Belly Magic: Blessings from Your Body’s Center

What if your belly — the most maligned feature of women's bodies — were not shameful but sacred? What if your belly were home to the profound wisdom, power, and guidance ready to reveal itself to you through image, breath, story, and ritual? What if your body's center were in fact sacred space, temple of the Sacred Feminine as She lives within you?

If you want to make peace with your body and your belly — if you want to claim the treasure waiting for you within your body's core — join me on this journey of discovery. We'll invoke story, image, breath, ritual, and more as we go.

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Lisa Sarasohn

Lisa Sarasohn

The Woman's Belly Book: Finding Your True Center for More Energy, Confidence, and Pleasure — info at loveyourbelly.com — shares what I've learned during 25 years of exploring the mystery and power of the body's center.

It's today's best-kept secret: Your body's center, your belly, is home to your core life force. It's the site of your soul power, the source of your passion and creativity, your intuition and sense of purpose, your courage and confidence.

My greatest joy? Inspiring women to activate our body-centered soul power so that we may express ourselves all the more as the gutsy woman we are.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_perugino_047-sm.pngLegend has it that, following the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene fled to southern France, spending the last years of her life in the sanctuary of Sainte Baume. Her relics are said to rest in a church in nearby Saint Maximin.

Whoever Mary Magdalene was in fact, whether she partnered with Jesus to birth a child, whatever her actual history, the idea of her heartens and strengthens me. For me, and perhaps for you too, she carries the energy of fierce compassion, fearless integrity. A woman interweaving spirit and matter, activating her body-centered power to manifest creation. A gutsy woman par excellence.

This sense of woman integrating heaven and earth, sheltering pro-creative power within her body's center, may be as old as human consciousness.

Much of what we know about human origins comes to us from southern France, the prehistoric cave paintings and engravings discovered there. Our ancestors' art, such as the Venus of Laussel, shows our original impulse to revere women and the center of women's bodies.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Venus-de-Laussel-detail-bras.jpgThis limestone engraving, discovered in 1911 in the Dordogne, has been a central inspiration for The Woman's Belly Book. Seventeen and one-half inches high, the ochre-stained engraving dates back 25,000 years.

The Venus of Laussel brings forth a full-figured woman. She rests her left hand on her belly, perhaps pointing to her navel. Her head turns over her right shoulder; she's looking at the horn she's holding up in her right hand. Thirteen lines scratch the horn's surface.

Who knows what the sculptors had in mind and heart when they carved out this figure? Who knows what they meant their work to signify?

As I see her, this figure is using her arms and hands to link her belly with the calculation, the calendar, which is the horn she is holding.

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  • Lisa Sarasohn
    Lisa Sarasohn says #
    I certainly got carried away. The Venus of Laussel engraving is about seventeen and one-half inches high, not seventeen and one-ha

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a1sx2_Thumbnail1_perugino_047-sm.pngWho is Mary Magdalene? We may never know, historically. 

But I might have met her one day last spring in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Thistle Stop Café.

The energy in and around this breakfast-and-lunch spot was overpowering, literally. I felt as if an archangel hovered, as if some sky-high bird sheltered this place within its indestructible wings — guarding, protecting, sustaining.

What’s so special about this storefront café? It’s one of several enterprises run by an outfit called Thistle Farms. It fronts the slogan “Love Heals.”

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a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Hands-around-center.jpg

There's something immensely powerful in women baring our bellies.

Quoted in The Woman's Belly Book, a woman describes what would happen when her daughter, as a toddler, met someone for the first time: She'd lift her shirt up and show them her belly.

Here's an adult, and global, example. "Get Your Belly Out" is a worldwide campaign that four women in the UK have launched to raise awareness of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn's disease, and colitis — all ways of naming the belly's deep distress. Using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, supporters are posting photos of their bellies bared. They're also donating to research that will generate a cure for these gut-wrenching diseases.

I love how bellies bared for the camera make such an impact. They're saying: "Here I am, you can't ignore me now." When women bare bellies in a joint enterprise, the message is: "Here we are, you can't ignore us now."

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b2ap3_thumbnail_moonandyou.jpgI learned about The Moon and You: A Woman's Guide to an Easier Monthly Cycle when the author, Barbara Hanneloré, told me she'd selected words from The Woman's Belly Book for her book's page one. I'm honored Barbara chose my invitation — that we women consider our bellies as sheltering "the creative energy kin to the majestic Power of Being informing the universe" — to set the direction for her book.

In a warm and personal voice, Barbara offers practical ways to address, reduce, and perhaps eliminate pre-menstrual and menstrual distress, both emotional and physical. She does so by reframing the monthly cycle as an ally, not an enemy, provoking us to balance our lives in every dimension. She offers us the possibility of understanding and experiencing the menstrual cycle that we embody as kin to the cycle of moon phases and the circling of seasons in nature at large.

Organized in five sections, illustrated with delightful line drawings, the book guides us to:

  • explore our connection with these cycles of nature;
  • validate and nurture our inner lives with self-awareness and self-care in a variety of expressions;
  • nourish our bodies with balancing foods, herbs, and physical practices of many kinds;
  • understand the impact of cultural beliefs and values regarding menstruation on our personal experience;
  • remember and then re-imagine our first menstruation — menarche — as welcoming us into womanhood in the way we've always wanted.

Each section provides references enabling the reader to investigate topics in greater depth. And each section concludes with an activity that helps the reader to integrate ideas and practices into the details of daily life.

Aside from the pleasure of knowing The Woman's Belly Book has provided inspiration and support for Barbara's The Moon and You, two threads of interest wrap me up and draw me to this book....

[click on "Continue reading" below for more]

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Years ago, in desperation, I made a sacred doll to represent what I felt to be the “wounded masculine” part of myself — a creature jaggedly cut off from his core; his heart barren, cold, barricaded; his perception limited to logic and analysis, rejecting what’s fluid and intuitive.

Creating this three-dimensional image helped me externalize — literally objectify — his way of being, placing me in a position to observe him and his schemes.

I’ve known this character as he’s inhabited my inner world, and my outer world as well. I’ve judged him harshly, treated him with resentment and disrespect. I've operated with a large, weighty and ultimately dysfunctional chip on my shoulder regarding all I've tagged as "patriarchal."

Mercifully, life is giving me opportunities to release these judgments, invoke compassion and forgiveness in both inner and outer realms. What a relief!

I recently created a ritual to signal this release and invoke healing all around. The ritual involved placing the icon in the neighborhood of joy, inviting him to sit in the lap of the Sacred Feminine and finally burying him near a Native American ceremonial mound in a nest of moss, holly berries, seashells and feathers.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_mary_christmas-1.gifWhat could be more magical than conceiving, gestating, and giving birth to the embodiment of Christ consciousness?

What could be more magical than birthing the return of light into a darkened world?

What could be more magical than dissolving shame and restoring the brilliant shine to a woman's life?

For all its shrillness and glitter, the Christmas season offers us images of Mary, big-bellied, pregnant with the Power of Being, however you might name it.

Allowing ourselves to deepen into those images might well dissolve the shame that so often obscures the light imbuing our bodies. Allowing ourselves to resonate with Mary might well unleash the life-celebrating energy already radiating from our bellies, our body's core.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_preh_venus_laussel.jpgBernice Johnson Reagon, founder of the 
Grammy award-winning African American female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, said it best:

What's necessary to our survival is sacred.

What is necessary to humankind's survival?

Women's pro-creative power. If women don't push babies out of our bellies, the tribe of human beings ceases to exist.

(The ancient Hebrew word for "tribe" also means "mother." The word for a clan within the tribe, batn, also means "belly." No healthy women's bellies, no clan. No healthy mothers, no tribe.)

I've been looking into human evolution recently — a good place to look for the origins of belly magic.

Although not all scholars agree on sequence and significance, a few things happened as human beings evolved:

  • We began walking upright, on two feet.
  • The female pelvis, adapting to bipedalism, narrowed the birth canal.
  • The advent of cooking in effect pre-digested our food, allowing us to get by with shorter intestines, making more energy available for brain development.
  • Fetal brains and heads became larger.
  • Given the relatively narrow birth canal, infant and maternal mortality increased during childbirth.

With childbirth such a life-or-death proposition, it's no wonder that women developed traditions of dance, rituals, birthing practices, and herbal potions that conditioned our bodies to survive childbirth and to birth healthy infants. What we call "belly dancing" is one trace of those traditions.

The impulse, even the instinct, to touch a pregnant woman's belly may be ancient. And it's certainly intrusive when uninvited. A Pennsylvania woman recently made national news when a neighbor touched her pregnant belly without her permission. He faces charges of harassment. (The geography reveals its own irony: The incident occurred on Tip Top Circle in Lower Frankford Township.)

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