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Empowering our girls

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Today I invite you to join Circle de Luz as a mija, a member of our giving circle that supports higher education for Latina girls through scholarships. Joining a group of women from around the world to empower young women as a part of this circle is a powerful way to make a difference for our collective future.

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The investment is in the future education of a group of young women who will more than likely be the first in their families to graduate from high school and pursue further education. Your annual contribution supports their post-secondary education, and the connections that Circle de Luz donors and volunteers make with these girls—from the time its members are in seventh grade until they graduate from high school—are even more amazing. The Class of 2021 will hail from McClintock Middle School in Charlotte and our goal is to support the future dreams of 8 young women through that class.

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As Circle de Luz members, the girls participate in dozens of programs throughout their journey that teach important life skills, appreciation of the arts, wellness while exposing them to a variety of careers and supporting them academically. We assist with their college search and application process and, when they graduate, we award them with a minimum of $5000 scholarship that they can use towards the post-secondary educational opportunity of their choice. Our graduates have said, across the board, that they would not have made it as far as they have without Circle de Luz.
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Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”  You can help us arm our hijas by committing to support the Class of 2021 with a minimum of a $100 donation each year for the 6 years that they will be in our program (for a total of $600). This money is pooled with donations from other individuals across the world to create a vibrant giving circle that funds the $5000 scholarships our hijas receive.
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Interested in joining the circle?  Simply fill out this Letter of Commitment and return it to Mary Kathryn Elkins, the Circle de Luz Program Manager, at circledeluz@gmail.com or PO Box 2, Davidson, NC 28036.
No payment is due at this time- you will receive a pledge reminder in the fall.
Thank you so much for your consideration!

 

 

Grief and Gratitude

Raymond Carver LF

After our mamacita died, we just held each other closely and grieved and went about the business that is demanded of you when someone dies (I am looking at you God-awful probate court paperwork).

And then, after a couple weeks, we had to start again.  Return to our lives as if somehow it made sense to push forward.

On the first day that I sat down at my desk in front of my computer, I wanted to send a memo to the world that read:  EVERYTHING has changed.  Let’s forget work and instead heap lots of grace and understanding and tenderness on each other like we are the most magnificent, precious things ever.  Because we are.  Every single one of us.  Let’s meet right now and just hug each other and love each other and remind each other how much we matter.  Because our minutes are running out, people, and the most important thing we can do with what we have left is savor one another.

But I figured no one really wanted my memo and so, instead, I sat down at my desk and tried to re-enter a still moving world.

On my second day of re-entry, I did my hair for the first time in almost three weeks.  For weeks, all I had the energy to do was wash my hair and then pile the tangled mess on top of my head.  But this time, finally, I combed it after I got out of the shower and put in some frizz cream and then decided that was all the energy I had.  But that was more than other days and so I put a check in the win column.

On the third day of re-entry, I wondered how do you start to write again (when writing is how you process everything) when there is no ground under you, when you don’t even know who you are in this moment so how could you know what to say?

And my answer reminded me of a conversation that I had years (read: decades) ago with Mamacita when she told me to pray for something (I think it was a husband) and I told her that I only liked to offer two types of prayers on my own behalf—prayers of thanks and prayers for strength.  Ironically, those are the only two types of prayers I’ve been able to utter in the last few weeks (Oh, God, help me.  Help me please to put one foot in front of the other.  Help me to not pass out cold right here.  Help me to be of use in this situation. Help me not to fall apart right now.   Thank you for brining this person right here right now to prop me up.  Thank you for providing this food.  Thank you for giving us the time we did have.  Thank you for giving me these people.  Thank you for not letting her suffer.).  So it should come as no surprise that my answer for how to begin again is really more of the same, by offering thanks:

Thank you, mamacita, for loving us, for your fierce commitment to us and to your convictions.  Thank you for the sacrifices that you made for us and for being present wherever you were and your humor.  Thank you for loving our children and our partners just as much as you loved us.  Thank you for your special talents and your creativity.  Thank you for your devotion.

Thank you, papito, who showing us the boundlessness of love, for modeling partnership to us, for teaching us to feel what we feel and love what we love.  Thank you for your playfulness and humor and light.  You always offer so much light, even in darkness.

Thank you to my siblings and our partners.  I don’t think we could have handled this crap situation any better than we did together and I love how we supported each other through the ebbs and flow of our grief and the process.

Thank you to our neighbors who have been family for 35 years.  For running to my parents’ side when it happened, for not letting mom or any of us be alone in this.  To Melanie for riding in the ambulance with mom.  To Travis for feeding us over and over again.  To Melvin and Inge for showing up over and over again and thinking of the things we couldn’t.

Thank you to the Sotos, who have been family for 40 years, for showing up and doing whatever it took to help us from getting the house ready for guests to taking the men to get suits, from fixing the wheelchair ramp to tying ties, from just holding our hands through the awfulness to laughing with us when we just needed a release.

Thank you to all of our friends and family who showed up via text, email, Facebook message, phone, at the hospital, at our door.  Thank you for holding us, crying with us, praying with us, telling us stories, feeding us, offering your condolences, for watching and loving our children and our dogs, helping us choose readings for the service, staying a few extra days to show your love and support, for saying yes to whatever I asked, for taking over my personal and professional responsibilities.  Thank you for understanding when we had too much to say or nothing at all.  Thank you for coming from across the country, from across the Caribbean, from across town.  Thank you for sending your mamas to the visitation (you raised them right!), for crowding our mailboxes with cards, for providing us with so much beauty in flowers and plants, for sending memorial donations in to the church and Circle de Luz to recognize my mother’s life, for sharing the wisdom you have gained from your own walk with grief.  Thank you for not letting us fall off the side of the earth in lonely broken-heartedness.

If you had told me before I experienced it that grief does not travel alone, it walks with gratitude, I would not have understood.  I would have doubted you.  But now my grief is bound in gratitude, woven in a way that I cannot tell where one ends and one begins.  When I see you, however we interact, know that I am lit up by your love and grace and that you are absolutely beloved.

Thank you for walking with me.  Thank you for letting me walk with you in some way.  Thank you for allowing me to not just see but feel how much gratitude exists in grief.

a tribute to our mamacita

Sorry to be away from this space– my mamacita died suddenly last week.  I plan to be back to the blog in early July but thought I would share the eulogy I delivered at her funeral here in the meantime.

Abucita and Happy

Thank you so much for being here today.

When our family moved to Fort Jackson in 1975, it would have been easy to assume that this was going to be just another place we lived.  After all, our parents had left Puerto Rico—their homes, parents, and siblings- because of our dad’s work with the US military and home seemed incredibly far away.

But if there is any one thing our family has learned in the last forty years and that each of you here today confirms it is this, home is not just a place.  Home is a feeling.  Home is showing up for one another.  Home is making way.  And you all, over and over again, and most of all today have made sure that this little family of five never felt that small.  Thank you for creating home with us, for insuring that we were never alone, for being a soft place to land for us over and over again.

Over the last few days, we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to hear so many stories about our mom and as we’ve heard the stories, we’ve been able to appreciate over and over again just who she was in this world and what she meant to people.

Rosie Mom airport (2)

If you have spent any time with our mom you know that she was the family story teller and so it is only fitting that we tell a few stories about her.

People have talked about her perseverance, work ethic, and deep faith which were taught to her by her parents on a beautiful farm in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.  There, mom grew up with her five brothers and one sister and in between school, mass, and tending the farm, she learned how to sew and crochet and developed her profound love of the outdoors, people, and animals.  Those loves stayed throughout her life.  We couldn’t go anywhere—Carowinds, the Zoo—without mom coming home with a few surreptitiously gathered cuttings that she would nurture into thriving plants.  All over our yard and home you can trace mamacita’s travels by looking at her plants.

Mom also developed her love of all animals—from birds to dogs on that beautiful farm.  She fed that love by turning her back yard into a natural habitat so she and dad could watch the birds come to eat and nest and by raising the world’s most loved dog.  Lady Spencer doesn’t just have her own spot in the bed.  She has the blanket that mom crocheted for her, her own pillow, and a personal chef in mom. For the last week, Lady Spencer has been at the front door, waiting for our mom to come home.

Mom’s first friends- her brothers and sister- taught her exactly how to be such a good friend.  They were inseparable as children and remained close despite all the miles between them.  Over the years, we had the wonderful pleasure of getting to know our aunts and uncles and cousins when we would visit Puerto Rico and then also when mom and dad hosted our cousins here for summers when they were older.   Mom never let distance get in the way of her relationships and she stayed connected to the brothers, sister, nieces, and nephews she adored.  We have been so blessed that she made sure we had those relationships in our lives, too.

Abuelos and Gracie 9.9.07

Our dad likes to say that his and mom’s wedding was arranged.  They met in 1962 when mom worked as his mother’s secretary and his mom arranged a lunch between the two of them.  For more than fifty-years, they held hands every night as they slept.  Over and over again, we witnessed their devotion to each other as they experienced and endured world travel, job changes, sicknesses, and joys.  We will always be grateful for their example of commitment.

Mamacita was fierce in her love and she was fair.  She had a profound sense of justice that made her want to help people she had never met and also watch the lastest episode of Caso Cerrado (a Latino version of Judge Judy).

She was friendly and generous.  Wherever we went, she could strike up a conversation with someone effortlessly and make a new friend.  She loved to celebrate life and crocheted baby blankets and sewed dresses—from prom to bridesmaid, party to wedding- for so many people.  She always took snacks out to the post woman and the trash men and once asked dad if she could give the trash men bottles of wine from the wine rack for Thanksgiving.  “Of course,” dad told her and off she went to put together gift bags for each of them.   A few days later, dad discovered that mom, the teetotaler, had indeed given two of the men very nice bottles of wine but the third guy did not receive that gift.  He got a handle of Wild Turkey.

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One of mom’s greatest gifts was her compassion.  She took profound care of those who were suffering or weak or vulnerable in some way.  She had a delightful sense of fun and the ability to be incredibly present.  These traits served her well in many roles but no role was more important to her than that of grandmother.  To Gabriel, Gracie, and Abram, Mom was not just their Abucita.  She was a best friend.   When she laid eyes on them, they knew that she was really seeing them and they knew that no one else and nothing else was more important to them.  If there is anything that our babies know about their abucita it is this:  she loved them more than anything, wanted nothing more than to be with them, and believed in them infinitely.

We hear it all the time but gloss over the truth of it.  Life can change quite literally in a moment.  It doesn’t owe us notice.  We hear that cliché so much we become numb to its truth and, yet, here we are right now because of it.

On Thursday night, mom said to our brother, “Come here.  Give me a hug.  Tell me that you love me.”  It wasn’t a request she ever made and, of course, he did it.

Less than twenty-four hours later, she was in the hospital.

There were things our mother always told us:  wear an undershirt, tuck some emergency money in your wallet that you never use unless you’re in trouble, don’t drive on an empty tank, but here is the most important advice—when it comes down to it, your people—the relationships you have—are the only thing that sustain you so look out for them, take care of them, and tell them you love them.  Thank you, Abucita, for teaching us such fierce love.

Making the most of the season…

here comes the sun

I saw my first lightning bugs of the season the other day.  I had run out to the Shack after putting Happy down to grab something I needed and when I turned to run back into the house, there they were– lighting up the night.

The first lightning bugs of the year always catch my breath.  And I keep marveling at them, all season long, because they are just so marvelous.  It is like they are playing a flashlight game of Marco Polo, and I can never get enough.

But the arrival of summer doesn’t just mean it is time to gape at the lightning bugs.  It also means it is time for my sweet little family to spend time drafting up our summer of intentionality list.  While you can read all about the inspiration for and history of SOI here, put super duper briefly, SOI is a master list of what we as a family or individually want to try to learn, experience, try and/or do over the course of the summer.  When we’re done with writing, we display our list in a prominent location and get to living it.

So far… this year’s list includes (we are still adding to each night at dinner):

Horseback riding. Have pizza delivered to the pool.  Build and support a Little Free Library.  Keep a regular journal.  Participate in the library summer reading program.  Read 100 Books.  Go to Defy Gravity.  Stand up paddle.  Learn to do a flip off the diving board.  Do a cannonball off the diving board.  Make and hang a dream catcher.  Go fishing.  Bird watch.  Go to the beach.  Complete 1st Grade Workbook.  Camp out.  Go to the amusement park.  Go to a movie.  Go to the Raptor Center.  Watch fireflies.  Play mini-golf.  Take the bus to the city.  Feed horses.  Picnic.  Bowling.  Do something for the helpers in our community.  Play bocce ball.   Donate to the local food pantry.  Watch the clouds from the hammock.     

Key::  Blue-  Happy  Red- Me  Orange- Family

Today, I want to encourage you to create your own Summer of Intentionality dream list for you or your whole family.

What do you want to learn, do, experience, enjoy?

Capture all your wishes, make plans, and then get started having a summer that lives up to your hopes with the caveat that not necessarily every single thing will be crossed off the list, but you are far less likely to get to the end of summer and think, “I wish I had…”

Practicing (Body) Peace This Summer

practicing body peace this summer

Far too many of us feel uncomfortable in our bodies. And, yet, as children, we were fully possessed of ourselves, spending summers chasing fireflies and jumping into lakes, not hiding under oversized t-shirts out of fear someone would judge our bodies.

This summer, I  hope you’ll commit to enjoying each passing day as you are, rather than longing for the body you once had or long to have.  Here are some summer-related tips for enjoying yourself, shoring up confidence, and getting reacquainted with the beautiful, brilliant you that you’ve been neglecting.

  • Make plans.  Sit down now and dream about what you want to do this summer. Create a wish list that includes items that relax you as well as challenge you like reading in a hammock or trying stand up paddling.  Then, schedule your plans!  It is hard to sit around obsessing over your body, when you are too busy enjoying what your body allows you to experience.
  • Realize no one cares as much as you do.  If you are paralyzed before hitting the beach or a summer soiree, it is likely because you are worried about what people will think about you.  And, yet, people are far kinder to others than they are to themselves.  The truth is that no one is judging you the way that you judge yourself.  And the real thing people are most likely to remember after that party isn’t what you had on, but how you made them feel.
  • Enjoy the bounty of the season.  Frequent your local farmers markets and farms that allow you to pick your own produce and enjoy all the fresh flavor.  An added bonus is that you treat your whole self incredibly well by eating whole foods while experimenting with new preparations!
  • Revel in the beauty of treating your body well just to treat it well and not because it needs to be punished into looking different.  Fully appreciate that your body is your vehicle to get you through life and give it more of what it needs this summer: ample rest, satisfying movement, good nutrition, stress reduction like massage or yoga are just a few body loving options.
  • Learn something.  Use a little bit of your downtime- maybe a vacation day or a holiday weekend- to take a lesson in something that’s always interested you.  Try your hand at cooking from farm to fork or taking great outdoor photography or whatever else piques your interest.  Relishing in what the season has to offer you takes your mind off your judgments about yourself and also boosts your self-appreciation as you rack up even more skills!
  • Consider the time you’ve lost.  Consider the thing that you most obsess over with regard to your appearance, then add up the time you have spent obsessing over it in your life. Now ask yourself these questions: Is it worth it? Is your hair, your makeup, your outfit deserving of that much of the time you have left in your life? Can you let a little of it go? Can you start today?
  • Break your self-deprecation habit.  Too often, we normalize our body hatred by letting unkind words pass our lips about ourselves without a thought. We should catch and correct ourselves when we do this because our whole lives are affected by how we think and speak about our bodies.  Find a bowl, vase, or piggy bank and deposit some change each time you knock yourself, and watch your self-awareness soar and your habits change. Add another level to it by starting to add some change for positive thoughts.  You’ll let go of a negative habit while building a positive one.  With the money you have collected by changing this habit, treat yourself to a gift or donate it.  We can all change our language—and our minds.
  • Ditch the fat chat.  Take breaking the self-deprecation habit a step further.  When a woman criticizes herself in front of you, don’t join in.  Instead, tell her just how wrong she is and celebrate what you love about her.
  • Have a comeback.  Think of the jabs you sometimes hear from friends and family members. Perhaps they are about your appearance, your relationship status, or     whether or not you have kids. Now take some time to come up with the perfect  comeback. What can you say, the next time it happens, to let that critical person   know that you would like to be treated differently or that your body is off limits for discussion? Periodically practice the comeback, in your mind and out loud, so that you are ready when you need to use it.
  • Embrace your passion.  One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is a passion, something that brings us so much joy and satisfaction that we can’t help but feel successful when we are doing it. When we are doing something we are passionate about, we can’t help but feel like we have something to offer.  Put some time aside this summer to dedicate to what you are passionate about or to find a passion.
  • Make eye contact.  Much of our confidence is projected through our eyes. Avoiding eye contact is just one way of communicating to the world that you want to be invisible. It also communicates to the person whose eyes you are avoiding that he or she isn’t worthy of being seen, even if you don’t mean to send that message.  Choose to see and be seen wherever you go.
  • Reimagine the possibilities.  Recognize that by being consumed by your appearance and the ways you do not measure up to someone else’s beauty standard, you are holding yourself back from being consumed by the calling of your life, from embracing your great gladness and giving it to the world. Imagine your life without the beauty obsession. Would you have time and energy for something else? If so, begin exploring that something else now.

manifest: an invitation

Manifest

 

Are you ready to identify and embrace your soul’s deepest intention?

Do you long for the time and space to pay attention to what matters most to you and what you most need?

Would you like to gently but thoughtfully create a plan to manifest the life of your choosing?

Do you want to intentionally pay attention to your body so that you can manifest a feeling of wellbeing and wholeheartedness?

Then our invitation to manifest is for you.

At this two and a half-day retreat, we’ll spend our time together filtering out the excess noise while identifying and embracing just what our intention for ourselves is.

We will forge a deeper awareness of what our body and souls need through yoga and meditation in order to have a greater sense of wellbeing.

We will discover and claim what we hope to manifest in our daily lives so we can return home with a sense of peace and possibility.

tea

 

 

October 16-18, 2015

Davidson, North Carolina

Davidson Village Inn

DVI

The town of Davidson is an adorable southern town just a short drive from Charlotte, North Carolina. The town is best enjoyed on foot, and features quaint shops and great food. The Davidson Village Inn is Lake Norman’s only boutique hotel with intimate rooms and a focus on comfort and exceptional customer service.

blossoms

 

Retreat Schedule

Friday, October 16 – An invitation to intention
2:00-4:00pm – Register and settle in
4:00-7:00pm – Introductions, insights and exercises that explore intention, including a gentle, 60-minute yoga session
7:00pm – Dinner in town

Saturday, October 17 – An invitation to attention
9:00am-12:00pm – Insights and exercises that explore attention, including a morning yoga session focusing on mindfulness
12:00-1:00pm  – Lunch (provided)
1:00-3:00pm – Creating your manifesto: a declaration of your intentions & attentions
3:00-5:00pm – Free time in town
5:00-6:30pm – Gentle, grounding evening yoga practice
6:30pm – Dinner in town and free time

Sunday, October 18 – An invitation to manifestation
9:00-10:45am – Mindfulness practice, declarations of our manifestos, and practical action plans
10:45-11:15am – Yoga session
11:15am-12:00pm – Closing Attention Circle & goodbyes

GET ALL THE DETAILS (fast– there are only 16 spots for this destination retreat!). 

The Kids are Alright Part 2

inside youAt the end of each semester, my body image students write a process paper where they synthesize their learning- both personal and academic- for the semester. These papers are always a delight to read and there is so much wisdom in them that I just have to share a fraction of it (with my students’ permission, of course) with you. Last week, I shared the first installment of wisdom from my students.  Here are some more wise words from my students this semester. May they give you hope and inspiration the way they did me.   

 It’s not okay to bash ourselves just like it’s not okay for us to bash other people. These bodies that we were given are gifts, they aren’t meant to be criticized, bashed and destroyed. They’re meant to be cherished and loved. Not all of us are going to look like the models we see on TV, we aren’t going to all have flat stomachs, but we’re all made unique in the way that we should be. We’re all blessed with something about us that is beautiful and rather than point out the flaws that we think we have, we need to focus on the things that can be perceived as wonderful. ~Kaitie Beth

With a new perspective on body image, I am now able to appreciate the fact that each and every body, paired with a soul, serves a unique purpose and therefore is meant to look or operate differently than others. Rather than judging the people around me, I am able to celebrate the diversity of my peers and find value in the features that make us all irreplaceable. ~Amanda

Throughout this body image course and my Beautiful You journal process, I have come across concepts that have really made an impact on my body image growth. One concept being, that my body is my vehicle. That metaphor in itself has changed the way I view my body drastically. Because my body is my ONLY vehicle, I need to take care of it. I do not need to be body shaming my only body, I do not need to place the blame of my unhappiness on my body and my body does not define who I am or what I have to offer. My body is simply the vehicle that allows me to function, express myself and achieve my goals. 

Another concept that was reinforced that changed my perception of my body to a more positive one is that my body is… a canvas. Yes, I have crowfeet around my eyes from where I laugh and squint and yes I have stretch marks and yeah I have moles but they are all beautiful. Everything I name and more is the art on my canvas and that art is what makes me a unique individual. Those “imperfections” should be celebrated because those “imperfections” prove that I am an alive, breathing, functioning being of worth and value.  ~Wynter

Beauty is not defined by skin, confidence is not found in peers, and identity is not gained from the latest trend.  ~ Shannon 

it is time.

compassion

We think the way we talk to ourselves is no big deal.

We think that it is just a way of motivating ourselves, a way to keep our egos in check, a way to practice humility.

We think it inspires.  But it doesn’t.

It damages, breaks us, belittles us.

And how we feel about ourselves matters to everything. 

We think that being inspired is someone else’s birthright.  We think that feeling on fire isn’t something we deserve.

But we are wrong.

Feeling on fire isn’t just our right.  It is our responsibility. 

The world is brimming with need, with aches, with problems.  We all know this but here is what we may not yet know.  It is not hopeless. It is not up to someone else to fix it.  We- every single one of us- is an integral part of meeting this world’s needs.

Our relationship with ourselves matters because when we are self-accepting, we can focus on what we most have to give.  And what we most have to give is always aligned with what lights our fire and when we are self-accepting, aware, and passionate, we are fully able to be on purpose.  When we find ourselves living on purpose is when everything profoundly changes—for us and for the world. 

It is time for you to feel the profound peace of self-acceptance. 

It is time for you to intentionally embrace your passion. 

It is time for you to live on purpose. 

And it starts for you at Passion. Purpose. Peace.

Time and spaces are running out.

Learn more.

The Kids are Alright Spring 2015 Part 1

This world needs you

At the end of each semester, my body image students write a process paper where they synthesize their learning- both personal and academic- for the semester. These papers are always a delight to read and there is so much wisdom in them that I just have to share a fraction of it (with my students’ permission, of course) with you. Here, some wise words from my students this semester. May they give you hope and inspiration the way they did me (and look for more words of wisdom next week).   

We as individuals and as a society need to take a hands-off approach with bodies. In class you stated that this society has a real problem with thinking that it’s ok to judge other peoples’ bodies. I completely agree with this. Truthfully, what right does anyone have to make assumption or comments about others’ bodies? Your view that bodies are simply vehicles for us to experience life has really begun to change my view of myself. I want to begin to give my body a break and to be only thankful for all the experiences it allows me to have…. I am guilty of focusing on others appearances and bodies. It is something that I have done subconsciously, much like your example of the girl who bought a magazine every day thinking that if she could just find one person in them that looked like her, she would be able to stop her eating disorder. Although I do not have an eating disorder, my train of thought is the same when I focus on other’s bodies, “if I could only see someone who looks like me, I would be ok with myself”. This is a toxic train of thought, because of course that isn’t true! Even if by chance we do find someone who looks like us, one person will never be enough and we will continue to look for other people. This is because we cannot be validated by others, we must be accepting of ourselves and comfortable in our own skin to terminate such a terrible train of thought.

~Elizabeth

I entered this class, along with many others I am sure, with the misconception that thin equals healthy. I was rather surprised to learn that the most healthy, longest living people are those who are overweight—not ideal for the industry, but perfect for fighting diseases and being nourished. I do not know how, but it never occurred to me before this class that every physical body is different and unique, with its own needs, fluctuations, and predispositions. It is a waste of time and energy to struggle to look like the people on television and in magazine because genetics and large teams of professionals/Photoshop are responsible for creating these false images that are fed to us as realities. I have always been a firm supporter in the idea that changes in habits and lifestyles are the key to health. We, as a society, ought to be focusing on being healthy beings and respecting diversity, rather than striving to be skinny or attractive.

~ Amanda 

Something that I know and understand now is that as women, we are all different and we all experience life differently. So many factors play into this: your race, ethnicity, how you grew up, socioeconomic status, genetics, and the list goes on. Even though we are all different and experience life differently, we all have the same battle in a sense. This battle is how the world we live in tells us how to be, how to dress, how to look, and how to live life as a woman. Though we are so different and unique, this unites us as women. Understanding this has given me the realization that instead of being so “catty” and judgmental of each other, we as women need to support each other and stand up together in this world that is telling us “we aren’t good enough” and to instead choose to encourage and tell each other that we are good enough.

~Allison

The one time throughout the semester that I really had an “aha” moment happened while I was writing the assigned paper, “Body Image Autobiography.”  When answering the questions for the paper one question in particular really stood out to me; “What is the first positive memory/moment you have of your body?”  At first I was at a loss on how to answer this question.  I then remembered learning to ride a bike when I was younger and how proud I felt that I could accomplish such a task.  After I answered this question and wrote about it in my paper, I was really shocked at how much has changed when it comes to how I view my body.  Something so simple like learning to ride a bike once made me so proud of my body, and now I am constantly speaking negatively of it.  This question helped to remind me what is actually important when it comes to our bodies.  Our bodies are amazing for so many reasons.  My body allows me to ride a bike, or go for a hike.  My body even allows me to swim in the ocean and do yoga.  Sometimes I get so caught up in all of the “flaws” I see when looking at my body, that I forget to thank it for all that it does for me.

~Katie 

a letter to my body image students on our last day of class

the world is aching for you to show up

From the beginning, you have been something special.

Individually eager, earnest, invested.  Collectively trusting, comforting, accepting.

You have shown up.   Every single class.   Not just physically (but that, too, never have I had a class with better attendance) but emotionally.  Telling your truths. Crying about them.  Getting up and hugging each other through the tears.

Together, we have forged something so special- the kind of thing we will each tenderly remember, quietly feel gratitude for, bittersweetly miss.

And, for that, the very first thing I want to say to you is thank you.

Thank you for showing up—for each other, for me, and, most significantly, for you.

And thank you for HOW you showed up- for each other, for me, and, most significantly, for you.

While what we have had in this classroom has been something really special, here is what I want you to understand: what we had was special because from the beginning, you were something special.  I’m not talking about from the beginning of this class.  I’m talking about from the beginning of your time.

This is what I don’t want you to miss:  the feeling you had in this class wasn’t something that we accidentally crafted.  It was not a mirage or, even, a fluke.

The feeling existed because you showed up.  All of you.  The truest parts of you that have wondered in the past if there was room for you in this world and, in this space, you got your answer.  A resounding yes.

The world is not just ready for ALL of you.  It hungers for you.  And when you show up real and true and authentic, you are offering a gift.  The gift of your amazing depth and character and strength and truth telling.  The gift of your soul.  The gift of seeing and being seen.

When you show up true, the world vibrates.  And that vibration heals.  And healing opens up all sorts of possibility.  That is what you felt in this space and you can replicate that anywhere.  As long as you continue to stay true to you.

There are a multitude of sins we can commit against ourselves in a single day, hour, minute, if we aren’t careful.

We practice neglect.  Ignoring our needs.  Acting as if we shouldn’t have them.  Acting as if they make us too much.  You have needs.  And they and you are not too much.  Meeting your needs allows you to sustain yourself.  And sustaining yourself allows you to love what you love.

We practice density.  Seeing lies and manipulations when we look in the mirror.  Using unkind eyes to shame, unkind words to punish ourselves.   Remember you are meant for your own unique expression.  What makes you YOU is no accident.  And what you have to offer is something this world needs.

We practice scarcity.  Thinking there isn’t enough goodness in the world for everyone and that we are the ones too late to the table.  But this is not true.  The only limit is your imagination.  You are enough.  You are never too late.

We practice denial.  Ignoring or belittling our sweet uniqueness- that smattering of freckles across your nose, the deep cocoa of your skin, the glorious fullness of your hair, the way you can sing like the angels, the way you comfort with humor, the way you encourage with company.  The rich character that you have spent your whole life developing is an instrument to offer this world.  Your unique offering is meant for an urgent need.

For 15 weeks now, you have practiced not committing any of those sins over the space of three hours every single Friday morning.   When negative thoughts derailed you, you came back to yourself, began your practice anew, understanding these essential truths about life:  it is all journey, we are always practicing, we can make a new choice at every single moment.

And so here is what you must now understand: what you created and practiced here was no novelty.  What you felt here- for yourself and for others- is not dependent on your being in this space.  You can treat yourself this way anytime.  You can recreate this community anywhere.  It only takes the courage to show up as you.  To be real.  To speak your truth.  To let others know that your vulnerability is meant for building community, not walls.  You have everything you need inside of you.  You always have.   And, now, what you need to know is that the world is aching for you to show up this way everywhere.  It won’t just change you.  It will change everything.  You are the one the world has been waiting for.

   ♥

 At the end of each semester, I write my students a letter that is unique to their class.  This was the letter for my body image class this semester.

Want to read some past letters?

The world needs your lightness 

We hunger to be known.  

Answer the call into your own greatness 

Radiate Love 

Do the world’s work 

And here is the letter I share with them on the first day of school.