I used to think I needed a partner to make me feel good in my body. Most of my self-worth & body image came from the feedback I got from whoever I was hooking up with. The truth was, I didn’t know much about my own body at all. When life & feelings felt out of control, I obsessed over the perfection of my body. I hated myself. No one told me that my body was my home.
In my 20s I was really good at beating myself up. With no sense of what my body needed, I ate foods that gave me digestive issues so bad I would have to go to the emergency room to deal with the pain. My skin was breaking out, my anxiety & depression were at an all-time high, & anytime my body tried to talk to me — I ignored it. Instead, I would look in the mirror and only see flaws, spending hours picking at my skin & cursing my imperfections. I worked out intensely to punish myself for not being what I wanted to be. Self-talk looked like “You aren’t doing enough”, “Your skin is ugly”, or “You look fat”... I was hurting.
Now at 33, life looks & feels a lot different. I eat nutritious foods & I exercise for feels, not for looks. After saying, “I love this body” enough times in the mirror, I finally started to believe it. I started to know what real self-love felt like, & it had nothing to do with face masks.
Now, in the time of Corona, many of us are being forced to spend time alone. Social distancing can feel disappointing, deflating & defeating at times. These conditions combined with fear & practical concerns can make it easy to get down on ourselves, our lives & our bodies.
A lot of the ways I learned to cope with self-hate in the past, was by filling up my time, over working, or being with people. So for me, in the past, something like Covid would have been a sure shot smack-in-the face with all that I didn’t like about myself.
But now, I have new tools to cope. Instead of this time being miserable and self-deprecating time alone, I’m letting this time in isolation be a cool crash course on ME.
I’m using sound to feel my body, my breath to connect with it, and meditation to sit with it & listen to it. With the help of these tools, I get to see which ways of living, talking to, and caring for my body feel the best.
It’s not always easy. Feeling feelings can feel really hard. Every day is new and different, and the up & down emotions are part of the ride. But having my own back, really getting to know myself, being able to give myself real love — there is nothing better.
It’s easy to get self-critical with so much time to ourselves, but with no one else around, loving ourselves is more important than ever.
SO, here are some tools for self-love in this period of unprecedented isolation:
When my anxiety was really bad, I found it really hard to close my eyes during meditation. In my first days of meditating, my friend took me to a sound bath where I heard Crystal Singing bowls for the first time. The sounds from these instruments relaxed my body & made me feel safe enough to go inside.
Here’s why: Our bodies are 65-75% water. Sound travels well in water, so we’re very good conductors of sound. As the vibrations of Crystal Singing Bowls enter our bodies, they have an incredible ability to relax & recalibrate our nervous system in real-time.
Sound affects us psychologically too, without us having to do anything but listen. It can change our emotions & our moods. Music does that too — everyone can name a song that makes them happy.
Sound can affect us behaviorally too. While we may move away from sounds that feel unpleasant, we gravitate towards pleasant sounds.
When I’m working through tough stuff, the sounds from the bowls set the stage for dealing with these difficult emotions & help me to feel into my body. They help me to sink in deep so I can give myself the attention I need.
5 MINUTES OF SOUND TO FEEL YOUR VIBE
Listen to this 5 minute Crystal Singing Bowl track. Don’t worry about meditating perfectly, just let the sound do its work. Close your eyes, focus on your breath.
When I’m feeling stressed, noticing self-deprecating self-talk, or simply just trying to calm myself down & get connected to what my body needs — I focus on my breath.
ONE MINUTE BREATH FOR SELF LOVE
In this practice, we’re letting the mind go, & connecting to the body. This breath helps us to feel what’s in the body, helping us to know what we are safe to feel whatever is coming up.
- Place one hand on the belly and one hand on the chest.
- Take 2 full inhales & exhales.
- Begin by taking one inhale into the belly, one inhale into the heart, and exhale through the mouth. All these breaths are done with the mouth open.
- Go gentle and slow, no need to rush.
- Inhale belly, inhale heart, exhale -- not retaining the breath at all, this is a fluid circle of breath to move the energy in our bodies.
- This might feel like work, but just stick with it & focus on the breath.
- Feel your belly and chest rise. Feel the breath move in and out of the body.
- During this minute, pay to what your body is experiencing.
- If you feel tightness or tension, place your awareness there and breath into it. Be willing to let go.
- When the minute is up, take a big breath in & a big breath out.
- Notice how your body feels. Thank yourself for showing up for yourself.
Meditation helped me learn to listen to & connect with my body. Meditating with self-love in mind allows me to reconnect with my heart — to remember that I am enough, that I am worthy of love, especially my own.
10 MINUTE BODY SCAN FOR SELF LOVE
- Begin by sitting or laying down comfortably.
- Close your eyes & take 3 deep breaths.
- While breathing slowly through your nose, begin sensing your body, knowing that whatever you experience is totally cool.
- Then start to scan your body, beginning with your toes, noticing any sensations. Bring all your attention to your toes, sending love to your toes.
- Slowly move your attention over your ankles, to your knees, thighs & hips.
- Pause at any area of the body you are having trouble connecting with or sensing. Know that this is OK, it’s just our bodies asking for attention.
- Bring your attention to your lower back, middle back, upper back, shoulders & neck. Trying to release tension, sending love to each area. Taking time with areas that feel like then need more attention.
- Notice the back of your neck all the way up to your head. Send love to these parts.
- Notice your facial features: eyebrows, jawline, cheeks, lips.
- See if you can notice the weight of your tongue in your mouth.
- And now bring your attention to your nose. Notice how your body feels as breath enters and exits your nose.
- Notice your belly and your chest, gently rising & falling with each inhale & exhale.
- Once you have finished scanning your entire body, sending each part love, notice how you feel. Notice any feelings that are coming up and whisper to yourself, “It is safe for me to feel my emotions.”
- For the remaining time, you can gently whisper this mantra in your mind: “I love this body.”
- With no rush, come back into the room. Wiggle fingers & toes.
- Say 1 thing you love about yourself out loud.
- Slowly, open your eyes.
Jackie Cantwell is an artist, teacher, public speaker, writer and sound musician. Jackie facilitates sound globally for mass meditations through The Big Quiet, is Director of Medi Club (an NYC based meditation meetup & sister community to The Big Quiet), and is Founder of Camp Remember, a kids summer camp using yoga, meditation, & the arts as tools for self discovery. Jackie has played sound bowls & led breath-work for some of the largest meditations in the world.