Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You Can Dance If You Want To

This past Saturday, I took myself dancing. The evening began with a waltz lesson. Waltzing always makes me think of my dad, his 6'4" frame towering over my little 2-year old self, as we would waltz around the living room, me carried on the toes of his ginormous feet.

Now I am no dancin' queen (well, my private fantasies excluded!), but my elementary understanding of the waltz is as follows: waltzing has a tempo of 1,2,3,4,5,6 with an emphasis on the first and fourth beat. But what I noticed as I would take a turn with different partners, the beginners did not realize that the first beat is always on his left foot and the fourth on his right. And for the ladies, it is the opposite.

But this is what I love about this dance, if I start on the wrong foot, I can always get back on the right foot because the rhythm is so clear to me. Each time I shared this way of keeping ones feet straight, a lightbulb would go off for my partner as well.

During this period in the evening, an old English idiom popped into my head: "We must have gotten off on the wrong foot." If you begin on the wrong foot, inevitably you will kick feet with your partner, or trip, or both. And as I was thinking about this it struck me: I must have gotten off on the wrong foot with my dance partnership with my body.

This statement couldn't be any truer for me. It turns out that the origin of the idiom is actually based on an old superstition that if your left foot was the first to hit the ground in the morning it would supposedly bring bad luck. How many of us have started out on the wrong foot in our relationship with our bodies?

Perhaps we have been co-dependent with our bodies, like a love-hate relationship? How many of us have been involved for years in an awkward dance kicking ourselves in the shin and tripping over our less-than-loving body-concepts? How many of us have no idea how to begin creating a healthy partnership with our body so that this dance is more graceful and fun?

I feel my mind return to the simplicity of waltzing with my dad. How simple it was to just allow myself to be held on his sturdy and trustworthy toes, carried effortlessly. When I think about this newer body-relationship that I am growing into, this is what it feels like: a surrendering of the need to hate my body to be a "normal woman," a truce called on the vicious cycle of warring with my self-concept. It feels like returning home.

It is as though I am back in the dance, but I am no longer trying to lead. A still, small, gentle, loving and clear voice guides each of my steps like the firm hand of a good dance partner. This partner, who I think of as "Soul", tenderly tells me what I need to know to let go of a lifetime of trying to control the dance. I am no longer the leader, the one who needs to control each step and decision. I am not even a dancer, I am the danced.

Stay tuned. This is where we put our foot down (our RIGHT foot) and say, "Enough!" I will no longer settle for having two left feet when it comes to how I treat myself and others. It's time to take back our thinking about body, beauty and self-worth. This is the time to stop giving away our minds to the media, and our money to the multi-billion dollar diet industry, and to start seeing that we are nothing short of sacred.

Come dance with me. If you don't yet know the steps, do not let this keep you away. We will be learning how to hear and heed them together!

©Heather Barron

Monday, November 8, 2010

She Walks with Thunder in Her Thighs

So what exactly is The Clan of the Thunder Thighs?

When I was in middle school and high school, the worst thing you could have called me was "thunder thighs," a derogatory term used to call someone fat. I have never been a little girl in my build. I hail from a long line of strong Scottish, Irish, Polish and "Heinz 57" (as my mother called us) women. But growing up, I had no sense of this. My mother has always been petite and the family I grew up seeing most often was her side of the family. So my cousins were all trim and aunts and uncles too.

When I was nine years old, after being called fat by other kids, I begged my mother to let me go on a diet with her. She finally acquiesced, and thus began my foray into the American game of yo-yo dieting. I know she was being as loving as she thought possible at the time. And I was never easily ignored when I wanted my way.

But, if you google it, you'll see that yo-yo dieting is not only very dangerous and unhealthy, but it also leads to more overall weight gain for such dieters than those who never start to diet in the first place. The challenge was not the food, although I began binging and hoarding food when I was only eight (that story will come in another post). The challenge was not being able to see myself for who I really am - physically as well as emotionally and, most importantly, spiritually.

Somehow, we have become blinded by giving more weight to external opinions, beliefs and lies than the knowing that exists right inside our own hearts (how long have we known that even super models don't look like themselves in real life compared to their air-brushed magazine shots?). We know what me need, we have just forgotten. We've been distracted from realizing what we know to be true about ourselves.

And so, it was with the first line of a poem I wrote years ago, that I began to open my heart to this deep knowledge of my spiritual wholeness. I was in the midst of a terribly dark moment of struggle where I felt monstrously large (despite how healthy I actually was at the time). And I remember pinching my inner thigh with disgust and saying out loud, "I will always be cursed with these thunder thighs!"

And in a flash, it hit me: When did the idea of "thunder" become a negative thing? Think about it: Thunder denotes strength, power and force. When lightening strikes in the mountains, you don't laugh it off, you start counting the seconds between claps of thunder to see how close the power is getting to you.

I put my pen to paper. "She walks with thunder in her thighs." This was the line that marked a life-change for how I would choose to relate to myself from then on. It was in this moment that self-hatred, after years of suffocating my heart with the iron grip of its gnarly fingers, began to lose ground. And it has never regained full control.

In fact, it has led to this juncture in my path, the point where I am inviting all of us to stand in the power that lies inside of us, and say, "Thus far, and no farther." Walk out of this illusory prison with me. No man, woman or child need be a puppet controlled by cultural trends of success, beauty, or value. Our worth has never been dependent on a pant size (too big or too skinny), skin tone, fashion sense, or BMI. No scale, measuring tape, or mirror can give us value or strip us of it. These are inherent qualities in merely being.

And if you walk in this power than you are kin, you are in the Clan of the Thunder Thighs. And you are needed. Exactly as you most deeply are. And if you don't yet know your own strength in this way, but there is something that dances in your heart just to think about this kind of freedom - then you, too, are kin. And it's time to claim your inheritance!

©Heather Barron

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Move it or Lose it

On a balmy afternoon hike in the mountains behind my house this afternoon, one of my dogs halted suddenly in front of me blocking the trail. I poked her bum with my hand, nearly tripping over her, and said aloud in my best Humphrey Bogart voice, "Move it or lose it, Sweetheart." She picked up her easy trot again, and we continued on our way.

But that statement stuck with me. Move it or lose it. And in my writer's way, the way of heightened attention to any words heard or spoken, I began to wonder. What does this even mean? Lose what?

I've been thinking a great deal about atrophy and inertia as concepts lately. How when I am not using one of my skills or talents, it often feels like I'm losing my capacity for it. This has become most obvious in my experience of body. I am a relatively athletic and active person on the whole. But the past several months I have been committed to a project which has included gaining 40 pounds and intentionally letting go of a lot of my physical fitness and agility.

Now, what kind of project would require such choices? It's a long story and one that I plan to publish in a book by the same title as this blog. At this point a major part of this project is focused on paying attention to how different the world feels when lived in a heavy body, a body which feels weaker and more strained in even the simplest of situations (like jogging in an airport to make a flight).

One of my greatest joys is trail-running, a passion not hard to satiate when surrounded by endless mountain trails. But certainly one that is painfully kept just out of legs' reach in my current physical condition. So I walk and hike.

But the past few months, somewhat void of consistent activity, have resulted in feeling like parts of me are in the process of atrophy. Ankles feel rigid. Joints snap, crackle, and pop. Muscles moan and complain. I am clear that much of this is mental, and so here I find myself pondering atrophy as a spiritual concept.

When it comes down to it, my beliefs about movement are what have been atrophying. And as I walked along the trail today thinking of all the mental and emotional places in which I currently feel stalled, it occurred to me that these are the places I need to be exercising more focus and intention. Not surprisingly, my movement on the trail became more fluid and felt freer.

On that same walk, thanks to Sadie-the-dog, I realized that one of the things I have been putting off has been starting this blog. There is never going to be "better" time to get this started, to get moving. And I certainly want to move it rather than lose it!

So here is the first step. And it is one of many that lay before me, a series of steps that when linked together form a path. And this path is the way of the Clan of the Thunder Thighs! I hope you'll join me on the journey.

©Heather Barron