Luz and Sandra 082014-193b

Luz + Sandra – USA

Luz

My mother’s eyes beam the most astonishingly brilliant blue light. I am looking into her eyes, at her mouth, her familiar face, surveying her scarred and boyish chest. We stand side by side, her hand securely in mine. Under this big sky, my most prominent awareness while Erica photographs us is not of my nakedness but awe of my mother’s full bloom radiance. Her beauty is arresting. She is unselfconsciously joyous and laughing, her eyes are lit up; “I trust you”, they say. My mother – still alive after a decade of cancers, euphorically happy, unashamed of her body, is holding my hand, posing naked with me! What do I feel? Ecstatic love! A vibrational current of love between my mother and myself, both of us so alive in our perfect bodies. Right now, I am my favorite me, living my ridiculously magical life.

But the magic and miracle of this moment is borne out of the shadow of contrast. 30 years ago, Sandra and I were different people; we were not holding hands nor did we know trust or joy. The love I felt for my mother was deep but I often couldn’t reach her. We come from a long lineage of suffering and we both internalized that poisonous family inheritance; generations of ancestors barely surviving in loveless landscapes. I left home at 14, carrying my story of the alien sensitive son born into an unhappy family. I learned to present my otherness and struggle like medals of survival and strength, but also flaunted them as my big excuse. The experience of living in my body was painful and I ached to check out. High, laying in bed alone, running my hands over my skinny boyish ribcage and protruding pelvis reminded me of the photos I had seen of naked men in concentration camps, the life starved out of them. I was attracted to the masculine, confident matinée men but the boy in the mirror had none of their qualities. I saw no beauty and felt betrayed. In a recurring dream, I was on my knees in front of a high ancient wall made of yellow stone and sand. I heard celebratory gypsy music, smelled aromas of cooking meat and the fragrances of fruit and flowers. There were sometimes cracks in the wall through which I saw men and women dancing, and heard clapping, song, and laughter. Joy existed as a concept because I witnessed it there, but in the dream I was always alone outside the wall, drawing in the sand and desperately unable to find a way through or over it.

Fast forward. Study, work, keen sensory observation, friendship, inter-relationship, sex, tribe, yoga, mind-expanding drugs, and a golden godson born to teach me how to love something undamaged. All these teachers, breathing surrender into my suffering. Fueled by will, fierce curiosity and that dream, I left America over and over, traveling among the descendants of slaves and conquerors, Nazis and victims, survivors of war, everywhere reflections of wealth and starvation. Spiritual warriors and wise medicine people of ancient tribes taught me new languages of being human. Exhale grief, inhale wonder, exhale resentment, inhale gratitude… Gratitude teaches me the vibration of internal freedom regardless of circumstance, joy through contrast of pain, and that abundance and generosity can bloom out of scarcity. Life is what you pay attention to. My painful stories lost their purpose and peeled away like layers of dead skin, to reveal a man vibrantly alive. All this time, Sandra has also been doing her work, finding her way, bravely trusting and surrendering to her many teachers. Forgiveness is the ultimate high.

I am 46 and Sandra is 73. United and completely naked, we are liberated even from our old stories. We are mother and son, eternal friends and companions in the great mystery, conspiring to heal our lineage. I dance joyous gratitude for my ancestors, who gave life to this miraculous body and set me on a rich path of discovery and transformation. I also offer this reflection of us to our culture, so alive with evolution yet still poisoned by institutional shame and fear. I’m whispering to you that I found my way to the other side of that wall and I am dancing and laughing, saturated in nourishment, abundance and love.

Sandra

I’m overflowing with gratitude to Erica and my youngest son, Luz, for helping me on my journey to let the light within me shine through and aid in my transformation as I approach my 74th birthday. It was with a long lost feeling of childish joy and abandon, that I romped unfettered by clothing, through the green grass I seldom see in the Southern Arizona desert where I live, and felt the sunshine and cool breeze on my naked skin. Sharing the experience with my son made it so much more special, almost sacred.

The seed of Luz was planted and grew in my womb after three previous children, as the marriage to their father was ending, and was by far my easiest pregnancy. I fell instantly in love with him as he struggled to take his first breath and survive his first difficult year of life nourished by my love and breast milk. I saw his determination to grow up and show all who met him just how loving, magnificent, unique and gifted he was, even as a small child. Curiosity, compassion, understanding and loving for all creatures and cultures has made him truly a man of the world.

The doctors with all their cutting have not been able to eradicate the inner beauty I have finally learned to feel from my creator about myself and my deep connection to those around me. Walking back to the car after the photo shoot, I felt a profound sadness for my Grandmother, who was so ashamed of her mutilated body after losing her second breast to cancer, whom I helped bathe while still in my early teens. I give thanks for the love and nurturing I received from my late husband Edwin over nearly 20 years, who taught me to be true to myself. I gradually learned to forgive those I had allowed to intimidate and hurt me in the past, and am now able to bathe them in love and understanding. I’m more at peace with myself and with those around me than ever before, and live much more in the present, not regretting the past or worrying about the future. I’m working on compiling the stories of my family, reweaving the negative into a rich and beautiful tapestry I can pass on to my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and those yet to be born. I’m free of the tight restraints of being born into a repressive wealthy society of the 1940’s. I see the progress we have made as a society in the eyes and behavior of my lovely daughter and two beautiful adult granddaughters. I want to dance naked in a body who has survived too many assaults to count. I’m a thriver, not a survivor, living with cancer.

Deena 072914-284

Deena – USA

I don’t know what I look like.

I have to start there. It’s been floating around this past week repeatedly since I scheduled my photo shoot for The Embody Project. Erica just left after taking a generous amount of photographs while I hung around my living room unclothed, completely free to ponder myself in the flesh in front of a lens, and the fact remains…

I have no idea what my body really looks like.

Most of the thoughts that swirl through this awareness have an ambivalent, edgy, disloyal relationship with this thing I call “my body.” One moment it’s beautiful, sensual, feminine, miraculous. The next it’s too thick, soft, wrinkled, and undesirable. Which reminds me of the mythic shape-shifter, the trickster… in this case an experiential collection of sensations, images, and thoughts combining together in different formulations, different dreams, depending on the context, depending on the dreamer. All of which begs the follow up question, does my body “really” look like anything at all?

My mother once told me that when I was in my youth, I was the most beautiful person she had ever seen. I’ve never told anyone she said that, afraid it would sound like bragging. I’m touched by it though, in part, because I look so much like my mother and, in part, because I’m sure she didn’t see herself that way. The funny thing is she probably doesn’t recall ever having said or thought it now. It’s just a string of words hinged to nothing solid.

I’ll be fifty-four in two weeks. This body is aging. My breasts are less full, my flat ass is getting flatter, and my face looks tired even after a good night’s sleep. My right knee has recently felt stiff and I have saggy dimpled skin on my arms and thighs which was never quite like that before, but I can’t pretend that issues with my body are newly related to age. I need only root around my cache of memories to find a theatrical dark saga played out over decades of feeling self-conscious and confused in response to this collection of bone and flesh.and yet, I’m hesitant to drag them out here, onto the page, because they seem so old and frayed. The stories have lost most of their fascination and meaning now. And yet, to do this project, I’m going there at least this one last time, if only briefly.

Beginning in early childhood, I received inappropriate sexual attention and the pattern continued through high school and into my early twenties. Those experiences colored my sense of self, safety, and worth more than I realized for a very long time. About nine years old, inspired by stick thin fashion models, I went on my first diet. Innocence became purging, bingeing, hiding food, eating until I made myself sick, starving until I was lightheaded, hating the currency of my body, confusing love with need, sex with love, need with survival. I learned to smile, to never tell the truth, to cry and say I’m sorry instead of what in the world makes you think that’s an appropriate thing to do or say?

I’ve lost about twenty pounds over the last six months. I exercise regularly and eat with care. I’ve lost body fat and inches and my clothes fit looser, yet every morning I get up and look in the mirror and I have no idea how those numbers translate. Nothing seems definitive or settled about it. Just like my age. Just like everything, really. None of it is who I am.

In a certain way, getting older is a relief. And in another way, it can feel like a betrayal. I think about it differently all the time. Sometimes I’m shocked to remember my age or to see my face or my arms or my thighs in a certain light. And sometimes I love this aging process, and I’m fascinated by it. There is nothing to hold onto, not even stories of the past. Everything that used to define me becomes more and more transparent, slippery, unreal, like a house of cards I thought I lived inside of but now, well…

I have no idea what I really look like… or if I really look like anything at all.

Delilah_062714_0123

Delilah – Netherlands

Brick wall of the church surrounds me while standing naked on a supporting base. This was the former place of a statue of the Catholic Church. Looking out on a luxury graveyard.

We are in the south of the Netherlands where the church still has members. I was born as a Catholic girl by the name Maria. I felt the energy of that name my whole life, until a few years ago. Then the name Delilah came in. It’s coming form the words Delight and Delicious. And now I’m growing into that energy with my body. Because I’m opening up and awakening.

With that transformation I’m embodying the ‘paradigm shift’, what is taking place all over the world. It’s a shift from experiencing authority outside of ourselves, back to the power inside. Where a few powerful individuals took and got the power over people for ages, as in the Catholic Church, now the power comes back to all individuals.
So I’m letting go of the old belief systems. I’m discovering what I want, what I choose, need and am really longing for. I give myself time to find out. So I stopped working. I worked and studied for 30 years, all based on these old belief systems.

And in this shift I’m getting closer to a real connection with the Earth and the Universe. Connection with my own energy source. I remember a former life where I was connected with mother earth. She nurtured me and I was her servant. Working together in love and gratitude. I deeply love this planet.

So, the dependency of the energy from the other, with taking and giving, is decreasing. And I learn how to really accept the other who they are. I can, because I don’t need the other for the purpose of their energy anymore. And therefore in relationships I learn how to be in power-with dynamics, instead of power-over dynamics. And then the drama floats away and the suffering ends. It’s the symbol of the cross; horizontally and vertically energy in balance.

Growing to this balance, I’m burning through ego issues, illusions fall, blockages dissolve, the body de-armours from harnesses. And then something new is coming through. It’s life-force energy, kundalini energy, sexual energy flowing, arising. Awakening my glands, my heart, sexual organs, the nervous system, my brains and all the cells. They are becoming orgiastic, vibrant and alive.

And that’s what I’m feeling right there in that moment, where everything comes together in the here and now. First I was unstable and focusing not to fall. But when I let go of the fear I centered myself and felt my body, the surroundings and these loving people (Jules, Erica and Daniël). No fear of the church and the environment because they don’t have any power over me anymore.

The power is building up inside. And I felt my body; the energy comes in and I started to come alive, to fly, free from the supporting base. No more restrictions. Just space, openness, love, breathing, freedom in a beautiful naked body of a Woman. Enjoying. Celebrating Life. Celebrating all connections. Feeling born again, and again, and again….in every heartbeat, renewing this wonderful, intelligent, holy, sexy Body.

 

Stenen muren van de kerk omhullen mij als ik naakt op de sokkel sta. Hier stond ooit een beeld van de katholieke kerk, uitkijkend over een luxe begraafplaats. We zijn in het zuiden van Nederland waar de kerk nog steeds leden heeft.
Als een katholiek meisje ben ik geboren met de naam Maria. In mijn leven voelde ik de energie van die naam, tot een paar jaar geleden. Toen kwam de naam Delilah bij me binnen, ontsprongen uit de woorden Delight en Deliscious groei ik nu in die energie met mijn lichaam. Ik wordt steeds meer open en wakker.

Met die transformatie belichaam ik de verschuiving van het paradigma, wat zich in de hele wereld afspeelt. Het is een verschuiving van macht ervaren buiten jezelf naar macht en kracht in jezelf.
Waar een paar krachtige leiders de macht namen en kregen over de mensen, zoals in de katholieke kerk, komt nu de macht terug naar het individu.
Dus laat ik conditioneringen los. Ik herontdek wat ik echt zelf wil, nodig heb en naar verlang. Ik geef mezelf de tijd om het te laten ontvouwen. Daarom ben ik gestopt met werken. Ik werkte en studeerde de laatste 30 jaar, vanuit die conditioneringen en deze ‘oude’ geloofssystemen.

Deze transformatie brengt mij dichter bij de verbinding met de aarde en het universum. De verbinding met mijn eigen energiebron, mijn hart. Ik herinner me een vorig leven waar ik verbonden was met moeder aarde. Zij voedde mij en ik was haar dienaar. We werkten samen in liefde en dankbaarheid. Ik hou zielsveel van deze planeet.
De afhankelijkheid van de energie van de ander, met geven en nemen, neemt af. En zo kan ik leren hoe ik werkelijk de ander kan accepteren voor wie die is. Dat kan ik omdat ik de ander niet meer nodig heb, niet meer afhankelijk ben van zijn energie. En daardoor leer ik in relaties mijn kracht samen te laten werken met de dynamiek in plaats van het beheersen van de dynamiek. En dan verdwijnt het drama en stopt het lijden. Het is het symbool van het kruis: horizontale en verticale energie in balans.

Groeiend naar deze balans, brand ik door ego issues, illusies vallen weg, blokkades lossen op, mijn lichaam ontkrampt van haar harnas. En dan komt er iets nieuws doorheen. Het is levenskrachtenergie, kundalini energie, seksuele energie die ontspringt en stroomt. Het maakt mijn klieren wakker, mijn hart, mijn seksuele organen, het zenuwstelsel, mijn hersenen en alle cellen.
Alles wordt orgiastisch, vibrerend en levendig.

En dat is wat ik op dat moment ervaar, wanneer alles bij elkaar komt in het hier en nu. Eerst voelde ik mij onstabiel en focuste ik om niet te vallen. Maar dan liet ik de angst los en ik centreerde mezelf, voelde mijn lichaam, de omgeving en deze lieve mensen (Jules, Erica en Daniël). Geen angst voor de kerk en zijn omgeving omdat ze geen macht meer over mij hebben. De kracht is van binnen aan het opbouwen. Ik voelde mijn lichaam; de energie komt binnen en ik begin me levendig te voelen, alsof ik vlieg en los kom van de sokkel. Geen beperkingen meer. Alleen ruimte, openheid, liefde, ademen, vrijheid in dit prachtige naakte lichaam van een vrouw. Genieten.
Vieren van het leven. Vieren van alle verbindingen. Steeds weer opnieuw geboren worden in elke hartenklop, vernieuwd zich dit wonderbaarlijke, intelligente, heilige, seksuele Lichaam.

Ellen_070514_0119

Ellen – Netherlands

I LOVE THE BODY

-This Embody Project ….was a journey, it confused me and I had a magic experience!-

I love the body, I am fascinated by it for many reasons (for the constructions – the best piece of architecture EVER, how it works, what is does, as ‘translator’ of feelings, expression of the inner worlds and as ‘tool’ for healing). For this reason the body is the central subject in my artwork, and so of course I liked to join this Project.
Then I realized it was not about my relationship with THE body, but about my relationship with MY body…

My body: female and androgynous… how do I relate to that?
It felt uncomfortable being confronted unexpectedly with this issue.
I believe the body is an expression of who you are, and I have a female body but not feeling feminine as it ‘should be’. I sometimes wish I were a ‘normal heterosexual woman’ so that I could identify better with being a woman.
I see my body as a materialization of a deeper thing: Having had stories with men in past lifes it ‘felt better now in this life’ to ‘be’ a lesbian with an androgynous appearance. I am even questioning my being lesbian, which brings up questions about me as a woman.
And here also my body-appearance comes in sight: I like to be a woman, but do I feel that way….?
What does my androgynous body tell me? Can I love myself with my body as a full translation of the choice that ‘I made’ about where to be in this life: Female, but different, because of this never feeling totally part?

The photo shoot…
Having dropped the ‘art-approach’ I chose to be in nature on this day where the weather showed its variations. It took a while to find the right location, and when we were there, finally in the open at the lake-side, suddenly the wind started to blow… and kept on blowing…!
YES…!
All at once I felt so alive, powerful and joyful in a tremendous way, feeling my body responding to the sudden wind, waves on the water, waving grass, sound of the trees and sun on my skin. And I started to dance with nature, enjoying the elements and surprisingly enjoying being me…! Like weather and me were resonating with each other. My thoughts disappeared, judgements and concepts dissolved.
It became a celebration of pure energy, and part of that energy was ‘me’. In it I felt tremendously confident and at ease with ‘my’ femininity and masculinity as a balanced mixture, and I enjoyed being one with the environment like this. Receptive and strong, loving, grounded, and fully connected with every-thing. It felt so natural and powerful… being all that I am!

This experience stays with me, it was very transforming. Without judgements and concepts there remained only Being, loving, and potential. Since then I feel more connected, FREE in being me, grateful, and filled with a new feeling of inner joy.
IK HOUD VAN HET LICHAAM

-Dit Embody-Project…was een reis, het verwarde me en ik had een magische ervaring!-

Ik houd van het lichaam, ik ben er door gefascineerd om vele redenen (vanwege de constructies – het mooiste stuk architectuur o-o-i-t -, vanwege hoe het werkt, wat het doet, als vertaler van gevoelens, expressie van wat in het binnenste leeft en als ‘gereedschap’ naar heling). Om deze reden staat het lichaam altijd centraal in mijn werk (beeldende kunst), dus, natuurlijk wilde ik meedoen aan dit Project.
Toen realiseerde ik me dat het niet ging om mijn relatie met HET lichaam, maar om mijn relatie met MIJN lichaam

Mijn lichaam: vrouwelijk en androgyn…hoe kijk ik hier tegen aan?
Het voelde oncomfortabel om hiermee ineens geconfronteerd te zijn.
Ik geloof dat het lichaam een uitdrukkingsvorm is van wie je bent, en ik heb een vrouwenlichaam maar voel me niet vrouwelijk zoals het ‘zou moeten zijn’. Soms wilde ik dat ik een ‘normale heteroseksuele vrouw’ was zodat ik me beter zou kunnen identificeren met het vrouw-zijn.
Mijn lichaam zie ik als materialisatie van iets diepers: In oudere levens ervaringen met mannen gehad hebbend ‘voelde het voor dit leven beter’ om nu als lesbische vrouw met een androgyn uiterlijk door het leven te gaan. Ik stel me zelfs vragen over het lesbisch zijn, wat weer nieuwe vragen oproept over mezelf als vrouw. En hier komt eveneens mijn lichaams-uiterlijk naar voren: Ik vind het fijn een vrouw te zijn, maar voel ik dat ook zo…?
Wat vertelt mijn androgyne uiterlijk mij? Kan ik van mezelf houden met mijn lichaam als een volle vertaling van een keuze die ik ‘maakte’ over waar ik wil zijn in dit leven: Vrouwelijk, maar anders, hierdoor meestal zonder een gevoel van ergens bij te horen?

De fotosessie….
De ‘kunst-benadering’ losgelaten hebbend koos ik ervoor om in de natuur te zijn op deze dag waarin het weer zich van verschillende kanten liet zien. Het nam enige tijd om de juiste locatie te vinden, en toen we daar waren, uiteindelijk op een open plek aan de rand van het meer, begon het ineens te waaien …en het blééf maar waaien…!
YES…!
Opeens voelde ik me vol leven, krachtig en vol plezier op een geweldige manier, ervarend hoe mijn lichaam reageerde op de plotselinge wind, golven op het water, golvend gras, geluid in de bomen en zon op mijn huid. Ik begon te dansen met de natuur, genietend van de elementen en verrassend genoeg te genieten van het zijn van mezelf…! Alsof het weer en ik resoneerden op elkaar. Mijn gedachten verdwenen, oordelen en concepten losten op.
Het werd een viering van pure energie, en deel van die energie was ‘ik’. Binnen dit alles voelde ik me vol vertrouwen en op mijn gemak met ‘mijn’ vrouwelijkheid en mannelijkheid als een gebalanceerde mix, en ik genoot ervan me op deze wijze één te voelen met mijn omgeving. Ontvankelijk en sterk, gegrond, en volledig in verbinding met al-les. Het voelde zo natuurlijk en zo krachtig…te zijn die ik ben!

Deze ervaring blijft bij me, het was enorm transformerend. Zonder oordelen en concepten bleven er over het Zijn, het houden-van en potentie. Sindsdien voel ik me meer in verbinding, VRIJ in het mezelf zijn, dankbaar, en gevuld met een nieuw gevoel van innerlijk plezier.

Xandra 070614-181

Xandra – Netherlands

The day
Clouds were gone
Rain stopped
The sky was turning purple and blue
And I was there, pure & naked

The start
I started my Tai Chi Stick
to comfort myself
to BE at the land’s end, on the crossing
of land & sea, water & air, air & earth
I was there
Totally in balance and perfectly fine.

For a while

Lens to be changed
Zoom in, Zoom out
Silence is there
A little boredom, ………………, creativity comes

I turned
Around and around and around
Magic & Wild

Time to move forward

I started my Tai Chi Stick
My feet in the water, nice and cool
Unbalanced and muddy
Losing control
Out of the flow
And the sun is still there
And I,
I am perfectly fine

Before
Yeah, there was something about fear
To be seen by my friends, my family, my colleagues, my neighbours
Oh No
What will they say?
I will know it one day
Because
I was there, standing with my stick, naked
On the crossing of of land & sea, water & air, air & earth

My fire inside, the fire of life

Afterwards
No words, I said
And the Silence was broken

I stood up and walked into the world
Breathing fresh air
Life Energy
In abundance
My Fire inside

I really recommend playing with sticks! Especially naked on the beach.

Xandra

POST SCRIPT
Fear is the future
Writing this piece
What may they think?
Revealing my Soul
That will be next
New horizons
To be discovered

It might be with you

 

 

De dag
De wind waaide de wolken weg
De lucht kleurde
Roze, blauw en een flintertje geel
En ik was daar, puur en naakt

De start
Daar stond ik dan
op het strand

Mijn stok en ik, helemaal alleen
Mijn stok om te slaan
te verdedigen
Mijn stok om te staan, te staan als een boom
Mijn stok als steun
Mijn stok om te dansen
De dans van het leven

Mijn stok en ik, samen een

Voor even

De lens van de camera wisselt
Zoom in, Zoom out

De stilte is daar
Verveling ontstaat, ………………,
Even niets verwordt tot de creatie van iets

De stok en ik, ik draaide en draaide en draaide
Magisch verbonden
Met het grote geheel
Wild, wijds & wonderful

Momentum

De volgende stap

Daar stond ik dan, mijn voeten in het water
De stok en ik, in de dans van het leven

Water stroomt
Het zand kriebelt onder mijn voeten
Wiebelig
Wonderlijk
Wonderlijk fijn
Daar op het strand, zo in balans met de onbalans

De zon schijnt en de wind waait
En ik
Ik ben

Van te voren
Ja, daar was iets van angst
Angst om gezien te worden
Angst voor de afwijzing
Wat gaan ze zeggen?
Of nog erger, ze zeggen niets

Helemaal alleen, dat is de angst
Misschien valt het mee
Ik ga het weten
Want ik was daar, daar
op het strand
samen met mijn stok, puur en vrij

Vol energie, vurig en warm

Na afloop
Geen woorden, zei ik
De stilte brak

Ik stond op en stapte in de wereld
Ademend
Frisse lucht
Weelde
Een oneindige warmte

Spelen met ‘n stok, zo naakt daar op het strand
Ik kan het aanbevelen

Xandra

Post Script
Dit was het NU
NU, NUDE, Naakt
Lichaam
De volgende stap
Het ontblooten van de ziel
Fileermesje en een grote lamp
De ziel in het licht zetten

Ik ben zo nieuwsgierig
Wat ga ik ontdekken?

Als ik mijzelf zie, kan ik jou zien
Pas dan
Puur en vrij

Echt