I've been hearing the term Body Wisdom around more and more. It's a compelling term because it implies both what we do know and what we don't know. It suggests that we are more powerful than we believe, and yet we need to go to previously unexplored places to find it.
Body Wisdom indicates something innate... that we have something simply by virtue of the fact that we have a body. It also points to the chasm between how we're taught to use our bodies, and the potential the body has to guide us through our lives. The "wisdom" is stated outright... but how many of us think that we are wise? My experience is... very few. But the concept of Body Wisdom holds the promise of a knowing that is important, yet largely untapped.
What do we get when we do put in the effort, the attention, the time to get to know this Body Wisdom? We gain a mentor... a guide through the world in touch with our own sensations of it. It is possible to allow ourselves to tap into our deepest resources... to know what we need... to begin to live our true glorious lives.
Sound dreamy? Yeah... but it's also real. Which means that some things are wildly unpleasant. Some feelings are inconvenient at best. It can still be hard to bring back to this moment the mind that is worried about the future. Some moments are so full it's almost hard to describe. But, I'll tell you... dreamy + real = present.
Like any relationship mine with my Body Wisdom has required time and space... to develop trust and lines of communication. It also requires compassion, care, and devotion. It really isn't so different from any relationship. I'd say the first step was trust... I had to believe that I could relate to myself differently than I ever had before... and I had to trust that I could handle what came forward.
Again, like any relationship, there were times I had to slow down, communicate with meticulous care. There were times I got frustrated and called the whole thing off. There were times I fell so deeply in love that I was never able to stop reaching out.
My relationship with my Body Wisdom is not without hard times. It probably never will be. It's like other relationships. It can be easy to take for granted and always requires a recommitment in those moments.
Do you know your Whole Body Wisdom? How do you interact with it or know it?
For me... my Body Wisdom is where I can say things that are true to me... I can give myself acknowledgements for a job well done... I can say that I love who I am... I can be honest with myself about what was uncomfortable. It's also the place where I'm able to name my most true feelings without judgment... without hearing another voice say "but you shouldn't/don't have any right/can't...".
It took a long time... and a lot of doubt assessments... a lot of dedication...to come to this place. But it was worth it. Because it feels now like I am my own ally, not my own worst enemy. I have more energy because I'm not wasting it on cutting myself down. I'm still a bit afraid of putting myself out there in the world... but I'm certain I can hold my own... knowing what I want... and asking for what I need.
This month's Body Wisdom Healing Circle is Meeting The Mentor. It's the 4th call in the Hero(ine)'s Journey series. Unsurprisingly our "mentor" is the Body Wisdom. So... if you're curious about how to connect with yours... to initiate or develop that relationship... I'd love to see you on the call. If you're already on my email list you'll receive the invitation. If you want on the list you can go here to sign in for the call number.
Since October I've been working on a personal and deeply vulnerable story about my life. I've been held in this process by a group of nine other women... all doing similar work. We're writing our stories of being women... of our own little slice of what it means to be born female. It's called the YoniVerse Monologue project.
My story is finally written and I'm beginning to memorize it. And then... when I thought I'd done the hard work... and that I was at the easy part... the resistance set in. I felt like I didn't like the story anymore. It had been through so many iterations... and I was feeling sad to edit certain parts out in the interested of condensing a story that took 27 years to unfold, down into 7 minutes of dialogue.
And there... wriggling at the end of the rope that resistance handed me... I realized that I had an opportunity. I am at a choice point. I get to recommit or give up. And hell no I'm not giving up! So... the resistance became my invitation to find within me what I REALLY want... to find my direction... to rely on my own wisdom...
Where to look for the wisdom? My body. Resistance is too much holding... too much tension... not enough flow. So I looked to my body to show me where things were tight, sore, slow. And I began to move them, to pay attention to these places, asking them what information they had for me.
And my heel, where I tore ligaments recently... told me about foundations... and being true to myself as I edited my story. It spoke of feeling solid and grounded in my story. And my lower back reminded me to get support, to not do it alone... as that had been one of my deepest wounds in this story... trying to do this alone when I had no idea what to do. They reminded me to address these things every day.
My Body Wisdom is my mentor. It is the structure, the framework, by which I understand meaning in my life.
If you'd like to feel more connected to your Body Wisdom, this is a perfect time to join us in the Body Wisdom Healing Circle. It's a monthly (totally free) call-in gathering for turning toward ourselves to find the answers that we seek. In fact, we've modeled this year of calls on the Hero(ine)'s Journey. March's call will be all about locating our Body Wisdom, what it means to cultivate that relationship, and to begin to reorient our physiological pathways toward connection and sensation of our selves as we prepare to Meet Your Mentor!
I've had the great fortune lately, of getting a chance to look at my internal dialogue in a new way. I found that the story I told myself, that I always assumed to be true, was actually false. It may have applied at the time it was created... or maybe it was only created to justify something I felt I needed to do.
When the story got wrapped in shame and betrayal and isolation... it solidified itself... like some kind of rock. And then it was impenetrable. It just wasn't possible to notice it as a story anymore. It was too overwhelming to address all of the emotions at once. So it sat, emanating its lies... inflicting more damage... as I pretended it didn't exist.
But, these things have a way of continuing to insinuate themselves into our lives... they refuse to sit quietly in the corner... despite all hope that they will. We always cross our fingers and hope we can leave it behind us... don't we? I did.
And as I've been gloriously held in the unwrapping of this story... and the dismantling of the rock that seemed to hold it all as one story... I have found so many personal truths. And one of the truths... is that this story, at it's core, is false.
It means there's room inside of me to write a new story.
In holding myself to unearthing this rock... and in the being held as I saw and felt the things that went into its creation... I've been able to find within me a Fierce Mother. She is the one who cuts to the chase, speaks the truth, and she's always fought for the light... even when the light was the tiniest glimmer. She never gives up. She knows that life is complex and messy and that she can find love in it somewhere. And she is relentless in her pursuit.
She has the trust, the certainty, the clarity, that I felt I lacked. And I'm so grateful that somewhere inside of me the thing I needed but was sure I did not have was actually there.
So the new story begins... what do I want it to be? I know I want it to be more fun... I want it to contain connection and love and laughter and truth. I want it to contain healing tears and words. I want it to be about standing for humanity and desire and meeting needs.
I'm ready... to recommit to the Hero(ine)'s Journey! It's time!
Last night, playing a family game of Clue, my nine-year old ran right straight into her own story. She’s the youngest, and had a story in her mind that she wasn’t capable of winning this game up against two adults and her older sister.
But there was a moment where, by luck, she realized she had learned two of the three things she needed to know to win the game. In her surprise, she gave away part of what she had found out. Her world fell apart. She was so close. But with her slip, the possibility of winning had evaporated.
I know this place. The one in which the untrue story that I believe in comes into direct conflict with what is possible if I believed in something else. It’s a direct challenge to my world view… it’s painful… and confusing.
I’m actually deep in the throes of writing that story down. In fact, I’m going to be performing that story live in Santa Cruz at the YoniVerse Monologues in March. It’s the story of my conflicting experiences of myself as a mother.
And so, as I sat with my girl last night, and she felt all of her anger and frustration and sadness about the story that she wasn’t capable… she ripped paper into little pieces and told me about how much it hurt. My heart ached for her… and I sat with her as she tore the paper and felt the feelings.
And then we talked about the stories she believes about herself… and we talked about what was really true… and we talked about how which story we put our attention on matters… and I told her my story about motherhood. While I talked I tore some of those tattered pieces of paper into hearts. Pretty soon… she was helping me… and organizing them into a larger heart.
She understood my story, and I understood hers. It was so amazing.
Truth is that we’re both still sad about the truths that exist in our stories about how we’re not perfect (because we’re not perfect… we’re human). But, we both found a bigger landscape for truth and possibility. And best of all, we got to feel human together.
As we came to our sense of humanity she made a “snow angel” in the remaining scraps of paper… and we brought greater definition to the angel… and made her “real”.
And so when my daughter crawled into bed we marveled at how the anger and frustration and sadness had resulted in an angel and a heart on her floor.
I’m humbled by her wisdom and her ability to feel her feelings. I’m still worried about how easy it is for her to believe that she’s not good enough. And I’m heartened by our ability to be present with each other.
Ram Dass said “We are all just walking each other home”. The key implication is that we’re in this together. And I think the together part is the healing part.
One of the first things we often learn when we are beginning to become aware of our own own life force energy, is "grounding". This is about bringing our energy fully into our bodies so that we can think more clearly, respond appropriately to a stimulus, and to be able to be present with ourselves. In short, it helps us think, to know ourselves, and to simply be.
There are many ways of grounding... the most common seem to be along the lines of imagining dropping some kind of energetic line from your body into the earth. Sometimes the visualization is being like a tree, growing your energetic roots down into the earth. Either way... it's you... sending your energy downward.
This is fine, but it's only half the equation. And for people who have a lot of earth energy, it can evoke their shadow side of being overly anchored, finding it difficult to create the desired change in their lives, and to thinking ahead, or reflecting back on their lives.
There is a principle in physics that I think applies here: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is, sending your energy into earth is only one half of being grounded. Bringing earth energy up into your body is the other half.
Here's an exercise for you to play with:
Take a nice deep belly breath in... release slowly. Become aware of your body. Notice that your body has an experience of weight. This is about the principle of gravity. You are exerting pressure on the surface of the earth.
Physics says that since the ground isn't crumbling away beneath your feet with each step, earth is also exerting a force upward on you.
Let your attention sink toward your spine. Can you move slightly back and forth until you find where you feel that energetic balance between you pushing down on earth and earth sending lifting energy back up through you?
Earth is actually offering you energy to align with. It is lifting you up. Earth is supporting your presence. Simply because you are embodied. That is enough to make you worthy of a relationship with earth.
You can further engage this energy by considering the traditional grounding vision of growing your roots into earth. This is yang (masculine) Earth energy. Now tap into the yin (feminine) Earth energy... which is the energy rising. You can invite it through the soles of your feet... up your inner legs... to the base of your spine... and all the way to the crown.
Cultivating this balanced relationship with earth is important because it means that the stability and support is always available to you from a safe source. I've found that healing my sense of trust, and for clients who find it difficult to trust, having a relationship with the earth and with spirit (which I'll talk about another time) are invaluable resources.
We did this exercise, and many more, on our Body Wisdom Healing Circle call the first weekend in January. If you'd like to join us, there is still time, we are just beginning our Hero(ine)'s Journey for 2016. It's free. If you can't make the live call, there are recordings.
So, I've been thinking a lot lately about bodies, illness, and healing. I've been thinking about western medicine, alternative healing, and energy work. Even though this is what I do, I still sometimes wonder when something happens to my body, which realm it falls in.
It's funny, that I've come full circle with my own healing this year. I began the year knowing that I had some emotional healing that was coming. I knew it was big... I knew it would be intense... and I was ready. What I didn't expect was the physical stuff that blew all that perceived control of the emotional wide open. I cried more this year than in a long time. I feared more this year than I have in a long time.
And I went to the doctor about the physical. I was finally referred to the fifth doctor... who I liked and trusted. But whatever is going on is mysterious. She told me Friday that if this next thing we're trying doesn't address my issues, then she doesn't know what will.
I came home and cried again. I really want it to be "fixed". But the ball is back in my court. Yes, I'm doing what she suggested. And I'll follow up with her in a month. But I already know. Nothing will change.
Unless. Unless I give my body the chance to tell the truth... to call a spade a spade. Unless I hear this body... let her say the things that no one wants to hear... that honestly, I'm not sure I want to hear. I don't want to revisit old crap... my life feels good right now... I just celebrated (truly) my fifteenth anniversary, my kids are healthy and wonderful, and things are just good.
But, my body says it's time to deal with the things that need stability and love and wellness so that they can even begin to express what they've been holding. I heard my body say that it's OK. That I'm OK.
I got clear that this physical stuff is only a mirror for me right now. And I have to address the core of what's being reflected. It will take time, and things will be fine.
And I want to be clear. I believe that illness (or discomfort or disease) sometimes originates in the body and needs to be addressed in the medical system. And sometimes it originates in the subtle realms of emotions, beliefs, and agreements. Sometimes those things are conscious, and sometimes not. For me, right now, this thing... it's about healing the shames, the darknesses, the shadows. It's about reclaiming something of me that is rightfully mine. And when I do, I believe my physical body will stop reacting. I've done it before. I see it with clients all the time.
I live in this intersection of physical and subtle bodies... I love this intersection of physical and subtle realms... I am at home here. It should come as no surprise that this is where my own healing is right now.
... Or "How The Heart Is The Center of Healing
I wrote last time about the Heart and the Heart Protector (Pericardium), and how I see them function in healing. The Heart provides access to our center, to our essence, and the Pericardium protects us. It is a sweet union, but one that is profoundly affected by pain... specifically the pain of feeling heart-broken.
Even though the Heart collects some pretty intense pain, it also holds the path to healing. The electro-magnetic fields of the Heart are a great beacon, a shining light, for a return to happiness and vitality. I'm not saying it's an easy road, that it's all skipping and giggles, but I am saying that it's where I often begin... with myself and with clients. Because it's powerful.
The electromagnetic field of the heart is created by the flow of the electrical signals from the top to the bottom of the heart. This flow of electrical potential creates a donut shaped electromagnetic field around the heart organ. The "donut shape" is known as a torus. This is measurable and well known. I didn't make this up.
But see... the beauty lies in the fact that the heart is not alone! The heart has an electromagnetic field... but so does the whole body (I'd argue details with the image below that I got from the HeartMath website... but the gist of it is true). Thus, the heart field is nested within the Whole Body Field... and ultimately, the earth has this same magnetic field, so we are each nested within it.
The point is that when we connect with the Heart Field, we can notice how the Heart Field is nested within the Whole Body Field, which is, in turn, nested within the Earth Field. We can then invite into this dynamic, other fields in our bodies.
For instance, red blood cells have this same toroidal shape... and when we invite them into resonance with the Heart Field (and the others) the blood cells shift into a supported and robust form, and carry more oxygen (this is where Western Medicine does not follow me... but I still know it to be true).
In fact, each chakra, each organ, each cell... when invited into resonance with the Heart Field, are able to step a little more into their essence and their full expression of well-being and vitality.
Don't believe me. Try it. Sit quietly. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Bring your attention softly to your body. Gather yourself and your energy to you. Relax your shoulders, your neck, your back. Release the tension in your fingers. Notice that you are in relationship with earth... simply because you press down on her surface. Notice that she sends energy back up through you. Breathe into alignment with that energy source. Notice that you are also in relation with spirit... as inspiration and life force bathe you. These energies mingle inside of you, at your heart. It is your sense of center, of essence, of Who You Are, and a sense that your essence is supported, safe, nourished.
The Heart beats softly. Allow the sensation of the energy field of the heart to come into your awareness. It is flowing, regular, steady. This sensation sends the message to the body that all is well. There are measurable physical benefits to this sensation... we can get into that some other time. For now, just know this place.
For practice, you can invite your mind to awareness of your red blood cells, circulating through the body... through the heart. As they flow through the heart send the intention to bring them into alignment with the energy field of the Heart. Feel the desire for deep belly breaths. Give in.
This alignment between Heart Field and Red Blood Cell Fields brings up oxygen in the body. You might experience it as a light tingling... or you may not have a physical sensation of it. Inviting it to your brain will increase clarity, certainty, and alertness. Inviting blood flow to a tense place can begin to unravel the anaerobic conditions created by chronic tightness. It probably won't relieve it completely, as there's a pattern holding tension there... but it can make it bearable for a time.
Play with this... where else could you invite oxygen? What other fields could you invite to resonate with the heart? What is possible when we get to know ourselves so intimately?
The other day I had the opportunity to reflect on receiving... for like the millionth time. I was creating content for my Body Wisdom Healing Intensive, Returning to Center... so I had to stick with it even when I couldn't figure out what to say about it. I struggle so much with the concept of receiving.
It's the worst sort of circle... the one where I start with a good intention... receiving happiness, or joy, or a compliment, or really anything at all that feels good... and then I hit resistance. Instead of stepping back and questioning resistance I tend to fight with it... and eventually I lose and end up with my head in my hands wondering how broken you have to be to push away happiness/joy/pleasure.
And then... the Muse opened a channel... and there it was. Receiving isn't easy because PARTS of it aren't easy. Check this out...
Maybe receiving isn't one thing... but many things. Maybe, if I looked at it as separate types of receiving I could find my way. (Note: these are not mutually exclusive categories, and this is a question-posing exercise... I don't have answers... so... um... only keep reading if you are cool with that.)
1. Social: We are interact with others through the giving and receiving of attention. It includes chatting about the weather, social niceties, and small talk.
2. Emotional: This is our sense of connection with others... it can come from social receiving, but includes the sense that we are not alone, that we can see our kindred spirits in others.
3. Mental: This is the transfer of knowledge or information. Generally this happens within our institutions... and it reinforces an established hierarchy. Someone has the knowledge or information and imparts it to someone who does not have it.
4. Spiritual: Our relationship with ourselves and our connection to all other living beings, including that which is bigger than us. The details of HOW you do this is unimportant in this context, what IS important is THAT you have this.
Let me tell you why Spiritual Receiving is my saving grace...
Social, Emotional, and Mental receiving always involves another human being. This creates a situation in which fear is a constant companion. I'm going to venture that all of us have experienced some kind of betrayal, question of our worthiness, or general trauma in these kinds of interactions. If someone else is involved, we simply cannot control the situation such that we can always trust it. It makes receiving, an act of trust, very difficult if there is fear and protection involved.
There is nothing wrong with fear, or protection. Both, when utilized at the appropriate times keep us safe. If we're new to receiving, though, they also keep us from being able to receive.
And then there's Spiritual Receiving. Thank all that is holy. Because this... this is where our receiving is all about us. We have complete control. There is not another unpredictable human in the mix with their own baggage to dump on us... it is just us and spirit.
You can find Spirit lots of places... and whatever gets you connected is perfect... nature, church, an altar, a candle, meditation, prayer... it's all good. Do you know where you find your sense of connection? Where is Spirit? How much time do you spend there?
To be clear, the goal is not to rid ourselves of fear and protection... but for them to stick to their job of blocking danger... not blocking our reception of some of the greatest gifts of connection in our lives.
I know this because this year I'm actively relying on my connection with Spirit to help me clear up confusion in my receiving through relationship. Yes, I said year. It's nowhere near over. It may be stretched before me for many years still. But it's so worth it. I have had such great joy from the connections I'm building as I reach into those vulnerable edges with someone I love and trust... and I come out happier, more connected, and more willing to play on that edge again.
Because I can receive from Spirit, in a way that is safe and trustworthy, I know that I can both have good receiving experiences AND move slowly in relationship with others. This is how I take tiny steps toward big healing. For me it's the easiest way.
While I know it's not uncommon to have an adversarial relationship with your body... I can promise you that idea... that the very thing you can't get away from is out to get you in do you in... isn't supporting your well-being.
When we feel like we're under attack... that something is out to get us... our only safe response is defense and/or counter-attack. At the very least, then, we become defensive about our bodies... wondering when it's going to interfere with our planned life next... preemptively warding off the next thing we're afraid of with supplements, exercise techniques, or diets.
What if your body really loves you? What if it wants to be vibrant and healthy as much as you want it to work for you? What if it is constantly speaking in its own language... telling you what it wants and needs... only for you not to be able to hear it... to have the whims of lifestyle gurus telling you what to do to your own body to whip it into shape - submission - function.
I'm not suggesting that all of the nutritionist - exercise - health coach - foodies are steering you wrong... no. But what would it be like to learn something new about health and to bring it to the body to tell you if it's right for you or not.
I brought raw food to my body and it laughed at me. I understand the argument for raw foods, and I believe in the basic understanding of nutrition around raw food... but my belly wanted NOTHING to do with it. More power to the people that it supports. But it doesn't support me. At least not now.
I have had foods that disagreed with me (dairy)... and I've been able to work through my relationship with them because the problem wasn't about the food but what it represented (mothering)... and now I can eat dairy and have been able to for years.
But how would I have known that was the case - that it was even possible - if it wasn't for my belief that my body loves me and wants us to have a good relationship? What if I hadn't spent years building a relationship with my Body Wisdom so that I could hear these messages?
Our relationships with our bodies are like any other. They are dependent on interaction, support, acknowledgement, love, and persistence. Keep listening. Your body is telling you what and how much it wants to eat, what kind of movement it loves, how much sleep you need, and how your thoughts make it feel. This is our most precious earthly relationship... the one we have with our bodies.
Thank you Earth Mother for this body,
For this gift of motion and manifestation.
With deep gratitude I honor my body,
And I allow us to love one another.
Other than that, it’s a dedication… something I do with the long-term goal of a healthy and happy life in mind. It’s definitely not “the easy road”.
That said, I’ve become more used to it. It can still take me a long time to dedicate myself and address the issues that come up, but I do know how good I feel when I do listen… and listen deeply.
For me, healing is mostly about awareness. It’s about listening to my body, and acting on what I understand.
Listening, it’s the first catch. Almost always. I was taught not to listen to my body, but to push harder, do better, achieve more. And it meant that I was often overriding my body’s messages in order to appear stronger, more flexible, and better at something, than I truly was. I worried about being good enough. A lot.
Listening took on a new dimension of resistance as I realized that when I did listen, I often received messages that I had to take care of. You know, the message that you’re really, actually, sick and should stay home and take care of yourself. Or the message that the emotion I’ve been avoiding engaging is still there, settling into my body, making me feel queasy and uncomfortable.
Listening is only really easy when I hear what I want to hear.
I'm an explorer of inner realms, a pattern observer, and an invitation maker. I believe that healing the world starts within.
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