conversation

We are all in conversation with ourselves about our bodies, aren’t we.

But for many of us it’s a one sided conversation where our inner critic leads the dialogue. So much so that we think it’s our own voice. But it’s not.

Often our voice has been silenced. Or we haven’t given ourselves permission to hear it, to dare to contradict our inner critic. Or we don’t know what else to say, our inner critic has been telling us one thing for so long, we can’t see the possibilities outside of it. Or at least that’s how it was for me.

Before I found the camera as a medium I remember feeling like I knew that I could change that conversation, even if I didn’t know what to say yet. But I needed a vessel for the conversation to happen. I needed a tool.

Little did I know that the camera could be that, would be that. I just thought a photo was a photo, and honestly…was a place where I felt the opposite of self-compassionate.

But it was. And I became the narrator of my own story and slowly began to hear my own voice again, loud and clear. And when we can hear our own voice, our own self-perception…our inner critics voice doesn’t hold the same power over us that it once did.

That’s the thing about this work…it might look from the outside like it’s all about getting good photos. That it’s all about our external self, how our body looks, how we are seen by others. But once you’re in it (whether it’s an arm’s length selfie, a reflection, a shadow selfie or a full body selfie) you get that it goes far beyond just the photo.

The photo is a doorway to this conversation. A place to find our own voice again even if at first all we can say is “I don’t know what to say to you dear body”.

But that’s how we invite ourselves back into the conversation. We begin. We get curious. We invite in compassion when we can and show up anyways when we can’t.

So yes, the Embody E-Course that is about to begin is about taking full body selfies, but it’s about so much more than that too. It’s about starting a conversation about our body, and inviting our own voice to be heard. It’s about not letting our inner critics voice define how we see ourselves in photos and inviting ourselves to be seen. It’s about YOU making space to recognize yourself in photos again and take images that feel empowered and embodied. 

Come spark this conversation with yourself. Class starts Tuesday but over the weekend you’ll get a pre-class PDF with tips for the technical side of taking our self-portraits. The activities themselves aren’t focused on the technical side, as that often keeps us in our heads and a pivotal part of this is conversation is inviting ourselves back into our body. Of course, alongside the technical support PDF I’m also available to help you with the technical side while class is in session!

Come join me for the Embody E-Course. We get started November 1st but I recommend joining in today or over the weekend so you can have time to explore the Pre-Class PDF before class starts.

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thequestions600

I remember the moment when I first got brave and put down my camera on my bag in the ravine near my home at the time. I set the timer and stepped into the frame.

And a rush of fear appeared along with a constant flow of questions:

“But what do I do now?”

“How should I move?”

“What should I do with my hands?

“How do I do this?”

The questions overwhelmed me and made me want to grab the camera and walk away.

But this time, I didn’t.

Because somehow, on this day, I really HEARD the questions. Heard what they were actually asking me.

How do YOU want to move?

How do YOU want to feel about your body?

How do YOU want this experience to go?

How do YOU want to treat yourself in this moment?

I remember it so acutely because it felt like for the first time, I was asking myself to be in charge of how I say, felt about and experienced my own body. I mean, it might sound like something we should all inherently be in touch with but for so many of us, we don’t feel in a place of personal power around our body.

We don’t feel like the narrator of our own story. We don’t feel like our bodies are inherently worthy. We don’t feel in charge of our own self-perception.

In that moment I felt, for the first time that I could narrate my own story. I felt the whisper of my own inherent worthiness and I felt like somehow (in what felt quite miraculous) that I had created a safe space…a bubble between the camera and I where I was in charge of my self-perception.

The fear shifted in that moment and it was the first time I remember hearing that other voice, the powerful one, the protective one that my inner critic had been shouting over for years. And it said this:

“Guess what…this space is yours to answer that question each and every time. For you to forget how you’ve been told to move, to stay still, to make yourself small. This is a space where you get to reclaim how you move, to find that feeling of embodiment that you lost all those years ago.”

I talk lots these days about starting a compassionate conversation with ourselves and in that moment, hearing that new empowered inner voice…the conversation changed.

But here’s the thing. It isn’t a scripted conversation. It may not go as we predict. And at first we might not be used to speaking up for ourselves in this way (I wasn’t) and it might take a bit to find our voice.

It’s now been years since that moment but the conversation continues. The more I step into the frame, the more the voice of compassion and I get to hang out. The more space I give it to be heard. The more time I give it to gently emerge from it’s hiding place. The louder it becomes.

Is the inner critic still there? Of course. But I now have a grounded inner voice to return to rather than having my inner critic as my only point of reference in how I saw myself.

And the questions still accompany the conversation. I still, each time, get to ask that question…how do I want to feel today? What is the story I want to embody? How do I want to move today? How can I stand in my power in this photo, in this moment?

It’s the questions that, for me, gave way to the answers.

I know the questions that come up when we take photos of ourselves are terrifying and vulnerable. I know they might want to make us grab the camera and not take any. But the act of taking our selfies become the medium for the questions to be heard through.

And the photos become the reminder of the answers we found that day.

The reminders of the story we are stepping into.

The voice we are cultivating (especially outside of our inner critics).

The body we are choosing to embody.

The story of our lives we get to choose to tell.

**If you’re interested in becoming the narrator of your own story, join me for the Embody E-Course this November where we explore inviting our whole body into the frame. Or if that’s feeling like too BIG of a stretch beyond your self-comfort zone. Join me for the 10 day Beloved Beginnings class (self-paced, available any time) or the February Session of the 30 day Be Your Own Beloved E-Course (community based online class)! **

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curisoityblog

I confess this is the season I struggle with the most.

When all the plants are returning to the earth. When the grey is near constant. I find myself picking up the camera a bit less and when I do, everything doesn’t look quite as radiant as every other season.

But this year I’m taking a different approach. I’m getting curious about fall and winter, in the same way I so easily do in other season. I’m getting curious about the places (like this one in the above image) that I don’t often photograph in the spring or summer as there are lotuses nearby that draw me in.

I’m looking for the unxpected, perspectives I haven’t seen before. 

That which I can’t predict or assume. That which I don’t know yet.

Even if I feel resistant to it. Even if I can’t imagine another perspective or assume my initial perception is the only possible outcome.  

Curiosity is at the heart of all the work I do but I don’t often give it the credit and voice it deserves because it’s always there woven into every photo, every selfie, every class I create. Maybe it’s when we find we aren’t feeling something that it’s importance becomes clearer than ever. So bring on the lens of curiosity…fall, I’m coming for you…

What could you approach with curiosity today? 

Perhaps the spot you are sitting right now, seeing it in a new way through the lens? Or maybe see the people around you with curiosity, being open to new ways we can relate to one another? Or maybe even how we see our bodies? Could you take a selfie today with curiosity and not assume what the outcome might be before you take it?

I wanted to share this to remind both you and myself that new perspectives await, often when we least expect them!

Here are a few more images from today’s curious photo walk in the garden.

curiosityblog6curiosityblog3curiosityblog4curiosityblog2curiosityblog5

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  • RachelOctober 22, 2016 - 4:56 pm

    The first and last photo of this series are incredible! I love the mysterious quality of the first photo and the more dramatic nature of the last photo.ReplyCancel

  • Alison MOctober 24, 2016 - 9:38 pm

    Beautiful images, Vivienne. Thank you for sharing them, and this lovely perspective. Be Curious. That will be my new motto for today…ReplyCancel

wildunknown

We sat on the beach for a while, chatting, with the thought of going in the ocean on our minds.

I assumed it would be incredibly cold, being mid-September and all. Painfully so. I imagined how hard it would be to get in the water, how I wouldn’t want to be in there, and how cold I’d be afterwards. I was assuming the worst.

But I was going to try, maybe even just wade in, if my friend wanted to.

The sun set further and the air temperature got colder, I felt further away from the possibility of getting in the water. The idea had passed in my mind and I’d convinced myself not to.

Until Danielle said “Let’s go for it”.

I still doubted the possibility that I would actually get in. But I was willing to go on the adventure and support her.

And really, what if it was okay? What if it might even feel nourishing?

We took only a few steps into the ocean when the first big wave hit. And then followed up by 2 more.

I literally howled with laughter. Doubled over with when not jumping gleefully over the next gigantic wave approaching. And they kept coming. Within 10 seconds I was soaking head to toe (forget wading in) and in a full on laughing fit.

It felt amazing. Not just the water (which wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d feared) but the waves and the laughter. I laughed because the idea I’d had of slowly wading in, at my own pace was well…really just being lovingly mocked by the ocean in these gigantic waves in the most beautiful way.

It felt utterly divine. Jumping in the waves like I did as a kid, howling with laughter with not a care in the world what anyone on shore (and yes, there were lots of sunset watching folks) might think.

You see, when I’m laughing I feel most inherently me, closest to my true self.

So this moment that I’d been fearing, theorizing how it would go, placing outcomes on.

Was completely out of my control. And magical. And beautiful. 

And invited me home to myself. 

 

Before we left, I put the camera on my bag and snapped a few selfies, arms wide to the sky.

The usual thoughts that would come with this moment arrived and were swiftly dealt with. Thoughts like “I wonder what people might be thinking about me right now” or  “Maybe this will look better if I put my hair down” or “I wish I had of worn my cooler bathing suit” came and left quickly because the ocean had just swooned me with it’s wildness and these things didn’t seem as important as that.

And I wanted to remember this.

Because the camera helps me cultivate this conversation with myself. It reminds me of what brings me home to myself. It invites me back into that moment, again and again. This one moment in the ongoing visual story of my own life.

Since that moment yesterday I’ve been thinking about the fear, the expectation, the choice to go into the water and the wonder of getting caught up in the joy of it all, realizing how it was so different than I expected and that the hardest part really was that first step in the water. It made me think of folks before they join me for Be Your Own Beloved.

It made me think specifically of folks who email right after they have signed up for the class sharing how utterly terrified they are (and by the way that is exactly who I create this work for…not for folks already comfortable with themselves in photos). Those emails I’m getting these days as the next Be Your own Beloved class gets started in October.

I know this work can feel scary.

I know the idea of cultivating a compassionate conversation with ourselves is hella vulnerable.

I know that often we come to it with whole list of expectations of ourselves and how it’s going to go, often defined by our past experiences with photos.

And then it’s almost always those same people who feel that fear but do it anyways, who write me after often just a few prompts or the first week and it’s though they are standing in that big wave with me, shocked at how playfully they are jumping in the waves, prepared for the white caps where you kind of need to brace yourself for the vulnerability and standing in that energy that I experienced in the laughter last night…knowing that it was far different than what they’d feared and far more nourishing (and fun) than they could have imagined. 

Feeling closer to their true selves than they have in ages.

Sometimes it’s the ocean that brings us home. Sometimes it’s the camera.

And it’s always worth taking that first step into the wild unknown.

*

If you are interested in joining in for Be Your Own Beloved you can find out all the details here but also don’t hesitate to use the contact form to connect with me and ask any questions that are coming up. I’d love to hear from you.

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  • LeonSeptember 13, 2016 - 9:28 am

    This is such a beautiful, joy-filled story, Vivienne. And that photo is stunning. You already know how much I loved Be Your Own Beloved. I highly recommend it to anyone who feels drawn to it but is hesitating. Do it…you won’t be sorry. Love and hugs!ReplyCancel

attheheart

Last week I spend a few days gathering with 4 dear university friends almost 20 years after we all lived together.

And I confess that leading up to the gathering, I was nervous. Not at first, but then the conversation of us all bringing our old photos from that time came up and I found myself really bothered by the idea of looking at them.

And the closer it came, the more my nerves rose about it.

Now, it wasn’t that I was worried about reacting to how my body looked in it. That would have been the case even just 10 years ago but is at the heart of the work I’ve been doing around body image and photos so I’ve become well practiced in supporting myself (and others) around that.

But I was nervous about seeing her. The one in the photos.

The 20-year-old Vivienne who I know would be waiting for me there.

It’s not that I don’t think about her. I do think of her often, that year of my life, and then I try to get it out of my mind. You see, that year these friends and I lived together, in particular, was a really really tough year in a variety of ways.

I didn’t want to look in her eyes and know what she was feeling. It was becoming clear that I had been avoiding her for a long time.

I’ve been doing a lot of work around photo resilience lately and so it was on my mind, knowing that what was coming up for me…this resistance, was a part of that journey for me. Photo resilience, to me, doesn’t mean that we ONLY feel good about our photos. It’s about how we respond and work through the tender emotions and responses that come up around photos.

It’s about showing up in a conversation with ourselves and staying when the conversation gets tough. And this was most definitely a place where I had 100% been resistant to my own photo resilience, where I hadn’t even let myself engage in the conversation with myself about this era of photos.

So as we all gathered and opened up the piles of photo books and envelopes of printed photos. Stories flowed out and some of the photos made me crack up, but there was that underlying element I had been nervous about. Because there she was awaiting me just like I remembered. I looked her in the eye, the 20 year old Vivienne  I had been avoiding. And I knew what I needed to do. I let myself feel it. I looked her in the eyes. I didn’t run away from her this time.

Because to me, that is photo resilience. Feeling it all. Before, during and after seeing the photos and giving ourselves tools for support along the way.

To not try to force myself into feeling positive, but instead, to let the natural emotional progression I’d been trying to repress be free to be felt.

I sat with my resistance, the vulnerability of looking at myself in these photos. What became clear to me though is that I’m not her anymore. I knew that of course, which is why I was trying to distance myself from my 20 year old self.

But I realized that what was at the heart of what I was resisting was also where I could access my resource of compassion for her.

So offered her the compassion that my 39 year old self does have for her. I sent her love. I showed up for her the best I could because ignoring her wasn’t doing me any good, just building up anxiety.

Sometimes looking back isn’t easy. But that’s how we heal those parts of ourselves that feel tender about old photos, the ones that stand out as the pivotal moments. 

And by looking ourselves in the eye and welcoming in that conversation we can help neutralize the charge around it, to ground the energy. Of course, this is not something we need to force or demand of ourselves. To me, that resistance and nervousness was actually a sign that the work was asking to be done (and of course, for some of us, we might also need the support of a therapist to do this work of looking back). But photos truly don’t have to be a place of anxiety or sadness. They can be a place of neutrality and exploration if we let them.

What happened after surprised me even more. One of my friends brought out a bunch of old letters I had written to her and other momentos from that time and our connection. Oh my, had I known this was coming too, I would have been equally as nervous as I was about the photos. Looking back is hard work. But there it was, this stack of letters in my familiar script.

I opened the first letter  I just started to weep. Sitting with the photos had cracked something open in me and these letters were taking me deeper in.

The words and the photos brought me back to a self I was just learning to love. I think that is what a lot of the anxiety was about too. I didn’t love myself then and even though I’ve done such big work on learning to love myself now, I hadn’t gone back to how it felt to be in the midst of that process at this really pivotal time.

I had to go back and learn to love her too.

And while I didn’t put that expectation on myself in this process of looking at old photos and opening up these old letters I had written, that is what happened. The words and the photos held this incredibly open-hearted 20-year-old (and yes, as vulnerable and messy as being so open-hearted brings).

I saw her incredible capacity to love others that would later become her capacity to love herself too.

I saw her visions for herself for the future.

I saw her learning to be loved and learning about heartbreak.

I saw her in the midst of perhaps an awkward stage of figuring out who she was.

I saw her awakening to her self-critique and how with support, she was starting to try to shed it but was still very much in the depths of it.

I’ve spent so long trying to not see her, knowing that she FELT SO MUCH and not wanting to go back to all that emotion.

I walked away from a few days that I had been incredibly nervous about, feeling like I found something unexpected in these photos, letters, and conversations. I had found a part of myself again, amongst those friends and our dynamics.

And yes, amongst the photos that told that story, even if it was a hard one to see. 

I left this gathering feeling seen in a way I didn’t expect. From others, but maybe most importantly, from myself.

I had been trying so hard not to see her, for years but it was time to start that conversation with myself again, with my history.

I’m grateful for 20 year old Vivienne patiently awaiting me in those photos and in the memories that surround them.

It was time to see her again.

To look at the young woman in the photos eye to eye nearly 20 years later. So I put my camera on the patio ledge and let myself be seen now too. I let myself just see what needed to be heard, which is one of my resilience practices. I may look sad in that photo but that’s not what I see.

I see a woman stepping up to her old stories, to her photo resilience and letting herself feel it all again.

photoresiliencenew300This is the kind of work we’re doing in the upcoming Photo Resilience class running September 1-15th.  I’m sharing the tools that I used during this time of healing how I saw myself (and continue to use to remain resilient).

Get more details about the Photo Resilience class here. Or if you haven’t experienced the Be Your Own Beloved class, there is a session of that program running this October!

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