To My Precious Body,
For weeks, I’ve been wanting to write you this letter. I knew you had been inviting me to see the cellulite on your thighs and the rolls of fat on your belly through loving eyes. I felt how it hurt you when I criticized myself for all those years of eating too much food and sugar.
Then last night my greatest teacher lit a fire under my pen. As she reached for another brownie at bedtime, I yelled at her.
That was it. It’s time to climb completely out of my cage of self hatred.
Remember when I was 14 and I tore off magazine covers featuring supermodels, and taped them to my bedroom wall? Paulina Porizkova, Helena Christensen, dozens of them. Cindy Crawford was my favorite. I was tall and brunette like her. I thought perhaps if I was just a bit thinner, I might be as pretty as her. After all, these women got tons of attention for how they looked. That meant they were totally worthy of love — right?
Years passed and I continued my path of overeating, especially sugar. Mint chip ice cream and rainbow-dyed marshmallow cereal offered a quick kick for my somber moods. When I felt lonely, the pleasure of one more piece of buttered toast gave my tongue and tummy company.
I spent most of my life overweight, trying many times to exercise and eat well enough to be slender or even just lean. Once I crashed on my bike and fractured your jaw in three places, dropping from 162 lbs to 128, and boy did that get attention. People stared when I walked down the street. And the weight came back within months; I wasn’t done imprisoning myself through you.
Twenty years later, in January 2021, I reached the end of addiction’s tunnel with the diagnosis of a massive brain tumor.
You’d had enough. You’d reached your limits and were screaming at me. My neurosurgeon said, “We don’t know why the tumor is there. It could have been growing for 10 or 20 years.”
My precious body, you told me why it was there. We have our story. It’s ours and it’s what I go by.
I was killing you by outsourcing pleasure. Sweetness for my lips. One more bite. Another. Decades went by like this.
I felt utterly hopeless in my dream of fully loving you. Would it ever work?
Surely a child would offer miracles. Children are the original gurus.
So when my daughter was born in 2013, I vowed to heal from addiction so I didn’t transfer my trauma to her. She’s nine now and has a healthy relationship with sugar. It’s balanced. She’s never been given sugar for her feelings. We talk about “strong body food” to help her be mindful. She eats cookies and ice cream with joy. Her body is lean. Her thighs and belly live without the guilt I grew up with.
She was seven when I told her all about my struggles with sugar. When my tumor was diagnosed, I shut the door on food addiction. Now 14 months later, although my body feels better than ever, there are still stains of guilt that creep to the surface sometimes.
A big stain surfaced last night.
It was bedtime. There was one brownie left and my daughter wanted it. At bedtime?! When she’d already had one before dinner? No, no… that’s just not the way we roll.
She asked me once. I answered, “No.”
She asked me again. Annoyed by her repeated request, I firmly told her, “I said, No.”
A third time, “Mama, but I really want another one…”
Out came my full-on tiger fangs. I looked at her and yelled, firm and fierce, “I told you No… three times, NO!”
Ouch. Dear body, the roar hurt my throat. And it battered my heart. I stood there in our kitchen, post-bath, wrapped in an orange towel, stunned.
My daughter is the last person I want to show my shadow. For her to be aware of my story, its pain and sorrow — that’s fine. But for her to be on the receiving end of my unresolved grief — that’s out of bounds.
She stood, frozen. Time stopped. And for the first time in her life, she simply stared at me. Seconds passed, her gaze stayed fixed on me and I couldn’t take my eyes from hers.
I watched as her eyes became pillows of tears, her face full of tender, swollen hurt.
Fear's ego in me was gone. I had fucked up; I was being so human; here we are.
Being frozen in upset with the greatest Love of my life felt utterly potent. We held each other’s gaze until she could fully feel the hurt and I could witness the impact of my immature reaction.
“I am so sorry, my girl. That is not the way Mama wants to be with you.” We stayed, gazing, as I watched one tear at a time spill from her precious eyes. She simply let me look at her and she simply looked at me. We were together. And as crappy as it felt to have yelled at her like that, my dear body, you knew that this moment offered sacred intimacy.
“Can Mama tell you why I yelled like that?”
She nodded, not ready to speak.
My dear body, you spoke to me without words, drawing a picture of why I chose harsh tiger fangs over grace.
“How does Mama feel when you ask me something once, and I answer you, and then you ask again and again? Do I feel happy about that or do I get annoyed?”
She nodded. She knows.
“That’s the first reason I yelled. I was mad.”
Her eyes, still wet.
“And you know that Mama has struggled with sugar and that I don’t want you to to struggle with it, too. You know Mama got a brain tumor and how scary that was. I don’t want that much pain for you, my girl. I was scared when you asked for another brownie.”
She kept listening.
My heart was humbled, softened, loose. There was nowhere on Earth I would rather be. Surrender spoke.
“My lady, Mama wants to tell you something I haven’t told you yet. Is that OK?”
She nodded, her heart still softened, calm and yet awake.
“My sweet girl, even though Mama takes good care of my body now…”
I showed her my belly. “I still have more fat than my body wants. It sticks around because of all the years I didn’t eat well.”
I grabbed my belly’s biggest roll of fat to show her what I meant. Then I moved my bath towel to show her my thigh. “Do you know what cellulite is?”
She nodded, no.
“It’s these bumps on my thigh. It’s body fat. And Mama’s legs have it here because of all those years when I wasn’t my body’s best friend.”
We were calm and communed. The moment was still. She listened intently as I shared my story with her. Then we hugged and went about our ways.
An hour later, as I pulled out the vacuum from the hallway closet, I heard my daughter call to me from the bathroom. I walked in and found her standing at the sink with her head hung low.
“Yes?” I responded.
She looked me straight in the eyes, her face ripe with a fresh pool of tears, and said, “I like your body just the way it is. I don’t want you to be thinner.”
Yes, I could have died happy right there.
In the presence of the innocent heart of a child, 46 years of self-loathing slid off the surface of my skin. Cellulite formed on my legs because I, as an innocent baby, and then a child, and into my teenage years and further, couldn’t find my way to freedom. With every chocolate chip cookie I ate and every judgmental thought I chose that followed, I kept thickening the walls of my own prison.
Perhaps some people don’t choose addiction to cope with their childhood trauma. Perhaps some people don’t create experiences of severe pain and near-death — whether consciously or subconsciously — in order to see more Light.
I admire people who listen to their bodies' subtle cues and don't need to wait for a scream. I’m not one of those people. Or at least, I wasn't until now.
For me, a path of gnarly physical rigor was painted in this Life. And now that I’ve unlocked my prison door and set myself free, I can see that you, dear body, have always been here for me. Impeccable in your communication, resiliently digesting and detoxing all the junk I stuffed you with all those years, surviving brain surgery and continuing to breathe.
Today I give thanks for deepened empathy. With a big scar on my skull and lots of dimples on my thighs, I extend my whole tender heart to my billions of human sisters and brothers who dance with addiction.
Cellulite, you are a call for Love. And yesterday, you were embraced by the innocent heart of a child. I am sorry for demonizing you all these years, when it was me who chose the prison I was living in. You weren't the "bad guy". My eyes for Love were closed.
Do you forgive me?
Dear body, I thank you for being my teacher until we go to the grave. In this Life, you have always been one of my best friends. Words begin to escape me when I contemplate how different it feels now that I, too, am your best friend.
When we part ways and you become rich food for worms and whales, may we still be in Love.
Only Now Alive
It has been fifteen months since my skull was sliced open and, nine hours later, the skin closed shut with 52 titanium staples. A massive benign brain tumor was removed and I was left with a voice inside my womb that’s whispered, all of the 463 days since then:
I had heard it before. “Life is short.” Live fully now; it’s all we’ve got. Don’t hold off ’til tomorrow what you can do today.
Yet, for the first 46 years of my life, somehow those messages landed just partially — until brain surgery, when yellow streams of light flashed before me in the ICU and my pelvis was tattooed with their whispers.
The streams of light said, Jessica, if your life is really all about Love, then live it fully now.
I got the memo. Decided, done, no question, above all else, I am Love’s servant. Why? Because I Am Love. Love is Who We Are. Literally.
Walk up to a grocery market cash register? See Love in the cashier’s eyes. Reflect it back to them in yours. Pass a pregnant woman walking down the sidewalk? Adore her with your eyes’ praise. Get yelled at by your husband because he thinks you’re lazy and you’re doing things half-assed? Take a jog listening to heavy metal; let your anger move through your blood vessels and out with your sweat; see the innocent little boy still living inside of him, who was told by his father that he was unworthy of Love. Pull up to your favorite café on a bike? Greet the 90-year-old man with a reverent hello in a country that’s lost its marbles, tossing elders into the ditch of loneliness after 32,850 days of service and breath.
Yesterday in Texas, once again America saw slaughter. I cannot know the grief inside the mothers’ hearts whose babies lives were stolen. I pray to never know this pain myself.
And yet again, there is a memo: You are having a human experience. Your body is mortal.
Covid reminds us of this. Cancer. Fatal car crashes. Suicide. Our bodies die. And yet somehow we walk around in a daze, encaged by our own pretending. We think we can wait one more day or one more year to tell someone we love them. For six weeks after brain surgery, there were dozens of people who flooded my living room with flowers and my phone with “I love you.” I was near death. Were they waiting until they almost lost me?
So we wait. Until one day, our loved one is laying in the hospital, and at last we spill our tear drenched words upon their final breaths: I love you.
Love is who we are, and one breath is all we’ve got. Will we wait until our head’s sliced open, or our child is murdered, or our mother’s on her death bed, to remember this?
The deepest canyons are carved inside the human heart. Grief coats our planet today around what happened yesterday in Uvalde, Texas. Here’s one of the best captures I’ve read about it, Tragedy in Uvalde by Marianne Williamson.
Human being is a vivid, messy, despicably painful and gloriously beautiful thing. Choosing to live as the Love we are isn’t easy. Yet it’s simple. In her poem, “Wild Geese”, Mary Oliver reminds us, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Listen to her reading it, to support yourself in choosing Love today?
Woman, Let It Be You
One week until International Woman’s Day (March 8th)! How are you celebrating?
Which woman in your Life comes to mind when you are awake enough to feel the huge WOW of Her?
Who causes your heart to recognize the astounding power of Woman— as a creator of Life, as a powerhouse of complex orchestration, so potently attuned to the power of feelings, a sumptuous delight of divine floral expression?
Is it your mother? Is it Rosa Parks, Marianne Williamson, Maya Angelou, Brené Brown, Oprah Winfrey, Greta Thunberg, Julia Butterfly Hill? Is it the mother of your child, or the blossoming Woman within your daughter?
Look in the mirror. If you’re a woman, let it be YOU, too, who appears when you’re wowed with awe.
Just look at YOU… living and speaking your truth, an expression of Love with every chance you get. Woman, you are the essence of stunning beauty, ALIVE.
You matter big time.
Open your eyes wide.
Own your power, your succulence, your freedom in this one precious Life.
Dear women, if you could use a big burst of support to help you see the Love you ARE in the “mirror” of your own soul’s eyes, stay tuned as we launch our sacred, sensual RebirthHer ceremony on Saturday March 5th. Our free online version will be offered here at no cost to women worldwide, for International Women's Day.
If it was up to us, there'd be no war.
Woman, you are held. 🙏🏽✨
One year ago today I had brain surgery and was gifted a near death experience (NDE) that has lit-up my Life inexplicably. Dear readers, I am thrilled to report it's been a stellar recovery. Every day offers tears of awe.
Today I'm more convinced than ever: We are here to revel. Truly, the veil between Life and death of the body is thin. It could be "over" so fast. One day, it will be. So for now, LET'S LIVE IT UP! Reveling in the gift of breathing, laughing, crying, feeling, laying our noses in the bosom of spring roses, laying our eyes on the rainbows that dance on clouds and ponds.
Last night I let the full moon kiss my shoulders.
To fully accept that it is just as much a joy for the moon to kiss my shoulders as it is for me to praise her face and glow... to me, that is being alive. Feeling this connection, this state of being in-Love with nature, is like a dance that never stops!
How could I share this joy I feel in Rebirth with all of humanity?
When I asked this question to my "higher self" the answer I got was: RebirthHer. Laying on a massage table, in autumn 2021, I saw a vision of a sacred ceremony I'd lead for women to give birth to ourselves. For the past six months, I've been feeding this vision and it's now just two weeks away.
RebirthHer is a sacred ceremony for women who choose to co-create a world of Love over fear, held near San Francisco on March 5, 2022 in honor of International Women's Day.
To make it happen, I'm raising $1,000 in February for ceremony materials. Please donate what you can! Any amount is appreciated. Those giving $100 or more will be offered a 45-minute Rebirth-themed coaching session with me in exchange for your contribution. Thank you!
Beautiful you, we've got one day to live.
Here now, what makes you feel alive? What are you grateful for? If you could do one thing today to feel deliciously energized and vibrant... what would that be?
Every day is a chance to be reborn into a state of mind that's laced with union, oneness, pleasure, depth and silliness. Hike up a hill, bask in the sun, sing your favorite song super loud, take a bubble bath, dive into the sea, make yourself laugh with a profane joke, stretch for five minutes... What can you do right now to feel the gift of being alive? We are free to choose to feel good now. And when slip, we can recover. That is leaning into Light.
On this one-year anniversary, I send you all Great Love as a reminder it is what you're made of!
From my moonlit heart to yours~
As I look around my Life, I see men whose souls stream gorgeously with Light. Men who are patient, paused and passionate, who've learned to dance with anger and to breathe it into bold, brave being rather than giving it their power and killing for it.
One of the most strikingly supportive, wise and generous people in my Life is my leadership and relationship coach, Charles Zook. His support over the years has catapulted my Life into far greater brilliance than it would have known without him. This is a short note to I wrote to Charles this morning and sent over email to several other very dear men in my Life.
Despite appearances, not all men are part of the perverse patriarchy, busy raping and killing fellow humans and our beloved Mother Earth. I wish for every woman on Earth to be as held, seen, met and valued by men as I do.
If you're a woman who feels loved this way, thank those guys! This short note below is one way I have recently extended thanks to this kind of man in my Life.
Let's feed their giving, and help them feel less hopeless, with our thanks. And if you're not experiencing this dynamic with men in your Life yet, go find 'em. They're "out there" as a mirror for your self worth. Open the eyes of Love within you and they will appear.
My dearest pre-dawn Charles (and Trevor, Gerald, Brent, Conner, Bryce, Sean and Steven)~
I sit here with pen and paper to honor you. Your choices and ways of supporting me... listening to me, speaking kind words, acknowledging how much work it is to be a devoted mother in a society that doesn't honor that.
I am struck intensely by the beauty of men like you.
When you are drawn to, please watch this 9-minute film from Charles Eisenstein, the man I spoke of on our call yesterday. He co-created it with another "matriarchy midwife", Aubrey Marcus. These men are in the company of my precious childhood playmate, Jesus, and Zach Bush MD... men whose beauty is so riveting it helps birth my cart-wheels.
As you well know, when women lead -- when a critical mass of Womb envelops human consciousness in its embrace -- the particles of our planet and human experience will lean much more fully into Light. Wellness, trust, freedom, a sense of being seen, valued, held... for all of Life.
Our planet is becoming swollen with men who support Woman's reemergence. I feel so held. Your holding is... there go my words.
To all of you near-unbelievably treasured men: the Light within me bows to you. With the thoughts you listen to, the words you choose, the actions you prioritize, you are "in the service" -- helping to bring sanity to our species in a time of its despair.
Morning Note to Mother Earth
Dear Mother Earth,
Your body is rivetingly beautiful.
So many places on your lap and shoulders, lakes and canyons caress our human limbs and nearly blind us with awe. 🌙✨
What a gift it is to play and swim, climb and sing along the curves of your majestic body!
Humanity is in despair as you well know, and I just want to tell you that Love is rising. Women are rising. We aren’t all hypnotized in fear.
I’m focused on the places where human Light beams. We are doing our best to regenerate you. We want to keep living here in your deliciously moss-laden lap.
I love you Mama,
📷: Andrea Marie, Tetons, North America
How My Brain Tumor Got Into My Head
Dear Teton Char,
We share a friend. Andrea and I met when we were 14. You live near her now, in the Tetons. She tells me you asked how my brain tumor got there. You and I have never physically met, just as I never met your sister whose brain tumor eventually led to her body's death. But my heart mourns your loss. I honor you as a woman and sister. So I'm here to answer your question.
When my tumor was discovered through an MRI, the neurosurgeon assigned to my case told me, "It could have been growing for 10-20 years."
I named her Fidela. Somehow, to me, she was my friend. As was Dr. Lewis Hou, whose Buddhist nature shone through his eyes and silently said, You can trust me to get that tumor out.
So when he offered the options: 1) We can do nothing. 2) Neurosurgery. 3) Chemo. 4) Radiation... My response to him was, "Let's go in. Let's get it out." Though Fidela was my friend, she wasn't meant to stay inside my brain.
"We don't know why it's there," said Dr. Hou.
That was fine. I didn't need him or western medicine to know. I knew why Fidela came.
Right or wrong don't belong in this place. My story isn't "right" -- it's simply mine. In 2006 I did a workshop called It's All Made Up. Its lesson landed. We make up the story, the why, the reasons things happen in our lives. While science is useful, continuously, it disproves itself. Factual, material "realities" are consistently rewired, reworked, rewoven. Just like the human brain.
Fidela was my body's latest and most effective attempt to get my attention. It was a piercing cry, a roar, a terrorized plead, a prayer from a body who knew she was worthy of being held by loving arms.
I had a lifelong addiction to sugar and food. As a baby, my big feelings were met sometimes with EQ's tender, loving arms and gentle words. Other times, I was given sugar -- with no blame or judgment of my parents or others who would pass me "a treat" to soothe my cries -- I was given toxic and highly addictive pain killers called sugar.
My brain had been wired by mine and others' choices,
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, was born with a divine pen in her pelvis. She is a lifelong letter writer, a thought leader in Love, and she writes memoirs. Our blog and conversations are devoted to Jessica's greatest passion: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.