We sat down with Rachel Larsen Weaver, photographer and cofounder of Now, Now School, to discuss sensuality, her connection to her physical form, self-love, and life as a mother of five. We love Rachel’s commitment to the body as an art form, as reflected in her words and art
Hi Rachel! Thanks for being here. You write, speak, and teach about self-love. How and where did your self-love journey begin, and what does the term self-love mean to you?
I think it’s worth noting that I always had a sense of loving myself but the disconnect came in the form of well, loving my form. I loved me but felt that my love was despite my body not being what I thought it should be. At some point though I had the realization that when I loved other people, it included the totality of them- their physical selves as well as their hearts, minds, and spirits. I didn’t require them to fit into some prescribed form to be worthy of my love, so why wasn’t I extending the same love towards myself? I also joke sometimes that I have never been nearly as weird as I want to be. Like, deep down, I’m kind of basic. I had a realization that if I could crack this loving myself code, I would be doing something I saw very few people around doing. Like if I could love myself, maybe I would finally be sort of edgy? I am also an enthusiastic sharer by nature, though. So once I felt like I was getting the hang of it, I was so eager to tell EVERYBODY. I’m sort of the opposite of those people who only like something before it was cool. When I like something, I can’t stop trying to get other people on board. I’m an accidental evangelist. Self-love, to me, means loving the whole of yourself. Love does not require perfection. I have never loved a perfect person—I am no exception. In loving my friends, family, partner, or children, I never think of how they are supposed to be. I practiced applying that same grace to myself.
When you are feeling disconnected from yourself, what tools or rituals do you call upon to sink back in?
My very favorite way of reconnecting is through floating. In my perfect world, I would be in the ocean every day. But since I’m a couple hours from the Atlantic and sort of far north for winter swims, I find that grounding is a pretty good alternative. If I’m feeling disembodied, walking down to the beach (It’s the Chesapeake Bay—not the ocean), getting my feet in the sand, and spending some time in nature is a pretty solid way of getting back in touch with myself.
What does play look like for you in relation to being present and embodied?
In my heart, I am a sea creature. I think one of the reasons I love being in the water so much is that it is an easy place for me to tap into my most playful spirit.
As a mother of five, how do you carve out time and space to focus on yourself?
I get up early in the morning to do morning pages while I drink coffee. I go away for the weekend with friends every couple of months. I’m also fortunate that my work allows me to connect with parts of myself: through photography, I connect with my creativity. In teaching NOW, NOW School, I have time dedicated to building an intentional community. These are things I would do for myself even if they weren’t “work.”
How has having children expanded your understanding and connection to yourself?
Maybe because I never was athletic or graceful, and I grew up feeling too big, I always felt like my body was some sort of burden. But pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing were all experiences that made me feel connected to my body in ways that I hadn’t previously. So in a very physical way, having children helped me feel more connected to my physical self, maybe for the first time ever. But the act of mothering them also connects me to parts of myself I wonder if I would neglect otherwise. We play. We make art. We go outside. All of the things that I feel are important for their childhood are also important for my personhood.
How does your relationship with yourself affect your partnership with your husband? With showing up for friends and your community?
While I am romantically and sexually monogamous, I am emotionally in need of a variety of committed relationships. If I counted on Tom to be all the things I needed, our relationship would not be able to bear the weight of it. Making time to show up for friends and community is a way to take some of the emotional weight off that single relationship. I often compare it to a stick. If my emotional needs are weighing on just a single stick- in this case, my romantic partnership, that stick is going to break easily. But if I add lots of other sticks to the bundle– other relationships that fulfill other parts of my needs–the bundle of sticks is not easily broken.
What makes you feel sensual?
This is going to prove I am wildly extroverted once and for all, but parties and gatherings are definitely pretty high up there. There is something about being in groups of people– the laughing, the looking, the sensing. I feel turned on and tuned in. It makes me feel alive and excited.
How does photographing others affect the way you look at yourself?
I have worked diligently to develop a loving gaze- to see beauty in all shapes, sizes, shades, ages, and abilities. My eyes are trained to see beauty in every fold, wrinkle freckle, and scar. I want my seeing to be a gift to those who are seen. I don’t turn that off when I look in the mirror.
Just for funsies, do you have a favorite Rasa blend?
I’m working my way through the flavors but I think right now I’m team Dirty with a side of Crème de la Creamer (and sometimes a tiny bit of maple syrup). I just got myself on a Big Sexy Dirty monthly subscription.