On the North Shore of Kauai you’ll find one the worlds most beautiful, rugged, lush, tropical, trails. If you live on Kauai, or you were not your typical tourist, you have probably hiked the Kalalau Trail. This was one of my favorite things to do growing up. My dad would pile a bunch of us in the back of his truck, with no worries about seatbelts, sunblock, or water bottles. We would cruise out to the North Shore, to the very end of the island where the road would end. Back then, you wouldn’t have to park far away, and wait forever for a parking space. It was peaceful and quiet in the 70’s. We would all jump out of the back of dads truck, race off tippy toeing through the hot sand, not waiting for him, or any adult, and jump into the crystal clear reef protect waters of Ke`e Beach.
After a long swim, we would dash over to the beginning of the trail, all tan, sandy and wet, ready for an adventure. This was the start of the Napali Coast, that lead to Hanakapi`ai and Kalalau Beach. Our muddy, barefoot feet, led us through steep trails, winding turns, valleys, and rocky points that jutted out over the gorgeous turquoise Pacific Ocean. There were dangerous areas, like crawlers ledge, where the wind would whip through with such force, that you could lean into it, and feel its strength holding you up. (which you really wouldn’t do there, or you’d fall 600 or more feet down the cliff,I into the ocean.) I loved it all, even though I fell one time, and slid 6 feet down, to be caught, by the roots of trees and rocks. Powerful waterfalls, and racing streams surrounded us, and lush green plants and vibrant flowers colored the trails. It was a magical haven for me.
We had hiked the trail many times, but I will never forget this one particular day. As we hiked into Hanakapi`ai Beach, I made my way around the last rocky turn, crossed a creek, waded through a tidal pool, where the falls met the ocean, and found my way over the slippery moss-covered lava rocks. I looked up, and right in front of me, were all these naked people. Yes. Naked people everywhere! I was probably 6 years old, and not at all shocked really, just surprised. I probably wasn’t even wearing a bikini top at the time, and I was used to seeing people half-naked anyway. But, this was a little different. Beautiful, tan, long-haired women were sunbathing on rocks, with green leaves covering certain parts of their bodies. (No, not those parts, those parts were on display for all to see.) My dad pointed out, that they were using the leaves and seaweed for some kind of healing. Men were just hanging out, (no pun intended! Haha) walking around, showing every bit of themselves without a care in the world. Children were running, and dancing everywhere, bouncing around in the calm waves as free as could be. I guess I picked up on my dads carefree way of reacting to it all. He didn’t say a negative word, or comment in any way, other than just saying hello, and smiling at everyone. I can’t remember, but he probably stripped down too! It was no big deal. None. I guess if my dad had said something crude or rude, or off colored that day, my view would have been different. I wasn’t clueless, I did pause, realizing of how odd it was, to see so many naked people all in one place. But, I don’t remember having a negative thought, or hearing anyone say anything derogatory. Don’t get me wrong, I knew the obvious, that we needed to wear clothing in life! But, I did admire how carefree and confident these people were. I think I knew, before anyone said a word, that these naked free-spirited people were Hippies. I had heard the term used before, to describe people like this, on the island. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I remember admiring how happy, content, and free, (and naked ) these hippies were!
I was just a young little girl back then, looking at these beautiful, naked bodies through my innocent eyes. It seemed kind of natural to me. Everyone looked healthy and happy. I was too young to know about the way much of our world viewed the naked body, what was taboo, and what was misconstrued. I had not seen anything inappropriate, or vulgar, or heard a anyone talk about someone’s body disrespectfully, or in a disgusting way. Nor had I been sexually abused, and physically hurt yet. I was still young and unaware of all the obsessiveness, idolatry and shame, involved in nakedness, so I thought it was all a wonderful thing.
We all, at one time or another, had great confidence and self-respect for our bodies. But, over time, some of us lost sight of how beautiful and lovely we truly are. We may have heard something critical, said about our figure, or the way we walked or moved. It may have been while watching a movie, that glorified hyper sexual imagery, more than the heart and mind of a woman, (or man) that left you feeling confused. Or possibly, you overheard your mother complain about food, and her weight, or shape. Or maybe, you watched men, or your father, flirt with women and treat them as sexual objects. Or something as simple as being in dressing room, where clothing didn’t fit right, and instead of knowing that your body is intricately designed, and beautifully shaped, you began a cycle of judgement or disapproval. And then, there’s the ugly truth, that many of us were groped, fondled, molested, or raped, leaving us with little confidence, self-respect or love for our own bodies. The list is sadly, endless, and it’s a different story, and picture for all of us. With this, many of us began to judge ourselves, and started examining our bodies, comparing ourselves to friends, celebrities, magazine covers, and Instagram feeds.
As much as these things, have shaped our view of ourselves, and become the norm of thinking, please know, that at the end of the day, your physical appearance has nothing to do with who you are. It doesn’t matter what size you are, what your thighs look like in your yoga pants, how big or small your boobs are, (trust me!) how long your legs are, or how you look in a bathing suit. The stretch marks, cellulite or extra weight you may carry is NOT you. And for men, I’m sure it’s similar, yet a different slant on the way you think you should look, or treat your body, in comparison to others.
Years ago, my mother in law was talking to my husband, about his old high school girlfriend, that she had recently seen, and referred to her as a “perfect size 8”. She truly thought this woman was beautiful and perfect, as a size 8. Isn’t that wonderful!!! Of course it is! But I had never heard anyone say such a thing. See, another person would say that a size 8, was over weight and not attractive. Isn’t that ridiculous! I say that, because I had been told when was a size 2, (by someone important to me) that I needed to lose weight. Go figure! And at that time, I believed the nonsense. Not for long, but it got in my head, and affected me. Our world has twisted ideas on body image, for sure. And sadly, at some point we started to believe the lies. Talk about mind games.
There was a moment for you, that slowly drew your mind away from seeing your beauty and knowing your worth. For some of you, thankfully, it may not have been anything traumatic or terrible, and it just may have manifested from random life experiences. Yet for others, it may have been a moment, that forever changed the trajectory of your life, leaving you with a mental, (or physical) scar, that you have to care for, day-to-day, just to see yourself as worthy. Whatever it is for you, I want you to know, that it is your spirit within you, that ultimately needs to be healed and cared for. It is your spirit that was hurt, not only your body. I want you to know that you are so much more than your physical body. You’ve heard that before, I know. But I want you to really get this. YOU are NOT your body. You are living in your body. Yes, the way we view our body matters, and the way we care for our body is crucial. I do hope you will learn to cherish, and respect your body, and treat it like a temple. (There is a lot to say on that, but I won’t get into it now.) I hope that you will somehow find a way, through art, counseling, therapy, writing, cooking, meditation or prayer, back to seeing yourself as whole and beautiful. I hope that you will find healing from what may have happened, that blinds you from seeing and knowing the real you.
So what do you do? You capture your thoughts, and call them out as the lies they are. If they are not kind, peaceful, or life-giving, than they need to go! It’s kind of simple really. You have way more power than you know about! Listen to the Holy Spirit, to know and believe that you are beautifully and wonderfully made. Imagine, if today were the last day you had here on earth. Today is it. Just like that. Just like it may have been for your girl friend, who died of cancer, or your dad or mom, like mine, who passed away much too soon. Or your friend, whose child is dying right now, or your grandfather who is sick, or who ever it is, that won’t see many more days. Do you think for one moment, that they are thinking of whether or not you love them based on their physical body? No. They don’t. Do you think for one moment, that if your friend with breast cancer, was given 1 more month with her husband or kids, that she would be worrying about her hair or boobs? Nope. Not. Not at all. Of course they would want a healthy vibrant body, but that wouldn’t affect their love for you, nor would it affect your love for them. Nor would it change WHO they are. I was blessed enough to be with my mom when she was dying, and we were able to gaze into each others eyes, and express our love for each other. We really didn’t even have to speak. We just knew. We just looked into each others eyes, and understood the immensity of our love. Yes, I loved feeling her hold my her face in her hands, but what connected us was our spirit. Your loved one, would look you in the eyes too, deep into your soul and tell you they loved you. They would be loving YOU – your Spirit. And that, That is YOU.
I pray you connect with the Holy Spirit, your spirit, and embrace your body today! We are mind, body and spirit. All three! I hope there will be a spark within you, to see your beauty today! No matter how you look, what size you are, or what you have been through, you are perfect. Shine bright my friend!
Psalms 139: 13 -14 reminds us……
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.