Tag Archives: body eloquence

grounded just before liftoff


Good morning out there. How is this dark morning treating you? Are you enjoying the fall back into standard time — the light that comes earlier in the morning and dissipates sooner at night?

Today I am nursing a tender, aching back. A year ago, almost to the exact day, I woke up in shock, the muscles in my lower back so tensed up and spasmed that I could hardly walk. I’d never experienced anything like that before and was terrified: had something changed irrevocably in me? Would I ever be able to walk with ease again? I had just left my day job (as in, my last day had been three days before the spasm) — and with it, my insurance — so I made do with visits to community acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, all followed by a great deal of ibuprofen and frustrated tears. I wrote a lot while dealing with that pain: what I learned about the wisdom held in the lower back and butt, and about how the body communicates in so many different ways. It took nearly three months for me to feel like myself again, to feel some ease with my body — and even then, when I could run again without fear, when I bounded up the stairs instead of crawling, something in me remained vigilant, newly alert, watching for signs of flare-up. And one small muscle, deep inside my body, remained tensed, keeping the outside edge of one leg and foot numb unless I was really, actively working to relax — and even then, I was left with tingling rather than complete release.

Over this last year, I’ve done more to care for this body’s physical needs than ever before in my life. We’ve had to learn to get over our terror of bodywork, to move through that trauma-aftermath panic that left me sure that any person’s hands on me could potentially be harmful. Of course, more deep was the certainty that this body didn’t deserve kindness, didn’t deserve to feel relaxed and well. And then there’s the fact that to be relaxed was to allow my body to step out of its armoring — was to allow myself to be exposed. It’s been scary and sad and painful and gorgeous to step right up to those fears, take their hand, and invite them to walk through the fire with me.

In this past year, my body and me, we’ve had massages and hot tub soaks and saunas and mani-pedis and acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments and hours spent sleeping on sun-drenched sand near the ocean. We’ve adjusted our working sites so that they’re more ergonomically friendly. We’ve tottered less often in bad high heels. We’ve run and swum and danced and loved. And though that tell-tale tingling remained, the spasm hadn’t. Until today, in a much less-intense form than last year’s.

So why this new spasm now? What can I tell you about this today? I’ve slipped back into some bad old habits — carrying too much weight in my shoulderbag, exercising less frequently, spending more time sitting in front of a screen — but more than that, I think, my body seems to be reacting to big changes in my life, changes that are tied to leaps of longing and the possibility of ease and flight — it’s exactly my wing muscles that have tightened. We are scared of this leaping, me and the body — scared of stretching out our wings, scared of falling, maybe even more afraid of lifting into the wind and finding our soar. We — the body and me — are now a year into having Writing Ourselves Whole as our sole work-focus and sole source of income. Instead of tightening up, body, I think we need to celebrate. We have made it, and we are growing.

So as I stretch and alternate hot and cold on those back muscles, I talk to the protective stuff inside me, the parts that just want us to be safe, those parts that understand safe to mean quiet, hidden, unseen, invisible. I listen to what we are afraid of and I write it down, I breathe into and acknowledge it. We have every reason to be afraid. We also have every reason to keep moving forward.

This morning I have work to do: there’re two book projects calling for my attention. In-between sessions at the computer, I’ll lie down, or put my back into the sun, or take a bath or do some stretching. Time to re-situate into a self-care rhythm as we ease these wings out for flight.

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Is there pain in your (or your character’s) body that’s trying to tell you something? Give yourself and that good body some time on the page today — what are the contours and dimensions of this pain? Is it new, or similar to pain you’ve had recently? What might this pain be trying to communicate to  you? Take twenty minutes — follow your good words wherever they seem to want you to go.

Then rest. Be easy with you today. Thank you for what love and spaciousness you bring into the world.

gratitude for the stories in our bones

graffiti of a llama skeleton with the outline of fur/skin/body drawn around the outside Good morning — it’s still, barely, Thanksgiving morning here. I’ve got some acorn squash in the oven (roasting itself with butter and brown sugar), and am getting ready to start making an apple pie.

This is a miracle.

Not the pie. I mean, I make a pretty good apple pie, but what feels miraculous today is the fact that I know that after I finish this post, I will stand up, move over to the kitchen, and start working on pie crust. After spending the better part of the month in the land of pain (lower back spasm which transformed into significant sciatic nerve pain down my right leg) which has kept me from writing, from walking, from much of my work — today, for the ability to write this, for the chance to stand in my kitchen and work with dough, I am grateful.

And I am grateful for you, here, for the pains and stories in your body, for how present you can be with those old songs. We don’t always want those songs, and yet those songs in our bones carry our whole lives.

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all of our body can hold different parts of our stories

graffiti, wheat pasted maybe, of a young male deer beneath a green treeI got up extra early today to do my morning pages, before coming to the computer.  Maybe it will have been a good idea, but right now I’m tired and would like more sleep. Yesterday was a very quiet day — perfect. No time on the computer — 2 old movies (a Doris Day & a Katherine Hepburn) and 1 more recent, Hook. A day for baking, for reading in the sun, for cafe writing.

Two nights ago, when we got home from dinner with Alex after Body Empathy, there were at least two deer nested down back beneath the big tree directly in front of the carport. We tiptoed out of the car, lugging bags of stuff, materials, workshop business and food, and said hello to them and told them how pretty they were. They kept their eyes on us, ears up, watching, but didn’t move. The bigger one didn’t move, the mama maybe — the smaller, behind, she’d stood by the time we were done unloading. Yesterday afternoon I wandered back to where they’d been, wanted to see the outlines of bellies on the ground, in a pile of leaves maybe, but all I saw were the small hoofprints all around the back area where the giant pile of leaves used to be. Maybe they were snacking on new blackberry cane growth, or maybe there was something good in the neighbor’s compost pile. I knew they might come up to the house and push their heads to the tomato plant I’ve got that’s going crazy now, suddenly flowering and budding, growing tall and almost wild — I knew they might come up and get a taste, since F! has seen their footprints in my lettuce pots behind the fence! It’s ok, though. They can have some and can leave me some. I’ve heard their feet clacking on the sidewalk, those dark hooves striking sharp and simple, like it’s a normal sound, deerhooves in my ears. They won me over.


It was a beautiful Body Empathy workshop on Saturday, all of us risking that slow possibility of being in our bodies. We started off a little discombobulated, got to be imperfect, because no one was there to open the church for us, & thus our meeting space, until 9:30 — which was when we were supposed to be getting started! We’d invited folks to start arriving at 9:30 so they could get breakfast and settle in, but those who arrived at 9:30 got to help us set up (thank you!) or got to wander a bit around the bowels of First Congo, checking out what was new and fresh in progressive christianity. After the coffee pot wouldn’t work and the stovetop wouldn’t come on, finally we got things together (many thanks to the Mr. Fresh! who went out for a box of Peets!) and moved into some gentle and poweful work. Thanks to all who were there, and, too, to my amazing co-facilitator, Alex Cafarelli, who reminds me often how ok it can be to be in these bodies we carry around with us, even it it’s not ok sometimes. this morning I’m doing some stretching, some spinning, that gentle loving kindness movement that Alex offered to us, as though we deserve to love and be loved by and in our bodies. And we do.

These were two of the quotes I handed out on Saturday, with our guidelines & practices:

I write to understand as much as to be understood. Literature is an act of conscience. It is up to us to rebuild with memories, with ruins, and with moments of grace.
—Elie Wiesel

I love the body.  Flesh is so honest, and organs do not lie.
—Terri Guillemets

Organs do not lie. What does that mean? I appreciate the opportunity, the invitation, to consider. This quote reminded me, while we were doing our work on Saturday, of Nancy Mellon, who I had the chance to meet at the last Power of Words conference. Nancy writes and works with the idea of storytelling as a healing art, and wrote a book called Body Eloquence: The Power of Myth and Story to Awaken the Body’s Energies — she talks about the information our organs hold, our inside parts hold, and how we can access those stories and truths. She’s an amazing storyteller, had us all completely transfixed in the Haybarn there on the Goddard campus, as we waited to hear what the lungs could do, what the blood knows, what our small intestine can tell us.

What does it mean that all of our body can hold different parts of our stories, our lives, our histories, our truths? It’s scary to me, sometimes, this possibility — the fact that my organs (say, my liver, which I wrote about some this weekend) can hold some information about me feels outside my conscious control — and it is, at least in the way that my western logical ‘rational’ mind things about conscious control.

What does it mean that all of our body can hold different parts of our stories? It means that we are (still) whole — that our bodies know our truths, and that we can access those truths, through somatic work, through movement and dance, through art and creativity, through myriad right-brain activities, those ways of being and thinking that step gently and kindly around the rigid left brain that wants to think it has the exact right ways to know.

Thank you for your words, for the way you risk speaking without words, too, all the different ways you say, you listen, you witness and share.