"…and i said to my body, softly, ‘i want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath and replied, ‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.’"
Nayyirah Waheed
 

I like to play with the idea of mirrors being everywhere, constantly reflecting us back to ourselves - in the people we meet, the stories we hear, and in all that we perceive. Going further in this mirroring concept beyond our own reflection, to see the world’s reflections of reality beaming back at us, is always a worthy head trip. When you happen to see both your own personal reflection and the world’s converge is where things get super juicy and it’s vitally important to pay extra attention.
 
Not long ago, I was scrolling through Pinterest searching for art featuring the Sacred Femme when I glanced at a portrait of a classic nude gazing at her own reflection. For an instant I just enjoyed the beauty of this simple oil painting. I glimpsed the lovely and vaguely familiar subject, and took note of the title, Voyeur. Next thing I know there’s a clear click in my consciousness and my body shifts into high alert. Bells and whistles go off and every cell in me begins to vibrate with recognition of myself.
 
Super-curious about the incredible likeness to my face and form, I clicked the frame to enlarge this image and realized immediately that I was staring at a portrait that I had actually modeled for years ago. Wow! Mind blown! I’d forgotten all about it and had never seen the painting before this serendipitous moment.
 
Suddenly I was saturated with waves of pleasure making up a luscious, warm, full-body buzz that generated from my heart, extended to my limbs, and finally burst in my mind with a surge of memories. Here I was sitting on my couch with my laptop staring at a painting of me, looking at myself in a mirror, titled Voyeur . I nearly passed out from fierce shivers and the pure meta radness of the moment.
 
Gazing at the tenderly crafted details of my form in this medium was surreal and terribly intimate. My eyes were soaking up the shape of my tiny feet, fleshy thighs, long hips, floating breasts, strong shoulders, and this most familiar face that I inherited from my mother. I felt a flash of fear and braced myself for the violence of self-loathing directed at my body, but surprisingly found only tenderness and pride swell up in my heart. All these years spent trying to learn to love my body, not just for how she serves me in this life but also as a beautiful creature herself, has culminated in this moment of recognition that healing has indeed come.
 
I had been catapulted into time travel through this reflective portal and let myself deliciously wander back to that afternoon in Raymond Han’s painting studio. I was barely able to contain my nerves when I arrived at the ornate New York City neo-gothic building on 67th Street nestled between Lincoln Center and Central Park. I remember the mystical sensation of pure inspiration when I first stepped in Han’s studio. My heart throbbed with belonging, noting that every single thing my eye fell on was gorgeous.
 
In a way, I recall the space by how it felt on my skin; slightly humid and just warm enough. I can still smell the sweet mint tea, fresh cut flowers, oil paints, and turpentine.
I can also smell my own sweat, a scent of salty cannabis mixed with lavender essential oil. The organic brilliance and elegance of Han’s studio made me feel held. Though I had forgotten all about this day until the moment I happened across this image, I still look back with the sense that this is a deeply familiar space. It was sacred, and all sacred spaces feel friendly and known to me. It was a perfect temple to host such an empowering ritual as modeling for this portrait in the pursuit of self-love.
 
As a freshman at CalArts studying dance I was fascinated with John Berger’s Ways of Seeing and his classic chapter on the female nude in European painting.
 
“A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another... Thus she turns herself into an object -- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
~ John Berger, Ways of Seeing
 
Learning this fundamental work in class felt so confrontational I blushed brightly and felt like I was being called out for my deep and crippling self-consciousness. I knew Berger was describing exactly the way of seeing myself from which I desperately wanted to be liberated.
 
 As a dancer, I’ve lived a large part of my days looking in a mirror and judging myself as an animated object of potential beauty, striving for perfection and, naturally, never achieving it. I could feel that the pursuit of perfection was keeping me from truly inhabiting my body until I eventually became a disembodied dancer, resenting this fleshy bag of bones that I was doomed to carry to the end.
 
Being so struck with Berger’s take on the female nude, I instinctually knew that taking my clothes off and getting inside the painting was going to somehow be transformative and give me precious emotional data I could use to heal this rift within myself. Could I get inside this painting and be my authentic Self? Could I let myself be truly naked, seen, and perhaps even loved?
 
A good friend taught me a new term the other day: Infinite Regression. When referring to consciousness, infinite regress is defined as “the formation of an infinite series of ‘inner observers’ as we ask the question of who is observing the output of the neural correlates of consciousness in the study of subjective consciousness.”
 
Wow. A fancy way to say, “Who is the thinker of these thoughts? And the seer of these sights?” When referring to optics, infinite regress is the “formation of an infinite series of receding images created in two parallel facing mirrors.” Thank you Wikipedia. I’ve always loved the peek into the infinite from two facing mirrors, and now I know what to call it.
 
Looking at this portrait now, I’m witnessing the girl who was only just becoming aware that she is sculpting the dream that I am today. On the day I modeled for this painting, I barely tasted the potential to feel the profound and tangible self-love that I am now able to project onto this portrait. Simply put, it was a dream to think I could ever really love myself. I’m so grateful that I was curious and courageous enough to seek healing from a deeply fractured sense of wholeness. That simple day planted a seed that grew to this moment where I get to steal a glance of my infinite self, and I’m humbled to finally be able to say that I am a beautiful example of The Sacred Femme indeed.
 
I think most of us have a deep knowing that when we go looking for Goddess we end up finding ourselves. I’ve been dedicated to cultivating my relationship to the Divine Feminine just long enough to start really appreciating Her humor and Her very unique and specific ways of communing with me. We have our own intimacy, and it’s magical, and epic, and kinda weird.
 
I’m flooded with compassion for my maiden heroine self who heeded the call to adventure the terrain of her own form and be seen, be vulnerable, be enough, be celebrated, be treasured, and finally be deeply loved by her own Self.
 

“If we stand naked, the mirror reflects things as they are. In its Latin roots, the word mirror suggests wonder and curiosity. It is the bringer of secret mirth, helping us to disentangle the inner and outer worlds, giving us the objectivity to laugh at ourselves. There is more to the mirror than reflection. The long hours of sitting alone stripping off the self-deceptions, the artificial self-pity, the self-inflated maiming, build the Eros connection between the conscious and unconscious worlds in a way that connects both. With the mirror, we go through, we take our reality into another world, the world of the unconscious, and find a relationship to our own soul.”
~ Marion Woodman
Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride
 
~Jesse Heid

As a healer, teacher, and artist, Jesse spends her days working with both women and men, exploring the concept of fierce self-love for our bodies as an integral aspect to our path to wholeness. By working together with movement, breath, myth and ritual, we seek to become embodied and heal ourselves.

2016
 




 


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