Our Bodies Tell Our Stories by Kate Brunner


KateGetting out of my head can sometimes be such a challenge in the environment that surrounds me. The onslaught of information coming in at almost every waking moment often means my head is very, very full. Add to that the simple fact that I am a just a wordy kinda gal & I have a whole lot of life lived mentally.

In recent years, though, I’ve come to really appreciate the power, wisdom, and importance of the sort of information my body carries. Bone wisdom, blood power, mtDNA information. The collection of stories carried in my very flesh.

I have a scar across the fourth toe of my right foot where I knocked my father’s wood chopping ax off a backyard picnic table onto my foot when I was around five years old. It tells the story not only of that particular incident, but also of the screened-in porch that contained that picnic table and the summer dinners we ate there. Of the crepe myrtle tree that I could see through those screens out in our yard from that outdoor table. Of the hours spent enchanted by its feathery pink blossoms dancing beyond my small fingertips & annoyed by its prickly seed pods under my bare feet. Of the little garden patch on the side of that house I could see from that crepe myrtle where I first learned to garden. Of a dog named Heidi, of the chocolate brown shag carpeting inside that house, & of learning to play chess on its hearth while the fire crackled over the wood my father chopped with that ax.

KatefeetI have another scar, a set of scars really– thin dotted parallel lines stretching between my ribs across my upper abdomen. Literal tracks left by a beloved cat who was startled from the nap she was taking on my pregnant belly when my eldest daughter gave her a swift kick from the womb. And there are the silvery lines licking their way up both sides of my lower belly and perpetual gap between my stomach muscles thanks to the blessing of full-term twins. There’s the small dot marking the place where I once pierced my own belly button in a teenage girl’s effort to be the coolest of the cool. And the vertical line etched deeply in the center of my forehead as a result of not wearing my reading glasses as often as I should. There’s a scattering of silver threads in my hair now, echos of my mother & my mother’s mother. And a half dozen or so snow white hairs in my thick, dark eyebrows– a gift from my paternal line.

Our bodies tell our stories. And not just our stories, but the human story. Each of us carries a synthesis of bloodlines, a tapestry of genetic experience that connect us to every single other member of our entire species. Get a group of women together- complete strangers even- and see how long it takes before you start hearing body stories being told. We live this physical life through our bodies. They are how we move through this world. There are no stories without embodiment. Physical form gives us the context needed for abstract thought. We cannot define “happy” without the image of another’s happiness embodied or an understanding of how happiness feels in our own bodies. We cannot perform ritual, receive communion, answer the call to prayer without our bodies.

Yet, it seems to me that this somatic foundation is largely misunderstood in the modern, industrialized world. Instead of being receptive to the stories our bodies are trying to tell us and honoring the gifts the body brings, we seem to seek dominion over the body. But what would happen if we took a breath, if we could find the space and time to truly look, to listen deeply to our bodies as they are in this very moment? And if we could not only listen to our own bodies, but respect and honor the stories of the bodies of others?

What stories do our very beings have to tell?

 

Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is a somewhat nomadic American, homeschooling her children with the world as their classroom. She holds a BA from Tulane University, where she studied Economics, International Relations, & Religious Traditions. Kate is a presenter for Red Tents & women’s retreats. She also hosts seasonal women’s gatherings, facilitates labyrinth rituals, and leads workshops on an assortment of women’s spirituality topics. During 2016, she will be presenting at the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology Conference in Boston, MA, at the SOA’s first open online conference, AvaCon 2016, & at the inaugural Ninefold Festival in Orange, CT. 

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15 replies

  1. I feel tears reading your last line. Is perceived pain because body difference a reason many prefer not to be in the body?

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  2. Beautiful post, Kate. If we created a culture in which we loved our bodies, all our bodies in their infinite variety, through all the different stages, how much less suffering there would be and how much less likely we would be to inflict harm on other bodies. Your body, my body, ourselves.

    I think many (most?) women have a variation on Carol’s story. I have always felt shame–and been shamed by others–for having especially broad hips, no matter how fit I am, no matter that my shoulders match. I have a hard time buying clothes for a shape that I am still struggling to appreciate as mine.

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  3. Ahhhh, yes! I, too, have always lived in my head and not paid enough attention to my body. I have been guitar-shaped all my life, and I too have scars that tell stories, like the time I cut myself with one of the knives in my father’s workshop and the time my first cat bit me when I was trying to pull him out from under a bed. You’ve given us food for thought.

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  4. Thanks for the post and the question, Kate. Very interesting!

    As a young girl, I fell off a bicycle and the fender cut into my leg causing a deep wound above the knee, and it left a very deep scar. The scar never disappeared until many years later, while I was working with a life coach. We did some healing on a number of things, but especially a more positive outlook on life, and which also encouraged me to start taking more vitamins and minerals, etc — one of them MSM, and which is probably what eventually cured the scar tissue.

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  5. I really liked the overall message of this! I have always said listen to your body and don’t take it for granted because it’s all you have. Yes, there is a part of us that has control our body, but we can’t decide whether or not to get sick, just one example of the lack of control we have. I appreciate how you accept that, and ask that we take a break and a breath from it all to just be one with our bodies. It’s especially important to do that being a woman in today’s society. Everyone has scars, physical and mental, that cannot be dominated and controlled, which is beautiful when you allow it to be beautiful.

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  6. I really like your article because instead of disliking your scars and other imperfections you learned to embrace them. The scars represent memories in your life from childhood till now. I also learn to accept my scars and stretch marks. Before I use to look at it negatively but as I got older, they grew on me and I learned to accept them. The stretch marks reminds me of when I was overweight in my teenage years and when I lost the weight it left me with stretch marks. For me it was a positive reminder of how far I came from being overweight and now being slimmed down. There are many women who suffer from imperfections and instead of embracing it they do surgeries to fix them. They want to fit in society or please their husband because they want their body to look immaculate. But, in reality more women should be more like you. Women need to learn to embrace themselves for who they are and not let the outside appearance get to them.

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  7. I agree with this article and I love the attitude you have Kate. I had a few body issues myself and I came to realize that my body doesn’t need to be like the bodies I see on tv or on advertisements. I have learned that women across many religions and beliefs have body issues as well but in a different way. They wish to be more like some of the gods they worship. I learned in a culture in india that if women want to emulate beauty and feel wise they try and share the characteristics of Sita, Ramas wife.

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  8. Good article, so many women can relate to this. Everyone have scars and stories to go along with them. In today’s society we are thought that the bodies we are born in are not good enough. We are thought that being “beautiful” (who decides whats beautiful?, we are all beautiful) is more important than anything else. But what about feeling good about yourself just the way you are or feeling good from the inside out. Today we are so focused on fitting into the box of “perfection” that we forget to live and enjoy life on this earth.

    If we could create a society where we encourage each other to love each other just the way we are, I think we would be less depressed and stressed. Many times I have heard women talk bad about each others bodies. Women are already oppressed in this patriarchal society, we need to stick together and be kind to one another and accept each other just the way we are.

    Thank you Kate for reminding people to listen, respect and honor their bodies and others.

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  9. The perspective given to me by reading your story, is truly is amazing. To look at our bodies in a different way, and learn to appreciate the stories we hold behind a scar, is something I never thought of. We really do need to learn to value ourselves more because who else will ? We each have one body, one soul, that inner connection with ourselves that no one will understand because only we hold the answers within.

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  10. Our bodies do tell a story, and if we would just take the time to sit and listen to them maybe we could better understand who we are. While reading your article I pause to remember all the scars and imperfections I have on my own body, like the scar on my forehead given to me by my beloved cousin who passed away this past year. For now on and forever I will like at it and remember her beautiful smile and wanderlust soul. Your article remained me to look at my scars in positive light and to see my body as a story teller instead of something I must perfect. This way of thinking is much need today, women and men should look at the bodies with love and not just dismay. Thank you for your lovely words.

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  11. This is a very important message for everyone that feels lost and does not feel like they are appreciated by others. I believe that it is important to appreciate your own body first in order to feel appreciated by others. Like Kate M. Brunner states our bodies are important and they are because they are what creates our existence. In religion, women have problems with their bodies they at times do not see them as telling people stories about them because women are not respected enough. Most women are afraid to speak about their bodies because at times the imperfections in their bodies makes them afraid of what people might tell them. In some religion’s women are not able to speak of their body because they will be judge for it, but i agree with you Brunner as women we should be able to honor everything about our bodies because they reflect to people who we are and that we love ourselves for the stories that our bodies say. Your article is amazing I loved it!

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  12. After reading this article I couldn’t help, but think about our body as a living power source. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our bodies. Instead of silencing the whispers of our scars, piercings, gray hairs, or wide hips we should unveil it and let it speak with power. Let our bodies tell our stories, our culture, and our experience.This made me reflect on the idea that each scar and marking on our bodies is not just a reminder of a particular memory, but also of our connection to our ancestors. My body speaks about the beautiful long thick hair my grandmothers gave me and the rough hardworking hands my fathers gifted me with. After having read a few of the experiences women have had in their religion I can’t help but see how women’s bodies have been depicted as something to be ashamed about in some of those religions. However, this message is a great reminder to all women out there that our bodies are not something we should be ashamed of, but something we should take pride in.

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  13. I thought this was interesting because the way you explain your past by giving vivid details about your body makes it easier to understand. It is like experiencing a certain wave of emotions when reading the injuries and looking at the pictures. Since the body is the only thing that we truly own as individuals it makes sense that each of us is unique and we are able to understand each other better by looking at different bodies changing our perspective.

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  14. I really liked this post. It is actually very true that our bodies carry out the stories we have in lives. I have a lot of scars on my body too and when ever I see them I go back in time to that particular event and place and can remember all the details, even if my friend ask me “what is that scar?” I can go ahead and tell them a story. Than you for this wonderful blog this helped to look at my body differently and appreciate those scars to help me remember. I always wanted to get rid of them through laser therapy but now that I read this blog I am kind of starting to like them. Thanks for making me think different and know that if something happens to me and I complain about the scar I should know that there is something that God wants me to remember.

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  15. This story was very interesting. I have quite a few marks on my body from different actions that I’ve taken in my life. It’s nice to know they’re not always just considered imperfections on a body, and that they do tell a story for each one. Thank you for making this post and giving reassurance to all those who look at their body differently. It makes me feel much more comfortable to know that it’s not just seen as something ugly.

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