Our Scars Are Illustrations Of The Stories Of Our Lives

A hospital chaplain says that the dying have a lot to teach us on how to live our lives better while we still can. One of the most frequent yet surprising regrets she’s found, especially from female patients, is the fact that they hated their bodies for so many years. Only now, when that body is truly failing, do they realize they should have celebrated it.” 

A couple of weeks ago, while recovering from surgery to remove a tumor on my thyroid, I spent the night and day on the South Saskatchewan river. I’d been told that I should avoid the sun to lessen the severity of my scar, but I knew that there was nothing that could be more healing for me than the sun on my body, sand in my hair and the river under me.

When I got back home I noticed how the browning of my skin made the stretch marks on my body show up even more. Like my body’s own kind of intricate artwork I couldn’t help but think how interesting and beautiful they were to look at. This was remarkable considering that only 4 years previously, at my first nude Bodysex workshop, the part of my body that I was most terrified of the other women seeing were my stretch marks.

Even though I’ve spent the past few years getting used to and learning to really enjoy being naked, I won’t pretend that I have no more body shame. I believe shame comes in layers, and each time I expose myself and peel back a layer, I get closer to the root of what my shame is really about. My scars and stretch marks may be illustrations of the stories of my life, but the actual story is in what the illustrations signify to me. That’s the part that’s the most difficult to come to terms with and what I think we are really afraid that others will see when looking at us.

On the outside my c-section scar tells the story of me having surgery to deliver my babies.
On the inside the scar tells a story of me failing at what I wanted most in the world.

On the outside my stretch marks tell a story of a girl growing and changing through puberty, pregnancy and the normal ups and downs of life.
On the inside the stretch marks tell a story of me feeling abnormal and ugly.

On the outside, the most recent scar on my neck tells a story of removing cancerous cells so that I can live.
On the inside the scar tells a story that I’ve done something wrong for this to happen to me.

Thankfully my first two stories are no longer relevant to me or my life. I am still sad that I didn’t give birth naturally but I haven’t failed at motherhood. And when I’m not noticing the beauty of my stretch marks, I usually forget I even have them.

I know that it’ll take time for me to come to terms with my new scar, and the layers of stories that lay beneath it. But when I was lying naked in the sand along the river, I didn’t feel like I’d done anything wrong to deserve it. I felt more competent, loved, supported, beautiful and alive than I’ve ever felt in my life. Whether my scar fades or stays the same, I hope that this is the story behind the illustration that I will celebrate.

Naked In Nature

One of my favourite things about doing Bodysex as a full weekend retreat is that it gives the women more time to settle in and enjoy a space where there are no roles or masks to wear. As the weekend goes on and our armour falls away, we loosen our bodies, open our arms, and celebrate the unique beauty, talents and gifts that each woman brings.

At my retreat this past March some of the women – along with a guitar, ukelele and drums – stayed up late writing the lyrics and music to a song they titled Naked in Nature. When they called me in to hear the final version I alternated between laughing and crying over each verse.  I don’t think there could be a better way to sum up what the Bodysex experience is all about than the words to this song, and if I could gift this experience to every single woman in the world I would.

The women who attend these retreats come from all backgrounds and work all kinds of professions. Our ages range from 20 – 68. We are all mothers, daughters or sisters. Some of us hate our bodies and some of us don’t. We all have different reasons for coming but regardless of what they are, we are all sexual and we are all brave.  Bodysex is a space to celebrate the freedom to be who we are,  our naked bodies, the depths of our pleasure and the mutual acceptance of each other – wherever we are on our own personal journey.

The lyrics to this song and the photos I’ve included give only a small glimpse of the incredible power of a group of women free to be “beauty-ful with nothing to hide.”

Naked In Nature

“I wanna be naked in nature
with the sun on my skin
I wanna be one with all things
around the place that I’m in

I wanna have sex on a secluded beach
with a blanket below me
a brown bag bottle within reach
and a northern light show (a plate of nachos)

I wanna be naked
I wanna be naked in nature
I wanna be naked
with the sun on my skin

I wanna be a body sex woman naked outside
masturbating on the grass with flies on my thighs

I wanna slip into the water
let it ripple my lips
turning and burning
with a swing in my hips

I wanna be naked
I wanna be naked in nature
I wanna be naked with the sun shining in

I wanna be one with my sisters
their hands on my skin
their love flowing over me
and soaking right in

join the circle
cum with me
leave your armour behind
we are all beauty-full
we’ve got nothing to hide

I wanna be naked
I wanna be naked in nature

I wanna be naked
with the sun on my skin

I wanna be naked 

I wanna be naked in nature

I wanna be naked with the sun shining in.”

**** lyrics by my beautiful Bodysex sisters. You know who you are.

****photos posted with permission.  Photo credit to Meghan Mickelson http://meghanmickelson.ca and Studio Stiina http://www.stiina.net

My next Bodysex retreat is June 2-4th. Book here: http://natashasalaash.com/summer-2017-bodysex-workshopretreat-date/

I Came Home And Stripped Naked And Looked In The Mirror And Said “You Are Beautiful, You Have Beautiful Curves.”

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I haven’t finished my write up from this past weekend’s Bodysex retreat but a couple of testimonials have already come in. Here is one of them. I’m so happy for her!!!

“That was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. All of those women made me feel so comfortable and every one of them are so real!!!! I need more sisters in my life to make me feel that way. I came home stripped naked and looked in the mirror and said “you are beautiful, you have beautiful curves.” Today and going forward I am gonna love myself and exercise and eat healthy and nourish my body and make love to myself……. And fucking orgasm. YES!!!!! Thank you for helping me find myself again.” 

 

Each Fabric And Each Woman Has A Different Story

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This is a beautiful story – written by Lauren who has sat in the circle with me 3 times – about the quilt she made in exchange for her friend to attend my upcoming workshop. To me it epitomizes exactly what the Bodysex circle and sisterhood is all about………..

Over the last few years I’ve been on a journey, supported so often by Natasha and the other women I’ve shared the circle with in her workshops. I feel like I have come so far, feeling generally grounded and connected to myself. I wish more women had the chance to experience the loving environment Natasha creates. I have one friend in particular that I believe would love the experience and it would be so good for her. At various times I’ve even tried to figure out how I could afford to just pay for her to attend. So, this summer, when Natasha posted a request for someone to sew a couple quilts for her office in exchange for counselling or workshop services, my mind started swirling. I had so many ideas. I was so excited and had to get in touch with them both right away. I have been working on the first of two quilts that will hopefully help provide Natasha’s clients with some extra warmth and love.

This sewing project felt amazing, as I poured so much love, energy, and intention into each step. Throughout the work of planning, cutting and sewing I have reflected on my own experiences within the circle and continued to process. I remembered each of my circle sisters and the many other women who have influenced and supported me.

Before I had even talked to Natasha about the quilt, my mind went instantly to circle imagery. I knew I wanted to create a circle to represent the circle of women in Natasha’s workshops. I have so much fabric and scraps and old clothes to repurpose, it was like an adventure picking out the pieces that would go together. I found twelve different fabrics to represent the twelve women in a circle.

I look at the fabric. I see the two pieces I bought traveling alone in Thailand which have been used at different times for table cloths, a skirt, wall hangings and a few handmade ornaments. I see leftover pieces of fabric from baby carriers I made for a dear friend as well as two other women. I see a skirt my mom made me almost twenty years ago, and the outfit she made me for grade seven grad. I see a dress I made myself that I loved so much but never quite fit properly. I see a piece of fabric I think my sister bought so many years ago that I can’t even keep track of all the incarnations of decorative and functional uses it has seen. I see my kids curtains from their room when they were tiny. There’s also a piece of fabric that I loved but never got around to making the intended project, a piece I scavenged years ago from my mom’s fabric stash and an old favourite pair of pajamas. In each piece I see myself, through the actual memories and through the varied styles (sometimes subtle and winding, sometimes bold and vibrant, sometimes quiet and subdued). It’s also fun to look at the styles and imagine which one best suits and represents the women I got to know in the circle.

Each fabric and each woman has a different story, similarities and unique beauty; they (we) are now forever connected to each other. I feel like the quilt shows the light and love we each bring into the circle and the energy we shine outwards in our lives after we leave the circle. Once the fabric was pieced together, I saw an eye shape that I hadn’t planned. It’s funny, once I noticed it I couldn’t miss it. I think that connects me to the sense of feeling truly seen that was at first a little terrifying and then so soothing. This quilt and my experiences of the workshops have so much story woven into them.

The quilt itself is imperfect and flawed. My technique is improvised and made up. My stitches wobble and waver just as my body and confidence do. I cringe at the thought of a real quilter looking at it, just as I once cringed at the thought of revealing my imperfect body. It reflects so much of me and my journey with my circle sisters. Even as I sit writing this, with the quilt around my shoulders, I feel held and safe. I dearly hope that many other women can accept the love and energy of other women daring to be vulnerable together.

lauren-in-quilt

I Love That I Have A Big Heart And A Kind Soul

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As fall approaches and my November Bodysex retreat date is getting closer, I’ve been reflecting on the emotions and stories from the last retreat held in May. One of the things that stands out the most in my mind is the group massage. As we took turns touching and being touched there was one woman who’s emotional pain could literally be seen and felt through her body.   Hoping that somehow some of the love we felt for her would soak in through her skin – we touched and we sang – telling her how beautiful she was to us. Later that evening we walked down to the beach and took this beautiful and fitting photo of her naked, with the setting sun shining between her legs.

This same woman wrote to me after the retreat and, with her permission, I’m sharing her words with you.

Thanks again for everything this past weekend. It was so amazing. Usually I can find words easily, but the fact that this time I cannot find the right words, speaks to me of how deeply this has affected me, and I suspect it will keep affecting me for a long time to come, with many parts of me forever changed. 

I am revisiting circle time and all conversations from the entire weekend. Mulling over thoughts and ideas, advice and emotions. Each experience burned into my brain and psyche. One in particular I have been mulling this last 24 hours was when the question was posed to me what I liked about my body and I couldn’t find anything.

But with some consideration I have found other things I like about my body and self. I feel the need to share, so here they are…..
I like my ears, and I think my feet are kinda cute. I have very good skin on my face and rarely get acne. My legs are very strong, at the gym I can push over 130 pounds on the weight machine. I like that I am very self aware and open minded. I am also very smart and observant. I love that I have a big heart and a kind Soul. 

I find I am working hard to stay in the energy brought up by the circle. I have realized that part of me wants to run away from it, to deny myself the growth, progress and change, because the past pattern is familiar. So I work to change and grow and honour my experience with all the amazing women from circle. I look forward to doing this retreat again sometime within the next 12 months. And I am telling several friends, hoping they will come try the experience and see how life changing and wonderful it is. 

I look forward to how I am expanding my consciousness and my heart, especially with regard to myself. I set my intention to stop avoiding looking in mirrors, and learn to love and accept myself, as all my retreat sisters taught me I need to. I will honour my worth as a tribute to them all. 

Love to you my sister-friend,

 

 

“I Saw Beauty”

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This is the story of a little girl shared with me by her mother who attended my first Bodysex workshop. There her mother learned about and identified the parts of her sexual anatomy, began to feel comfortable in her own skin and expressed this newfound comfort with her daughter.

She expressed it by taking better care of her body, not covering up while changing, showing appreciation for parts of her self that she had previously disliked and by sitting down beside her daughter naked. With the little girl watching, her mother identified and named all the parts of her vulva and their different purposes. Her daughter —fascinated by this — looked at her own vulva and did the same alongside her mom. A year later this happened:

“Mom come here, I have to tell you something!” said the little girl from her bath. Her mother walked in to see her daughter smiling up at her.

“I was just looking at my vulva.”

“Oh yah….And what did you see?” asked her mother.

“Well my clitoris looks like a little hill, and my labia look like peas from the garden.”

Smiling her mother asked if she saw anything else.

“Yah” said the little girl, “I saw beauty.”