Sacred Flesh and Bones


The body is like an earth. It is a land unto itself. It is as vulnerable to overbuilding, being carved into parcels, cut off, overmined, and shorn of its power as any landscape. The wilder woman will not be easily swayed by redevelopment schemes. For her, the questions are not how to form but how to feel. The breast in all its shapes has the function of feeling and feeding. Does it feed? Does it feel? It is a good breast. ~Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I picked up my old and tattered copy of Women Who Run With The Wolves again, just the other night. This book carried me through a tough time in my life, a time when I was hurting from a break-up that took me by surprise. In my healing process, I decided I needed to learn how to stay by my own side, no matter what, no matter how shiny the object of my desire was over there. That need to hop the fence can be so seductive. Reading Estés’ classic, I took my own hand in mine and walked deeper into the wild forest of me. Her words spoke to my soul in a way no other author has…except, perhaps, Marian Woodman.


So I picked up Estés’ book again, let it fall open, and it opened to the quote above.

The body like earth. A land unto itself. Vulnerable. Overbuilt, overmined, cut off, carved into parcels. Shorn of its power. Wild women. Breasts. Feeling and feeding.

Ahhhhh. Back in the land of the wild.


My mind went back thirty years to motherhood, to the times when I nursed my two babies. Such wondrous moments those were. I loved being a mother to babies. I loved nursing. I can still remember the feeling of the milk letting down when my babies cried. The connection between cry and breast, hunger and milk. All on its own, my body responded to my little ones’ cries for nourishment. The wisdom of the body, especially the female body that can bring life into life, can hold it while it grows, and can then birth it into being, is a mystery. It is sacred.

But even if we never feed our children from our breasts, or never have children, they are still wonderful parts with which to feel. Yes, our lovers can enjoy them; but we get to feel life through our breasts, sensations that let us know we are sensual creatures, that we love what we love.

When we are no longer focused on being the object of desire, but rather the subject, we can enjoy our bodies as the wild woman, the woman that knows her instincts, feelings and body from the inside out.

Desire, pleasure, feeling, aliveness. The body brings us into direct experience with life, back to our senses.


Estés writes:

There is no ‘supposed to be’ in bodies. The question is not size of shape or years of age, or even having two of everything, for some do not. But the wild issue is, does this body feel, does it have right connection to pleasure, to heart, to soul, to the wild? Does it have happiness, joy? Can it in its own way move, dance, jiggle, sway, thrust? Nothing else matters.

These words go right to my soul.

When we see the body as an object to be manipulated and controlled, we are cut off from our wildness, from our instincts and intuition, from our power as women.

When we know our bodies as sacred flesh and bones, blood and heart, we open to how we can experience life through this body. Each cell can awaken to its divinity when we are willing to begin the descent, from our heads where we’ve been taught to live, back into the body, the only place where aliveness dwells.

It is through right connection to our own pleasure, through honoring the sacred within us, through embracing our design as women, that we find right connection to the wild and step into our power. Yes, others can enjoy our bodies, and their enjoyment will be so much greater, when we first are the subject of our own desire, when we hold ourselves as sacred, for we are the sacred feminine in physical form.


And, you?

Does your body have happiness? Does it know joy?

How do you experience right connection to pleasure, heart, soul and the wild?

I’d love to know what your experiences have been.

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14 Replies to “Sacred Flesh and Bones”

  1. wild. clarissa pinkola estes (cpe). oh yes. i love women who run with the wolves – so much so, it’s now held together with a string cause the rubber band dried out and fell off. i don’t remember these particular nuggets, but they are perfect reminders that we do experience much life through our bodies. it is my body that says an affirming YES when i do or say just the right thing. it’s my body that feels like a lightning bolt has landed when i utter the willingness to follow an idea into implementation or interpret a dream. it is my body that lets me know when it’s time to hush. or hunt. or hug. my brain may not be able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s unreal, but my body sure can. and my body doesn’t lie. it takes no hostages and it tells the truth (whether i want to hear it or not). i love the way you say it: “Each cell can awaken to its divinity when we are willing to begin the descent, from our heads where we’ve been taught to live, back into the body, the only place where aliveness dwells.”

  2. My mother gave me the book in hardcover for Christmas, 1992 the year it came out. I can’t believe that was 18 years ago now. I love the idea of picking it up and flipping to a random page of this book. Its so packed with wisdom that its sure to be just the right thing in the right moment.

    My body has to dance. Admitting this has taken most of my life after learning inhibition around age 7 or 8 because what I saw or felt with so much dance available to me was that it wasn’t for my pleasure or expression, but for some imaginary viewer.

    I love dancing with others to feel closer to them, to feel like part of a community, and I love dancing alone, wildly and ecstatically, as a direct connection to the divine… in me and beyond “me”. I’m only now just beginning to be able to deepen into dance as an art form, feeling how to be fully myself within a design.

  3. Your posts resonate deeply for me Julie. Women who Run w/ the Wolves has saved my life many a time…as has Marion Woodman. When I was at my first radiation treatment for breast cancer, the Woodman book, Dying into Life, appeared in my life and articulated all I was experiencing in a visceral way.
    There is no separation between the earth’s body and my own any more and when I paint her I am now painting from a deeply intuitive place w/in myself. Whenever I get caught in my head, as I do, often, I try and remember to listen to my body’s feelings and instincts…I dance, I paint, I MOVE like a wild wolf running across the prairie and kNOW that I am home again.

  4. oh! I can’t add anything to the comments by Holly, Jeanne and Kate T.W. except – Amen to what they said!!!

    Again, Julie – again with the heart-core-beauty-truth. I love you so!! (or like i read Jeanne saying somewhere the other day — which made me laugh out loud for 5 min. –“I love you to a crisp”)

  5. Kate- I love that your mother gave you this book. And I love hearing about you dancing now, after learning inhibition at such a young age. I share your love of dance, both with others and alone. It is an immediate connection with the Divine. It took me some time to loosen those old bindings of inhibitions, but now the wildness calls me to it… Letting go of that imaginary viewer is so important. Thank you for the metaphor.

    Holly – I’m so glad they resonate with you. I have not yet read Woodman’s book, Dying Into Life, but I experience that lack of separation now between her and me. Your work is so beautiful…i can see Her in you and you in Her throughout your work. Move like a wild wolf. Ahhhhh, there is the wild again.

  6. How wonderful to experience the sacred with our bodies on the very sacred body of the Earth.

    “Desire, pleasure, feeling, aliveness. The body brings us into direct experience with life, back to our senses.”

    Oh Julie, I love this post so much. Pinkola Estes has a way of reaching our bones and awakening our wild nature. And you do the same, my body and soul are saying yes, yes, YES!


  7. I wish that I could echo the words of this post in the ears of every woman I’ve encountered who struggles with body image issues and/or an eating disorder. For many of them, their problems stem from an incident where someone (usually a male) did not respect their body or used it only as a means of perverse pleasure. This, in turn, has caused them to stop valuing their own body and holding it as sacred. It’s also caused them to view their bodies in a warped way. This post is a clear reminder of the power of the female body to nurture and provide in so many ways. That alone makes a woman’s body beautiful. Beautifully written, Julie.

  8. Sigh. Once again your words and the comments that follow are food for the soul.
    You know, Hip Mama is taking submissions on their body issue til the end of the month…

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