The Merriam-Webster definition of beauty:
- the quality of being physically attractive
- the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind
- a beautiful woman
Why is it that the first given definition of the word beauty is centered around physical attractiveness? At her event, Occupy Beauty, Melanie Elkin invites women to radically redefine beauty and capture the true meaning of the word, modeling a new paradigm of female leadership.
Using her personal journey and struggle with body image to guide her passions, Melanie teaches women about the importance of self-love and self-care. She created Yoga’licious to help women have an honest and loving dialogue with their bodies. It is this vision and message that inspired the creation of Occupy Beauty, a mini-retreat full of yoga and exploration designed for women to spend the day nourishing and connecting with all parts of themselves. This day is an opportunity for participants to put themselves first and take exceptional care of the personal.
“Beauty to me is getting freaky,” Melanie began as the rest of the women followed with their own perceptions of beauty. The responses flowing around the room created a new and honest definition of what the essence of beauty really is. Together, these observations created the definition that the group felt should be in Webster’s dictionary.
- messy, unpredictable, and silly
- kindness and authenticity
- wholeness and love
Beauty is YOU.
The room of uniquely beautiful women gathered in a circle to introduce themselves and share what they were bringing with them and what they wanted to leave with. Some brought love and wished to leave with laughter, while others brought friendship and hoped to leave with acceptance. Each woman in the circle came from a place of vulnerability and open mindedness as they let themselves see and be seen by the other warm faces in the room.
After introductions, and a candle lighting, Melanie kicked off a dialogue giving the opportunity for women to discuss what brought them to Occupy Beauty and share any sentiments or revelations about the morning’s activities. This sincere conversation illustrated the sense of community and sisterhood in the room as each person’s honesty was met with understanding and love.
Melanie then lead the group through a yoga series, and even in her yoga practice, she embodied the message of the day: beauty is you. She highlighted her beautiful, fun-loving nature and called for an unconventional yoga dance break to one of her favorite songs in between postures.
Let Yourself Be Seen
The day continued to enlighten and inspire as 12 extraordinary women were invited to sit on two panels. The first panel centered on being seen and visibility.
Outside pressure and unrealistic expectations of beauty can make women want to fall into the background. Melanie, on the other hand, encourages everyone to “let their freak flag fly” and to let all parts of themselves out into the open. It can be a challenge to see and recognize each individual in a room, but even more challenging is to let oneself be seen. Here are some of the key messages and tips from the first panel of powerful women:
- Intimacy and love for yourself first opens the door for intimacy and love for others
- Embrace your inner child that thrives on standing out.
- Take time to be alone and let yourself feel things you may not want to feel: beauty is feeling.
- Cast aside the need to “have it together” before you are ready to move forward. Don’t wait to feel beautiful or competent before taking those steps.
- Be willing to make pleasure a priority.
- You are beauty because you are part of life.
- You have a good body: you have arms, legs, eyes, ears, and a heart.
Beauty As Wholeness
The second panel focused on how the whole essence of you is a part of beauty. This requires accepting all of your limitations and self judgements and including those as part of what makes you beautiful – because this is what makes you you. Even our shadow sides are beautiful. As Aparna beautifully quoted, “the only time shadow doesn’t exist is when we are in complete darkness.” Without complete self-love, we can’t fully be ourselves. Here are some of the powerful sentiments from the panel:
- Don’t hold back because it might make others uncomfortable.
- Beauty is a practice.
- Your beauty is completely irrevocable.
- Our separation from one another is an illusion and as beings we are all uniquely the same.
- The more you try do things the same way as someone else, the further away you fall from yourself.
- Even a rose has thorns.
As the day came to a close, participants were asked to reflect and journal on any new beliefs they had surrounding beauty and what could happen if we practiced those beliefs daily. It is time for us to change the perception of beauty that is advertised and stamped on us by the media. Living this new definition of beauty and taking the time and space to practice it would empower women and inspire a whole realm of possibilities. No one should ever feel as if they are not enough.
Melanie’s parting gem of wisdom: “The being of you is beauty. Your enoughness isn’t in a formula, box, size, or shape – it is right now, and you can play with the possibilities from there.”
Find more information on the amazing panel of women here:
Amy Chalker, Adrienne Smith, Jane Shelby Meyer, Kita Macomber, Natalie Diane, Lucinda Rae Kinch, Aparna Khanolkar, Dr. Tumi Johnson, Ashleigh Henning, Audrey Hazekam, Allison Antoinette, and Melissa Costello.
Weren’t able to make it LIVE to the event but feeling called to learn more? Well you are in luck, Melanie has created a transformational 3-day Yoga Retreat in the beautiful town of Ojai where you will be able to explore all that I have shared in this article and more! For details, Melanie is offering a 30-minute complimentary no-strings attached phone call so you can learn more about the retreat and see if it is a good fit for you. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a call. Learn more about the retreat here.