that is not true. Desire is, in many ways, learned through an intricate system of rewards and punishments. Desire grows and is shaped through personal and social traumas.
The widespread “desire” for one single kind of body, for instance, is not some objective truth that has existed for all time. Rather, it is a destructive obsession—a cultural artifact of a centuries-old pain caused by colonialism. Through the magic of resiliency, we are capable of transmuting hurt into want. Through the beauty of our instinct to heal, our bodies transform something deeply alienating into something through which we seek redemption.
It is sometimes useful to bring a critical lens to the way we see and think of our bodies. Critique can be a loving act, and it can become a core part of our practice. What does the way we think about our body tell us about our investments? What can we divest from so that we can restore or build a sense of wonder, curiosity, acceptance, and love?
Our bodies are magical entities—made of the same materials that comprise the vast and mysterious universe. They transcend categorical assertions. All bodies are worthy. All bodies are good. Bodily “imperfection” is a myopic cultural concept used to bridle the limitless possibilities of human existence, of human love. The body is a metaphor for the cosmos.
Start with something simple, like breath. Breathing is actually a complex physiological and chemical marriage, but your body does it effortlessly—without a conscious thought—every minute of every day. It is through the breath that we are reminded of the possibility for peace, our connectedness to the plants and trees (who make breath possible), and to each other.
All of this happens corporeally. We often get caught up in the harmful practice of only seeing our body through the lens of utility (capitalism) and its ability to get us things we want (more capitalism). A capitalist relationship to the body is characterized by scarcity—the sense that we are never enough—because capitalism requires that mindset in order to create the sense of lack that leads to the perpetual pursuit of “more.”
Many of us find our body lacking. In fact, there is compelling research that most people are dissatisfied with their body. It’s easy to lose touch with the magic that our bodies perform every single day. So, let’s take a few minutes to reconnect.
Think of all the unsung tasks our bodies perform every day:
Our heart beats without requiring our attention, our lungs create breath that grounds us, our eyes detect thousands upon thousands of colors (so many colors that there are not enough words in human language to describe them all), each movement of our fingers or our legs is a graceful exercise in mechanics, our pupils dilate and constrict to modulate our experience of light, our skin perspires to stay cool and allows for the pleasure of sensation—the warmth of the sun emerging from behind a cloud while we sit on our porch, the gasp-inducing prickle of cold water when we enter the ocean, a lover’s touch, the way sand feels between our toes, the tickle of a puppy’s wet nose on our palm. Our bodies are the vehicles for every single one of these experiences.
There’s a mindfulness/grounding practice I love that reconnects us to our body through touch and gratitude. You’ll need anywhere from 5 – 30 minutes, your favorite oil (I recommend rose oil for its heart-healing properties), and a quiet place. You can sit down or lie down for this practice, and I recommend either being naked or wearing only underwear. Cover your hands in oil. You can start anywhere on your body that you’d like or—if you prefer direction—start at your head. Try to touch every part of yourself: face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, belly, thighs, calves, and feet. Say a small gratitude to each part. (“Thank you, feet, for carrying me. Thank you, hands, for letting me write letters to my favorite humans.”) Pay special attention to the parts of yourself you have a difficult time loving or accepting. When you reach those emotional spots on your body, spend extra time touching and massaging that part of you. In addition to offering a small gratitude, repeat to yourself: “This part of me is beautiful. This part of me makes me whole.” Familiarize yourself with the terrain of your skin, scars, lumps, bumps, treasured nooks, and even well-tread territory. Let yourself feel whatever comes up—delight, grief, wonder, anger. Our bodies hold all of this, and some parts of us hold more memories than others.
End with five deep breaths. As you breathe in and out, revel in the alchemical duality of your body as both something vast and infinitesimal. Revel in the fact that the elements that comprise your body are the same elements that comprise the planet and the worlds beyond.
Suggested New Moon Affirmation: “My body is a metaphor for the cosmos.”
Excerpt is from Many Moons 2018 Vol 1.
For more of Virgie Tovar, go here.