Owning Yourself: For Better or For Worse


My ankle has been doing a bang-up job of predicting the weather lately. I broke it when I was about 22 and it was set wrong, and I can tell you that it’s kept me updated on all the fronts that have come through recently. Other repercussions of this injury have gradually manifested over the years until it has become my “bad ankle.”

Get to a certain age and everyone has one: the trick knee, the bad back, the screwed up shoulder. You can’t help but notice the language we use to describe these parts of ourselves. They disclose the antagonistic relationship we have with parts of our own bodies. We marginally accept these troublesome aspects as something to live with, but generally have little to no hope for improving, creating a sort of armed truce.

The moment when you disparagingly label your knee, back or shoulder, you create a rift, an artificial distinction within yourself. The result of this is an internal fracturing, a step away from the kind of wholeness that creates a sense of well-being and sets the stage for good health.

Can this breach be mended? Indeed it can, but it requires noticing and acknowledging bad habits and reorientation of our energetic and emotional relationship to our bodies.

The numbers of clients I see who have energetically divorced portions of themselves is staggering. Once we work together to recognize and bridge that relationship, clients are shocked to see old patterns of pain and limitation associated with that disconnected limb or segment begin to improve.

Think about it: how weird is it to take one aspect of yourself and create an artificial division based on an internally created hostility? We cannot genuinely split part of ourselves off. It creates an inauthentic persona that prevents us from being all of who we genuinely are.

Of course, nothing will reset my weird ankle, but other patterns that are related to it, provoke it or connected to the trauma of it are much more accessible for resolution if I don’t have an acrimonious relationship with that part of myself. It is possible to reconnect, and even become loving toward all parts of ourselves.

Wabi-Sabi is a word that describes an aesthetic approach that appreciates a beauty based in imperfection and impermanence.  Objects that exemplify a wabi-sabi aesthetic are characterized by simplicity, modesty, wear, and age, and demonstrate an interaction with the natural process of decay that results from being in the flow of time and experience. A Western corollary is “shabby chic.” It’s the thing that makes people find beauty in antique toys, vintage clothing and grandma’s house. The nature of wabi-sabi comes from an acceptance and embracing of the impermanence of all things. Even you.

Think of an object that you love, not despite its wear, cracks and chips, but because of them. Imagine how much less attractive that object might be to you if it was perfect, new and shiny.

Think of yourself as that chipped mixing bowl, or the tool whose handle is worn just right for your hand. Your hitches and kinks and scars are expressions of the wabi-sabi nature of you, of a life well lived and lessons learned. Can you begin to see that they are an essential part of you? Can you embrace and love them because they are an inherent part of who you are, rather than despite it?

There is a fine, but important line between used and tattered, between rustic and neglected. As such, it is crucial to understand that maintaining yourself, seeing to your own well-being is also an important part of wabi-sabi living. The wabi-sabi object is lovingly mended, not allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. Similarly, it is also important not to give up on the places in our bodies that give us regular trouble, but to maintain and improve them to the extent possible.

The first step to mending your wabi-sabi body is to recognize, embrace and value it in its entirety. By perceiving, acknowledging and accepting that the damages, wounds, and scars that hamper you as something of value, you create an atmosphere of diplomacy. Once you own and love your worn out places, you can begin to heal.

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