The Body’s Wisdom – For JUNO, 2008
As I sit in contemplation over how to begin this article, I notice my hands clasped in a double fist before me; tightness in my shoulders and neck, and a slight pressure in my brow. What are these sensations telling me if I can listen to my body’s wisdom?
They perfectly hold the emotional tension I feel before addressing an audience of people I do not know and who do not know me. My body expresses this sense of anticipation like a subtle dancer giving form to the thoughts of my heart. And if I do wish to influence these thoughts in some way, i.e. to relax so the writing may flow, then it is through moving my body, or better still allowing my body to express itself through motion, that the softening and release of these thoughts may happen. So where do I begin? With something that suffuses both mind and body like an inner floodlight: the Breath.
Since learning yoga, meditation and healing many years ago, and later with ‘5 Rhythms’ dance and The Journey (Brandon Bays), I began the long process of de-mystifying my body’s language. I discovered that I am not a mere mind wandering the earth and towing my body along behind me. In fact, the emotional awareness that my body perceives can be far more real and direct than that of my cerebral realm. The mind easily distorts and suppresses our true reactions and feelings in order to keep ourselves looking sane in the eyes of us all. Yet whatever is repressed by our rational thinking is retained emotionally in the body’s harbour and in the energy around and within us.
If you are lucky enough in life to find a safe space of self-acceptance where your body and voice are free to give shape to your true feelings, attitudes and experiences, you will find that they have deep and powerful stories to tell.
“Living one’s Truth” might seem like a strange notion. Does it mean to be a “good person”? To do one’s job well? To achieve our ideals? Or does it actually mean to honour one’s true feelings even if it doesn’t look nice? Perhaps to roar with anger behind a closed door or to smile and let oneself be jealous, or to sing aloud in the bus queue because you just remembered a long lost, beloved song. And what I personally have discovered is that if I do suppress any of these truths, they soon transform into swollen glands, tummy aches . . . you name it.
The energy which sought conscious expression, nestles as an ailment into the body in the precise place which physically expresses the emotion that was blocked. It’s interesting that the word feeling is generally used to describe both a physical and an emotional sensation.
Our greatest teachers around this body-mind dynamic are our children, those who are fortunate enough to have not yet formed inhibitions about their appearance and performance. Even before birth, our little ones literally dance and sing feelings out of themselves as and when they arise. There are no politics around expression for them, just a pure and direct free-flow of sound and motion.
As adults we reserve this special expression of our gut-feelings for intense occasions, usually when there is heightened energy between people, such that they almost emerge spontaneously. In experiences of passion, anger, profound love, shock, intoxication, mourning, ecstasy, childbirth, etc. we can drop the veneer of control, but even in these extreme states, do we ever really let go of our self-consciousness and allow our bodies to simply ‘move’ and our voices to ‘open up’ in response?
It could be a scary concept to release the mind’s directive by inviting it instead to witness the body, and moreover, just to listen to what is described. Nevertheless I feel it is an essential process for anyone who seeks to integrate and balance their physical body with their conscious journey of becoming a more ‘whole’ person…
A person who is allowed to be both bad and good, right and wrong, light and dark (and all shades in between), in essence: to be as human as human can be and to still be sublimely acceptable in the eyes of all… A person who can be different from everyone else (as we all are), yet who still feels accepted by the world because they feel safe within their difference; A person who can develop awareness and compassion for themselves and for others without going too far into the mirrored labyrinth of judgement.
Can we allow ourselves to express the child inside us, the part of us which longs for its original freedom and birthright: to feel its feelings? Can we permit ourselves to accept our true emotions beyond the scrutiny of others’ expectations or judgements, by honouring what we feel, when we feel it? Can we let our conscious awareness sink into a pain or a twitch or an ache in the body, and ask “what feeling am I expressing here?” and then to wait for an answer?
Approaching this hidden realm of emotions can, of course be a highly volatile experience, especially if much has been repressed over a long period of time, and skilful support is needed to help channel the strong feelings that arise. However, if one can meet this process in the spirit of self-acceptance and with a deeper intension to bring forgiveness and healing into one’s own life and into the lives around us, then we can find the strength we need to face and to heal any intensity of emotional experience.
Brandon Bays’ “The Journey” works as a guided exploration of the inner-world of body and emotion. It provides a safe route into and out of a deeply transformative healing process, and is a powerful tool for connecting with the truths buried within us.
Alternatively, during a session of 5 Rhythms dance, we can work as a group during this exploration of self and meditation-in-movement. Here it is for the individual to recognise and allow their emotional energy to be freed in a trance-dance catharsis, while being supported and ‘held’ by the teacher and fellow dancers. Both are methods of healing whose effects are far-reaching and acutely needed in these times. Fortunately there are also many other paths into this kind of work and many opportunities around us for further growth.
I believe that if we can begin to open ourselves as individuals, to safely embrace what we truly feel both physically and emotionally (instead of resisting these things by concerning ourselves with how others see us), that as a society we will find such a wealth of freedom and compassion.
That child within, who wants its feelings to be heard and accepted, is the one holding our Truth. May each of us find a way to reach inside with an open hand and to hold and honour these emotions. And by honouring them in ourselves, may we learn to honour them together and for each other. And by recognising that the emotions in all of us are the same emotions, may we remember that we are like a divine tree of diverse fruit which all stem from the same root of love.