An Excerpt from The Book of SHE by Sara Avant Stover
It’s time to learn how to take care of yourself. I mean really take care of yourself. The most profound self-care practice we can do is right under our noses. It’s an internal practice, so simple and obvious that we often completely miss it. When we bypass this step, no amount of external pampering can nourish our depths when we’re feeling depleted, afraid, overwhelmed, or insufficient.
Self-care is just this: lovingly meeting ourselves exactly where we are and allowing things to be as they are. When we can hold ourselves in this way, our inner world starts to become softer, gentler. We start to trust our own basic goodness, and we even come to learn that irritation, aversion, doubt, and resistance aren’t to be evicted through our self-care; they’re to be allowed and included by it.
Devoid of our loving presence, our bodies become more like haunted houses than goddess temples. How did we end up this way? Trauma has frozen inside. Our bodies house all of our old memories, sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Scary, unpredictable, too much, too little: At some point in our lives, our bodies became scary to inhabit. They craved foods that make us fat, sex that makes us “bad,” or pleasure that makes us “selfish.” They grew hair in inconvenient places. They bled through our pants and stained our sheets.
Deep down in our bodies’ depths roam the ghosts of unhealed trauma, abandoned creative passions, sensual desires, intuition, and the true power that comes from who we are, rather than what we do. Our bodies aren’t indentured servants here to labor for us until we take our dying breath. They are sacred chalices, home to our SHEs. The chalice, a metaphor for the Divine Feminine, is the lake, bowl, vessel, womb, or grail. We are not only embodied as but also governed by circles. Within this roundness, we house the entire universe — each season of the sun, sea, earth, and moon. We are microcosmic containers within which the miracle of life can grow, flourish, and decay. Our bodies help us live out the unique contribution we’re each here to make in the short time that we have. Our bodies always tell the truth and hold the information we need to thrive.
The confusion we harbor about our embodiment has reached epidemic proportions. We’re all living in a time that values spirit (masculine) over matter (feminine). These two qualities exist in everything and are independent of gender. Each man holds feminine, or yin, qualities, just as each woman holds masculine, or yang, qualities — in different degrees. When we appropriately balance these two poles, we become integrated human beings.
The well-known yin/yang symbol from Taoism illustrates how the coessential polarities of masculine and feminine energies intermingle and flow together to create a balanced whole. Yin is inside, slow, passive, dim, downward, female, moon, while yang is outside, rapid, active, bright, upward, male, sun.
Masculine awareness ascends. It rises up and out of the body, seeking spaciousness and the bird’s-eye view (think meditation, quantum physics, and the compartmentalization and mechanization of “the body” in Western medicine). Feminine awareness descends. It moves down and into the body, all the way into the heart of the earth (think belly dancing, Mother Teresa kissing lepers in the slums of Calcutta, and the use of medicine spirits in plants to heal the body). Ultimately, we need both to truly thrive as individuals, and as a society. We need both dancing and sitting still, penicillin and echinacea, splitting the atom and activating our compassionate hearts.
Since we’ve all inadvertently prioritized the “up and out” (masculine) current, we need to remember how to go “down and in” — not just as a concept, but as a felt experience. When we inhabit our bodies, we feel like we’ve come home. Embodying our womanhood needs to be a full-time affair.
Sara Avant Stover is the author of The Book of SHE and The Way of the Happy Woman. A pioneer in contemporary women’s work, she has been featured in Yoga Journal, Newsweek, and Natural Health and on ABC, NBC, and CBS. Visit her online at thewayofthehappywoman.com.
Excerpted from The Book of She: Your Heroine’s Journey into the Heart of Feminine Power ©2015 Sara Avant Stover. Printed with permission of New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com