You: Does my bum look big in this?
Tree: Yes … I can’t see you but I can hear you and according to your thoughts, your bum and your tum are very big and you are not very present in your body.
What would the tree say to you about your self-talk? Do you have a favourite phrase or commentary you like to use when it comes to your body? When did you start seeing yourself from the outside? How old were you when you stopped participating fully in your life and began to build a perch for your monkey-mind? Was it when you started to look in the mirror? Monkey-Bod-Mind arrives young these days, helping girls (and boys for that matter) picture what they look like while they go about their lives. Along with his muscly army of helpers, from screens to social networks, to ‘how many likes’ and fame-yearning creation, he’s a smooth operator. By the time they’re young women, on top of that Monkey-Bod perch, inside their minds, is a privately owned movie theatre where they’re the leading lady, obsessed with what’s on the screen, listening to the relentless voiceover … how other people might be seeing them, or more precisely, their bodies, their skin, their hair, their eyes, their body mass.
You might have experienced it yourself, walking down the street with a friend, running for the bus, standing in a lift, making love to your partner … suddenly the screen inside your mind pixelates to life, projecting what you look like from the outside in. You become immediately involved, listening to the soundtrack that tells you you’re not quite right, you’re body isn’t good enough and you become too engrossed in the picture to wonder why the cinematographer and screenwriter are not being kinder to your form.
We live in a world obsessed with objectification so It’s only natural that we internalize this objectifying gaze and end up concentrating on what other people see (or what we think they see) rather than how we feel and what we’re doing. How could we not become self-objectifying fools when we’re so immersed in objectifying foolery? “You too will be happy and successful and powerful when you look like this!”
Hopefully though, one day, we’ll grow tired of our movies and start to leave the theatre early, discovering a meta-cognition that will help ground us in our true mind—one who craves a single pointed focus without the chatter of our Monkey-Bod-Mind, telling us we’re too ‘_____’ or not ‘_____’ enough (you fill in the blanks). This running commentary with or without an internal picture show creates a two-pointed focus, sapping our energy and denying us of being truly present. Try writing an assignment while worrying about your pimples or delivering a presentation while thinking you’re in a substandard body. If you tried to sew with a two-pointed needle you’d soon have tangled thread. So it is with our thoughts and our minds.
There’s a whole movement of neo-feminists who are rising, to celebrate women’s bodies in all their shapes and sizes, championing disrobing as their new-found power, ‘I own my body, in all its glory and here it is! For all the world to see!’ And they are dutifully rewarded with likes and momentary fame.
How wonderful that they’re subverting the damaging values of, ‘She is slim, therefore she IS!’ but what will happen when they get to the end of their trail-blazing? Will the next logical step be for us all to take our clothes off? In celebration of our body-obsessed culture? ‘See my body, therefore I am!’
We all yearn to be seen. To be heard. We are relational beings who NEED a certain level of witnessing and attention. Right now, a lot of that witnessing is being played out (along with bucket loads of judgment) on smartphones and via text messages. I’m working on how to encourage a different kind of meaning for ourselves and our girls. One that starts with acknowledging the Monkey-Bod-Mind. Noticing what the commentary is. Seeing the internal movie-scape when it arises and recognising that it dis-empowers and saps energy and presence.
In the meantime, I’ll take comfort in a parallel universe (ok, continent); somewhere in Africa where there are indigenous folk who greet each other by first looking into each other’s eyes for a period of time. (Yes, you may have seen this in the movie, Avatar but it’s been around for a lot longer than the screenplay). Only then does one of them speak: ‘I see you’. (For some extreme intimacy, try this with a loved one and see how long you can go for without words, just simply … eye-balling each other.)
The response is, ‘I am here.’