The Nondual Academic: Revolutionary Self Love

This is the 3rd post in a 12 week series of essays on doing academic work from a nondual, spiritual perspective.  The idea is to open up a new conversation about academia, social responsibility, compassion and the ego.  Most Sundays, I’ll share my reflections on a variety of topics related to writing, researching, teaching and mentoring in the light of teachings from Hinduism, Buddhism and Christian mysticism as well as my own experiences

* * *

Today’s post is about self care and self love.  It’s inspired, in part, by the FeministWire’s recent forum on Black Academic Women’s Health.  This isn’t a side issue without academic relevance: it’s fundamental.  Loving, accepting and caring for the Self is a prerequisite for my being able to show up in the world (and in my classrooms) with equanimity, peace of mind and strength.

To love one’s Self beyond the ego is a revolutionary act.  In the video, I share some of my tools and techniques for self-care as well as the nondual spiritual perspective that informs these “rituals of love”.  I cover everything from skin-care, hair-care, aromatherapy, body image, exfoliation, self-massage, make-up, meditation, supplements, working out, the whole nine yards.  I also touch on a common (and serious) physical ailment among many academics and working professionals: Repetitive Strain Injury.

I’m not so happy about how often my eyes roll back in my head, looking like I need a close encounter with the Exorcist, but hey, it is what it is. The really cool thing? You get to see me in a do-rag. (If you want to skip the beauty segment and hear my rant reflections on body image, spirituality and well-being, jump to 20:52.)

Some takeaways:

  • SELF LOVE BEGINS WITH SELF ACCEPTANCE: “Your body is the cloak God slipped into in order to know Itself.”
  • SELF MASSAGE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – I cannot recommend the Theracane more highly.  I’ve used it since graduate school to help with daily aches and pains from typing when getting a massage from a professional, or a lover/friend isn’t possible.  Yes, it looks like a sex toy and/or a torture device, but your back, neck and shoulders will be forever grateful.
  • SELF CARE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE OR TIME INTENSIVE: Many products I use cost $1-$5.  It takes me about 30 seconds to do my hair everyday and another 30 seconds to do my makeup.  ONE MINUTE.
  • SELF LOVE IS THE BUILDING BLOCK FOR LOVING OTHERS: “You find that there’s a beauty and a Godliness and a divinity and a sexiness and a sensuality and a gorgeousness about every kind of body.  Disabled bodies, broken bodies, big bodies, skinny bodies, big bellied bodies, flat chested bodies.  Look at the diversity of how God likes to cloak Herself.  It’s fucking awesome.  It’s amazing.  And so if you can show up in the world having laid the foundations of self acceptance, self love — projecting that same level of acceptance and okayness to everyone you encounter . . . can you imagine the kind of love we can all make together?”


As I say in the video, I feel pretty strongly that it’s absolutely pointless to go to the gym unless you fucking love yourself first.  Before you love yourself  you have to accept yourself.  In order to accept yourself, you must see yourself. So here’s a practice I developed to experience increased body acceptance, awareness and appreciation.

Body Love Ritual 

  1. Find a quiet, private, safe place.
  2. Take a chair and put it in front of a full length mirror.
  3. Get naked.
  4. Stand in front of the mirror.  Pay attention to your breath.  Without forcing, simply focus your attention on the inhale and exhale.
  5. Look at yourself.  Behold every inch of your body.  Observe the thoughts, critical and kind, that come to mind.  Let them be.  Don’t try to change them.  Just pay attention.
  6. Now sit down in the chair.  Keep looking.  How do you feel now?  Let your eyes roam from your toes to the top of your head.
  7. Now imagine your body is the Buddha’s body.  Or the Christ’s.  Keep breathing.
  8. Imagine God decided to craft flesh that looks exactly like yours. Let yourself absorb the reality that your body is already divine.
  9. Sit and breathe in the realization of your own divine perfection.  Revel in the awe at the fact that every atom in your body originated in the Big Bang.  Imagine everything in the universe that had to happen in order for this body to exist.
  10. When you’re ready, do something nice for your body (moisturize, stretch/yoga, self-massage) and put your clothes back on (or not . . .)
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21 thoughts on “The Nondual Academic: Revolutionary Self Love

    • Cool, feel-good video 🙂 In the spirit of this: I’d like to acknowledge that you’re such a kind, supportive, thought-provoking source of positive energy. I’ve learned a lot from you! Oh – and I *talked* to Ben Smythe last night! Woohoo! I wouldn’t even know who he is unless you’d sent me his videos..

      • Hmm, well the ancient Chinese Deer exercise is very good. It come’s in male and female variations, both of which come highly recommended for getting in touch with and learning to love your body and your sexuality. They also come with a slew of health benefits as well.

        Here’s the female one: http://www.umaatantra.com/female_deer_exercise.html

        And the male version:

        http://www.umaatantra.com/tantra_articles/male_deer_exercise.html

        There’s definitely a sexual twist to these exercises but I think sexuality and spirituality are very much connected, and I think it’s about time that we as a culture lose all our genital shame and start loving every inch of ourselves 🙂

        Rohan.

          • No, it’s something I’ve always wanted to look into though! Maybe now is a good time. From what I’ve read I’m pretty sure I’ve stumbled into using some Tantric techniques in the course of just naturally exploring with certain partners, but it would be cool to purposefully set out to experience what Tantra has to offer.

            Looks like I know what I’ll be looking into next haha 🙂

            How about how, have you every looked into it yourself?

            Rohan.

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  2. Excellent advice here, and I haven’t even watched the vid yet, I’ll do that later 🙂 I realised that we seek from others what we’re not giving ourselves. I actually need to work on this more at the mo as I was starting to seek it from outside myself again. I actually stumbled upon the body love ritual you describe earlier this year and it feels amazing, somehow you’re not just connecting with your body but your Self. It really does generate a tangible sense of self love. I haven’t done that for a while and must.

    • Wait.. you’ve seen this same ritual somewhere else? Cool! I haven’t seen anything exactly like it before, but I was inspired by other examples of mirror work that I’ve read about. It didn’t “work” for me the very first time, but after a few times, I did feel that “tangible sense of self love” you describe. Actually, it helped to apply something I heard in a Ben Smythe video: just to sort of say “Yes, this is how I fucking look right now.” and just to bask in that total acceptance.

      • I worded it badly, when I say I stumbled on it, I kind of did so myself. I was doing a lot of qigong and Taoist techniques, including some sexual Taoist techniques for building up sexual energy and circulating it through the body (including something v similar to what Rohan posted above). I just combined that with something v similar to the ritual you did. It was v good for me as I grew up with some body issues, thinking I was too fat, or too thin now lol. I didn’t really treat my body that well. I’ve made peace with it now. As my teacher says it’s not even MY body, it’s Ishvara’s body…I didn’t have anything to do with its creation or even with 99% of its functioning 🙂 It’s just a ‘meat tube’ as he says, but it’s a meat tube that was kindly given to me and it’s a privilege, so I take good care of it, eat very well (I have a sickeningly healthy diet! LOL) and now I treat it with love and tenderness.

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