Rants & Raves
THE WOMAN'S BELLY BOOK: FINDING YOUR TREASURE WITHIN, BY LISA SARASOHN
A Review by Lynne Murray
Dispelling the shame and learning to love my belly certainly saved my life. (The Woman's Belly Book, p. 102)
Yoga teacher Lisa Sarasohn is very serious about women getting in touch with their bellies, a.k.a. their sacred centers. This is a portion of women's anatomy that causes intense anxiety. Mass media would have us believe that bellies are fair game for ridicule unless they are flat or rippling with muscle.
The belly has been the innocent target of such tidal waves of negative media attention that even people (of both sexes) who have accepted the rest of their bodies often will view their bellies as the repository of all unworthiness. The degree to which people seek to lose fat in that area and have their bellies "disappear" tells us of the desperate amount of hatred involved. Even when a woman starves herself into minus clothing sizes and her rib cage and other bones begin to show, she is likely to have some fat on her abdomen. The anorexic death wish that women are encouraged to foster makes it possible to demonize even the amount of fat necessary for survival. As Sarasohn puts it:
In many ways our culture "can't stomach" woman's belly. Whether we're awake to it or not, that rejection is painful. We often cope with the culture's rejection by cooperating with it—by scorning our own bellies, numbing our core feelings, and denying our instinctive knowing. We try to protect ourselves as well as we can.
When we cooperate with the culture's rejection, however, we repress our sense of self. We muffle our inner authority, guidance and purpose. We mute our creativity. We restrict our sexual expression. (The Woman's Belly Book, p.38)
"I always say tummy, never stomach or belly," said a gentleman of my acquaintance who has long admired larger-figured women. He is very careful about how he expresses his attraction, though, because he has learned the hard way that the very word "belly" can cause emotional meltdown in women of all sizes. Tummy is a less threatening word. It's an infantile word, like "tush," and you could imagine rubbing a little baby's tummy with affection.
Affection for tummies gets lost very soon these days in a sea of negativity. Body hatred for young girls can kick in even before grammar school. By the time a woman reaches adolescence, when she thinks of her body, she meditates not on its strength or beauty, but on what's wrong with it.
Is there a woman alive in America who doesn't know what her so-called "figure flaws" are? If so, she must have never picked up a women's magazine, read a book on clothing, watched a television program on self-improvement, or talked to a helpful girlfriend who will be able to instantly and generously inform her of just where her figure fails to measure up to the ideal. How many women in America have a wholesome relationship with their bellies?
The Woman's Belly Book bravely and gently engages in dialog with those who might be hoping that if they learn to love their belly, it will take on the desired shape. The author says that many readers may wonder, "Will loving my belly flush away the fat, will it trim my tummy?" Each time she addresses this question, she answers, in essence, "maybe," at the same time directing the reader to a deeper level of inquiry.
Perhaps the author is basing her quiet, but affirming approach on an understanding gained through her own experience of decades of conflict. She says:
For twenty years, beginning when I was seventeen, I devoted myself to "banishing my belly." All I accomplished during that time was to make myself miserable and jeopardize my health. For the next fifteen years, I dedicated myself to deepening my body awareness and understanding the significance of woman's belly in the context of history and culture.
This is the truth as I know it: Woman's belly and the power it contains are necessary to our survival, both as individuals and as a tribe. What's necessary to our survival is sacred. (The Woman's Belly Book, p. 102)
For those brave enough to read it and open up to its message, The Woman's Belly Book provides wise and helpful tools to peel away the layers of negativity and open the long-smothered and constricted power of our own body's center. Cause for celebration—wisdom, energy and treasure, all as close as your next breath and only waiting to be uncovered, respected and energized
More about The Woman's Belly Book, Finding Your Treasure Within, by Lisa Sarasohn, is at her web site, loveyourbelly.com.
© Lynne Murray