Jerking awake, I peered down to see a hundred foot drop just a metre to my right. The Fiat swung around the bend and the drop vanished, replaced now by a sweeping landscape; a nitty gritty patchwork of meadows and trees that faded into the hazy, turquoise shoreline.
I blinked sleepily. “Are we there yet?”
Andrew, who had smuggled some Red Bull over in his suitcase, flexed his grip on the steering wheel. “Not yet.”
We had been travelling for what seemed like ages. And it was scorchio. And the kids were arguing.
As I leaned my head against the rattling window, I wondered just how “out of the way” our Sicilian accommodation was going to be. Then thankfully, a few bridges, hairgrip bends and treacherous drops later, a mountain village came into view. Nestled against three mountain peaks, it descended like an angular scree slope, a mishmash of tiled roofs, honey coloured walls and black, crone’s teeth windows.
“This must be it,” Andrew declared. “Caltebellotta“.
Threading our way upwards, through the medieval streets, negotiating mope heads and rustic looking men with crisp shirts and shuffly walks, it was clear that once you’re inside, Sicilian towns are pure gorgeousness.
I hung from the car window, my eyes gobbling up the colours, the textures, the angles, the delicious sketches-to-be. I positively relished our encounter with the narrow road and the vertical hill start and the gabbling Sicilian lady who pointed us in the opposite direction.
Nope, I couldn’t have cared less at the stench of the burning clutch. It was with a feeling of charmed, euphoria that we crawled up the street to our apartment in first gear and as I climbed out of the car, felt the scorching sun on my face, smelt the incense that drifted down from the medieval cathedral, heard the jangling, clanking bells in the tower … I couldn’t stop smiling.
Our arrival in Caltabellotta taught me a powerful lesson of “going within” and “looking further” to find the gorgeousness within. Just like I’d judged these increbible settlements from the outside, I have also been guilty of judging myself by my body. Inspired by this thought I came up with this meditation …
Welcome to the Belly House
1. Take a pad and pencil and now draw your body as if it was a settlement. This may sound strange, but just trust in the process. If your body was settlement what would it look like; a city, a hamlet, a quaint village, a modern estate? Is it overgrown and wild, rundown and ramshackle, or is it glamorous and built up? What part of the city would your arms be; roads, rivers? What would your legs and thighs be? It doesn’t matter if you are good at drawing or not, simply create an image that illustrates the way you see your body.
2. Now, in this settlement, I’d like you to draw a house that represents your belly. Is it a big house or a little house, is it shrivelled or falling down or large and empty? Is it smooth or spiky? How do you feel about this house? Draw your feelings like the flowers that surround the house, loving or hateful, shameful or celebratory.
3. Next I would like you to close your eyes and imagine this drawing is a real house. Imagine it in detail and note any other details that you hadn’t noticed before. In your mind, imagine walking towards the Belly House. You knock on the door, but no one answers. You push the door and find it open. Go on in.
4. Spend the next few minutes exploring the interior of the Belly House. What is the furniture like? Is this a loved house or is it deserted? Does anyone live there? What memories are held in the Belly House? Are there any pictures on the walls or old pieces of furniture you once knew?
When you are ready to leave, close the door and open your eyes. Reflect on what you saw in your Belly House. How could you make this house a little more livable? Perhaps next time you could take in some cleaning products and spring clean it a little? Are there any old memories you’d like to take out of there? This is your Belly House. It can be as gorgeous inside, as lovable and brilliant as you choose to make it.
7. Return to your Belly House as often as you can. Explore it. Get to know it. Fill it with sunshine, love, light and good things. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Hang out there as often as you can. As you work on your inner Belly House, notice any shifts you have in your feelings about your body.
I’d love to hear about any experiences you have with this exercise, so if you are happy to share anything please do.