Our bodies are vessels for our souls... our minds. We ignore them, we don't treat them right. They respond to us. Tell us they need help, need something different, need you to stop this, stop that. Take a break. Breathe. With mindfulness we can learn to listen, slowly, over time. Our bodies are beautiful. They are strong. 

Our bodies are far more resilient than we give them credit for. As are we. 

This is part two of my project on vulnerability and validation. These brave women volunteered to let me photograph their bodies and create art out of their images. It is a vulnerable act to be photographed without clothes. Some of these people I had never even met before. 

They taught me that vulnerability looks different for everyone. Everyone has a different struggle with their body and each struggle looks different to the outside world. All of these women are beautiful and strong. Their bodies are keeping them alive, allowing them to experience all the intricacies of life. I hope I did their energy and strength a bit of justice with these illustrations. 

Words from Savannah:

"how i learned to listen:

i first learned to listen because i couldn’t hear anything. i thought i was broken. maybe i was.

for a long time, i couldn’t feel hunger in my body, and i couldn’t feel fullness. i would sleep some nights, and others, run at 1am. my hands and feet stayed cold, like they were someone else’s. i could not trust this body, because sometimes i woke up in the middle of the night in front of an open fridge. my body was on autopilot, and i was scared.

in treatment for my eating disorder, the first thing i could hear from my body, was physical pain. my stomach fought with the first full meal i had eaten in months. i had no choice but to sit with it. no running, no walking, just being. in front of my peers, unable to hide.

it seems like the meals stacked up. one on the next. but i ate every one prescribed by the dietician. after ten days, i felt hunger between meals. i raised my hand in group, and said “i felt hunger today” and i smiled.

after months of listening and responding, i felt intuition. this was different than an urge to run, it was a message from my center. i was ready to leave. 

then i see that she was there, before treatment. she was the one who said ‘it’s time for help.’

i know now that this voice needs tending. if ignored, she might go silent again. and that is dis-ease for me. i have heard her go quieter when i have heartbreak, or louder when i have boredom. she has her reasons and i have a relationship with her. i don’t always do what she asks, but i sit down with her, and i consider her. i thank her for showing up, every time. i keep listening and she keeps me alive." 

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Words from Alex:

"Listening VS Seeing: 

I think for a long time and still very often now I have only “seen” my body. I have seen it be fat, skinny, sunburnt, pale, full, bloated and anywhere else in-between. I have “seen” it not look like it's “supposed” to or how it looked in that one picture.  Unfortunately we can't just stop “seeing” our bodies. We’ve all been guilty of looking at ourselves in reflections as we pass a building or using that full length mirror in the bathroom. 

It hasn’t been 'til recent that I have started to really “listen” and understand what my body is telling me. For me it's been learning the balances of nutrition and how I treat my body. Also trying new exercises like yoga and guided meditations. 
Though on a daily basis I fight the struggle of “seeing” verses “listening,” I have been able to get ready for my day and understand that even though I may not be happy in what I see , I know that my body is happy. It is “feeling” fed, it is “feeling” healthy, and “it is what it is.” And that is alright with me."

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Words from Michelle:

"Growing up is hard. Our bodies change and our peers seem to think that they should change in a certain way. I remember wearing a skirt to school one day and the boys made fun of me for trying to look attractive and not accomplishing it very well (their opinion). I never wore a skirt to school again. I had the chest and the waist but my bum was flat and I didn't fill in pants very well. Turns out I was just wearing the wrong kind of pants. After high school I really blossomed, but I held on to the low self esteem that I had adopted during those previous years. I slowly became more comfortable with myself, but there was always a part of me that wanted to feel sexier than I found myself.

After having kids your body changes even more. I'm one of the lucky ones who dropped all the weight after both kids. But I still felt the affects of being unhealthy. Nobody ever took me seriously when I said I wanted to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle. Met with comments such as "oh please, you're so tiny! You don't need to do any of that stuff." was really disheartening. I felt like I had nobody's support. Not from friends anyway, which was what I had always wanted and needed. It pushed me further into thinking body shape is the only thing that matters.

 I still struggle with occasional thoughts of wanting to change the way my body looks or feels. Most people think thinner people don't have self esteem issues, because they have what the media has been telling us beauty is for so long. We never know other people's stories and the pain they've been through to get to be who they are today. I've come a long way from where I used to be and 90% of the time I can honestly say I feel confident or, at the very least, at home in my skin."

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