Shakti Sundari at Heart to Heart interviewed me about God, Sex & Cellulite. “A must-watch for anyone struggling with body-image or self-love issues” we talk about how to journey from self-loathing & dissociation (checking out during sex) to making peace with your-self, your body and the Divine.
In the interview, we discuss:
- The body-shame epidemic affecting huge amounts of women, men and gender-queer folks
- How body image struggles affect sexual confidence, pleasure and freedom in the bedroom
- The myth of attaining beauty—it doesn't give you what you think
- How vulnerability and the body are avenues for mega connection, letting go and bliss
- Key practices to generate body-confidence, self-love and romantic pleasure
For more on why and how to love your body as it is now, read or watch the interview!
Shakti: This morning you gave an introduction to the workshop that you were teaching this morning called Sex, God and Cellulite. Great title!
Caitlyn: Thank you.
Shakti: In your introduction, you mentioned a statistic that kind of blew me away. I was shocked when you said, “91% of women” are reported to dislike their bodies.
Caitlyn: Yeah and the statistic is around a 35–40% for men. That’s in Australia. Also for trans gender-queer folk, body images can be a huge source of pain as well. So yeah, it's massive.
Shakti: I'm also curious because you talked about why that statistic is important to you. Could you tell us more about your personal experience?
Caitlyn: Yeah absolutely. So, I realized how important the body was when I was making love with my boyfriend at the time, and he stopped me and said, “Something is a bit off right now. What’s going on?” And that was the moment that I realized that I was just not in my body. I was like in the corner of the room watching myself do this, making sure that I looked good, made the right sounds, made sure my belly looked good and I wasn’t there. I just wasn’t there.
Shakti: Like, you were disassociating?
Caitlyn: Yeah. I was disassociating from my body. I realized that that was the moment that I wasn’t really there. I wasn’t connected. I wasn’t really experiencing everything that was possible for me, with my person who I loved. I was minimizing my pleasure and my own experience of my body and just making it all about them.
And then thinking about where my body is in the rest of my life, the choices I make to go out with my friends, the food I want to eat, the places I want to travel to, how I feel at a job interview, all these things—my body has a role in that. I realized that, because I was always resisting my body, I was always trying to minimize it and escape it. I was never really there, never really present in the moment, never really bringing my full self and always just a little bit held back.
Shakti: Why was that? Why did you think that was?
Caitlyn: I think being a woman in the contemporary world kind of sets you up to see yourself as an object before seeing what your body really does, in terms of function and how it’s a vehicle for you in your life. You’re first looking at what it looks like, rather than what it can do. I did model for a time as well and the way you look is very important in that as well.
But despite all that, I studied this stuff at university. I was feminist-educated—psychology, philosophy—I studies all of it. I knew about how media worked to disempower and hold you up to these images of perfection. I knew about that stuff but even still, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was still part of that story. It’s somehow infused into me.
Shakti: It’s a part of our body. The enculturation is so strong.
Caitlyn: It is. Yeah.
Shakti: So, was there a particular kind of thing that happened in your history that made you kind of lock away from your body?
Caitlyn: Well, there was a moment actually and I didn’t realize this until actually just a couple of years ago when I was overseas, and it was the moment when I kind of broke up with God. I was a very strong Christian for a time in my teens, and then there was a moment that I kind of lost God.
In retrospect, I realized that in the absence of this loving, caring God who told me I was enough, I started looking into something else to feel some sense of control and acceptance, and that everything was going to be ok, and I could do it. I wanted to know I would be loved and exceptional, so that kind of turned into, “Well, I know that I can make my body beautiful”. So, if I can make my body beautiful then maybe I can win affection that way.
The moment where I lost my global sense of peace and acceptance with God was when I tried searching for it in other places—like my body. It’s been a journey to kind of fall in love with myself again and to feel that sense of peace and acceptance with a broader sense of God, but really finding that God, the Goddess, the Divine—in myself, as well.
Shakti: You’re actually coming back to the title of the day. What is the connection for you between sex, God and cellulite?
Caitlyn: Such a good question. Well, the body is central to everything. The body is your vehicle for your connection to your beloved, to yourself, to the divine. So, if you’re always trying to escape your body, and you’re never willing to really be in your body then you’re never able to totally connect with your partner, with yourself or with the divine. The body is the vehicle to all of these things and the body is central to sexuality, sensuality, it’s how you experience that stuff and God is present in all of it. So, they’re all kind of avenues and doorways to each other and I think the beautiful part of it is, no matter where you are, maybe you’re really tight with God but you really don’t like your cellulite. Or, you really love sexuality but you’re feeling really weird about God or whatever. They all kind of open up into each other. If you’re just kind of aware enough and also inviting that in.
Shakti: The cellulite bit, I am curious about why you would put that in a title because that’s going to address a certain part of somebody’s psyche.
Caitlyn: Cellulite is the body just like your knees and your nose and your hair is the body. Firstly, I wanted to name it plainly, in a non-judgmental way. It’s like it’s the beginners mind—looking at it with total curiosity and not like, “Eww gross, cellulite”. So that’s the first thing.
Of course, people do have judgment around the cellulite and those kind of unsightly parts of the body. Those parts of the body are incredible doorways to accessing your vulnerability and the parts of you that you want to hide the most. When you open those up that’s where ultimate openness and intimacy lives. It’s the part of you that you’re afraid, if I show that I don’t know if I’m going to be accepted, and you show that—and you experience that acceptance and that ultimate surrender of, “Oh my God I’m ok, I’m beautiful”. That’s powerful. So powerful.
So, cellulite, in a way, is gold. It takes a lot of bravery to be like, yeah, I’m just going to show someone this thing. The shadow is never comfortable to show. But when you do, there is intimacy, there is surrender, there is acceptance. I think that’s where oneness is. Your cellulite is an avenue for oneness.
Shakti: I like that. I also get from what you’re saying that you’re using it as a metaphor for revealing the part of myself that I am most afraid to show. So it might be my cellulite, it might be my chipped tooth. It might be the part of my character that I really don’t feel very proud about. It’s just a metaphor for the part of ourselves that we are scared to show because we are scared of what can happen if we showed the ones that we love. And when we actually show it, we realize that that can create more intimacy and more truth and more love.
Caitlyn: Absolutely. It’s scary. And it’s beautiful.
Shakti: I bet there are loads of women who have been looking in and they’re watching this and they’re saying, “Look, she is young. She is beautiful. She is smart. She has got it all going for her, so it’s easy for her to say that”.
Caitlyn: Yep. I mean, I was on the cover of magazines. I have been the pinnacle of beauty, right? And it was when I was on the cover of magazines that I felt the most disgusting and worthless and ashamed of all. And I remember that. I was like, “Ah, I am on the cover of this magazine, surely I of all people, right now, I should be feeling comfortable about myself”. And I wasn’t—and I didn’t for years.
Before I reached that magazine moment, I thought if you looked ‘good’ you would feel feel comfortable in your body. And so I was always just working towards it—since I was 12. And when I finally reached there, and I still didn’t feel beautiful—I felt worse. I was like, “What the fuck is going on? This is so weird and incredibly uncomfortable”. So yeah, it was at that moment that I realized that you could look however—like a supermodel, a plus-sized model, or my mom who is 60 and round, and you can feel fucking gorgeous and secure and at ease and in love. Or, you can look however and still feel really self-conscious, worthless, small, embarrassed. And the other thing was that I was a lot thinner then and my body now even would have shocked me years ago. I would have been really afraid to look how I do now.
Shakti: And she you’re stunning! You’re gorgeous.
Caitlyn: Thanks. The mind can do funny things: the story you tell yourself and the kind of very narrow key performance indicators that you keep for yourself. Like, “To be beautiful, I need to have a waist that is this narrow or my arms need to be this big or whatever”. Beauty is so much broader and unfolding than that.
Shakti: I love that you’re sharing this because I look at women today and so many women are scared with judgment or a lack of love for their body and/or feel that if only they could get their bodies to be a certain way then everything will be alright. “If only I would have lost two stones or three pounds—then I would get a boyfriend. If only I looked like this, then I would get a better job. If only I could start running”. It’s always that. So again, what would you say to a woman who is watching this and they are feeling overweight and they’re feeling unattractive, because she thinks that if she changes something about her appearance then she would suddenly get the guy?
Caitlyn: I would say that it’s really not about how you look. It’s about how you feel and how in love you are with yourself, really. I think that the most attractive, magnetic aspect of any person is how much they love themselves and how comfortable they can feel in their skin. I know that there are people out there saying, “Well, I will feel comfortable in my skin when I am two pounds lighter”. But I was two pounds lighter and I was even more embarrassed and even more ashamed. So, it’s taken putting on weight and eating more cake and enjoying yoga not for athleticism but for nurturing myself.
So I would say nurture. Nurture the body for what it wants, not for what it ‘should’ be like. Really, it’s about falling in love with yourself. And that could be through anything. It could be through yoga, it could be through dance, it could be through the fabric you wear, your lipstick, the people you want to spend time with, the places you want to travel. It’s endless.
Shakti: What have you found on this journey that has taken you from when you were making love with your boyfriend and that realization? What have been some of the most helpful tools or tickets that have really helped you through that?
Caitlyn: There have been a few. Starting with mindfulness meditation and just bringing that awareness to what’s going on in your mind and what stories are being told. Observing them and observing them as if they are a radio station that’s playing. And then just listening to this, but not buying into it. That’s number one.
Dance has been huge and moving beyond how we’re expected to move, how people are seen to move in music videos and that kind of stuff but really listening to music and letting your body guide you. Let your body tell you how it wants to move and letting movement nourish your body as opposed to performing for someone else. So much of the body image stuff is a performance. It’s like I need this audience to have a particular reaction to me and I am going to do whatever I can to make that happen. Using dance as a way to come back into yourself and to really make love to yourself through movement.
And then all the International School of Temple Arts (ISTA) stuff has been amazing for my journey too.
Shakti: Great. Tell us about ISTA.
Caitlyn: It’s a week-long training where you explore your relationship to yourself in the first half, and your relationship to others in the second. And yeah, you go through all sorts of emotional processing—there’s lots when it comes to body image work. It’s about connecting with yourself rather than abandoning yourself and your desire and who you are. It’s really holding, nurturing and nourishing yourself so beautifully that I have never experienced anything like it in my life. I use the tools I learnt there all the time now.
Shakti: If you have one message of love to put across to as many people in the world as you possibly can, what would that message be?
Caitlyn: Make love to yourself. Heart. Body. Mind. Soul—to make love to yourself.
If you're struggling with body image issues or want to deepen your love and confidence in your body, I'm available for private sessions. Contact me.