Thursday, July 2, 2015

Loving What Is

(also published in slightly different form in Truly Alive Magazine)

Body dysmorphia is an enemy of contentment in the physical manifestation of our identities.

Certain forms of dysmorphia are pretty well known, such as anorexia, in which a person literally perceives themselves as overweight even as they may be starving to death. Other people become fixated with one “imperfect” body part, and may go to extremes to hide or “fix” what they perceive to be broken. Body dysmorphia has a high association with major depression and suicide. Relatively “minor” dysmorphic sensations are strongly correlated with high levels of anxiety and social withdrawal.

What has been making the news lately is a gender identity that differs from the body a person was born into. It’s not just Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono, but a long list of people who have opened up about being transgender. ( Many people are responding to the celebrity changes dismissively, as if it were a publicity stunt. Others erupt into flames of hatred for a variety of different reasons; anywhere from “It goes against the Bible” to “Men just feel like they can take over everything, even being a woman!” As usual, only the loudest or most famous voices in any argument are heard; we rarely get to hear from the ordinary person going through an extraordinary situation. Transgender people have been around as long as people themselves have been around — we just haven't heard their voices.

I believe that the new openness surrounding gender and identity is very challenging for a lot of people. It is a tender issue that might bring up our own internal doubts and fears about who or what we are, or how we identify ourselves. Just as the issue of gay marriage frightens many people, as if suddenly they themselves might somehow be forced into marrying someone of their own sex, many people are afraid that transgender people will somehow contaminate or coerce others into being transgender. We don’t even seem to have fully gotten past the notion that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice. If someone else’s personal identity frightens you, it might be time to meditate or reflect on where that fear comes from.

In keeping with my normal emphasis on ruthless self-awareness, you might find it useful to check in with yourself. Ask yourself if you are living a life of deep authenticity. If not, what changes would you need to make in order to be fully yourself? Does the idea (of allowing yourself to be fully who you are) disquiet you? Try probing around the edges of your discomfort to find out the shape and form of this shadow part of yourself. This unacknowledged, hidden force needs to become integrated with your public face, not avoided. It can be a source of great creativity and personal power. Learn to explore these parts of yourself that feel dangerous and unstable. Learn to love all the aspects of yourself. “A whole and balanced self is a reconciliation of all parts, an inner unification. It is not an indulgence of the darker parts of our natures, but an acceptance and direct experience of them in the light of mindful awareness and deep honesty.” (

It is not always an easy process to do this.  I know and understand that for me personally, self awareness can be a painful and bewildering growth process.  In this case, it is one I have had to do most recently -- full disclosure now-- one of my children just came out as transgender.  I have had to delve into my deepest parts and let go of fears I didn't even know I had in order to unconditionally love and accept and support my firstborn child.  Love was the easy part, but full acceptance?  That was more difficult in the short term.  A comadre who is a counselor was the biggest help to me when she reminded me that my child's journey in life was not MY journey.  She advised me to talk to Spirit in order to come into full acceptance.  I was able to go into a deep meditation, and ask for help from Spirit in letting go of my fears and being able to return to the place of deepest mother-love, and that was such a relief to do.  I am proud of my child, and I deeply admire the strength and personal integrity it took for him to come out of hiding. 

Every person's soul-contract is their own, and from this side we cannot know or understand all the complexities of that process.  What I do know is that we all get the choice to learn and grow, or to stay still and stagnant, or even to undo our learnings throughout our lives.  If we are fortunate enough to increase our level of consciousness (higher than simple survival mode), we can truly make good and helpful choices for ourselves, and we can also understand and accept that the people around us are making their own choices from their own level of consciousness too.  We can stand in neutral and loving acceptance of what is.