Your Body Is Safe: Powerful Testimony from Bri Murphy

I recently joined locally-rooted artist Bri Murphy’s email list, and I’m already glad I did. I received this from her this morning. It is poignant, beautiful, and powerful. Maybe there’s healing for you in Bri’s story.

Note from Bri: The following contains a very personal story about my experiences in the music industry, with some mild (quoted) language and some hard times. If this content notice makes you uncomfortable, I wouldn’t blame you at all for not reading any further. Just know that I’m sharing my story not as an act of exposition, but as an act of wholeheartedness and radical self-love that lets me, in turn, express love more fully to others. To quote Brene Brown: “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.”

your body is safe.

I moved to Nashville in 2011 out of an underlying, unshakeable love for music. I worked hard for four years and landed a touring gig with a country-rock band. I did what every musician who moves to Nashville dreams of accomplishing: I paid my bills completely from my music career. But there was a dark side to the dream. I was constantly told to use my body and my looks to my advantage. I was sexualized on stage night after night, for the audience’s consumption and entertainment. The lead singer told people I was the “band slut” and that I could be theirs “for the right price”. On more than one occasion, I had men come up to me after shows, thinking I was a prostitute. Despite the fact that I had “made it” in Nashville and was a full-time musician and songwriter, I was at the lowest place I have ever been in my entire night.

your body is safe.

That same summer, I was raped by someone in my extended friend group. Somebody high up in the industry. Somebody who I thought I could trust. It happened and then it was over and I was left shaken, stunned, and disoriented. The low place I was in sunk to new levels of darkness. Anxiety and depression settled on top of me like a second skin. I gained weight, my mind was shattered. My spiritual practice was nonexistent.

your body is safe.

This story is ultimately a story of love and grace, but at this point, we’re going to take a detour so that we can come full circle in the end.

In the global West, we are constantly bombarded with photoshopped ads and people more “perfect” than us. It’s no wonder we struggle with self-image, diets, and maintaining any holistic concept of health. It’s hard to keep track of the number of quick-fixes on the market for everything from unnoticeable bumps, to the marks of bringing new life into this world, to the lines we gain from years of laughing with loved ones. A quick search on Amazon for “self-improvement books” leads to 131,460 titles to sift through. That’s over one hundred thousand people trying to make money by telling you how to “do you” better.

your body is safe.

The split between the Self and Other hearkens back to the 19th century, which sought to name, number, and otherwise categorize everything in the world around us into neat little boxes. Thinkers from Hegel to Jung represent this desperate need to find the Self in what was becoming an overwhelming expansion of the world as we knew it. In the midst of unease and tension, it’s always easier to detach from our surroundings rather than do the difficult work of confronting, processing, and synthesizing the troublesome parts of our Selves. Rather than recognize the Self in the Other – which is, at times, deeply buried, but is always present – we put the Other in glass boxes in museums, hide them in our shadow selves (as Jung would say), and project them onto the monsters that hide under our bed, while we remain a beautiful soul (as Hegel would say).

your body is safe.

This Self-splitting breeds undeniable feelings of isolation. Our physical self is suddenly an abstract concept that’s entirely separated from our emotional and spiritual selves. We think of emotion and spirit as messy and complicated because they are, but the last few centuries have complicated the individual – as well as collective – body politic to a point where it may be even messier, simply because we’re not even aware of our bodies as a vital constituent of our overall Being and connection to God. 21st century technology has further complicated the split between body, soul, and spirit; between Self and Other. As more and more screens enter our daily lives and the way we “connect” to each other involves more and more layers, veils, and filters, we drift away from serious spiritual life or contemplative practice and are increasingly unmoored from any sense of what it means to be a Spirit-filled human with an ephemeral body.

your body is safe.

It was a two-year journey back into my body. It’s one I didn’t make alone. I firmly believe it takes a village not only to raise a child but to lift each other up over and over again throughout our lifetimes. From my friends who practiced next to me while I literally clawed and sobbed my way through yoga classes; to my parents, who stood by my decision to take a break from music and held space for me; to a fantastic therapist who helped me validate and process my experiences; to a God who gave me grace through it all; I have an endless amount of gratitude for my “village”. Ultimately, I found that when I sat down with the monsters under my proverbial bed and opened my heart to learning from them rather than forsaking them, I discovered an even more beautiful soul and returned to God in a way that would have been impossible without the monsters.

your body is safe.

I like to envision my self-discoveries as pieces of light that I had lost in the journey, but recovered in the restoration. Here are the four that became cornerstones for me moving forward, and stay with me to this day:

“My body is safe.” I recovered the concept of security in my physical being.

“My body is sacred.” I restored a deep faith in a God who was, and is, always with me.

“My body is whole.” I reintegrated my soul and my spirit with my physicality.

“My body is mine.” I reclaimed my agency to move, think, and act from deeper faith.

your body is safe.

All of us experience some form of trauma over the course of our lives. I share my story as a further act of ownership over my being, and as an introduction to this series of meditations/mantras that I’ll be writing and sending your way once a month. They are meant to inspire, to invoke contemplation, and to encourage moments of unplugged silence in life and connection with higher, whole Self, whether or not you believe in God or any higher power. In yoga, this journey is called svadhyaya. In the Christian tradition, it’s represented by the Trinity, and the perichoresis, or “divine dance” that we choose to enter with God. Some dances will be longer; some will be short and sweet. For me, some will be infused with art or song or movement; all will be deeply rooted in my belief that my fragile and human heart was born in original blessing, and beats to seek light in even the darkest of times.

meditation:

my body is safe.
my body is sacred.
my body is whole.
my body is mine.

Peace and blessings,
Bri

 

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