Mom, Healing, and Bellydance

For most of my life, I had a hard time understanding my mom. As Mother’s Day approached every year, I bought her a gift, card, and genuinely expressed my gratitude and love. At the same time, I found myself with a short fuse around her. So wound up that anything she said made me want to snap.

It wasn’t like me.

Although I love my mom and wanted to develop a meaningful relationship with my mom, I shutdown whenever she spoke.

There was history.

I knew the basics. She was a single mom who worked and went to school full time. I remember our Sunday mornings together where she’d make me Huevos Rancheros and we’d watch 1980’s comedies.

As much as parents do to protect their children, sometimes it’s just not enough and we can resent them for that. That resentment is toxic and drains our energy, our life force.

Looking back now, I know my mom did the best she could with what she knew and had.

Back then, I didn’t understand her. It was as if we spoke a different language. Instead of trying to make meaning, I rejected every attempt she made to connect and repair our trust.

During my coursework as an Eating Psychology Coach, I learned how our relationship with our mother has a direct connection with our relationship with food. If I wanted to heal my relationship with my body and food, then I was going to have to heal my relationship with my mother.

I was tired of fighting and the disharmony. I was willing to try anything.

It starts with the fact that our mother is our first source of nourishment from being in the womb to being at the breast. We absorb whatever energy she is exposed to.

In addition, while mother’s breastfeed, a powerful hormone OXYTOCIN is released to strengthen the bond between mother and child. It’s called the LOVE HORMONE and allows us, as babies, to feel calm, safe and accepted. We begin to make strong associations. Feeding feels good. Food is calming. Food is love.

Cravings for sugar? Here’s another interesting connection. Mother’s milk is sweet. After colostrum, the principle composition of milk is Lactose……milk sugar. Our brains become wired to associate love and sweetness. The source….MOM! But in all sincerity, if we didn’t have this association we would have starved and died. How appetizing would breast milk be if it tasted like spinach??

So what happens when our connection to this source becomes strained? When we feel disconnected from our mothers?

How are we able to digest life?

When discomfort strikes how do we soothe?

The problem is that we turn to substances like food, especially sugar, to numb the pain and self-protect. Yet what we’re really craving is love, security, comfort, acceptance and/or understanding.

It runs in my family. My mother, her mother (my grandmother), and I struggled with our weight most of our lives. We’re all also very emotional and sensitive women. We never talked about our feelings. Instead, we bonded by going out to eat on the weekends.

Founder of The Institute on the Psychology of Eating, Marc David posed a very powerful question during a workshop I attended,

“How are we meant to evolve our family lineage?”

On a superficial level, I knew that taking care of my health was a big part of that. Ending the trend of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure that runs on my maternal side of my family.

The other part of that process meant becoming curious about my mother’s story. What was her birthing story like? How was her relationship with her mother? Did she feel loved and understood?

I learned that there was a lot of healing that needed to happen from generations of trauma, suffering, and abuse. This is energy that gets passed on from generation to generation through our stories and DNA.   It lives in our cells.

During a recent visit, I recently found myself on edge again. We were both in our typical mother/daughter engagement and I was so tempted to check out. I forced myself to stay present and listen to her. How can I connect with her?

Intuitively, I mentioned that I was going to a Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Workshop the next day. I forget, but my mom used to be a professional belly dancer. Not different at all from what I do now as a Zumba Teacher. As much as I think we’re different….we’re really the same.

She lit up and said, “How much do they charge for that class?”

“$25 dollars.” I replied.

“Wow. That’s pretty good.” She said.

Then she stood up and said, “I could teach you a few moves.”

Before I knew it she stood up and started circulating her hips as she bounced quickly on the ball of her feet. Her arms were way up in the air, hands and fingers twirling like she was painting the sky.

Who is this? I thought. She’s a Goddess!

Over the course of the next hour, my mom and I pranced around my grandmother’s living room belly dancing. I couldn’t believe it. She still knew so many moves and looked so graceful. Over 30 years later (she’s now in her 60s) my mom still had it! She isn’t much of an exerciser, but found her groove again moving and shaking her hips.

We smiled, laughed, and talked like we were friends….sisters. I felt a deep connection like I’d never felt with her before.

She sat down, a little out of breath, sweaty, and with the biggest smile. She was glowing. “That was so fun.” She said, “I still got it.”

“You sure do mom!” I said. “You’re amazing!”  I meant it.

She went on to say, “My hand feels really good too.” My mom has been out on disability for over 6 months now with carpal tunnel. “This exercise is probably really good for my carpal tunnel. Maybe I can even teach it at the Senior Center?”

“YES! That’s a great idea mom!” Music to my ears. I’ve always wanted my mom to take care of her health. To exercise, eat healthy, and thing positively. However, I’ve learned that you can’t make anyone do anything…..especially your parents.

But we ignited a fire here.

I asked Deb Rubin, Founder of Tribal Fusion Belly Dance, what is it about this form of dance that is so powerful? How is it that this form of Conscious Dance is healing?

Rubin comments, “For women, especially, the belly can be a very vulnerable place, and/or also a very powerful place: the womb, the seat of feminine power and feminine life force lies in the belly. Bringing awareness to this area of the body, through tribal fusion belly dance movements and learning how to refine muscular control of this area, ultimately increases that feeling of groundedness, empowerment, confidence, and self-esteem.  I have seen amazing transformations in women who have healed very old issues of dysmorphia, negative body image, shame, even sexual abuse through somatic awareness, mindful movement, and tribal fusion bellydance.  Embracing our bodies, and relishing in the feminine body (in all shapes and sizes)–focusing on the feelings of movement, dance, and feeling powerful and beautiful IN your body as it moves, instead of focusing on how you look to the outside world, can be very healing for women.”

I felt a tremendous amount of love for my mom. A deep connection seated in the womb. An understanding of her beauty, power, grace, sensitivity, and compassion. We were both open and vulnerable. Fully embracing our feminine playfully. I looked her in the eyes and saw her soul. Thank you mom.

Listening, becoming a little curious, embracing a commonality, and then moving our bodies in an empowering conscious way enlightened my spirit. It was a healing.

We are an extension of our mothers. Dance was a way I was able to embrace that extension. That part of my mom that lives within me.

That was the love I sought when I craved food, nourishment, and sweetness. I wanted to feel connection.

What I realized is that it came from within me. My choice to love her and be open. My choice to listen and be compassionate. My choice to choose love and connect. The result, my mother shared her love with me.

As I celebrate Mother’s Day, I want to dedicate my dance journey to my mother. The woman I get all my moves from. She’s a healer, teacher, and Goddess. I hope that I can still move like her when I’m in my 60s.  I love you mom!

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