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Why You Need To Have A Conversation With Your Body

Photo by Monika Kozub on Unsplash

On Tuesday, we gathered for our first community satsang of the year. Our conversation was dedicated to answering the question of how to liberate our bodies through exploring the varying forms of oppression experienced against our bodies. If you missed this gathering, or if you loved it so much and. you want to watch it again — you can find all of our previous satsangs here!

This satsang featured a panel discussion from four incredible folks who shared vulnerably and intimately the details of how they have come to liberate their bodies and the practices they use to continue to dismantle sizeism and ableism for themselves and others. Our panel consisted of Dalia Kinsey RD, LD, Katie “Kayteezee” Zitterbart, Erica Garcia, and Lindsay of Radiant Unknown.

Bringing The Obstacles To The Surface

In the practice of mindfulness, we are asked to bring our awareness to the obstacles, limiting beliefs, or internalized oppression that may be in our way of achieving liberation. Our panel discussion began with an exploration of the obstacles and forms of oppression that our bodies face everyday.

Dalia Kinsey a queer Black wellness coach who holds a degree as a dietician. One of the obstacles we face is letting go of the “thin ideal” that is so closely tied to our pursuit of worthiness. Kinsey considers the thin ideal a privilege crumb — “this one thing that you could have obtained.” The act of letting go of becoming a thin person in a world that celebrates it, is akin to letting go of tying our worthiness to our body size.

Katie ‘Kayteezee’ Zitterbart and Lindsay of Radiant Unknown had similar views on the obstacles and forms of oppression against bodies. Both shared that the systems of white supremacy, colonization, capitalism and patriarchy are obstacles in the way of liberating of our bodies. Lindsay says, “societal perceptions of the body around ability, size, race, skin color, gender, presentation, age, mental health — all of these perceptions. The systems that have been built on these unrealistic and unhelpful ideals, [are] very much rooted in white supremacy within capitalism, patriarchy."

Photo by Billie on Unsplash

Dismantling The External Obstacles Working Against Our Bodies

Lindsay of Radiant Unknown shared how she works to dismantle sizeism.

“I just really tried to make it clear to like my friends, family, coworkers, and medical professionals that I am fast positive. A lot of people haven’t even heard that phrase. That includes having to ask people sometimes not to make weight related jokes, which is difficult. It’s really not something on people’s radars.”

In relation to dismantling obstacles such as white supremacy and colonization, Kayteezee shared that the work internally for her “has primarily centered on undoing a lot, unlearning and listening.” Her work has centered on undoing and decolonizing spaces.

“I’ve been teaching for the last 35 years or so, coming up against the need to decolonize and undo white supremacy succinctly. That has colored my politics and has covered the lenses through which I work somatically in sexuality education in start-up-tech land.”

After experiencing the healthcare system while battling stage three breast cancer, medicine and healthcare is her next space to dismantle.

Another way to dismantle these obstacles and systems of oppression she offers is letting go of performative activism and replacing it with allyship. “The larger systemic work for me has to do with leveling the playing field, which means stepping down off the ladder and passing the mic,” says Zitterbart.

Lindsay offers some ways to show up as an ally in dismantling these systems working against the body as well. First she says,

“Do not show up in a space as an ally and try to play a devil’s advocate, if you need to do that with yourself or with other people who are not part of that oppressed community — go for it — but do not bring that energy please to those communities.”

Rather, she asks allies to show up educated and ready to advocate.

“[do] the personal work to educate and impact your own beliefs and experiences, bringing awareness to your language and unconscious beliefs. Constantly [advocate] for dismantling ableism, racism, sizeism, gender discrimination, and transphobia, mental health discrimination, ageism, and other forms of body oppression, even when members of those communities aren’t around.

Dalia offers that as allies, it is important to understand the intersections within the body positive movement.

“You see a lot of people just not getting the intersections and doing so much harm and centering everything on their own experience and engaging in that suffering Olympics thing that people do, and not accepting that we all hold varying levels of privilege and marginalized identity simultaneously.

Ultimately, dismantling the systems of oppression and obstacles against the body also come down to understanding that the liberation of all bodies is important for the liberation of our body.

Photo by Womanizer WOW Tech on Unsplash

How Do We Practice Liberating Our Own Body?

Liberating our own bodies is also crucial. Our panelists shared many ways that they practice body liberation.

For Erica Garcia, honoring her body has been the most important practice. She shared that after experiencing several health-related issues, she has come to accept weight loss surgery suggested by her doctor. To accept the surgery was not easy. Garcia shared that through meditation, prayer, and reflection, she came to recognize and listen to her body’s needs. “This operation is not an abuse of my body,” she says. “It’s actually helping my body because medically right now my body needs an intervention.”

“Part of being okay with your body is loving it in every stage,” she says. “Loving it no matter what size, honoring the phases it needs to go through, as it ages and breaks down and it gets illnesses and then try to heal it.”

Kayteezee shares that for her honoring the ways she regulates her body somatically is one of the ways she practices her own liberation. “It’s interventions, church, dancing, SSRIs — whatever is available,” reflects Zitterbart. “Wholesome, soulful food, food of your ancestors, food of my ancestors, all of my ancestors are with me as I go through this cancer.”

Katie and Erica shared similar suggestions: use your tools. Our body liberation doesn’t have to be all on us. We can use various external resources to assist us on our journey. Garcia asks, “So which goddess and warrior? Who’s showing up today? Because who do I need? Spirit? The priestess? Mary Magdalene?”

Lindsey also offers some insight into how she utilizes external resources: find fat positive doctors and healthcare professionals.

“I’m seeking a trained professional to help, preferably one who has body liberating beliefs. If you have that ability, if you have those resources, that is incredibly helpful.”

In the chat during the discussion, Lindsay noted that Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) tend to be more aligned with and open to body liberation and body positivity.

Connecting ourselves back to our bodies can be a meaningful first step towards liberating our own bodies. Lindsay of Radiant Unknown invites us to take it slow and experiment with the various ways to connect to the body. She also invites us forgive ourselves. Lindsay says, “A huge amount of my body liberation work has just been continually having to forgive myself for all of the things that I have done to my body.”

Dalia Kinsey asks us to reflect on who we are exposing ourselves and how their lack of transparency can be effecting our path towards liberation. Kinsey asks us to consider looking for the answers that we may already have within us. They also practice reconnecting with ancestral ties, saying, “I continually asked them to help me use the tools that gave me to look for answers inside of myself instead of outside.”

The discussion offered several modalities of healing, from meditation and prayer to ancestral ties. All of the panelists articulated that the journey towards body liberation should be loving, compassionate, and grounded in the idea that we are not liberated until we are all liberated.

Connecting Back To Mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness asks us to consider the obstacles and systems of oppression that have been internalized. These block our way towards liberation, and can often block the connections between our mind, body, and spirit. The mind, body and spirit connection in mindfulness is important. Our practice is not only physical. Meditation assists us in being still and clearing our mind, connecting back to our spirit. Our yoga practice connects us to our bodies, requesting that we feel the stretch of our muscles and ground beneath our feet.

Our mindfulness practice also reminds us that we are all connected, and that our own body’s liberation is connected to the liberation of everyone else’s body. Dismantling the systems of oppression and obstacles in our way of liberation is important not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

Questions for Reflection

For ourselves:

How do I practice honoring my body? What does that look like for me?

How do I practice loving my body? What does that look like for me?

Do I allow myself to experiment with other practices? Am I holding any rigidity in these practices?

Are my practicing rooted in love, compassion, and self-forgiveness?

What obstacles or systems of oppression or obstacles do I experience? How do my practices dismantle these internalized systems of oppression or blockages?

For allies:

What are biases? What systems of oppression are they reflecting?

What are three spaces that I am interested in advocating for, or what spaces do I advocate for?

Is my advocacy grounded in the idea that my body is not liberated until all bodies are liberated? If not, why?

Is my activism performative? If so, how can I be more intentional about my activism?

What marginalized communities does my body benefit from and how can I show up for those communities instead?

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