During the summer, we’d rush out of the house with sandwiches, blankets, towels, my baby sister and her play-pen in tow, and drive the two miles to Manhattan Beach and camp out for the day. Mom would ask me to rub the Coppertone suntan lotion on her back. No matter how careful I tried to be, grains of sand would mix with the lotion and cake between my fingers. Mom would turn golden brown during the summers, a blessing from her Cherokee ancestors. She was tall with emerald eyes and long auburn hair that hung just above her waist.  I thought my mom was prettier than Cher (of Sunny and Cher), but she never saw herself that way.

Mom was always on a diet. I remember her standing in front of the mirror lamenting that she was too fat, that she needed to lose weight. So on some weekends we’d drive to see the weight doctor in West Covina and buy water pills. She was tested for allergies and of course, she was allergic to almost every food on the planet and for a while lived on salt-free, fat-free split pea soup from the health food store and Melba toast. She tried the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet, she tried every diet, and yet her battle with her self image waged on.

Between my mother, the media, and the cultural norms surrounding beauty, I too picked up the battle cry and declared, “My body is lousy and therefor I am lousy too!”

We inherit our body image, and we confuse approval of the body with our worthiness to receive love. Indeed, we have made our bodies the sentinels at the gate of self-love.

Our bodies, while they should be celebrated are often maligned and mistreated. We talk down to our bodies, say mean things to it, punish it for what we feed it the night before with an extra hour of cardio. Yes, some of us hate our bodies, feel betrayed and ashamed of our bodies, and even wish we had different bodies.

In search of divine love, some mystics and holistic zealots have denigrated the body, denying and suppressing its delicious desires. But this is just another form of self-flagellation disguised as spirituality.

The body my friend is an extension of consciousness, and how we feel about the body is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves, and this in turn determines our quality of life.

Our bodies are starved for love, approval, and attention. We are our own bad relationship, worse than any narcissistic lover.

Freedom however is on the other side of conditional love for the body. The calling from Spirit is to love the body now, not when it’s perfectly sculpted, 20 lbs lighter, or cancer free. We are to show it unconditional love, nurture with a thoughtful gaze, good food, clean water, kind words, and a soft embrace. It’s time to welcome it home, opening our hearts and minds to the true Spirit of Divine Love.