Here is an exercise from my upcoming book on Sacred Gender. It's meant to help you think about the boundaries of your body and your self and increase your awareness of where you begin and end.
Where Do You Begin And End: An Exercise
Take a few minutes to walk through these thoughts. Sit comfortably, breathe, and do whatever you do to get into a meditative frame of mind before reading through this. If particular lines and concepts stick with you, take time to explore them before coming back to the text. Write down what stood out to you and go back to it later. Compare what you've written the first time you've walked through this with subsequent times.
Where does your body begin and end, though? We like to think that the skin is the boundary of our bodies, but in fact it is a permeable region, designed to allow in certain things and expel certain things. There are few tissues in our body that are not, in some way, permeable; our biology would not function very well otherwise.
I want you to consider other things such as breath. When you breathe, you exhale matter that has been touched by you, air molecules that have been changed as they traveled through your body, water vapor that has been processed by you, many millions of microscopic organisms in each breath that may have spent time living in you, eating what you eat, breathing what you breathe. Where you breathe, you leave parts of yourself.
Consider your waste, your urine, feces, sweat, and other substances that you exude to take harmful things outside of your body. All of those things are full of your DNA, of the things that have been part of your body.
Think about your body heat. Think of the energy that radiates out from you. There are many energies, both those quantified by science and those that so far have only been witnessed experientially, that emanate from your form. Those energies are part of you, and they change the world around you. They are shaped by you, by your activity, your food, your drink, and the very shape of your body. You are constantly emanating waves of energy.
Think about your words, and the things that you say. Think of how the things that you say and do effect the world around you on an immediate level, and all the ways that they cascade out into reality. Each of those words has found an origin in your unique situation, your wholeness of mind and body and soul and any other parts you care to name. These words were affected by your sleep patterns, your gut bacteria, your childhood upbringing, the weather, all these things that effect your body.
Think about your clothing. Think about how what you wear is shaped by you, just as your body is shaped by it. These fibers that sit on you, that frame you and protect you from the elements, are also things that you wear to express things about yourself (if you have the privilege to have any choice in your clothing). Think about how deeply your clothing can effect how you feel and function, how having a pair of shoes with a hole in them, a coat with a tear, sweatpants with a busted drawstring or underwear that slides down your ass, how do these things effect you?
Think about your friends and family and loved ones. Think about the people who have most directly breathed your air, shared your saliva through shared food and drink or kisses, shared sweat through shared activity, sexual juices through shared physical intimacy, thoughts through shared conversation, sacred energies through shared rites. Think of the ways that all of these things have affected them and have affected you.
Tell me now, where does your body begin and end?
Where do you begin and end?