Early Sunday morning. Devotional time. Candles. Coffee. Journal. Sock feet. Quiet except for the scratch of pencil against paper. Reflecting on the week’s work and planning the week ahead. Creating rituals to support my wellness. All of this called devotional because it is devoted to how I want to feel, what I want to practice, what I value, and how I want to serve my realm.
I journal my wins for the week — my practice — right along with my chores and tasks. Epiphany struck as two nuggets of wisdom worked in tandem to create a brand new ritual just aching to be born. Intercourse between one of my wins and one of my desires. If we could watch and listen to two ideas make love, this was church for me today.
The women in my office are in full-force hatred of their bodies right now because this is our collective ritual for the beginning of the year. They speak this hatred dutifully, flagellating themselves for eating food and punishing themselves by insulting their bodies. I’m going to go sit at my desk and eat this and think about being fat. When one does it there is an unspoken obligation that all must do it. It starts with fat chatter and grows in scope and intensity until all are thoroughly saturated with disdain.
Momentum builds as more voices join the chorus of hate. Menstrual symptoms, pain, fat, body hair, changes from childbearing, and evidence of aging are all considered betrayals inflicted upon them by their bodies. I listened to this waiting for a moment to intervene on behalf of their bodies, on behalf of my body, and all bodies. When one said I hate our bodies, and another said Me too, I heard my moment. I leaned over and whispered to her shoulder, Kelly’s body, not everyone hates you. I will love you. Then turning to the other, Shelley’s body, I don’t hate you. I will love you.
Silence. Stillness. Wide eyes stared at me. So I reached up to caress my own shoulder and whispered while they watched, Don’t listen to them. I love you. I treasure you. I value you. Down my arms, across my belly, to my thighs. You are precious to me. I adore you. I will protect you. They got it. It worked. They stopped. They listened. They absorbed an alternative suggestion to their conditioning. The conversation shifted away from hate. Magic words. That’s all spells really are, y’all; the magic of words. I recorded this win in my journal for Sunday morning reflection. Gold stars. Hell yeah.
Friday evening, leaving the gym feeling pumped and potent after finishing a treadmill run, floating on endorphins. Clearing my locker and heading for the door, I caught my reflection in the mirror. I saw my neck. My face fell. Endorphins dissolved. Negative thoughts about my neck making me look old snuck out from the shadows. I countered with thoughts more kind but also recorded this in my journal for Sunday morning reflection. There is still work to be done in relation to my neck. My neck has done nothing wrong. I wanted to revisit this during time set aside for contemplation, so I wrote it down.
The time set aside for contemplation is today. I considered how to craft a new ritual to support the value of loving my neck. I employed the same tactic I used with my friends at work. I wrote them down; my strategies to replace shameful, incriminating language (and disappointed facial expressions) with affection. Words, thoughts, touch, all aligned with the practice of beholding her as My Beloved Neck. I wrote it into existence.
My Beloved Neck. She cradles My Beloved Throat, the seat of My Beloved Voice. Oooooh. Yes. This. Poetry. My Beloved Muse.
And then a bell rang within. Internal fireworks. What if I started describing all of my body this way? Each part and the whole; my beloved legs, my beloved skin, my beloved body. Every time. Every reference. In front of Everyone. That would take a strong summoning of My Beloved Moxie. My Beloved Mettle.
Imagine. This would not only be good for me but good for other people to hear this as permission language. It will challenge and dare them to consider the same for themselves. Even if it doesn’t catch on easily or right away, it will make people think. Any time we say something flattering about ourselves our listeners automatically think it means something about them by comparison. This will definitely trigger reactions. Women will definitely talk about it among themselves. She calls it her beloved body. Even if it begins as scorn, if I can make the thought stick it might grow. It might root. It might inspire. It might help heal. Me. You. Them. Us. Our Beloved World.
The new ritual I sought was born. Starting today until it becomes natural, my beloved body. Every time I say something about her, she is my beloved body. Every time I speak of her parts, she is my beloved thumb, my beloved ankle. I did something similar years ago when I began answering the question of How are you? with I am divine. When I nursed myself through a knee injury, I self-soothed by referring to my healing knee as My Amazing Knee. I KNOW this works. I’m living the working work. And for planting the seeds of these rituals, credit where it is due to Vivienne McMaster for her self-portrait project called Be Your Own Beloved. I am a graduate. My Beloved Gratitude.
What brought all of this together to facilitate an epiphany? The desire to ritualize wellness. Ritual feels more special than tool, tip, or task, doesn’t it? It makes the work feel sacred. Spiritual. This is why a Word of the Year practice is relevant to wellness work, my friends. It not only provides a catalyst for our desires but it creates opportunities for mind, body, and spirit to experience more synchronicity throughout the year. Choosing a word to represent this synchronicity helps us recognize it when it is happening. And celebrate it. Twelve days in and it is already working.
It’s not too late, you know. There’s still a lot of year left. Hundreds of days left to start again. You never know when one of those days of practicing the smallest ritual will end up changing your whole life. Your whole beloved life.