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Goddess in the Flesh

August, 2018

It is almost impossible to meet every beauty standard. It is almost impossible for the beauty, diet and medical industries to “approve” of your body, skin, hair and eyes. In a world that deliberately shifts the “should’s” and shames that attacks and blames, loving yourself is an act of rebellion.

What is reviled in one country is celebrated in another. From skinny shaming to fat-hating what stays the same is the entitlement of male-gaze, the disgust and ownership of the female form. The idea that women are objects for public consumption is at the root of both modesty and pornography.

My mum was a fat hater and a fat-shamer. So was my dad. This meant that while I was “not pretty” I had the good grace to be thin and clever. I prized this things because both came easily to me. I can’t tell if I was an exercise addict, someone who coped with anxiety through exercise, or just very active. I would roll at of bed at dawn and do 30 sit-ups, until about the age of 17. Exercise makes me feel good, helps me focus and is something I really enjoy, though I can’t do much, if any, these days. I didn’t diet, far from it I ate a huge amount, but as a dancer I knew plenty of girls who ate tissue to not be hungry. Girls who didn’t eat for half of the school week to be “thin enough” to go out on a Friday. Fat was a mystery to me. A softness I was scared of. Still find frightening on occasion.

Fat was “weakness” and was far too vulnerable to the rough grabbing hands. No I wanted to be hard, strong and never weak. Of course I hated myself plenty. My wonky nose, crocked teeth, my ginger curly hair. Once I stopped dancing I grew breasts quickly. They came as something of a shock to me. I went from a B to a D cup in a very short time and they had their perks I was sort of mystified by this fleshier body.

As I got older, and then had children my weight was the first thing my mum would comment about.

You look fat, and not the jolly kind.”

Oh you lost weight, your face looks better.”

You are thin enough now, much skinnier you’ll look ill.”

Of course my mum was a much better feminist than I was because I had “given myself over to the yoke of motherhood” instead of doing something “more important”. My feminism was “too soft” and far too feminine and far too fat for her.

I have been all different sizes, shapes and tones and while I was more desired by men when I was thinner and more toned I have rarely been happy with myself. Rarely felt self-love or safety in my skin. I fear the toxic seep of this self-loathing for my daughter. I wonder what seeds I have sown accidentally. I have been working on loving myself for years and sometimes I feel I get there.

So how do we create real change? How do we dismantle huge industries that promote self-loathing as self-care? How do we dare to be soft when it hurts so much? How do we find our strength in body, spirit and mind? I think we must make Goddess figurines. Thousands of them, millions. Ones that are like us, as we are, not as we wish to be. Some with huge voluptuous breasts or none to speak of. Some with long legs, or no legs. With curly coils, or no hair. With lines and scars. With powerful thighs and big arses. So that we know our flesh is powerful and beautiful and important. That we are worthy, fat, scarred, skinny and all. For in reclaiming our image as beautiful, as sacred art maybe we will love ourselves just a little bit more.

About Airports and Plastic Water Bottles

April, 2018

 

I am writing this piece at Gatwick airport where my flight to Reykjavik is delayed by three hours. I treated myself to a chai latte but that made me thirsty.

I visited the ladies room where I found a plastic bottle someone had abandoned (half full). I decided to do the unfashionable thing: I took off the plastic top and rinsed it for several minutes under extremely hot water before wiping it down. Then I filled it up for my flights (destination Newark aiport in New York via Kevlavik in Iceland).

On the Friday evening just before Christmas I was flying from Stansted Airport to Stockholm with my youngest son. I decided to bring my own (long-life metallic) water flask for the trip. This turned into an adventure: the train to Stansted was so packed that we couldn’t even get the bottle up from my backpack.

Then we had to drink all the water really fast because you can’t take water through security. Fortunately there were two of us!

We found some chairs and inevitably got thirsty again. There were plastic bottles of water for sale absolutely everywhere (it is an industry!) but we were determined to use our long-life bottle. I sent my son on a mission to find a drinking fountain – he couldn’t find one. I asked him to guard the bags and took a hike myself: I didn’t find one either.

I asked a member of staff who directed me to the rest rooms. There were only very futuristic taps designed for hand washing. I asked another member of staff who said: go to one of the cafes – they will fill your bottle up for you! I know this because I work there. Right….

People were all queuing for their Friday night beer or glass of wine. The staff looked harassed and worn out, the queues were ten people deep.

I took my flask back to the rest rooms and managed to fill it under one of the very low taps (spilling lots of water). My son was relieved to see me. He had started to wonder if the The Airport Monster had perhaps eaten me.

Some people try to bring their own plastic bottles to the airport but in the stress and collective stripping at security – it is easy to forget there is water in your bottle – so they confiscate it and throw it out. I know that this is for good reason. I also know that we all pay a price for the shadow that 21st century terrorist attacks cast.

We have all seen photographs of beaches awash in plastic bottles and whales which died after eating plastic. How can this collective dystopian dream (trance?), that it is somehow OK to buy water in a plastic bottle every time we travel, continue?!

Do we need to start a campaign to have water fountains and flask filling stations made available at airports?

Access to drinking water is a core human right – is what has always been drilled into me.

And yes, I am well aware that flying too carries a huge carbon footprint. When your job is international – as mine is, it cannot always be avoided or replaced by on-line seminars and classes. As a teacher I know very well that when students or participants are not in the room with you – you can only take them so far. Therefore there is a weighing of costs and benefits when it comes to flying out to teach life changing material. (I am a teacher of shamanism, sacred art and mystery school work).

I know that I carry karmic consequences for the air travel I do but the water bottle situation is inexcusable because there are alternatives. Just as shops don’t automatically provide bags any more (we make a habit of carrying a fold-up long-life bag on our person) I suggest that airports stop selling water bottles but arrange flask filling stations near ( but for reasons of hygiene not in) the public toilets.

Oh and one more thing: instead of receiving a disposable cup every time we buy a hot drink (I stand accused of buying myself a chai latte!!), what about carrying a long-life cup with a lid on our person (same as the long-life bag – it is just a habit really!) so we can rinse out the cup and use it thousands of times?

Just saying…..

Imelda Almqvist, 2 February 2018

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About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit – Where ART Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.

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www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist 

(Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

Imelda is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True

http://affiliate.soundstrue.com/aff_c?offer_id=124&aff_id=2260&url_id=86

And she presented on the Shamanism Global Summit with The Shift Network in both 2016 and 2017

http://shamanismsummit.com/program/132