“What are some words used to describe a temple?”
I stood in front of the class and wrote everyone’s suggestions on the chalkboard: holy, beautiful, reverent, sacred, clean, quiet, peaceful, the house of God, divine, sanctuary.
Next, I turned to the lesson manual and read aloud the first line verbatim, “Our bodies are temples.” I paused for a second and then asked the class if they ever use these same words to describe their bodies. The women kind of chuckled and looked around incredulous. It was the response I expected. The knowing glances and ironic smirks told of a shared understanding of the world. Women hate their bodies. That was a given.
I pushed further. I went down the list. I said, “My body is divine.” “My body is beautiful.” “My body is holy.” “My body is sacred.” My body is clean, peaceful, quiet and reverent.” “My body is the house of God.” “My body is a sanctuary.”
I asked the class to imagine how their lives would be different if they saw their bodies as temples. Literally. As temporal housing for a spiritual being. As a place for a god to dwell on earth. As the physical symbol of a divine purpose. As something to be treasured, respected, and cherished. We talked for a minute but then I had to move on to the rest of the lesson.
I didn’t want to stop. I wished we could keep talking about this. I needed some answers.
But it is not what you think. I am not struggling with body image, disordered eating, or self-esteem. It’s the opposite. I am enamored with my body. Proud. Grateful. Content.
It might have something to do with the fact that I have spent the last two years of my life being sick. I lived on another continent and fought through four bouts of malaria, two cases of typhoid fever, ear infections, oesophagitis, and more Montezuma’s revenge than is appropriate to share. I got home, got healthy, got pregnant, and then went through ten months of continual morning sickness. I vomited day and night, with pills or without, no matter what I ate or what I did. I was miserable and depressed. I wanted my mind and my body back.
The culmination of these physically difficult years was giving birth. It was traumatic and extraordinary at the same time. Feeling everything gave me something that I had not anticipated. It gave me a sense of control. It felt like I triumphed over all of the things I could not control in the past– mosquitoes, bacteria, viruses, and nausea. It was my own personal summit.
The second my daughter was out of my body I felt amazing. I felt strong and able. Quick and clear headed. It has been almost a year and I am still basking in that joy. I feel healthy and strong. My body is far from “perfect” but I adore it. I am grateful every single day for it.
I see my daughter’s little pot belly arching over her diaper and smile looking down at my little pouch still loose and round. I know I should be ashamed of it, hide it, talk disparaging about it, but right now the only word I can think of is cute. Cute like her little belly. We match.
But I am afraid. I am afraid this feeling is fleeting. I am afraid for the day when I will start hating my baby belly. I am afraid that health is not enough to sustain bodily love. I am afraid because I have no examples to look up to.
While I love the women in my life, both Mormon and non-Mormon, most women I know hate their bodies. They say horrible things about themselves. They punish, critique, ignore, abuse, change, and refuse to acknowledge their current form. They talk about baby weight, boob jobs, sizes, scales, bad foods, good foods, diets, and someday.
I have never once heard another woman talk about their body as though it was a temple.
Why is that? Do you love your body? What has helped you get to that point? How can we help others love their bodies? How does seeing your body as a temple change the way you treat it?