Do You Love a Body, or Something More?

love beyond physical beautyYour body is just a car, the vehicle for your spirit here in the Now. It is part of you, but it is not the entirety of You, nor does it define who you really are. When you criticize your body, or hate your body, you are projecting self-hatred at something that only exists to shelter and serve you for a little while. Body hatred is externalized self-hatred, and that is something we must heal.

That being said, what happens when you love another soul? What is it that you love about your life partner? Is it just their body? You may find their body attractive or desirable, but is that the entirety of your love for them? Hopefully not. Is it just the way their eyes twinkle, the funny way they laugh at dumb jokes, or the way their hair curls just so? How deep does your feeling go?

When you begin to examine what it is you love about another person, it can be difficult to separate the body—the vehicle—from what you love. And certainly, the body is part of the whole person, although not as important a piece as we tend to make it. So you probably can’t separate their smile, that little crook in the nose, or whatever it is about them that makes them so endearing to you. But it goes so much deeper than that.

It is a fact that some incredibly “beautiful” people become less attractive as you get to know them. Personality and a kind heart matter a great deal. Likewise, some people who may be deemed homely may be the most attractive people in the room simply because of who they are and how they treat others. That gap in the teeth becomes endearing because you love the person, even if you don’t grow to love that person because of the gap in their teeth.

So many people struggle with relationships, I believe, because they spend so much time looking at the outer package that they do not recognize that the inside simply does not make a good match for them. I have known many couples who attracted each other on the basis of appearance and sexual attraction, yet they grow apart because they don’t really have any common interests. Instead of being best friends, they effectively live separate lives that only intersect in the shared world of their offspring or their physical residence.

Mistaking sex for love is something that every teenager manages to do. Hopefully, they learn that hormones and sexual attraction, while intense, do not in themselves form the basis for a relationship. This is the most shallow of all relationships, because it is only about love of the physical form. We all have a crush on beautiful or handsome people at some time in our lives, and that crush doesn’t require us to know them as a person at all. My childhood crush on David Cassidy was instructive and harmless, and if I had met him, I might not have liked him at all. Such is the way of crushes.

My first real boyfriend was also the product of mutual attraction. As such, it only lasted three months. As we came to know one another as people, we realized we had nothing in common. It fell apart pretty quickly. “Sam” was still the same good-looking fellow that I had swooned over initially, but by the end of our time together, I had lost my desire to gaze into those handsome hazel eyes. He was not his body; his body just carried him around. Likewise, I grew less attractive in his eyes.

Everyone I love is beautiful to me, even if the rest of society doesn’t see it. I love my wife’s slightly crooked nose and smile. I love her differently abled body, which works very differently than most. I love all of the flaws that my family members worry and obsess over, as though they were personal failings, somehow. Which they aren’t. Bellies, baldness, extra pounds, who cares? We are all aging gracefully if we simply move through it with grace. Ahnna’s hair is a beautiful white; I see a few strands of gray in my own hair, and I welcome them. I have a mother’s belly, complete with stretch marks, and they are just a part of the story of my life.

Every body tells a story. Here is the scar where I fell off my bicycle at age 7. Here is the scar where a dermatologist did a terrible job of removing a mole. Here are the stretch marks. Here are the crow’s feet and the laugh lines. Here is my left knee, which suffers from too much high-impact aerobics in my 20s.

I was raised by a woman who was critical and obsessed over physical beauty, so I used to be pretty hard on my own form. I can now honestly say that when I look in the mirror, I see a beautiful woman staring back at me, stretch marks, scars, wrinkles, and all. I am grateful for my wonderful body, which has served me so well. And I recognize that I am not this form. I am more than this form. I transcend this form, and one day I will step out of it and move on to the next thing. It is not me, but it is part of me today.

What is it you love about your beloveds? This is a question worth asking. You will find that very little of the things that truly matter about them have to do with their bodies. And you may find reasons to love them more deeply than you even imagined you could. In the process, you may find that you find reasons to love yourself more deeply as well.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the beholder may not be capable of perceiving the beauty that exists in all things.
~Asha Hawkesworth

Everything is beautiful in its own way, as the song goes. And so it is. The happiest person on earth can see beauty everywhere, and in all things. You are the beholder, and you can change the way you perceive the world—and therefore judge it. When you understand that everything is beautiful and perfect just as it is, there is no need for judgment, of yourself or others.

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