By Sydney Bell
I describe my work as supporting women in reclaiming Body Sovereignty. You could simply say that I work with people to help them develop a ‘better body image’ and you wouldn’t be wrong, that is definitely part of it. But over the years I’ve gravitated to the term ‘Body Sovereignty’ because I feel it speaks more to the depth and breadth of this work and the radical nature of resisting cultural pressure to engage in body loathing. Instead ‘Body Sovereignty’ speaks to a peaceful and positive relationship with your body. The theme of ‘sovereignty’ provides an opportunity to pause and look a little deeper…
We start by asking ourselves what ‘sovereignty’ means. My understanding of sovereignty has been shaped by my time with the Sisterhood of Avalon and reclaiming our sovereignty through engaging in the cycle of healing. Jhenah Telyndru, the Sisterhood of Avalon’s founder, Morgen, and the author of ‘Avalon Within’ describes sovereignty as “fully conscious self-determination, a sense of who you are – where you come from and where you are going”. When I think about Body Sovereignty I build on this idea, knowing and understanding ourselves and our actions to include feeling comfortable in our own skin and living a life that is embodied where we are fully conscious of ourselves and are in charge of how we live in relationship with our body, and in charge of how our body is in relationship with the world.
So what does that look like in our day-to-day life? I see Body Sovereignty expressed, through mindfulness, compassion and discernment. Let’s start with mindfulness; Body Sovereignty is realized when we strive to live in tune with the physical reality of our body, we pay attention to and respond to it’s signals, such as when to sleep, when and what to eat, what kind of movement we find enjoyable. Let’s move to compassion; we shift from seeing our body as a ‘project’ or something flawed that needs to be perfected, to seeing the body’s’ inherent perfection and divinity right now, just as it is. Finally let’s look to discernment; when I live a body sovereign life, it’s about critical thinking, claiming our space in the world and rejecting body shame. I celebrate body diversity and refuse to feel bad if our body doesn’t conform to an unrealistic ideal.
What is the importance of Body Sovereignty in our lives and in our larger quest for sovereignty? I believe that reconnecting with and making peace with our body is a vital element of personal growth because so many of us are held back from doing what we truly want. We often think the life we want can only be ours if we are able to control and shape our body. That can keep us spinning our wheels on the diet/body shame treadmill forever. Reclaiming Body Sovereignty breaks us free from the limiting beliefs that we must look a certain way to be healthy and happy. Body Sovereignty offers us an alternative space where the body is home – a place of peace providing a foundation where we can move forward with our inner work and engagement with the world -and the world needs us.
Sydney has been a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon since 2006 and currently sits as the Communications Matron on the Council of Nine. A trained social worker, Sydney is also a counselor and body image coach and through her practice, Embracing the Body Divine, she works with people who want to develop a more positive relationship with their body and reclaim their Body Sovereignty.
To learn more about Sydney’s work, visit her website at http://www.sydneybell.ca/