Love your body.
That’s all I really want to tell you this week.
Love your body.
And I don’t mean by that, add twenty-eleven more things to our to-do lists that are already heavy enough with trying to live through, survive through, pastor through, organize through, teach through, parent through, love through multiple pandemics of Covid-19, white supremacy, climate devastation, and, in the US, an immensely tense election.
And I don’t mean by that, shame or guilt, or diets or…no.
I just mean, love your body. Nourish it, thank it, love it for doing its part in getting us through.
Our bodies have miraculous adaptations for dealing with danger and stress, constantly assessing for our safety and shifting energy and resources where we need them. “Fight/Flight/Freeze” is necessary for our survival. However, when we live through prolonged periods of stress and uncertainty – like we are right now – our nervous systems get fatigued, especially our adrenals which are pumping out the stress-response hormones to keep us in that constant state of high alert.
The impact of that prolonged demand on our adrenals is felt in our whole bodies: we end up with digestive and immune system issues, fatigue, trouble concentrating, sleep disruption, muscle soreness, and mental health issues.
There’s no shame in that – even though capitalism and ableism try to tell us so. Our bodies are doing what they are designed to do: help us navigate danger and stress. And, bodies have limits too, and this year has stretched us to those limits and beyond them in so many ways.
So I mean, love your body.
As an herbalist, I mean too, let the plants help you love your body. Let the elements and the herbs minister to you (Psalm 104). Herbs are brilliant at loving our nervous systems and indeed our whole bodies. So here are some suggestions for working with herbs to love your body – that hopefully don’t feel like adding more to your to-do list, but more like quiet practices that you can ease into the rhythm of your day.
Air: Remember to breathe. 😊 Make a spritzer with rosewater and keep it on your desk or by your bed; spray yourself and your space when you need a lift or a reminder to breathe.
Fire: Adaptogen tinctures will help your nourish your adrenals (“adaptogen” just means herbs that nourish the adrenals and bring the body back to balance); and bitters tinctures will help your digestive system function better, in part by reminding it that you’re safe enough to send energy towards digesting food.
Water: Here’s a tea blend full of adaptogen and other nervous system-nourishing herbs; this blend also has lots of vitamins and minerals. Teas are great for the nervous system because they can deeply nourish us even when we’re in that “fight/flight/freeze” mode.
- 2 parts each nettles and oatstraw
- 1 part borage
- ½ part each rose and lemon balm
- ¼ part licorice root
A part is anything! A cup, a handful, a pinch, whatever. This blend is best as an “overnight” infusion, so it’s nice to prepare the tea as a ritual before going to bed. Use 8 tsp of the tea blend for 4 cups of water off the boil. Let it steep overnight. Strain, and drink throughout the next day.
Earth: Anoint your body. If you have an anointing oil, balm, or body oil/lotion you can use that, or use olive oil – whatever will bring you pleasure and help you feel loved. Lay hands and anoint wherever you feel you need to. Love and thank your body for the miracle that it is.
One of the lovely things about these practices is that we can do them for one another, too – making sure there is space and time in our collective agendas and work plans for rest and care and limits. If the pastoral is political, then assuring that there is collective space and time for the pastoral care of our bodies is a deeply political act, when white supremacy, capitalism, and ableism try to convince us that our bodies are only worth as much as they can consume and produce.
And, loving our bodies and nourishing our nervous systems is part of how we stay in the struggle for justice for the long haul.
Empires don’t love our bodies. But God does.
So find ways to feel that Divine love in your body.
Love your body.
Rev. Anne Dunlap is a pastor, activist/organizer, and herbal warrior; the Faith Coordinator for Showing Up for Racial Justice; and UCC Community Minister who lives on Haudenosaunee land currently called Buffalo, NY. She is committed to fierce love and collective liberation, working in freedom movements with folks across race, gender, and class lines for over 30 years. Follow her on Twitter/Insta @fiercerev. Her website is fiercerevremedies.com.
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